Tag Archives: Bible

When is Truth not Absolute?

One of the confusing aspects of life for me is the discovery that some people believe that truth is not an absolute. I really have a problem with this attitude. I experience the problem in two specific realms: politics and religion.

In politics, the issue arises most often around the Constitution.

In religion, it arises around the Bible.

Very often, I feel as if all the foundations of life as I know it have been shaken and shattered and moved the way an earthquake shattered San Francisco in 1906. People try to tell me that the language of the Constitution does not mean what the plain sense of the words mean. Pastors try to tell me that the Bible does not necessarily mean what the plain sense of the words mean, either. In this regard, political and religious leaders tell me that what they call “truth” is evolving. The Constitution is a “living” document the meaning of which must evolve with social change. The Bible is a “living” document, and in thirty years, things we think are “sin” today won’t be sin any more.

I won’t try to address the concept of biological evolution here, but I will point out that the idea of such a thing is so appealing that the word has taken over the discussion of ideas. Some day I will have nothing better to do than count how many times the word “evolution” and its variants appear in conversation and writing in a single day, but for now I will content myself with observing that I hear this word constantly. The idea that anything and everything evolves is quite handy.

In politics, an evolving Constitution solves two problems:

  1. 1.      You need not struggle with the language of a new amendment, because an evolving Constitution allows you to appropriate any words you like and identify how their meanings have evolved as a result of cultural changes.
  2. 2.      You need not wait for the process of approval and ratification to start reaping the benefits of rights and services and powers that don’t seem to be evident in the “old” language of the Constitution.

 

In the world of religion things work out in a very similar fashion. The Bible was written thousands of years ago in languages nobody speaks any more. (People speak descendant languages, but let’s face it, French is a descendant of Latin, which does not mean that French speakers are fluent in conversational Latin.) The Bible asserts rules and regulations that nobody obeys. Furthermore, churches are shrinking as people increasingly declare the Bible and everything related to it irrelevant to modern life. If God meant the Bible to be our holy book for all ages, many ask if it doesn’t make sense that its language be reinterpreted in the light of our evolved understanding. A lot of things called “sin” in the Bible don’t look like sin to us, so surely God meant the Bible to evolve right along with us. To say that allows us to invite people to come back and hear messages that won’t grate on their nerves as much as the one about putting God above everything else.

Don’t think that I equate the Bible and the US Constitution. I don’t. The Bible is inspired and preserved by God himself. The US Constitution is the work of human beings. Most of those individuals lived in relationship with God and felt that God guided their work, but nothing about the Constitution is God’s revelation. Nevertheless, the Constitution shapes our nation the way the Bible shapes my faith.

The best way to describe how I feel is to say that I feel homeless. If my personal dwelling had been razed by an earthquake, I couldn’t feel more thoroughly homeless. I don’t know about everyone else, but I need some certainties. For example, I like being able to rely on gravity. I like knowing that what goes up must come down. I like knowing that even if I travel to Mars or leave the solar system, gravity will still work the same way, and the changes I see in the behavior of things is mandated by the fact that gravity is still working the way it always did.

Some things really are absolute. Some truth should not be changed, just because it comes to seem inconvenient. History reveals that the issues in the Bible and the Constitution that people keep trying to declare changed by evolution are the same issues that were problems in ancient times and during the Constitutional Convention. There is one extremely certain absolute: people in all times are the same. The most ancient documents ever found record that people are people no matter when you encounter them.

One of the problems with evolving truth is its impact on never-changing human realities. For example, human beings have always had problems coping with life and death. Since the beginning of time, humans have tried to usurp God’s sovereignty over life and death, because they want to control life and death for their own benefit. In human eyes, some lives need to be extended, while others are inconvenient and not cost-effective. Likewise, every human wants to be king, and history from the beginning of time records all the ways that desire can be perverted. People like Napoleon Bonaparte or Fidel Castro put on the act of helping others, but unless some power prevents it, they become destructive autocrats. The Bible is a repository of absolute truth about the meaning of life and death. The US Constitution is a guide for one of the most successful methods of protecting every person’s liberty while assuring order in society. To tinker with the meaning of the words of either the Bible or the Constitution is like punching holes in the bottom of a sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you doubt that, ask the captain of the Costa Concordia. I am pretty sure that he wishes that a certain rock had not been in its absolute location last week. He would, no doubt, have preferred to be able to redefine that rock after the collision and thereby undo what was personally undesirable about its location. The wreck of the Costa Concordia is an example of what happens when wishful thinking collides with absolute truth.

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Thoughts Toward Sunday

The lectionary readings this week will be Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and Luke 16:1-13. I haven’t normally focused on the weekly texts, but this group was arresting.

 The texts for this Sunday’s reading are strongly fitting as a warning against the class envy and class warfare being promoted in current political action. Our president regularly castigates “the rich”and“fat cat CEO’s” and “greedy bankers.” Yet he himself lives like a very greedy showoff with parties and vacations back to back while scorning traditional American values such as hard work, personal integrity, and the ability to prosper in an environment that promotes free enterprise. Our president behaves as if his office is a mandate to destroy American prosperity that grows out of opportunity for all in the name of “spreading the wealth around.” His method for achieving this objective is to abrade the citizens with the notion that people who are poor today would be rich if only the rich had not stolen all the wealth. Any person who understands economics knows what a big lie this is. This week’s lectionary readings completely disassemble such a notion.

 To our president, Amos would say, “Hear this, you that trample on the needy.” Likewise to our congress. The policies and legislation passed by our national leaders have increased the number of “the needy” to record levels. (“Needy” means people living on incomes less than the current legal definition of the poverty level.) Our leaders continue to trample on the needy by pushing more and more people into dependence on government, while simultaneously stealing more and more of the nation’s wealth by oppressive taxation and by policies that make it impossible for free enterprise, the source of employment for everyone, to thrive. Further, our leaders refuse to do the work of government to protect the nation from invasion, choosing rather to encourage an invasion of illegal aliens by the means of a refusal to enforce immigration laws.

 Luke would say that these people are like the faithless manager. This man was accused of abusing the trust of his employer, and as soon as he was called to account, he proceeded to abuse that trust even more. When he ordered all the customers to reduce the amount owed on their bills, he quite literally stole the reduced amount from his employer. He did it to buy friends. Our leaders do the same thing by injecting the DREAM act into a bill to fund our national defense.

 What a perfectly ridiculous joke! To couple funding for defense with legislation that will legitimize the most destructive invasion we have ever experienced is an outrageously obvious attempt to buy friends from among the enemies of our nation’s already battered economy. The government leaders, like the steward who wanted to create a safe haven for himself, are buying votes, just as the “steward” bought friends, from the very people who are poisoning our economy, siphoning off the wealth of our nation to other countries and reducing the number legitimate job opportunities for legitimate citizens. Not to mention the overwhelming difficulty for law enforcement created by burgeoning drug merchandising and human trafficking coupled with the crushing load on American social services expected to serve people who ought to be demanding that their own country do a better job of serving them.

 Paul says that we should pray for people in high positions. He does not say that we should pray for them to continue to oppress us. Rather, we should pray that they will do their work of protecting us from foreign invasion and the work of keeping order domestically that we may be able to live in peace and prosperity.

 Psalm 113 puts it all in perspective. People dare not hope in the government we endure in time and space. This world’s institutions are temporary and broken. We don’t hope in government; we hope in God. We live our lives in relationship with God no matter if we are rich or poor in the time/space sense. We look at our lives in relationship with God, and we are rich. Our gratefulness for the fruits of that relationship enables us and motivates us to be kind and generous to the poor. We trust God to accomplish his sovereign purpose, and therefore, we live lives made righteous by God’s grace, loving and serving our neighbors as citizens of his kingdom.

 In the context of God’s kingdom, self-centered, arrogant, wicked government leaders will ultimately be judged for their failure to serve God and the people. As the proverb says, the wheels of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.