Recently, I was involved in a conversation with a friend of mine over certain biblical truths; creation, one man – one woman, the virgin birth, etc. The whole event boiled down to the issue of absolute truth as it relates to scripture. In other words, the Bible is true in what it says on all counts or it may not be true at all.
Many folks like to use the slippery slope argument when it comes to challenging certain aspects of scripture. If one piece of the puzzle is determined to be questionable, then the whole puzzle is questionable. I suspect if one holds to the Bible is true in all that it addresses then one might find comfort in that premise. However, I am not at all certain the Bible addresses the issue of absolute truth. Now I make that observation not as a theologian or a philosopher but as a student of scripture. Let me explain.
Does it matter in the grand scheme of things whether or not creation was done in seven, twenty-four hour days, or seven centuries? The world can still be a product of creation. Is it critical to one’s belief system whether Adam and Eve were a representation of humankind or two individuals? Either way, by choice, sin became a stumbling block between man and God. Regarding the virgin birth, as stated in an earlier post, as incredible as it seems on the surface, is it essential that one believe the virgin birth account in order to be “saved.” Can Christ still be God if he was not virgin born? (Sinless is not the issue here, although it could be.)
If two people are students of scripture and come to opposing views on subjects as noted above, does that make one right and the other wrong? If so, does that rightness or wrongness hinge on the issue of truth – truth either couched in personal belief or truth as it relates to the scriptural record?
Let’s look at a simple premise: We know that God cannot lie (Titus 1:12, Heb 6:18). Further more, God’s expectation of His people both in the OT and NT is that they be people of truth both as it relates to the Law and their conduct/character. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, God chooses to establish the people of Israel on what I might call a foundation of characters who lie – and lie a lot. Jacob is probably the best example of that. This, in my opinion, does not seem to fit the character of God. So does that impugn the integrity of God?
Now, having said that, I am not proposing that because people like Jacob lied, what they did was not believable. It simply presents a question; If God, a God who cannot lie, chooses to establish His people and eventually the Messiah, through a series of events that are deceitful, then doesn’t that seem incongruent with who God is? After all, he is God, he could have very well established the lineage of His people through anyone He desired even Esau. Hence, deceit would have been less obvious.
Before anyone plays the “Esau sold his birthright” card, let’s be clear that if that was significant to the overall story, all Jacob would have had to do is tell Abraham, “Look, Esau sold his birthright to me, so the blessing rightfully belongs to me and not to him.” There would have been no need for deceit or trickery either on Rebekah or Jacob’s part.
Back to the issue of “absolute truth.” Perhaps we can say that absolute truth is apparent in gravity, the rising and setting of the sun, and death but beyond that, is it not fair to look at other major issues in scripture and confess there may be an alternate understanding? If not, then don’t we as individuals become arbitrators of what truth is regardless of what people in the past have established as truth? If so, truth then becomes relative to the individual or certain situations.
This brings me full circle to the idea that perhaps the Bible does not address the issue of absolute truth. It does establish the history of Israel as told through the eyes of the people of Israel and Christianity through the eyes of those who are Christians. It establishes certain moral codes and theological premises, but not absolute truth. That is something we as believers bring to the table.