Is Truth Knowable?

Is it possible for us to know biblical and theological truth, or must we wonder with Pilate, “What is truth?”  Perhaps those who were tortured and killed during the inquisition by the “Holy Roman Catholic Church” should have been a bit less dogmatic about their views and  the Protestant Reformers a little more reticent to speak out against the “Mother Church.”  Apparently, the current theological mood is one of reconciliation with those who believe Roman Catholic teaching because, after all, who are we to claim we have the truth?  These people are our brothers in Christ and we must not offend them by telling them the truth.  Apparently, this is what Luther should have done when called on to recant.  He should have said, “You know what guys, I know I wrote this stuff that puts Roman Catholicism in a really bad light, but who am I to challenge the Holy Roman Empire?  I know I thought I was convinced by the Word of God and by conscience and that I could do nothing other than stand on the truths I have been taught from Scripture, but shucks, I guess I was wrong.”  What a difference that would have made in the course of history.  What a shame Luther was not more in touch with our modern spirit of toleration.

I just spent much more time than I should have [Clearly, this statement is not true in light of the eternal decree of God, but is true in terms of human responsibility] in a forum on Reformed Theology at “Christian Classics Ethereal Library” sponsored by Calvin College.   In answer to one of the posters who wanted to argue that the Scriptures are not our only authority in matters of faith and practice, I asked if we should find our authority in the “authoritative statements” that some of the wicked Popes in the Church of Rome have made.  All one must do is read the history of the Church to discover that some of these “Holy Fathers” were not all that holy.  They certainly had no right to be called the “Vicars of Christ.”  It was a simple question based on historical reality.  My question was censured by a Roman Catholic moderator.  The sad part is I was told he was acting “neutrally;” he was only enforcing the rules that had previously been established for the forum.

It was my impression that this site was sanctioned by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.  I wrote to the school to ask if this was truly their policy. To date, I have received no answer.  I suspect that if John Calvin had not passed into a realm in which it is impossible for anything to disturb his felicity, he would be turning over in his grave to think that his name was being associated with such a bunch of theological wimps.  Can you imagine Calvin saying, “Let’s all just play nice and accept these nice Roman Catholics as brothers in Christ.  Don’t rock the boat?”

If we cannot understand the Bible sufficiently to determine what is truth and what is error, we may as well just throw it away and believe whatever we like.  What good is it if God was so unclear in his revelation of himself that we can not understand the message he intended to convey?

In reality, we believe in the perspicuity of the Scriptures.  That means the Bible wasn’t written using words like “perspicuity.”  The Scriptures are clear in their meaning and were written so that the plow boy and the shepherd could understand them.  The truth is, people fail to understand the Scriptures because they don’t want to understand their message.  Can we know the truth?  Of course we can if we are willing to engage in the hard work of biblical exegesis in dependence on the Holy Spirit.

What we need today are godly men with spiritual and theological backbone who will be willing to repeat the following:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

Martin Luther


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