Is scholarship the key to understanding the Bible? If so, why are so many scholars in disagreement about its meaning? Or does truth come by means of divine revelation? Read this article to find out the answers to these questions.
Socrates once said one can never know the truth about anything. His reasoning was, briefly, that if one did not know the truth to begin with, how could he recognize it when he found it. Modern thinkers, like Socrates, have little confidence that truth can be recognized when found. They do not believe that truth is permanent. Rather, they believe that truth is plastic and changing. To them, truth is that knowledge which can be discovered by reason and science, but since knowledge is constantly changing, so is truth. Truth, therefore, is regarded as the present consensus of scientific opinion and what is believed by the democratic majority. There is no such thing as permanent truth except that which science has discovered to be incapable of change. Divine revelation, the basis for the Bible, is looked upon as myth. They say anyone so gullible as to accept the Bible as the Word of God, and so foolish as to try to live by it, must suffer from some form of dementia.
Is There Truth?
It was once popularly believed that the Bible is the foundation of all knowledge. Dictionaries define truth as conforming to fact or reality. True knowledge is factually accurate and in agreement with the Bible. There is no contradiction between Bible truth and bonafide secular truth.
Different areas of truth exist. For example, there is scientific truth, historical truth, and philosophical truth. Men attach great pride to the accomplishments made in these various areas-some scholars to the point of feeling superiorly enlightened. But there is also spiritual truth that must not be overlooked. Great scholarship has not been successful in harmonizing much of the secular truth available with the Bible. In spite of the various achievements in scholarship, the world remains a dangerous place in which to live. Mankind indeed has the capacity to destroy the entire Earth. The fact is: Man in his vaunted knowledge and wisdom lacks the capacity to achieve spiritual enlightenment and thus peace, apart from divine revelation. The Bible as the fountainhead of authority in determining morals and right from wrong has been generally rejected. The vogue for some time has been the concept of situation ethics-the means for judging conduct on the basis of what is presently acceptable in society. The Bible is not viewed as the Word of God. It may be regarded as valuable for history and for some inspirational material, but certainly not as any kind of authority for right and wrong. Could the prophet Isaiah be referring to our time period today when he states: “Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey [margin: is accounted mad] and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment” (Isa. 59:15).
Is There Spiritual Truth?
Jesus stood before Pilate and said, “. . . Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). Clearly, Jesus was referring to the spiritual truth of God. In referring to Christ, John wrote, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus Himself said, “. . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus was the summation of the spiritual truth of God. He said it was possible to know the truth. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And how did He define truth? He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus was the Spokesman who was sent from God the Father to validate the truth to mankind (John 1:1-2, 14; 3:34)-the same truth spoken, recorded, and preserved by upright men and the prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus came to magnify the law and to make it honorable (Isa. 42:21), to fill it full so that it could be understood in its spiritual application rather than the physical application alone (Matt. 5:17). The New Testament writings were added to the Old Testament so that we have the spiritual truth of God preserved in the Holy Bible.
God Reveals Truth, Not Error
Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). By this statement Jesus made it plain that truth is available to mankind. That truth has been preserved in the pages of the Holy Bible, having been revealed by God to various righteous men and prophets (Deut. 29:29, Psa. 100:5, 1 Pet. 1:10-12). God is a God of truth. He is not a God of error (Deut. 32:4, Psa. 31:5). Spiritual truth is divinely revealed. (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:9-14). The fact that men have chosen to reject that revelation has no relevancy on its validity. For centuries it was believed the Earth was the center of the solar system and the sun revolved around it. The astronomer Galileo was forced by the church to renounce his view that the sun was the center of the solar system and that the Earth revolved around it. His renunciation did not make the facts any less true. The modern rejection of divine revelation as that everlasting truth from God, does not make it any less true either.
Ways by Which God Reveals Truth
God has revealed Himself by means of creation (Rom. 1:20), but this is only one way. God has also revealed Himself in that inspired record we call the Holy Bible. This revelation is contained in both the Old and New Testaments. Reading the Bible, though, does not necessarily impart spiritual knowledge to the reader. There must be direct inspiration imparted, by means of the Holy Spirit, to each individual before understanding can be derived.
As noted, the preserved record-the Bible-came by means of righteous men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The original languages in which it was inspired were Hebrew and Greek. But even in Jesus’ day the educated religious leaders were not capable of understanding the meaning of the sacred Scriptures (John 3:9, Matt. 15:14). Even the disciples of Jesus were not able to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures. Christ, by opening their minds, enabled them to understand the written record (Luke 24:45). And it is by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Christians are able to understand the meaning of the Scriptures today (John 16:13). Those who are called of God have no difficulty understanding the spiritual truths of the Bible and the correct doctrine (John 7:16-17).
We are all aware of the fields of knowledge where truth has been discovered by science and reason. True knowledge, as opposed to theory, should not be repudiated. Some scientific achievements may not be of any real value as far as the good of mankind is concerned, but as a whole they do demonstrate man’s capacity of observation and the gathering of facts. Philosophy, as a field of knowledge, can have some value, though many conclusions reached are absurd. Take for example, Zeno’s paradox which supposedly demonstrates change and motion to be impossible. At a given moment of time an arrow must be either where it is, or where it is not. But it cannot be where it is not. And if it is where it is, then it is motionless. If philosophers and reasoners confined their speculation to those areas of knowledge that can be discovered by science and reason, there would be many valuable contributions to society. The problem is that many have ventured into areas that are incapable of being discovered. They have ventured into those areas of knowledge that can be discovered by divine revelation only. Having rejected revelation from God their conclusions are often ludicrous.
Men must realize the limitations imposed upon them in spiritual matters. Philosophy and reasoning should be confined to that which is verifiable by observation and testing. When men venture into spiritual matters, their conclusions often illustrate they are beyond their capability. Spiritual truth comes by means of divine revelation only. Physical evidence certainly proves there was a creation, contrary to what evolutionists tell us. This evidence only substantiates the spiritual truths of God, and should inspire men to seek to serve God, and to direct their lives in accordance with the many spiritual truths revealed in the Bible. The moment, however, when men began to think they have the capacity to decide which spiritual laws are right or wrong, or to decide what they will accept or reject, they are completely beyond their expertise.
Truth Revealed to Whom?
The Apostle Paul wrote that it is God, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). At one time only the prophets and holy men of the Old Testament had been given the revelation. Later, Christ and the apostles conveyed the New Covenant message. The New Testament church was built upon this foundation (Eph. 2:20). Those called to a knowledge of the truth since that time have been given spiritual understanding (1 Cor. 2:14). There is no way, apart from divine revelation, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that one can come to grasp the significance of the words of God found in the Bible. Carnal understanding of the Bible, and any attempt to define spiritual truth without the help of the Holy Spirit, leads to much error. God’s Spirit is not a spirit of error. It is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17, 26). Those called of God do not begin their spiritual lives in error. They begin with the truth.
Does Spiritual Truth Change?
Much scientific and historical knowledge has been altered or changed over the years. This is due to new facts and evidence coming to light. At one time the followers of Aristotle, who said heavy stones fall faster than light ones, bitterly opposed those who said all stones fall at the same rate of speed. So, sometimes revisions are accepted grudgingly. Many wrong conclusions have been corrected when the evidence has pointed otherwise. Accurate scientific examination and determinations do not change. But, to take these secular limitations and try to apply these principles to the spiritual truths of God is sheer folly. Those who hold to the notion that “progressive insight” changes divine revelation, must admit they had no confidence in the Bible truths in the first place. The spiritual truths of God cannot be changed (2 John 1-2, Psa. 146:6; 100:5). God does not change (Heb. 13:8). The New Testament did not nullify the principles of the Old. It simply added a spiritual dimension. Since God’s church is no longer a physical kingdom under a king, the statutes and judgments of the Old Testament are not enforced today. But, they are still good principles to follow as much as possible. The sacrificial system pointed to Christ. Since Christ came as the sin-bearer of the world, there was no further need of offering sacrifices (Heb. 9:10). The New Covenant placed spiritual requirements upon all called today, so that one is not judged by the letter of the law but by the spirit.
Christians come to knowledge of the truth by means of divine revelation. This revelation is given by means of the Holy Spirit enabling the called-out one’s to understand the meaning of the sacred Scriptures. This truth, which is everlasting, is not subject to the changes and whims of men. The same standard found in the days of Noah constitutes the same standard today. While the real meaning of the Bible has been rejected by the majority, those who have been given spiritual understanding know the Bible truth is the anchor of the soul, the lamp that lights the darkened path of the vicissitudes and trials of this life.