Shrouded Truth

The world can't get away from God's truth.

Ill Winds (5)

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; or in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’”
Acts 17.26-28

God’s judgments
The truth of God, by which He would bless and cause us to flourish, is not hidden in arcane texts or inaccessible mountain domains. We don’t have to scale heights, cut our way through jungles, or sail to distant shores to discover the truth of God.

In fact, the truth of God – especially in the forms of His goodness, His judgments, and His glory – is all around us all the time, as three quotes from the psalms of David indicate:

For the word of the LORD is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. Psalm 33.4, 5

He is the LORD our God;
His judgments are in all the earth. Psalm 105.7

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19.1-4

Because all people are made in the image of God, encounters with the goodness, judgments, glory, and truth of God are common, indeed, everyday experiences. Every person who has ever lived knows God, at a certain level of being at least (Rom. 1.18-21); and that knowledge of God is ineradicable. Men suppress that knowledge by refusing to believe in God and heaping up unrighteous worldviews and ungodly ways; but the image of God and His undeniable truth remain amid the clutter and confusion of tarnished, corrupt, and lost souls.

God has written the works of His Law on the soul of every human being (Rom. 2.14, 15). So it should not surprise us to know that the ill winds that waft across our heart, mind, and conscience are not entirely false. The teachings, ideas, worldviews, and opinions of people, even those who do not know the Lord, cannot help but contain some measure of truth, albeit truth shrouded in the garments of the lie.

The lie Paul wrote about in Romans 1.18-32 is the teaching that rejects God and His Word, places self on the judgment throne of life, and constructs a view and an approach to life that picks and chooses to suit the fleeting whims and interests of self. Yet even such worldviews will contain grains of truth, not because all views are true, but because the truth of God impresses itself on every soul, if only in fleeting glances, through the image of God in people.

Paul in Athens
Our text comes from the middle of Paul’s message to the Greek philosophers assembled on Mars Hill in Athens, which was a venue for philosophical discussion and debate, and to which Paul had been invited to present more formally the views he had been conversing about throughout the city.

In his message, Paul sought to show the superiority of Biblical thinking over the partial truths of secular philosophies, and to hold Jesus up as the culmination of all truth and the very Reason, Explanation, and End of the creation and all people.

Paul quoted approvingly from two Greek thinkers. First, he paraphrased Epimenides (fl. ca. 600 BC) by saying “in him we live and move and have our being”. Epimenides was not referring to the God of Scripture, but he was right about the fact of our existence being inextricable and inseparable from God.  Next, Paul drew from Aratus (310-240 BC) who wrote, in an ode to Zeus, “For we are also his offspring.” Although Aratus was wrong about the god he referenced, he was right about the fact that all people exist because of God, and are His offspring by virtue of being made in His image.

Paul was not merely showing off here. He was appealing to his Greek audience at the level of agreed-on truth, truth which they had learned from philosophers who discerned truths about God and our relationship to Him. Even though their teachings overall were false, and their use of God’s truth faulty, Paul, in saying, “as also some of your own poets have said,” shows us that even the ill winds of false worldviews can carry breezes from the Wind of God.

But so what?
What we want to see from Paul, however, is not merely that it is acceptable to use truth wherever we find it. First, we have to know how to find it, and then we have to understand it for the truth it is, and not for the role it is playing in propping up some ill wind of doctrine.

Paul’s use of these two Greek thinkers was entirely enveloped in an exposition of Biblical teaching, an exposition that led ultimately to Christ, risen from the dead, and sitting in judgment over all thinkers and worldviews and people. Paul, in a sense, redeemed those truths from Epimenides and Aratus and restored them to their proper place within the framework of God’s truth, by pointing to the God of Scripture, especially as He is known to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We want to appreciate the truth of God from every source in which it appears. But to do this we’ll have to be, like Paul, steeped in the Word of God and focused on Jesus. Then we can sift the kernels of truth from the chaff of half-truths and outright lies, and bring that truth back to its true Source, by lodging it squarely and rightly within the overall context of the Christian worldview and the Good News about Jesus.

Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14.6); and Jesus said that God’s Word is truth (Jn. 17.17). The more we are immersed in Jesus and His truth, the less likely we will be to be fooled by a stray truth of God blowing within a shroud of false doctrine. We can acknowledge truth wherever we encounter it; but we can only use the truths that may be present in false worldviews, to the extent that we bring them home to God’s Word, whence they ultimately derive, and use them to drive us onward toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.

For reflection
1. Can you think of an example of Biblical truth shrouded in a false worldview?

2. Why should we want to discern God’s truth among false worldviews?

3. How can we use the ubiquitous presence of God’s truth to initiate conversations about the Gospel?

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T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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