Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday of Trinity 6

The Truth Is in Jesus

Psalm 119:153-160 (ESV) O LORD, look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

In our Wednesday morning Bible study, I pointed out that the majority—perhaps even a vast majority—of people in our society don’t accept the authority of the Bible as God’s Word, nor do they accept arguments for traditional morality and justice based on appeals to natural law. Therefore, it is difficult to convince them that our arguments are rational and worthy of acceptance. One of our faithful attendees expressed with exasperation, “They aren’t being reasonable!” To which I responded with allusion to the book by the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?”, pointing out that those who reject our Christian viewpoint consider us unjust and irrational, just as we consider them.

Last summer, I was reading the profile of a widely-respected Canadian professor of history who had recently retired, and he offered this as a summary of his approach to scholarship:

I spent my career teaching and writing at the intersection of pre-modern European history, literature studies, critical theory, gender theory, vernacular culture, vernacular theology, “popular” literature, religious studies, and intellectual history, informed by the Foucauldian project of “genealogy” as a method of searching not so much for truth per se as for the conditions of possibility and of emergence of what is considered to be true, real, and meaningful… The aim of poststructural analysis is not to establish a final ‘truth’ but to question the intelligibility of truth/s we have come to take for granted. Through the experience such analysis provides, it is possible to come to a different relationship with those truth/s which may enable researchers to think and see otherwise, to be able to imagine things being other than what they are, and to understand the abstract and concrete links that make them so.” (

“Huh?” you probably are thinking. I agree, it is obscure and filled with jargon, but I am not so much concerned with its technical lingo as I am with its central proposal: that there is no such thing as “truth” (and especially not “Truth”); rather, there is only what may be “considered to be true, real, and meaningful.” His perspective could be characterized as “postmodern relativism”—the viewpoint that there is no absolute truth, especially about history. Therefore, there can be no biblical authority or even unchangeable arguments from natural law.

It is not hard to see how inimical this perspective is to the Christian Faith, which actually could simply be called The Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He said to His Father, “Your Word is Truth” (John 17:17). He began His most solemn promises with, “Truly, truly, I say to you…”

Similarly, a skeptical approach to history undermines the basis of our Christian confidence and hope. We confess in the Creed that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate” at a specific time, in a specific place. We cling to a historical, real, true resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We rejoice in the truth that our sins were paid for on Mt. Calvary, and that forgiveness breaks into our time and space through Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. And we look forward to a future resurrection of the dead and life of the world to come. Indeed, St. Paul says that Christians are the biggest suckers if there is no resurrection from the dead; “in fact,” however, Christ is risen (1 Corinthians 15:20)!

So “postmodern relativism” and “Foucauldian genealogy” must be firmly rejected, and instead, we must confess along with David, “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160). And then St. Paul’s words to the Colossians also will apply among us, since the Word of God will accomplish what the Lord sent it to do (Isaiah 55:10-11): “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:3-6).

Prayer (LSB 584):

1. Faith and truth and life bestowing,
    Open now the Scriptures, Lord,
Seed to life eternal sowing,
    Scattered on the wind abroad.
Let not hearts, Your Word receiving,
    Like a barren field be found,
Choked with thorns and unbelieving,
    Shallow earth or stony ground.

2. May the Spirit’s pow’r unceasing
    Bring to life the hidden grain,
Daily in our hearts increasing,
    Bearing fruit that shall remain.
So in Scripture, song, and story,
    Savior, may Your voice be heard.
Till our eyes behold Your glory
    Give us ears to hear Your Word. Amen.

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