Immutable Truth

     The Christian religion can be seen as a historical entity. As such its existence can be traced from its beginning to the present. The story of the first century of Christianity is most reliably told by the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. After that the account moves out from under inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is a wealth of information about the things that happen to the church from the end of the first century forward; obviously, the historical accounts are more numerous as time moves toward the present.

     Some Christians, including many who read these words, have accepted that there is a pattern revealed in the Biblical text that God intends for His people to follow with regard to matters of faith and practice in the church. This truth is manifested in 2 Timothy 1:13 in which Paul instructs Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words, which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” There is a pattern or “form” of sound or healthy and proper teaching that must be held to if God is to be pleased.

     The lessons from the aforementioned historical record are clear about one thing: The Christian religion has not held fast that pattern. Indeed first one and then another man, woman or group of people have gone their own way. Indeed, the idea that there is but one way to go to God is seen as passé, no matter what Jesus (John 14:6) or the apostle John (2 John 9-11) have said.

     The problem is fundamental. It has to do with the nature of truth and how truth is passed from one person to another. The human person is gifted by God with the ability to think. That thinking is done by organizing the reality around the person into categories which are given symbols to represent them and make understanding and communication possible. Another way to think about this is to use our word “idea.” We come to know things by the nature of the ideas associated with them. This is common sense and has been part of philosophy and education forever. Nobody ever expressed this concept better than the Lord who said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The word “truth” stands for a whole set of ideas associated with the fact that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God and that His redemptive death has the power to free man from the bondage of sin.

     Russell Kirk was a prolific writer and thinker of the 20th century. He said something along these lines that I like to remember: “Man is drawn forward by a power outside himself, which works through ideas. An idea is an immutable spiritual truth communicated to man through the faculty of intuition.” By “intuition” I think he meant the ability human beings have to understand something, indeed anything, that is presented to us by example, by symbol, by words or other means of transmission of ideas. You have had the experience of “getting” something you’ve tried to learn. That “Eureka” moment comes and you know something you did not know before. When it comes to the Word of God the things communicated are indeed immutable spiritual truths.

     What happened to the Christian religion is thus easy to see. There are ideas that are revealed from the Biblical text that are available to be made part of the human mind through the process of learning. Once learned these ideas become part of the human being who has learned them. This is the process James spoke of in 1:24: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

The trouble is these are not the only ideas available to be learned. There are also untrue ideas about all sorts of things including Biblical faith and practice. As the Lord said, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). These untrue ideas moved the Christian religion from its Biblical course to man centered idea sets from Augustine, Calvin, the Existentialists and all the rest. The immutable truth is still right where God left it: In His Word.