Friday, January 25, 2013

On the nature of truth: Contra New Calvinism (Parts 4 and 5)

[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

Denial of truth as judgment

The New Evangelical Calvinist view of truth as pragmatic and utilitarian is very common. If truth functions with an a priori teleology for the salvation of souls, then everything must be geared towards that goal. Instead of seeing the ultimate goal as the glory of God, the saving of souls (a penultimate good) is made the ultimate goal, and exalted over God's glory. To be sure, the New Calvinists are interested in magnifying God's glory, but their idea of what constitutes magnifying God's glory is assumed by them a priori, and as such they read this unreflective tradition of theirs into Scripture.

Such being the case, New Evangelical Calvinists reject the very idea that the truth can be meant to condemn people. The Gospel after all means "good news," they say, and thus we should not make good news into bad news. To such, we respond that such is a partial truth. The Gospel is good news to Man in general because now Man has a way out of sin, condemnation and eternal fire. The Gospel is good news to Man in particular however only when it is received with faith, while it is bad news to those who remain unrepentant (Jn. 3:18, 2 Cor. 2: 15-16).

It will be objected that it is one thing for the Gospel to condemn those who reject its message, and another that the Gospel intends to condemn those who reject its message. That is true. And we reply that the Scriptures do teach that God does intend the Gospel to condemn those who reject it. The Gospel in Isaiah's time for example was intended to condemn, although it was really good news (Is. 6:9-10). Christ Himself said that He came for judgment (Jn. 9:39), with His parables functioning in that capacity of condemning those who cannot see, while granting life to those who do (Mt. 13:10-15). Now, to be sure, I am not saying that God intends the Gospel to condemn people, or that we must proclaim the Gospel as bad news. Besides extreme groups, such is a caricature that does not reflect well on those who twist the biblical position. Rather, it is to say that God does intends the Gospel to save some, and to condemn others. We of course do not proclaim the Gospel as condemnation, because God has not told us who the elect are and who the reprobate are.

We proclaim and freely offer Christ and the forgiveness of sin. That is what we should do. But because our goal is to offer Christ regardless of the offence, to offer Christ regardless if people will receive it (even though we hope they receive it), we should not tailor the truth to make it more amicable to our audience. True, we should not offend them needlessly, but it is one thing not to cause needless offence, and another thing to soften much needed offence. This brings us to our last point: a functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying truth.

Functional denial of the sovereignty of God in conveying truth

Faith in God has the element of trust, in fact trust is very important in true faith. If one trusts God that He is sovereign in salvation, then even one's evangelistic thrust should be bold in proclaiming God's truth, without being overly concerned or worried over whether one is stumbling others needlessly.

Holding to the anthropocentric ontology of truth however will lead one towards a hesitancy in affirming the sovereignty of God in the manner of sharing God's Word. Since form is human, there is always the concern of how the form of sharing or witnessing may turn the audience away. Instead of turning to God's Word as the authority on how one should share and proclaim God's truth, one studies the audience and attempt to "meet them where they are at." Now of course, knowing one's audience is important; nobody is denying that. But the audience is to be considered secondarily only after God has been consulted in His Word. Ultimately it is a matter of who is the primary determiner of how truth is conveyed. Is God the primary determiner, or is culture? Is God sovereign over the conveyance of truth, or is culture sovereign?

The New Calvinists loudly proclaim the sovereignty of God over all things. I do not doubt they think they do believe that God is sovereign over all things. But some of them have a blind spot on culture, unconsciously picking up from the culture the platonic idea of God's truth as an idea, a substance, of which the culture gives it its form. When worked out in the practice of contextualization and seeker sensitivity lite, it results in a functional denial of God's sovereignty over the conveyance of His truth.

Conclusion

The problems concerning the nature of truth are found at least in certain segments of the New Evangelical Calvinism, notably in the Kellerite movement. While deeming itself sensitive to the times, it consciously and subconsciously absorbs the prevailing philosophy of language, and thus results in a sub-biblical philosophy of ministry. May they see the error of their ways, and embrace the fullness of God's truth. Amen.

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