Is truth objective? That is, is truth true for everyone? If it is not – if one thing can be one way for me, and another way for you, without any contradiction – then language is meaningless, because it, too, can mean one thing for me, and another thing for you. This makes the theory of non-objective truth difficult to speak about. But let’s try.
Over two thousand and five hundred years ago, Nebuchadnezzar, King of ancient Babylon, saw in a dream a stone cut without hands, destroying the proud image of the kingdoms of the earth, and then growing into a mighty mountain. That stone, thrown once again into the sea of society during the Reformation, has caused spreading waves of effect – waves reaching to the farthest corner of the globe. Like salt, which pervades the flavor of food wherever it is introduced, the Reformers’ new presentation of the old truths of the gospel has had, and is still having, a tremendous influence on this earth. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on the Bible alone, to the glory of God alone, has left its mark on human culture in each of society’s three main branches – on the individual, on family, and on government.
A certain man set out on a trip from Washington, DC, to Greenville, South Carolina. He was held up by terrorists, who stripped him of his raiment, wounded him, and departed, leaving him stranded on the side of the highway, half dead.
By chance, a certain pastor drove by; when he saw the man, he switched lanes.
A Red Cross worker, when he reached the spot, slowed down to take a look, but quickly hit the gas again and then took the next exit.
But a certain Mexican, as he drove his old banger on a visit to his relatives, reached the point where the man was lying, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.
He went to him, and bound up his wounds, applying Hydrogen Peroxide and Neosporin; then he helped him up into his own car, and brought him to a hotel, and took care of him.
The Mexican questioned the man as to what had happened, and was horrified to discover how long he had lain neglected by the side of the road.
The next day, when the Mexican left to continue his trip, he went to the hotel manager, and said to him, “Take care of him; whatever you spend, when the government realizes its duty to the victimized, it will repay you.”
“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Each of us knows, that, however well we may do when compared to our own defective standards, when compared to the standard of absolute perfection, we fall woefully and willfully short. And would it not be absurd to suppose that a perfect God would not hold all His creation to a perfect standard? How could He do otherwise? But does that mean that there is no hope for rebellious humanity? Thank God, that is not the case! Instead, He has provided a solution!
Last week we saw the demand God makes of all mankind: perfect righteousness, perfect obedience to His holy law. This demand is hardly surprising, since a perfectly holy God could not be expected to tolerate imperfection in His creatures, much less the high treason that takes place when any human being decides that he knows better than God and chooses to go his own way. The question then follows: does mankind fulfill this demand? Or does he daily, even hourly, break the law of God and act as a law unto himself?
A perfect God can require nothing less from His creatures than perfect obedience. Were they to fail even in the slightest degree, God’s perfection would demand that He punish them! What then, will be the punishment for mankind, who has repeatedly offended God’s majesty to His face? How could God possibly pardon man? How could he reconcile a people to Himself? Is there any solution to this dilemma? In this three part series we will look at the Old Testament, where we see God’s demand set forth as He commands righteousness and justice, man’s dilemma explained as He fails to obey, and God’s solution presented as He calls upon His people to base their trust on Him and His glorious plan.
First of all, God’s demand is set forth.
French toast for breakfast! Who doesn’t love the appetizing aroma and delicious flavor? Of course we need a few ingredients before we can have our pile of steaming goodness in the shape of French toast. Bread, eggs, and milk – later on, butter and syrup – all need to be available for our ideal breakfast, and in the right quantities. When was the last time you were able to create ten slices of French toast out of one slice of bread? For that matter, when was the last time you were able to use one of anything to produce ten of the same? You may not have that kind of power but, surprisingly, there is someone just around the corner who does. When a bank accepts a deposit and then loans it out, it actually creates additional money out of nothing! This practice (which we will explain in more detail in the next paragraph) is called fractional reserve banking. But creating money with a few clicks of a mouse is a power that does not come without strings attached. It has economically undesirable consequences and even moral implications that need to be considered. Sadly, these often go completely under the radar.
“Every year our government adds thousands and thousands of pages of new rules,” John Stossel stated in his TV special, War on the Little Guy. Now a new regulation is scheduled to go into effect – one that FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg says “will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.” Vending machine operators that run more than twenty machines must post calorie counts (when not otherwise visible before purchase) for sale items. This rule, buried in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is to go into full effect July 26th, 2018 – it took the FDA four years just to spell out a regulation that would fulfil the ACA’s provisions. In fact, their final ruling even regulates “type size, color, and contrast requirements for calorie declarations in or on the vending machines.” While this regulation will clearly have costs for the industries it affects, the FDA contends that it will “enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.” It sounds fantastic! Operators spend a little on calorie labels, and now all vending machine consumers can be healthy! Is this the case? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs?
What is the worst state in which a man can be found? Is it a state of material destitution? Or is there something more devastating, more horrible – a state that affects him not only now, but forever? As we know from Scripture, the “light affliction” of this life “is but for a moment” (II Corinthians 4:17). For this reason, we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (ibid 4:18). With this sort of worldview, it is not surprising that the Biblical answer to material destitution – poverty – is far different from all others. While modern humanism elevates poverty and defines it as inequality, the Bible recognizes it as a result of sin – a fundamental brokenness often expressing itself in material need – a view which leads to help that is radically different and truly helpful.
Who are the poor? In Western society today, material goods are often emphasized with little regard to other essential components of a truly happy life. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that poverty has been re-defined to mean those who have less, rather than those who have not. Time was when poor people lived in a one-room house with a dirt floor and were doing good to eat two meals a day; now they can have indoor plumbing and a TV in their living room. What criteria satisfy the modern definition of poverty? Based on those criteria, what is the modern solution? Does it work?