How the Church Can Recover Truth

As noted in part one of this post, when the church rejects truth for the sake of becoming relevant to society, the result is false worship and 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 pervasive ideologies of the day. And second, the church must begin to proclaim more fervently a true knowledge of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.

A pervasive secular humanism has infected much of the teaching and preaching of God’s Word in churches today. Secular educational philosophies are brought into the church through Sunday School curriculums and programs. The presuppositions of secular humanism are embraced as a framework for teaching God’s Word. The questions asked in class are less concerned with who God is, who Christ is, or who man is and more concerned with how students feel about what was taught, or what they think about their experience with the “truth” or “God.” Objective truth is replaced with subjective opinion, and man becomes the determiner of what is good for him.[1] A false belief in humanity’s innate goodness leads to a false confidence that those taught will “naturally” be able to come to the truth by their own reasoning. The sinfulness of man is avoided and the noetic effects of the Fall are disregarded—replaced with remnants of idealism from the Enlightenment and shadowed by the skepticism of modernity. The rationale: to teach God’s Word authoritatively and as absolute truth would be offensive to students intellectually (for they would come to the truth by themselves) and turn them off (because who is to say everything in Scripture is true and relevant today for each individual).

Yet the more one comes to understand Scripture as a unified message of human need and divine provision, the problem of relevance in today’s culture becomes less perplexing. Scripture is inherently relevant for all peoples, all times, and all situations. All mankind is born sinful, in total rebellion against God with no capacity within himself to come into right relationship with His Creator. He is dead in his sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1) and only made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5) through faith (Eph. 2:8). A church need not shape its message to become relevant to postmodern culture. The very purpose and meaning for which Western society yearns is found in Scripture. God’s revelation speaks directly to these pains, providing absolute truth in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

As the church proclaims a true knowledge of God as revealed in Scripture—a knowledge of God that includes proper “fear of the Lord”—God’s people will be rejected and hated by many, but their message will be relevant. A proper understanding of God’s wrath in view of God’s love is not only the foundation of the gospel, but it also stimulates proper and genuine worship.

Proclaiming a true knowledge of God teaches men and women to know God as Lord and therefore properly fear Him. When man comes into the presence of God, his sinfulness is fully revealed in the blinding light of God’s holiness. To fear the Lord is an awe-inspired response of humankind to God’s praiseworthiness. Psalm 145:3 proclaims, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Because of His creative power and majesty “all the earth is to fear the Lord,” and “all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.”[2] Psalm 130:3-4 relates fearing God to knowing God’s forgiveness:

If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

Therefore you are feared.

These words may, at first glance, seem strange. Shouldn’t God be “feared” as a result of not forgiving, rather than because He forgives? Yet a God who has the authority to forgive sins has the authority to condemn justly too. The people who saw Jesus perform miracle after miracle also saw Him declare men and women forgiven from their sins. The people, and especially religious leaders of the day, understood that only God could forgive sins. Fear often gripped His disciples and the surrounding crowds when such authority was revealed.[3]

Knowing God means fearing God, and fearing God means knowing God. Worshipful obedience is the result. Paul’s hymn of praise written to the Romans (Rom. 11:33-36) provides an excellent picture of the immeasurable wisdom and knowledge of God revealed to those who truly fear Him. As John Newton expressed in his hymn Amazing Grace, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.” In coming to know of God’s grace, man comes to fear—to reverently stand in awe of—his Creator and Lord.

The church’s relevance within any culture is contingent upon proper proclamation of the gospel and dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Both must be present for mankind to come to a true knowledge of God, leading to sincere worship in obedience within the covenant community.

Brian Pinney is the BibleMesh administrator.

[1] Cathy Mickels & Audrey McKeever, Spiritual Junk Food: The Dumbing Down of Christian Youth (Mukilteo, WA; Winepress Publishing, 1999).

[2] Psalm 33:8 (NASB)

[3] Luke 5:8; 8:25; 37.