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The Truth about the World

The Bible knows all about it.

The Truth that Makes Us Free (2)

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God…
2 Peter 3.5 (English Standard Version)

Truth and the “big questions”
I suspect that most people in our society would be quite happy for us Christians to insist that the Word of God is truth, as Jesus said – as long as we mean by that something like “truth for me.”

I rather suspect that many Christians would feel more comfortable with that view as well.

The only notion of truth most people can grasp is one that leaves everybody free to decide about truth on their own terms. The notion of anything like final or absolute truth – truth that is such regardless of how we feel or think about it – just isn’t on most folks’ radar screen.

Except, of course, when it comes to the really big questions about such things as the cosmos. The cosmos is there, regardless of how we think or feel about it, a universe of facts that can neither be denied nor understood in merely subjective terms. But the cosmos is big, complex, and highly variegated. Getting at the truth of it can be a challenge.

Most people don’t expect the Bible to know anything about science, so they don’t consult it for knowledge about the world – what it is, how it got here, what it’s for, where it’s headed, and where we fit into the grand cosmic scheme of things.

No, for such truths our secular generation does not look to the Bible. They look to science. They have set the disciplines of science in the arbiter’s chair where matters of material facts are concerned – to tell us what is, what it is, and what it is for. From their position of authority, the mavens of the scientific worldview seek to spread its influence, especially by means of the “social” sciences, into all realms of human life, leaving no room for the Bible to speak any truth to anyone except the most gullible and naïve.

But close examination of the Bible reveals that it has a good deal to say about the cosmos and all those related matters. It tells us how the cosmos came into being, that it is sustained and replenished by the work of God upon it, that it exists within a larger framework of realities which includes spiritual beings and places which we cannot observe with the instruments and methods of science, and that this cosmos is not the final destination either for it or for us.

It also speaks pointedly about those institutions, protocols, and conventions that make up the various domains of social science – economics, politics, education, psychology, and so forth. The Bible is not silent on matters of material or social science. Its teaching is plain and unequivocal.

Are these just opinions? Or spiritual myths? Or does the Bible represent a perspective on material reality – and all reality – that ought to be considered? The Bible has a lot to say about the cosmos and everything in it. Are we simply supposed to deny the teaching of Scripture? Wouldn’t that be a matter of standing over the Word of God, rather than standing under it? How can we expect to be sanctified by the truth of Scripture if we insist that, at least in certain areas, Scripture doesn’t know what it’s talking about?

Peter faced the same problem in his day. Certain teachers – pop philosophers, self-made theologians, and various slick talkers – were appearing in the churches Peter served, saying things like, “The world has always been here and always will be, although probably in some form other than what we presently observe” and “God doesn’t really trouble with the universe, which runs on its own principles and laws, quite apart from any input from Him.”

By so saying, these false teachers marginalized God, minimized His influence over human life, and denied the plain teaching of Scripture – the better to make room for their own foolish schemes and teachings.

Peter insisted that these folks were overlooking something, and what they were overlooking were not myths or private opinions, but facts.

The fact of the matter
The fact of the matter, according to Scripture, is that the cosmos was created by God, not by chance; that the Word of God acted into a material void to bring the cosmos into being, and make it what it is; and that the material cosmos is simply part of a larger reality which includes heaven and its spiritual population.

Those are the facts, according to Scripture. To deny the facts of Scripture in favor of the opinions of men is to side with the lie against the truth of God.

By implication, Peter might have written, if it had suited his purposes, the cosmos continues as it is because God sustains it in every detail (cf. Heb. 1.3), and will until He burns it up (2 Pet. 3.7, 10). The entire cosmos serves His purposes according to Hisgood pleasure and redemptive plan. And it is headed, after being dissolved, for a destination of glorious flourishing in a new world without end. And all this is because God loves the cosmos so much that He sent His only-begotten Son to redeem, reconcile, and restore it (Jn. 3.16; 2 Cor. 5.19).

Peter would have said this because, with respect to his understanding of the cosmos and everything else, Peter stood under the Scriptures and not over them.

Did his enemies consider him naïve or ignorant? Certainly they did. But Peter was content to be so regarded as long as he remained faithful to the Word of Truth which sanctifies our souls. He believed that God is true and those who disagree with Him are liars, and he resolved to take his stand with the truth.

His example should be instructive for us. We must not allow false claimants to truth, largely in the guise of sociological and political theories, to pipe the tune of truth. Jesus Christ is truth. God’s Word is truth. Faithful believers begin there, standing under the truth of God, to discern His truth for everything else in life. Thus we live free in the truth of God, and not subject to being jerked here and there by the changeable ideas about truth of finite and fallible people.

The truth about the world begins with God and His Word, not men and theirs.

For reflection
1.  These days the scientific community has become the arbiter of truth for most people. And the scientific community has ruled out the need for God as in any way an explanation for or component of the material universe. Is this an assertion of fact or belief? Explain.

2.  Why should we regard the teaching of Scripture as a matter of fact rather than opinion or myth?

3.  What’s the difference between standing under the Scriptures and standing over them? How can we know when we have moved from the former to the latter?

Next steps – Conversation: Meditate on Psalm 104. How many different ways can you see that God is actively involved with the cosmos? What are the implications of this for us? Are these facts or something else?

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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