Truth is an interesting concept in a post-modern world. Society has evolved into a post-truth era in which “what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.” But what does this mean for a Church who submits to Jesus Christ, who identifies himself as incarnate Truth?
Because of our profession in Jesus Christ, a tendency exists within the Church exalt ourselves because we have “the Truth.” And of course, if we have the truth, then it implies everyone else does not or is wrong. Or at least so the line of logic goes. But this reasoning has bullied unbelievers and divided a Church which cannot agree on often the simplest of matters.
I will make the claim that the Church needs to have a broader view of truth. Yes, I agree Jesus Christ is incarnate Truth and has serious implications for the faith. But, all truth comes from God, whether or not is direct revelation from Christ. Metaphysics exists apart from special revelation, but is truth and comes from God. Someone who fights for justice in immigration is preaching truth. Even the hardened atheist who is willing to call the Church out on their most vile of injustices is speaking truth, which also comes from God.
So yes, the Church has Truth, but it does not necessarily have all truth, because truth does not exist apart from God, but it does exist apart from the Body of Christ. If this principles actualizes, the Church should be more accepting of viewpoints, and loosen their stranglehold on truth.
Now, as it relates to disputes within the Church, we need to have a much, much broader view on truth. I will consider my alma mater, Cedarville University, in this discussion. Over the past 2 years, Cedarville has added “White Papers” to clarify and specify their doctrinal stances on the issues of creation, justification, and omniscience. In the time since, they have also fired a professor for agreeing with the doctrine of creation in the wrong way. The concept of truth at the university is very specific, very exclusive, and frankly, unhealthy.
WIthin organizations who find it pertinent to specify their doctrinal stances, a monopoly on truth distances them from other groups. As you narrow your beliefs to a more specific end, you alienate more people in the process, as you essentially claim that those who disagree with you are wrong. A list of doctrine is created which you exalt as truth and require all constituencies to agree with even though there is much debate over many of the issues. Not only is this prideful, but it is a complete disservice to Church history to believe after 2,000 years of continued debate your church/organization/university has finally arrived a the correct doctrinal positions. Such an environment is hostile to doubt and questions, a healthy function in developing faith.
I just began reading Donald Miller’s “Searching For God Knows What” and he begins a very similar discussion in the introduction. He says
“…our drive to define God with a mathematical theology has become a false God rather than an arrow that points to the real God. Theology can become an idol, but it is more useful as guardrails on a road to the true God. Theology is very important but it is not God, and knowing facts about God is not t he same as knowing God.”
There are fundamental truths in the Christian faith such as the deity of Christ and it reasonable to make that a “guardrail” or a standard that pastors and preachers and professors and students to agree to. But there are many second-tier issues that are not fundamental to the faith. These guardrails are more akin to roadblocks–not guides put up for our safety, but objects placed in the way of roads deemed dangerous. As you peer over the roadblock though, you see that plenty of people are making healthy commutes down a road presumed hazardous. Why? Because as Miller says “God doesn’t exclude someone from His saving grace because they don’t have the correct theological checklist.”
And so, I fail to see why an organization expects faith to it’s second-tier issues or why they must take positions on second-tier issues at all when they are not necessary to their identity as a church/Christ-centered organization/university. It harms academic discourse, religious inquiry, and distances them from other similar organizations.