I’m halfway through Mike Reeves’ excellent lectures on a theology of revelation. Go and listen now if you haven’t done already.
Maybe I should put them somewhere prominently and permanently on the blog because they explain much better than I can the thinking behind ‘Christ the Truth’.
To be an evangelical theologian is to have your method entirely shaped by God’s coming to us in Jesus. Just as we are saved through God’s grace alone by Christ alone, so we know God by God’s grace alone and through Christ alone. This being the case, we need to be saved from our ‘wisdom’ every bit as much as we need to be saved from our ‘works.’
Anyway, all these sorts of thoughts were circling through my head when I came across this quote posted on Tony Reinke’s blog. It’s all about how we should ‘restore the bridge’ from classical literature to Christ!
“What then shall we say if we would restore the medieval bridge from Homer, Plato and Virgil to Christ, the Bible and the church? Shall we say that Christianity is not the only truth? Certainly not! But let us also not say that Christianity is the only truth. Let us say instead that Christianity is the only complete truth. The distinction here is vital. By saying that Christianity is the only complete truth, we leave open the possibility that other philosophies, religions and cultures have hit on certain aspects of the truth. The Christian need not reject the poetry of Homer, the teachings of Plato, or the myths of the pagans as one hundred percent false, as an amalgamation of darkness and lies (as Luther strongly suggests), but may affirm those moments when Plato and Homer leap past their human limitations and catch a glimpse of the true glory of the triune God.
I reject the all-or-nothing, darkness-or-light dualism that Luther at times embraced. But I also reject the modern relativist position that truth is like a hill and there are many ways around it. Yes, truth is like a hill, but the truth that stands atop that hill is Christ and him crucified. To arrive at the truth of Christ, the people of the world have pursued many, many different routes. Some have only scaled the bottom rim of the hill; others have made it halfway. But many have reached the top and experienced the unspeakable joy that comes only when the truth they have sought all their lives is revealed to them. …
If we are to accept these verses [Romans 2:14-15] in a manner that is in any way literal, we must confess that unregenerate pagans have an inborn capacity for grasping light and truth that was not totally depraved by the Fall. Indeed, though the pagan poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome did not have all the answers (they couldn’t, as they lacked the special revelation found only in Jesus), they knew how to ask the right questions—questions that build within the readers of their works a desire to know the higher truths about themselves and their Creator.”
—Louis Markos, From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (IVP Academic 2007), pp. 13-14
How do you think your mild-mannered correspondent reacted?
Well – go and see. Here’s a selection of my many comments!
I enjoy the blog. I hate this quote.
Christ and Him crucified does not sit atop a hill as though waiting for natural man to ascend! The Truth steps down to meet us in ignorance, just as the Life steps down to meet us in death. And besides, which natural mind has ever drawn near to the crucified God? Such truth has only ever appeared as folly to the world, yet this *is* the power and wisdom of God.
This quote is epistemological Pelagianism. Salvation and knowledge go together. We must oppose synergism in the one as strongly as we oppose it in the other. No wonder Luther shows the way. We’d do well to heed his cautions…
It is incontestably and trivially true that pagans can write meaningful novels, develop life-saving medicine, pursue world-enlightening science, make correct philosophical and moral observations. And it’s equally true that pagans can work for peace, give blood and generally be very, very nice people. No-one’s saying unbelievers can’t say true stuff, just as no-one’s saying unbelievers can’t do good stuff. The trouble comes when someone tries to co-ordinate nature and grace in either knowledge or salvation. Whenever the natural is seen as a stepping stone into grace alarm bells must go off. Whenever co-ordination, stepping-stones, bridges, spectrums, pilgrimmages, ascents up hills are discussed flags have to go up…
Truth is relative – relative to Christ, the Truth (good name for a blog I reckon). His subjectivity is the one objectivity. There are therefore whole worlds of understanding that make some kind of sense within their own terms of reference and which make some kind of sense of the world but are falsely related to the true Logos. Therefore in toto and at root they are utterly false. And there can be no bridge between these worlds and the world in which Christ crucified is central. There can only be redemption from these worlds. Such a redemption will require wholesale rethinking (metanoia – change of mind)… 2 Cor 10:5!…
I’m happy to call any number of pagan statements ‘true’ – just as I’m happy to call any number of pagan actions ‘good’. (For me this parallel between knowledge and salvation is key.)
It allows me to say:
1) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’ is of great benefit to the world.
2) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’ can be truly seen by the regenerate as evidences of common grace.
3) such ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’, viewed from the pagan themselves, does not lead towards but away from Christ and Him crucified.
A pagan’s goodness leads them away from the grace of Christ, a pagan’s wisdom leads them away from the revelation of Christ…
I could tell you all sorts of propositions that surrounded my saving faith in Christ, but I’d be reflecting back on a miracle. I wouldn’t be telling you the natural steps that secured salvation any more than the servants at Cana would be telling you how *they* drew wine out of those stone jars.
Just as there are no discrete human deeds that add up to divine righteousness, so there are no discrete human understandings that add up to divine knowledge. All must be of grace, all must be of revelation.
So there. I also discuss Acts 17 and Romans 2 a bit. And there’s even some good points made by other bloggers! Common grace really is astounding ;-)