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A Seismic Paradigm Shift (Part 2)
Friday, March 3, 2017

As we noted last week, a seismic paradigm shift has impacted seemingly every aspect of our culture, and there is evidence that it has impacted our churches as well. “At the core of every people-group is a belief of life’s essence and meaning.”[1] For the conservative Christian, the teaching of God’s Word provides the foundation and authority for the answers concerning the things that matter most. The testimony of Scripture is clear, accessible and understandable. This understanding is rooted in the orthodox doctrine of inspiration (II Tim. 3:16-17) that acknowledges that all Scripture contains absolute truth, breathed out by God. The men who wrote Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:19-21) so that their words (and personalities) conveyed the words of God (Mk. 12:36; I Cor. 14:37) and not their own thoughts.[2] The result is that within the Bible, there is propositional truth from God that comes with the full authority of the character and nature of God. In addition, the conservative understanding of inerrancy is the belief that these fixed propositional truths are wholly true and without error, and every Christian should derive truth from the Scripture.[3]

Unfortunately, the same seismic paradigm shift seen in our culture – from objective universal truth to subjective personal truth - has impacted the church as well. Rather than truth being understood by what God said in Scripture, truth is discovered within the context of a particular community and the language of a particular culture. In other words, truth is what the Bible means to them.[4] This results in ultimate authority shifting from the objective truth of scripture, to the unique spiritual experience of the hearer. This denies the clarity of Scripture and reduces authority from Scripture alone to a blend of Scripture, tradition and culture.[5] Not only does this relegate truth to a provisional level rather than an objective level of certainty,[6] it generates an adverse reaction toward those who hold to the objective certainty of truth rather than a dependence on personal experience or cultural perspectives. This has created division within evangelicalism and local churches.

Once again, if the church is going to remain true to its mission, it must unashamedly and passionately cling to its biblical worldview, and not adopt the subjective, feeling-oriented, “what works for me” approach to “truth.”

Francis Beckwith noted that “We moderns too eagerly and too often live our lives on the basis of insupportable, indefensible, half-true truisms that cannot stand up to close analysis.”[7] This is happening within the church as well and has resulted in disunity, uncertainty, and relativity – a seismic paradigm shift indeed. Close analysis of critical matters of life and godliness rely on an objective standard of truth and reality, and for the conservative Christian, this is the Bible. Peter reminds us that “His (God) divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet.1:3). “A truly Christian worldview, simply put, is one in which the Word of God, rightly understood, is firmly established as both the foundation and the final authority for everything we hold true.”[8] The church must address the seismic paradigm shift in culture and resist the same within our ministries, remaining true to its mission and core values. God has entrusted His truth to His people, and we must follow the example of the Berean Christians who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).” As we find a way forward, may we remain committed to the truth of Scripture and the application of that truth, answering the critical matters of our time.

 

 

[1] Beckwith, Francis, et al. To Everyone An Answer: A case for the Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004, 308.

[2] Kistemaker, Simon J. James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1987, 274.

[3] Geisler, Norman. “The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate” Bibliotheca Sacra (137:548) (Oct 1980) 331 & 336.

[4] Olsen, Roger E. Reformed and Always Reforming. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007, 113-114.

[5] Mappes, David. “The Nobility and Knowability of Truth: Part One,” The Journal of Ministry and Theology (Spring, 2009): 82.

[6] Ibid. 101.

[7] Beckwith, Francis, et al. To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004, 254.

[8] MacArthur, John (General Editor). Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003, 21