Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Gospel Debate (3) Choosing Truth Claims

Here was my response to the previous email. What issues would you raise with this? Are they the same issues as stated in the previous responses? Let's continue to applaud John for his dialogue with those who at this point disagree with him.


First of all---i love the spirit of your response. I appreciate your patience.

As to what I agree with you on---
I feel that ultimately the Bible does speak of promises that we are called to believe--ultimately the promise of the gospel--that by repentance and faith in the substitutionary work of Christ, we can be saved, justified and indwelt by His Spirit.

I do agree that evangelicals chase rabbits--facts in Scripture that lead people away from the "main thing" which is the gospel.

But this gospel of reconciliation and justification is held up by "facts." If we take the "fact" of justification through the cross (which you adhere to) we have to ask what the implications are. You admit that justification/reconciliation is a truth-claim. The proclamation that Christ death on the cross and resurrection is a truth claim. A truth-claim supported by the Bible. So, if we have "facts" about Christ and his reconciling work, we have to ask what "facts" or truth-claim lends itself to our need for justification. Moreover, where do you get support for these truth claims except from the Bible. So now the question becomes--what truth claims do you accept or reject?

Moreover, people who claim inerrancy for the Bible are not as concerned with minor pieces of trivial data (well, some would sadly) but major articles of doctrine--major "truths" that if you can't give an affirmation to or a denial of you will lose the gospel.

It seems to me that you want to accept the "truth claim" of eternal life with Christ without the "truth claim" of the death and judgment He saves us from. If the Bible points us to the "truth claim" of the Living Christ---what does this Christ save us from? What is that "truth claim"?

I don't understand why we can take Christ, and Savior, and life, as truth claims and support them from the Bible, and see the same emphasis on hell, sin, wrath from the same Bible and call it "arrogant" to support those truth claims. Is it humble to point to actual verses in the Bible that speak of Christ's saving love and arrogant to speak of what the Bible says He saves us from? Do you see my question?

The danger of picking and choosing what is inspired and what is not is that you can quickly make the Bible mean what you want it to mean. You begin to evaluate the text instead of letting it evaluate you. Given our condition, we can make light of the cross--and see ourselves as a lot less depraved as Jesus taught we were. The less we see our need for a Savior, the less we value His sacrifice, and the less glory we give to God. I don't believe the Spirit in us will lead us to value the cross less--but more.

For instance---you take Col. 1:20 to say that Christ has reconciled "all things to himself"--a truth claim. However, Paul was writing to assure a people who had trusted in Christ's saving work to let no gnostic legalist tell them they weren't saved. So, he speaks of their identity in Christ. But that identity was always qualified by thier faith in him. Otherwise he wouldn't have added,

Col 1:23 "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."

The promises of their being baptized with him in his death and resurrected with him in his resurrection was contingent upon their union with Christ---described by Paul as "recieving" Him.

Col 1:6 "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."

No wonder Paul spends his life proclaiming Him "according to the power He works in me." Without the proclamation of the gospel--they would not hear, they would not believe, they would not be in Christ, but rather they would be in sin.

But according to our discussion---these things really aren't needed--for everyone is justified and inhabited by Christ in some measure. So I see you holding fast to Col. 1:20 as a truth claim you would shout from the rooftops. But when it comes to "faith alone" i.e. sola fide truth claims, there seems a slightly ashamed fear. Why is it okay to hold to Col. 1:20 and ignore hundreds of others that qualify that promise to those who put faith in Christ?


Rob Tombrella


Joshua Jordan said...


Great post! I totally agree with your thoughts on and the line of reasoning you present. I have to admit I've been an observer to this dialogue. As an observer, first let me say that the manner in which both you guys have discussed these crucial topics has been an example and most importantly honors God. Thank you both for mingling conviction and humility in away that encapsulates "speaking the truth in love."

I want to just add two observations for John to consider and respond to. First, I continue to see this idea of "Enlightment Thinking" being tossed out to explain the reason for the necessity of truth claims being factual. John, I am far from being an expert on this subject of Epistemology, but I do not think your assement is correct. From my understanding in both the secular and theological circles, truth being factual and objective was the norm for thousands of years. The premodern and modern era believed in objective truth it was not until the postmodern era, which is relatively new, that this began to change how history, language, and truth were evaluated and interpreted.
My second observation goes along the lines of what Rob said in this post. To be quiet frank at the end of the day there are only two types of people who can be consistent with how they view the Bible. The first would be those that reject the Bible all together and the second would be those that believe all of scripture is accurate, and sufficient (what we call inerrancy). John, believing in sin but dismissing the teaching on hell is inconsistent. Why? Because the doctrine of sin comes from the Scripture and so does the doctrine of eternal punishment. How can you hold to some things Jesus or Paul said but not all? How can you hold to one and yet reject the other. Friend, this type thinking is inconsistent.
Finally, here are some resources for all to look into that may help better equip us and inform us on several topics that have been discussed so far.

The Gagging of God: D.A. Carson
Whatever Happened To Truth: Andreas Kostenberger
Reclaiming the Center: Taylor,Erickson, and Helseth
Hell Under Fire: Zondervan Press
Scripture Alone: R.C. Sproul
Scriture Alone: James White

I hope this is helpful. I also would like other guys to contribute to the list of helpful resources they would recommend (Tony).

Rob Tombrella said...

Josh---you constantly give us resouces and a fountain of life to me.

"Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it." Prov. 16:22