The Truth Deficit

Lots of people are worried about things like the current accounts deficit or deficit spending. Such things are rather concerning indeed and do rightly occupy our attention. However there is another type of deficit which should concern all of us; certainly God’s people.

I refer to the truth deficit which is plaguing the contemporary Western world. All around us truth is under attack. It is being denied, belittled, questioned and rejected. But sadly this war on truth is not just found in the world. The church is also guilty of spurning truth and running roughshod over it.

More and more we see clear truths of Scripture being rejected by activist church leaders who are more intent on pleasing men and pushing radical agendas than they are in faithfully serving the Lord. Lies and deception seem to characterise much of the church, with truth given scant attention.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about truth. Since I am currently reading in Jeremiah, I am noticing how often truth gets talked about there. One remarkable passage which is worth focusing on in some detail appears in the opening verses of chapter five:

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and consider,
search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
I will forgive this city.
Although they say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’
still they are swearing falsely.”
LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You struck them, but they felt no pain;
you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
and refused to repent.

Yahweh is obviously very concerned about the issue of truth, even if so many of God’s people and their leaders were not then, and are not today. Back then there was real difficulty finding just one person committed to truth and righteousness.

The story of course recalls a similar situation in Sodom and Gomorrah where Yahweh asks if just ten righteous people can be found (Genesis 18-19). Sometimes situations become so bad that barely a remnant can be found. But that is always the case sadly. The masses will never go with God.

But the real tragedy here is that the leaders who should have known better were also at fault. This is made quite clear in the final verse in the chapter, v. 31:

The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?

The people love living a lie, and the leaders do too. It is a reprehensible situation, which can only call down God’s wrath. Instead of true leaders fearlessly proclaiming truth, we have false prophets pushing pleasing words and pleasant lies.

J.A. Thompson comments, “The true prophet had no regard for vested interests or long-cherished privileges. His task was to declare the mind of Yahweh. Lesser prophets could give oracles which supported the status quo.” And the priests were just as bad:

“They gave support to the popular element in contemporary religious life which was happy to pay lip-service to Yahweh and support the reforms at a surface level, but were unwilling to enter into the deep commitment of life which should have characterized the covenant people. It was against this superficial understanding of true religion that Jeremiah strove.”

And we find exactly the same thing happening today. Just recently I wrote about a group of rebellious and renegade church leaders who have sold their own souls to fully promote the homosexual agenda, even to the point of stridently endorsing same-sex marriage.

So deceived have some church leaders become that they think they are somehow doing God a favour by promoting what he clearly calls sin, and railing against his purposes for human sexuality. In this they are just like these false shepherds of old, and they have a lot to answer for.

When prophets and priests (or church leaders) are corrupt, and God’s people love it that way, then you know we really are in steep decline, with God’s just judgment rightly deserved. The lack of truth and righteousness is the death knell of any people.

We are now seeing this played out in many parts of the church. We desperately need a Jeremiah today who will give a clear word from God on this scandalous situation. Too many leaders are deliberately departing from the clear teachings of Scripture, and too many believers seem to mind this not at all. What a dangerous place to be in.

Image of The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception by MacArthur, John F. (Author) Amazon logo

Let me finish with a few quotes from a recent book on this topic. In 2007 John MacArthur’s The Truth War appeared (Thomas Nelson). In it the California pastor emphasised the importance Scripture gives to truth, and how both the world and the church are abandoning and playing down truth.

He reminds us of how the emerging church movement is dismissive of truth, certainty and doctrine. It delights instead in uncertainty, doubt, and ambiguity. “But that is not authentic Christianity” says MacArthur. “Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as essential to Christianity as the gospel) is by definition a kind of unbelief. Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief. Advocating ambiguity, exalting uncertainty, or otherwise deliberately clouding the truth is a sinful way of nurturing unbelief.

“Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Scripture says one of the key characteristics of ‘those who perish’ (people who are damned by their unbelief) is that ‘they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The clear implication is that a genuine love for the truth is built into saving faith. It is therefore one of the distinguishing qualities of every true believer. In Jesus’ words, they have known the truth, and the truth has set them free (John 8:32).”

Sadly however, much “of the visible church nowadays seems to think Christians are supposed to be at play rather than at war. The idea of actually fighting for doctrinal truth is the furthest thing from most churchgoers’ thoughts.” So we live in a time “when many so-called Christians have no taste for conflict and contention.”

Of course we are not to go looking for trouble, or be unnecessarily belligerent. “Controversy and conflict in the church are never to be relished or engaged in without sufficient cause. But in every generation, the battle for the truth has proved ultimately unavoidable, because the enemies of truth are relentless. Truth is always under assault. And it is actually a sin not to fight when vital truths are under attack.”

Quite so. Now is not the time to be sheepish about truth. Of all ages, truth is now especially needed. And if God’s people will not stand up and proclaim truth – even painful truth – then where will it come from? At the end of the day it is far better to be hurt with the truth than be comforted with a lie.

God today is still looking for that one person who “deals honestly and seeks the truth”. But will he find such people?

[1205 words]

15 Replies to “The Truth Deficit”

  1. Excellent comment again Bill. I fully agree, and in my view never has the “truth” come under such a sustained attack in recent times, and WITHIN THE CHURCH, as now.

    Paul describes the collective church as “the pillar and ground of the truth” – i.e. the one place where truth is, or should be always present, always found, upheld, and yes, dogmatically proclaimed and defended.

    SSM to use a common cliche is not ‘rocket science’. One does not have to have a PHd in theology to know that it is wrong and that it represents a brazen and deliberate attack upon the Christian doctrine of heterosexual marriage as a unique institution of God. As marxists and communists well know, destroy the family unit and the destruction of the fabric of society will quickly follow. We are not therefore ‘ignorant of their devices.

    It should therefore be the outstanding mark of Christian leaders to both discern the nature of the times and the particular form that attacks upon the Christian revelation assumes today. SSM is just such an attack.
    The mark of a Christian leader/elder therefore in such times is to lead – as Paul tells us – “to take heed to yourself and to the doctrine”; to “contend earnestly for the faith”; and especially to be qualified “by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers”.
    We urgently need such men (or women!) today.
    Graham Wood, UK

  2. Bill, you have set a noble example in exposing your daily search of the Word of God. Notably the prophecy of Jeremiah. In His eternal purpose, the Lord touched on eternal truth; the theme which dominated this article.
    That tallies with the children of Israel gathering the manna each morning except on the Sabbath. Underlying the manna was the dew, illustrative of the gracious Holy Spirit liberating the especial truth necessary for survival in the 40 years’ desert, meandering.
    Sir, please continue to show the relevance of the Word of God to the infected spiritual climate of our day.
    A blessed and holy Easter.
    Harrold Steward

  3. St Paul tells us “covet to prophesy”. We are all meant to speak the mind of God to one another and to the world. However, as the little nun who was our lecturer in Sacred Scripture when I was in teacher’s college kept telling us – ” Girls if you haven’t got it you can’t give it to the children!”
    Anna Cook

  4. “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it” – Blaise Pascal

    Julian Coelho

  5. This is an incredible article not only explaining ‘truth’ and the pain of it being pushed out, but the pain on God’s heart that it is being pushed out. I identify with that pain and so long to bring life to truth that is embedded in each person! I am encouraged to continue to fight for truth Bill and I thank you for what you are doing!!
    Anna Davis

  6. I wonder how much damage to the truth is being spread by such statements as, soul sleep, and don’t eat meat, which is increasing in our churches?
    Daniel Kempton

  7. Graham, could you please tell me what SSM is the abbreviation of?

  8. Daniel, I’ve never actually heard the term ‘soul sleep’ but I just did my research on the definition of the term. I don’t know about yours, but my bible says the ‘dead know not anything’ Eccl 9:5. Both old and new testaments also consistently view death as a sleep (eg. John 11:11-14) which we will be awoken from during the resurrection at the second coming (John 11:23-26, I Thes 4:16 etc.). Perhaps this view is increasing in the church because it is biblical truth. After all, it’s inconceivable that an idea like ‘soul sleep’ could come from extra biblical sources since it is the traditional view that sides with spiritists, pagans, buddists and all such other heretics who have bought into Satan’s very first lie, ‘ye shall not surely die’ (Gen 3:4).
    Luke Belik

  9. Thanks guys

    Recall that this post is about the attack on truth in general, and not particular theological issues at this point. However, there is in fact such a thing as the error of “soul sleep” which some of the cults teach, but which is not biblical. Scripture everywhere teaches an active, ongoing awareness and activity of individuals after death, not a state of unconsciousness. But that is the subject of another article, not a debate here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. Thanks Bill I understand it was off topic, point taken. I look forward to your article on this since I obviously disagree but resent that you consider my views ‘cultish’.
    Luke Belik

  11. Thanks Luke

    I of course did not accuse you of anything – I don’t even know you. I simply made the perfectly factual statement that cults have supported this idea, such as the JWs.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. But of course I didn’t say you did accuse me of anything just my views. Yes JWs, in my view, are a cult based mainly on their devaluing of Jesus Christ. But you would be commuting the genetic fallacy to use that as proof against one of their doctrines since they also hold to many biblical views such as the literal life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Of course you haven’t committed the genetic fallacy since you claim it is supported by the majority of the bible but it would b that that I would disagree with. But I’m willing to leave it there as this is off topic.
    Luke Belik

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