Truth has a decided disadvantage in a society where deconstructionism, moral relativism, sentiment, and spiritism concurrently infuse the cultural center: It is inflexible.
Truth has a habit of not fitting-in. It is the unwelcome guest at the table of religious coexistence.
Truth is declarative. It states that certain things are so, others not, unambiguously and without room for shading or nuance.
Truth is propositional. It makes arguments for and against core beliefs and assertions.
Truth is demanding. It gives us no option but to accept or reject it, at least if we listen to it honestly.
For these reasons, truth is often irritating. It tells us we cannot avoid right and wrong, that consequences are unavoidable, that any attempt to bend eternal rules will break us long before the rules themselves begin to curve for us.
In 1984, George Orwell “used the slogan ‘two plus two equals five’ as a demonstration of the false dogma and absurdity expounded by a totalitarian state. In response, the protagonist of the novel, Will Smith, claims that ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.’ ‘Two plus two equals five’ was originally a communist slogan in the USSR suggesting that the goals of the first five year plan could be achieved a year early if people worked harder.”
The Polish Solidarity Movement led the way toward the liberation of Poland itself. Taking a cue from Orwell, Solidarity published posters saying, “Two plus two must always be four.” This was a clever but brave refutation of Communist doctrine that Marxism literally could re-shape reality. Thirty years later, it is not the posters that rest molding in the dustbins.
Christianity proposes that certain things about God, man, salvation, morality, time, and eternity are immutable. It is not up to us whether or not we like them or find them appealing. Perhaps I might want two plus two to equal 17, and I might experience a sense of uplifting liberation in this attempted reinvention of mathematics.
However, should I begin to practice my subjective new math in, say, architectural design, I will find the house that I build won’t be safe for my family, or even capable of being built at all.
There are teachings in Scripture concerning which believers disagree, often strongly. The mode of baptism, eschatology, the use of alcohol, and dispensationalism versus covenantalism are a few of them.
But the Bible’s essential teachings on “doctrine and practice” are not obscure or ambiguous. They are adequately clear so as to have produced 2,000 years of general concurrence on the core truths of “the faith once delivered” (Jude 3).
In our time, we are witnessing the rise of what Russell Moore has called “professional dissidents” within Evangelical Protestantism – people who claim adherence to the historic and central tenets of Evangelical faith even while repudiating some of them, in whole or in part. As Andrew Walker has written, “while Evangelicalism remains a big tent, at some point, the canopy ends.”
It would be more honest for those who want to repudiate, modify, or muddle the Bible’s teaching on such things as sexual intimacy, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the existence of hell, or whatever else they dislike simply to admit they no longer embrace the Evangelical understanding of core truths and move into a denomination – say, the United Church of Christ – where their heterodoxy can luxuriate, without the base alloy of hypocrisy (apologies to Abraham Lincoln).
As the culture around becomes more and more aggressively hostile to the living-out of Christian faith and public expressions thereof, American Evangelicals need to ready themselves for a measure of misunderstanding, ostracism, and even hatred to which they have never before been accustomed.
Why? Because, to employ a quote attributed to Orwell, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Deceit might not be wholly universal in American public life, but the movement is in this direction.
In coming years, standing for truth will take both conviction and courage, animated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those tired of the culture wars, frustrated by intractable deterrents to evangelism, preoccupied with the fear of misinterpretation need to begin realizing there is a cost to scriptural faithfulness, and should consider whether or not they are willing to count it.
Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president at the Family Research Council.
Publication date: May 5, 2014