Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All Truth is God's Truth

A cosmologist was having a conversation with a theologian, and he said, “I can’t figure out why you theologians get entangled with all that technical jargon, arguing over substitutionary atonement, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism, Arminianism, and all that technicalia that the average church member just doesn’t care about at all. For me, religion is simple. It’s the Golden Rule; do unto others as you’d have done unto you.”

The theologian thought for a second, and then he said, “I understand exactly what you’re saying. I have the identical frustration with you cosmologists. You’re always dazzling us with scientific language about exploding novae, nebular variables, pulsating quasars, and astronomical perturbations. For me, the cosmos is simple. It’s twinkle, twinkle, little star!”

We live in a time when many people want to make theology and/or the natural sciences extremely simple, when the reality is that both spheres of investigation have their fair share of complexities. To be sure, both are knowable, but not always simple.

We live in a day when many people want to keep these two sciences separate. Yale professor of psychology Paul Bloom has stated that religion and science are implacable foes. He theorizes that belief in God is an “accidental by-product” of the brain’s evolutionary development, and when humans discover that their beliefs in the supernatural are such they will abandon God and embrace a secular and “scientific” worldview.

With a similar viewpoint is Daniel C. Dennett, head of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, he proposes that belief in God is a meme (word coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, memes are analogous to genes, except they are not physical material they are units of intellectual and cultural material, replicators like ideas) that functioned for some time as an evolutionary advantage, but has long since outlived its usefulness and now serves as an impediment to the forward progress of the human species.

Obviously, these men, and many others like them, want to keep theology separate from all other sciences, and, yes, I consider theology a science. Just as cosmology is the study of the cosmos, the physical universe; just as biology is the study of life, and anthropology is the study of humanity. Theology is the study of God, and it is the queen of all sciences because its subject is the greatest of all subjects.

While we live in a time when people want these two spheres of investigation completely separated, numerous folks would be happy for theology to vanish or be banished; we also live in a day when the public at large has given the physical and natural sciences special status. One may notice this elevation in even our colloquialisms. For instance, if you were describing a simple task, one that does not involve much thinking or difficulty, you might say, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out!” But you would never hear someone say, “This doesn’t require a theologian.”

When I say “science”, you are most likely thinking of lab coats, Bunsen burners, and Petri dishes. Likewise, when I say “theology” you probably conjure up an image of a thin, balding, bookish gentleman with a lunar tan whose only engagement is with books rather than people. Allow me to break down those stereotypes. “Science” is simply the knowledge gained through study and experience, and the goal of science is to save the phenomena; more plainly put, it is to understand the truth.

All truth is God’s truth. The subject may be the eternal soul of a man or the origin of man and the world he inhabits. Regardless of the topic, all truth is God’s truth, and God has revealed His truth in two ways. The first is what’s called general revelation. That is creation itself. The apostle Paul said in Romans 1:20,
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
(cf. Acts 14:17) And the Psalmist said,
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)
The second way in which God has revealed His truth is special revelation. That is the Scriptures.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
(2 Timothy 3:16). Both manners of revelation are completely true; both are infallible and inerrant, because both have God as their author. (In the case of personal salvation, however, one must hear and understand the Bible. One cannot be saved based only on God’s general revelation, because God has decreed that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). General revelation will point people to His glory. Certainly, that is what Paul meant when he said that men were without excuse because creation reveals the eternal power and Godhead, but salvation comes by hearing the Gospel, repenting of your sins, and trusting in Christ.)

All truth, whether it is spiritual, physical, or moral, is God’s truth.

I want to go on record as saying that I am not anti-science. I am thankful for and have greatly benefited from scientific and technological advancements. I live in an era of history, and in a country, where even the poor people have a higher standard of living than royalty enjoyed just a few centuries ago. I appreciate the medical care that is available today. I enjoy the electric light bulb, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, and the Internet.

I am truly appreciative of scientific and technological advancements and discoveries, not only because of the benefits they have created, but because, as I’ve already stated, all truth is God’s truth, and the more that is discovered about the complexity and wonder of our bodies and the rest of Creation the more I am in awe of the creative genius and glory of God.

But I’ve quoted two leading minds in American academia who do not hesitate to shower religion, specifically Biblical Christianity, with disdain. There are plenty more examples, but I’ll only share one. Steven Weinberg is an American physicist who was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics. In 1999 he made the following remark at the Conference on Cosmic Design, hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion… I learned that the aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.
We are often scolded with the argument that it is Christianity which has declared war on secular science, specifically Biblicists who narrowly adhere to a literal 6-day Creation account; not science that has declared war on Christianity. Based on the tenor of the remarks that I’ve quoted, it would appear that argument is utterly false. For those who hold to a Biblical view of origins most of the scientific community has nothing but condescension and scorn.


Kent Brandenburg said...


A consideration for you.

General revelation is revelation generally known. It deals with the audience, not the content. In other words, everybody knows it. Revelation is by nature non-discoverable If you put discovered "truth" on the same level as revealed "truth," you'll open the door to making man's observations equal with Scripture. This is the fundamental problem of Christian psychology.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Fresh Dirt said...

Kent, general revelation is NOT revelation generally known. A better title would be natural revelation. Truth that we learn from creation itself. Human observations/interpretations about that creation are on the same plain as human observations about scripture-- they are both flawed. It is impossible for any human to have a flawless view of scripture or nature/creation.

Revelation is always discoverable. Just because an outside source, in this case God, is doing the revealing doesn't make it undiscoverable. A flaw in logic once again. If all truth is God's truth (which I would say it definitely is!), then we must believe it is discoverable and revealed. Both are true-- always and at all times. Sort of like God's providence and human choice-- both are functioning together.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Fresh Dirt,

The terminology "general revelation" doesn't occur in Scripture, but the teaching is in there. Revelation is not "discovered." Man can't discover it, which is why it is revealed. If it was discovered by some, it wouldn't be general and it wouldn't be revelation. And Romans 1 says it is revealed to everyone. Your position is a historically novel position to Christianity, recently invented. General revelation is those things that God revealed through nature and conscience to a general audience. Ps 19:1-6; Rom 1:18-21, 25, 28, 32; 2:14-15. Natural revelation is another word for general revelation.

Here's an explanation:


Kent Brandenburg said...

Here's a good article on the notion of "all truth is God's truth."


Fresh Dirt said...

Where should I begin... as you mention the term "general revelation" doesn't appear in scripture. I'm not so sure the teaching of it is in there either. At best, an inference is in scripture of some sort of universal revealing.

Just because something is revealed does not mean that it isn't discovered. Scriptures are revelation, but we search them, study them, and dig deep into them to discover said revelation. So also, creation is a revelation of God. In a similar way as pages of a book, creation can be explored, studied, and searched to discover revelation.

You mention that my position is historically novel/recent... very interesting statement. I'd be interested to find out what exactly you base that on. Such a position at least goes back to Augustine, and I'm sure if I dug around in some of the earlier church fathers, we could find statements that corroborate such a view... at least as much as your statement saying that the teaching of "general revelation" is in scripture although the phrase is not.
I read the article at psychoheresy and some other stuff there. Many straw men are set up in the article. As well, many general statements about the idea of general revelation and "all truth as God's truth" are refuted based on two people (Coe and Passantino-- two people I've never heard of and I'm very well read in the Christian Psychology field). Also, even with Coe and Passantino, Bookman "refutes" some of their thoughts based on the fact that he doesn't agree with some of their theology-- a dangerous mistake to make because all of us could be refuted based on such things.
Finally, psycho-heresy's own mistake is this quote: "Thus for any man saved or lost to suppose that his thoughts ought to be regarded as certain and/or as authoritative as those of God-- let alone the notion that all human truth-claims deserve such respect... is to deny what the Bible says so often and so clearly about the real fallenness and finiteness of man..." Under such an ideology, although God may reveal something, we are uncapable of action receiving or seeing the revealing. Even the regenerated man would still suffer from the sin condition too much to be able to receive the knowledge from God. And as I always point out with these types... stringing verses together does not equal a good hermeneutic understanding of scripture. A case in point is the verse from Isaiah 1:5 (actually its verse 6)-- this is not a statement about the corruption of the human mind. Rather it is a statement about the violence and punishment that has been received. The verses go on to talk about how the country is desolate and the cities burned. The point of the passage is Israel is beat up, wounded, property destroyed, etc because of their rebellion and yet they continue to rebel in spite of such punishment. God then goes on in the next few chapters to relent realizing that such punishment of the body and property is not working to bring Israel back. God ultimately forgives and this act is what wakes Israel up to God.
Overall, I unconvinced of the argument being made here by you or by the author of that article. I can see the problems with Coe and Passantino, but that doesn't mean the idea of general/natural revelation is a problem so much as their ideas of it are. That would be like saying there is a problem with the Bible because the Jehovah's Witness have some wacky things they take from it.
Ultimately, all of our thoughts about the scriptures are flawed, just as our thoughts about nature are flawed. Even if I read a scripture word for word, my tone of voice and facial expressions affect the message conveyed-- they are immediately being interpreted by myself and my hearers. In this process, my own flaws are being combined with the text. So also with creation/nature. This does not negate the fact that all truth originates from God. All truth is God's truth. Period.