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Total Truth

The Rules of the Lord are True and Righteous Altogether
By Zach Dietrich

“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your instruction is true” (Psalm 119:142).

“You are near, Lord, and all your commands are true” (Psalm 119:151).

“The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

“What is truth?” That question has haunted humans both before and after Pilate asked it to avoid the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is truth only what is observable and measurable? Take gravity, for example. Or, are there truths that cannot be measured in a laboratory but are nevertheless true? Think of the deity of Christ or the sinfulness of humanity.

Jesus said God’s word is truth in John 17:17. What does it mean that God’s word is truth?

While most of us don’t follow philosophers as they debate the nature of truth, we can’t escape the question. Have you ever heard someone say, or perhaps even repeated yourself, “True for you, but not for me?”

Or, even if you never watched Oprah, the queen of mantras, you’re probably familiar with her call to “speak your truth.” So, what is truth?
One thinker who has helped me guard against cultural attempts to confine or redefine truth is Nancy Pearcey in her book, Total Truth.

Pearcey, following thinkers like Francis Schaeffer, outlines several truth-undermining dichotomies in the introduction to her book. Understanding these dichotomies can be helpful. Here is a brief summary:

Brain vs. Heart

Too many people, even Christians, have come to believe there is a divide between the heart and brain. The heart is for religion. The brain is for science.

But, Pearcey says, “We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today” (p. 20).

Private vs. Public

The heart/brain divide ends up expressing itself in modern society as a divide between public and private. Public institutions are “scientific,” while private (think family and church) is where “preferences” reside. This divide is used to relegate religion to the sidelines of society.

Facts vs. Value 

A third way to describe the dichotomy is the fact/value split. “Religion,” Pearcey writes, ”is not considered an objective truth to which we must submit, but only a matter of personal taste which we choose” (p. 20).

The result of these dichotomies is a divided concept of truth, both in our world and often in Christian thinking as well. Facts are rational and binding on everyone, but values are nothing more than individual choice.

Christians, who may recognize the danger of the brain/heart and private/public dichotomies, can often fall prey to the fact/value divide.

For example, is the statement “abortion is wrong” a fact or a value? More and more Christians would say this statement, and ones like it, is a value – not actually a fact.

Why does this matter? Pearcey concludes, “The reason it’s so important for us to learn how to recognize this division is that it is the single most potent weapon for delegitimizing the biblical perspective in the public square today” (p. 21). But, even as we are concerned about the public square, we must first define truth correctly at home and in the pew.

Gravity is true. Newton’s third law is true. 2 + 2 = 4 is true. But, “God is holy” is also true. And, “You shall not murder” is true.

We must not become captive to the thinking that our faith is merely a religious truth, divorced from our brains or the public. It is, as Pearcey says, total truth.

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