Truth is a person

posted in: Blog, My Blog | 6

A call to restore the centrality of Jesus to the church

I attended a wedding recently. The minister was a pleasant young man from a traditional denomination. He conducted the service well enough but he made no reference whatsoever to the Bible, and the name of Jesus came up just once in a casual aside. A Christian marriage is based on the covenant between God and man as fulfilled in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is described and prescribed in the Bible. How then can a minister of the church conduct a Christian wedding without reference to either the Lord Jesus or the Bible? This is by no means an isolated incident but is rather indicative of the sad lack of connection between Jesus and the Bible evidenced in much of the church of our day. This central ‘truth’ connection needs to be restored and I am committed to playing a meaningful role in the process.

This statement demands an answer to at least two questions; what do I mean by truth, and why does it need to be restored? To many the idea seems nonsensical. It is popular today to regard truth as relative and individually or group determined. If this is so, then truth isn’t an absolute that would ever need to be restored. However, I believe that truth is a person rather than simply personal, and eternally established rather than relative and transient.

Truth is a person
What do I mean by truth being a person? Well Jesus claimed to be truth itself when he declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). On many occasions he used the phrase “I tell you the truth”, but here he went beyond that to proclaim that he was the embodiment of truth. This was a central idea in early Christianity. The first century disciples were more followers than learners. They witnessed to a relationship with the Son of God and sought to emulate him rather than just study his teachings. But then things started to change.

From relationship to protocol…
By the middle ages, Christian maturity was gauged by knowledge of doctrine and church protocol instead of the quality of a living relationship with Jesus Christ. And things haven’t changed much since then. In traditional churches the priest, pastor, minister is required to hold a bachelor of theology degree. This is good in itself but surely a mature relationship with Jesus is of greater importance? The answer to that question is often negative because the criterion for ministerial success has become what you know rather than who you know.

Ask an average gathering of Christians if they are currently discipling anyone and a typical positive response would be one in a hundred. Jesus commissioned his followers to go into all the world and make disciples but so few of us do. Why is this? Again, ask a typical congregation this question and one of the most common responses is, “I don’t know enough”. What they mean by this is that they don’t have in-depth knowledge of the doctrines of the Christian Faith and nor do they have answers to the many objections they imagine others will raise. But Christianity is not a knowledge-based religion; it is a word that describes a relationship with Jesus and with other disciples. It is not a system to be sold, but a life of relationship to be offered.

…and back to relationship
A central truth that needs to be restored to the church is this; Jesus is the truth and Christianity is about a relationship with him and his followers. Paul captures this central idea when he writes about ‘God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.’ (1 Tim 3:15). Then, in the next verses he writes; ‘Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.’ The truth… He (Jesus) appeared in a body. Jesus is the truth the church is to uphold.

How the written word fits in
Of course we only know of Jesus through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the scriptures. If Jesus is the incarnate Word of Truth, as He is, then the Bible is the written Word of Truth. But here is another central concept; we can only really understand the Bible with reference to Jesus. The written word is not so much a collection of propositions as it is a revelation of the person, nature, purpose, and teachings of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, because of the misconception that Christianity is a knowledge-based religion, the Bible is regarded by many as a sort of theological dictionary. Of course it does contain commands, concepts, and principles. It also contains guidance for daily living, but it is first and foremost a revelation of Jesus (Revelation 1:1). This too needs to be restored to the church.

Doctrine in a new light
Doctrine is important, but it needs to be Christ-centred doctrine. Holy living is important but this too must be Christ-motivated and Christ-pleasing. Healthy church practice is important but here again the focus needs to be on Jesus, not on protocol, ritual, or tradition.

Would we see the sort of maniacal antics on display at many of the so-called ‘revivals’ of our day if we were centred on Jesus and His ways? I don’t think so, and in any event we would not flock to these displays like confused sheep if we knew the real shepherd! And how could the great divides between Calvinists and Arminians, cessasionists and charismatics, and so on, continue to exist if both sides were thoroughly Christ-centred in doctrine and practice? Perhaps I am naïve, but I am convinced that we won’t even  make real progress in these areas until we embrace the restoration of the centrality of Jesus.

So, when I hear the Lord’s voice calling for the restoration of truth to his church, I don’t think of a particular doctrine or tradition, I think of Jesus, for Jesus is The Truth.

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6 Responses

  1. Lance Peppler

    While I agree that Jesus should the centre and focus of the Christian faith I think perhaps holding him up as the definition, or incarnation, of Truth because Jesus as God is very complicated and it is very unlikely that one person will be able to grasp the full picture of who Jesus is. This means that different people and groups of people will probably focus on the aspects of Jesus that they understand and so will have a slightly different view and understanding of Jesus – or Truth. So this means that different denominations will still be pronouncing Truth but a slightly different Truth to others – or a different focus – both important and valid.

    Anyway, my 2 cents worth.
    Lance

  2. Christopher

    Thanks for your comments Lance. The following is a cut-and-paste from my book Truth is The Word that sets out my view concerning doctrinal unity and Christ-centred interpreation of the Bible.

    6.2 Greater possibility of doctrinal unity

    The divergence of interpretations increases with every step away from the source of truth. The further we move away from Jesus as the source of truth, the greater the range and diversity of interpretations.

    Jesus

    The Bible

    The Church

    Senses & Reports
    ╘╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧╧
    Range and diversity

    Those who attempt to interpret truth from sense experiences and the reports of others will differ vastly from each other. Moreover, the various interpretations of the data will change markedly over time. Secular cosmology is an example of this reality – ‘Big Bang’ one day, ‘Steady State’ the next, and ‘Quantum Parallel Universes’ the day after!

    Interpretations based on the teaching of the church will be in a narrower range yet will still differ considerably. Which church? Whose teachings? When? Culture and tradition will play a major, and ever-changing, role in such interpretive schemes.

    The range is still wide even when we start with the Bible as the source of truth. Firstly, different groups have established different collections of writings that they accept as the canon of scripture. Additionally, each group has its own hermeneutical tradition. In addition, as I have demonstrated, church orthodoxy biases the translation process.

    However, when we accept Jesus himself as the source of truth, our interpretive range reduces considerably. There will still be differences but they will not be as great as is the case with other schemes.

    The narrower the range of interpretation, the greater the possibility of doctrinal unity among Christians, churches, and denominations.

  3. Peter Veysie

    Hi Chris – Just spotted your blog – I am intrigued by the nature of Word as defined by the Word or our words ?? I wonder if Plato and Aristotle brought in another “word” and made it The Word.
    Pete

  4. Karen Laxton

    Brilliant, Chris! I really enjoyed reading that – and the comments from Lance and Peter – both valid ideas and worth thinking about. But I love your words – so easy to read and understand! Specially by a ~”baby Christian” like me!! Believe it or not, I am reading my bible daily and really do get comfort from His words – and others. All the best and hope to see you soon!
    God Bless
    Karen Laxton

  5. Christopher

    Thanks Karen. When you read the Gospels try picturing yourself actually there. Hear,smell and see. As you read, pray as a sort of dialogue.You will be amazed how alive the Bible becomes. God be with you.

  6. Shazzcat

    I’ve found increasingly for myself (and from others telling me) that weddings are becoming opportunities to receive lectures in how to have a happy relationship with each other. While valid these aren’t backed up by any biblical references and I’m left with the increasing opinion that the ministers in questions would rather be Dr. Phil. Great post, quite a long read but very interesting. Thanks!

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