Has the Church Rejected Truth?

Over the last two centuries, the Western church has languished under an intense pressure to be relevant within a society that has become more and more leery of absolute truth. Authority is mocked, and relativism is embraced. Many churches have mitigated the truth of God’s Word in order not to offend “cultural sensitivities.” Rather than shaping the culture by the truth, culture has shaped the message proclaimed by the church. Francis Schaeffer spoke of the declension in this way:

The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place. Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists and missionaries as well.[1]

… The floodwaters of secular thought and new theology overwhelmed the Church because the leaders did not understand the importance of combating a false set of presuppositions.[2]

According to Schaeffer, the proclamation of the “truth” from many churches in the late twentieth century was ineffective because it was bifurcated from reality. Not only was there a lack of understanding of the truth, but there also was a subtle skepticism regarding the authority of the truth. Regarding Scripture as authoritative was taboo for a society that was questioning foundations of truth. But if truth is being questioned, then the authority of truth has already become relative. Today, we are reaping the consequence. Western society has rejected absolute truth, and many pulpits openly flaunt their disregard for God’s Word.

The surrounding culture may reject absolute truth, even all authority, but that reality should inspire the Church to more faithfully proclaim the Gospel as the only truth that will address the brokenness of this world. In an attempt to refocus evangelical preaching, Bryan Chapell, in his book, Christ-Centered Preaching, states that one of the strongest opponents of gospel proclamation is the “erosion of authority.”[3] As a result, “our culture and the church are desperate for dependable truths that address the brokenness of the world this loss of authority accentuates.”[4]

An unspoken question for mankind has been and will always be, “What is ‘my’ purpose?” The Church has been given the answer, and she needs to boldly proclaim it unashamedly. For if we believe truly that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,[5] the message of the Gospel is certainly the most relevant truth that can be declared to postmodern mankind.

Yet, if these foundational truths are not proclaimed, then authentic vibrant worship is sure to wane. And if authentic worship is absent from our churches, the world will see our hypocrisy and lack of authenticity.

Prior to his death in 1963, A. W. Tozer expressed concern that “worship acceptable to God is the missing crown jewel in evangelical Christianity.”[6] Thirty-six years later, Marva J. Dawn reiterated the same concern within her book, A Royal “Waste” of Time:

My primary concern in various churches’ and denominations’ struggle over worship is that so many decisions are being based on criteria other than the most essential—namely, that God be the Subject and Object, the Infinite Center, or our worship.[7]

An adherence to the truth—to the gospel—facilitates true worship. Rejection of the truth for the sake of becoming relevant to society results in false worship and the promotion of unbiblical religious practice. How then can this error be prevented or corrected within the church? First, the church must not seek relevance within culture on conditions set by the pervasive ideologies of the day. And secondly, the church must begin to proclaim more fervently a true knowledge of God as revealed in Holy Scripture. We will explore these remedies in part two of this post later this week.

Brian Pinney is the BibleMesh administrator.

[1] Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972), 13. Cited on Kairos Journal, “The Lost Concept of Truth?”

[2] Ibid., 15.

[3] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 11.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #1.

[6] A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? ed. Gerald B. Smith, (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1985), 7.

[7] Marva J. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” of Time (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1999), 8.