Friday, June 18, 2010

"All Truth is God's Truth"

Whenever I hear this assertion it's usually being given as substantiation for some devaluation of the sufficiency of Scripture. Whether that be trying to force billions of years into Genesis 1-3, claiming that one's counseling methodology ought to be informed by secular psychological theory, or seeking to legitimize an over-concern with worldliness in the name of being missional or contextualizing the Gospel, this phrase gets a lot of mileage from those seeking to evade the teaching of the sufficient Scripture by affording undue authority to other sources of knowledge. When it comes down to it, the question of the validity of this statement is a question of epistemology. How do we know what we know? What is the authoritative source of all knowledge?

The Bible contains the revelation of the specific words of God to specific people. Because of this specificity, the Bible is said to be the "special revelation" of God (cf. Grudem, p. 122-123). General revelation, on the other hand, is "the knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law, which comes through creation to all humanity" (Grudem, p. 122). Such revelation is "general," or "common," because it is revealed to all humanity -- it's something we all have in common, so to speak.

The relationship of the authority of special revelation and general revelation is of particular importance to the issues raised above, i.e., the age of the earth, Biblical vs. integrationist counseling, and the nature of the natural man's spiritual death. The scientist, psychologist, or postmodern thinker argues that all truth is God’s truth, and so if something is found to be true by means of scientific analysis of general revelation, well then that is a manifestation of God’s common grace. Since truth which is gleaned from general revelation, it is argued, is just as much God’s truth as truth gleaned from special revelation, both special and general revelation are equally authoritative and thus each ought to have a place in Christian epistemology.

As a dear brother of mine has said, "Perhaps all truth is God's truth, but not all words are God's Word."

The problem with this "All-truth-is-God's-truth" line of reasoning is that it simply does not acknowledge
the inherent difference between general revelation and special revelation in both glory and authority. Scripture assigns to itself more authority than it does to general revelation. Though general revelation is perceived through God’s creation, and though God’s creation began as "very good" (Gen 1:31), the consequences of the Fall of man present a twofold problem. First, God subjected the entire creation to futility (Rom 8:20-23), cursing His "very good" creation as a result of Adam's sin (Gen 3:17). Second, when Adam sinned, all humanity died with him (Rom 5:12). So even though it is through creation that the invisible attributes of God have been clearly seen, leaving men with no excuse (Rom 1:20), the depravity of fallen man causes him to suppress that clearly revealed truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), rendering both fallen creation and fallen man unqualified epistemological authorities. The creation in its current state is not a reliable subject of study because of its corruption, and since no part of humanity's existence was unaffected by the Fall, our total depravity makes us unreliable students.

The Word of God, on the other hand, is not fallen. Indeed, the law of Yahweh remains perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and righteous altogether (Ps 19:7-9). Unlike the corrupted creation and its depraved students, the integrity – and thus, the authority – of special revelation is entirely unblemished by the Fall. Further, Yahweh's perfect law "restores the soul" (Ps 19:7) of depraved mankind, something general revelation cannot do. "Far greater than all general revelation is the glory of God revealed in His Word, because the Word transforms the heart of man" (Street, Counseling, p. 44).

Those who tout "All truth is God's truth" as a way to put observation of creation (scientific or otherwise) on equal footing with Scripture simply do not realize the inherent difference in glory and authority between general revelation and special revelation.

Even though the heavens are declaring the glory of God (Ps 19:1) such that men are without excuse (Rom 1:20), general revelation cannot free man from the corruption that even it is enslaved to (Rom 8:20-23). Only special revelation can do that; that is, the Word of God which is perfect, restoring the soul (Ps 19:7), able to make us wise unto salvation (2Tim 3:15) .

So all truth may be God's truth, but not all words are God's Word. God's decisive, sufficient, perfect Word surpasses even His good, yet corrupted, creation in both glory and authority.

And that must drive our epistemology. Otherwise, it is not a Christian epistemology.

The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of Yahweh are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
- Psalm 19:7-11 -

All Scripture is inspired by God
and profitable
for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 -


Mark D. Twombly said...

Mike -
Amen an amen! We recognize also that the Scripture IS truth (Psalm 119:142, 160, John 17:17), or as Grudem puts it, 'the reference point by which every other claim to truthfulness is to be measured' (Grudem, Wayne A.: Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich. : Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994, S. 83.) That is very different from something being 'true', and thanks for unfolding God's marvelous claims for His Holy Word!


David Peyton said...

Very helpful, thank you, Mike. God gave you some good insights from His word into a most vital issue.

It appears that one of the fundamental concerns in this matter is the sufficiency of Scripture.

God keep us faithful to His perfect word!

Sam Van Dyke said...

Great post, I like your thinking.