1. TRUTH CAN BE FOUND IN EVERYONE
God made all people; therefore His Spirit dwells in some fashion in each person. He declared creation “very good” – made in His image. This means all have inherent goodness in them. Therefore, the secular world has much we can learn from.
Might sound scary, but this is entirely Biblical. Jesus used secular sayings to make a point: “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening” (Matthew 16:3). Paul quotes secular poets also, “as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”” (Acts 17:28); from the Greek poet Menander: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33); from Epimenides: “Cretans are always liars, beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:10-13). Christianity’s first major apologist Origen took a ton of cues from Greek philosophy.
And, let’s be real: no Christian – even Smith Wigglesworth – hasn’t benefitted in some way from a person who wasn’t a Christian. Think of all the inventions throughout history – the Phoenician alphabet, the Mesopotamian wheel, eyeglasses, sowing; and ideas for businesses, roads, infrastructure, food, farming, government, the English language…I think it’s safe to say these were not all started by Spirit-filled Christians.
2. TRUTH MUST BE UNIVERSAL
There is no one on earth that it is impossible for God to reach. God made it so that all people can desire Him; he is a universal God. “I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). Which means He must be relatable to everyone. When people truly see Him for who He is, they will want to love Him. Which means that anything about Him that some people like and others don’t like can’t actually be God. Though He may reveal Himself in different ways to people, God is Truth that is not changeable. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the epitome of love, faithfulness, kindness, etc (1 Corinthians 13). Therefore, two opposing views on the nature of God means that one parties’ view must be obscured, and this has certainly been the case in stuffy churches. Bill Johnson said it like this: “A Gospel that doesn’t work in the marketplace, doesn’t work”.
3. TRUTH MUST BE ABLE TO ENGAGE INTELLECTUALLY
No one states this point better than Galileo, who wrote, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended for us to forego their use”. There is a balance to this, of course; life does not consist solely on the five senses – “What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18); however, use of intellect, sense, and reason is evident throughout Scripture.
For example, David didn’t just quote scripture at Goliath; he had trained himself well in slinging stones before fighting. Paul warned the Romans that he was a Roman citizen in order to not be whipped (Acts 22:28). Jesus paid taxes to the Pharisees (Matthew 17:27). Solomon studied science: “He spoke about plant life, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish” (1 Kings 4:33). Truth is not merely a spiritual idea, it must manifest itself in the physical, just as (spiritual) faith is only expressed through (physical) deeds (James 2:14).
4. TRUTH DOES NOT SHY AWAY FROM OPPOSITION
I have often observed Christians (myself included) who are quite willing to engage in an intellectual argument till they start to lose, at which point they will say the other person puts too much trust in their intellect.
Logic is not a spiritual attack. Jesus always had an answer for the questions he was asked. He never said “I don’t know” to a Pharisee. As such, there is no philosophical, biological, or spiritual challenge that we ever are commanded to AVOID – it’s simply a matter of what’s more BENEFICIAL to pay attention to. ““Everything is lawful” – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). In fact, exploring other religions and ideas can actually be a positive thing, as it increases understanding of the world around us and helps us understand the uniqueness of our own faith. Fear of exploring these ideas actually exhibits a lack of trust in your own ideas.
Lord Byron said, “Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves.” Let us have the attitude of martyr Jan Hus, who wrote this: “From the earliest time of my studies I have set up for myself the rule that whenever I discover a sounder opinion in any matter whatsoever, I gladly and humbly abandon the earlier one. For I know that those things I have learned are but the least in comparison with what I do not know.
5. TRUTH IS NOT BASED SOLELY ON THE BIBLE
The Bible is not God and never claimed to be God. It’s us who have made it the fourth member of the Trinity. We are supposed to be led by the Spirit. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the written code and serve in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). And while there are truths in the Bible, Truth itself is only found in God. Bill Johnson put it like this: “it’s hard to get the fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have over the Spirit that they did have”.
This is why, when Jesus asked the Twelve if they were going to leave with the hundreds of other followers who found one of Jesus’ particularly difficult speeches a little too much, Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). He had no Scripture to back him up; he just knew Jesus had something he wanted. Not to contradict earlier points about logic, but truth cannot always be quantified; at some level we all must exhibit faith and follow what we simply feel is right.
6. TRUTH CANNOT NEGATE ONE’S EXPERIENCE
We can choose to not focus on negative experiences, but that’s very different than living in denial of them ever happening. As Todd White says, “You can’t argue someone out of an experience”. Oscar Wilde wrote, “To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” I’m not saying Heidi Baker was wrong to pray for 200 blind people before seeing one healed, of course (for those of you familiar with her story). But if we can selectively choose what we account for at the end of the day, how do we expect anyone to actually believe in the gospel?
By this logic, you could theoretically have the most radical God encounter ever – meet Jesus himself and a thousand angels singing around the Throne – and dismiss the whole experience by saying “Yeah but that doesn’t jive with my theology”.
Bill Johnson often says he hasn’t made a theology to explain why people don’t always get healed, and instead simply says he doesn’t know why it happens. This is okay – everyone has an “I don’t know” in their lives, somewhere – but remember, having experiences that don’t fit into your beliefs means YOU HAVE MORE TO LEARN. Saying “well I just don’t understand that” and then whistling on your merry way sounds like a great way to shirk responsibility.
On a related note, Jesus was a proponent of the “learn BY doing” method of teaching. He let his disciples run around and fail in their ministries far before they were ready to be perfect little Jesus’ everywhere. Why? Because we learn best THROUGH experience. It will allow us to only learn what’s relevant for getting the job done.
7. TRUTH IS PROVEN BY ITS FRUIT
We ACTUALLY want to make the world a better place. If Jesus stands for no sickness, no poverty, no hunger, then we better pay attention to people who are helping to create this world, and have the guts to admit when what we’re doing isn’t working. We cannot say things such as “it’s just not my season” or expect revival fix everything in an indeterminate future, or ignore the times when our “encounters with God” don’t actually create the changes in our lives that we thought they did. Truth means that we do whatever it takes, no matter the cost, to work towards having answers in the here and now. “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
8. TRUTH DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
Just because something isn’t kittens and rainbows, doesn’t mean it’s not true or not from God. It’s unfortunate to have to point this out to a group of people who believe that those who don’t share their religion will burn in hell for eternity, but it needs to be said anyway.
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Aristotle said, “The root of education is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”. The Bible is full of doom and gloom stuff; we just like to gloss over it in our attempt to match where the world’s at. If you’re still not convinced, check out the prophecy that Agabus gives to Paul in Acts 21:10 and the entire book of Revelation.
9. TRUTH DOESN’T FOLLOW CROWDS
The whole Protestant Reformation was based on this one idea – your relationship with God should be your own. No mediators. Other people hold truths to learn from, but YOU are the judge as to what the Spirit is saying. We find it so easy to condemn the Pharisees for not believing in Jesus, and Pilate for condemning Jesus, yet how much of our lives are based on what we’ve seen other people do? Just because Mark Ruffalo was on the cover of Relevant magazine, and Denzel Washington talks about faith, or other famous people claim to be Christians, doesn’t mean our faith is validated. It must be internal.
10. WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING
Do I need to back this up with Scripture?