I’ve been thinking about stories, and why they are such effective, timeless modes of communication. Children learn best through stories. So do adults. The best writers are storytellers. Stories just have a way of gripping our attention because they invade our imagination. Stories enter the minds of their hearers unannounced and take a seat on their soul, uninvited. They take us on adventurous journeys without our permission. It’s why we love movies. And stories never get old. It doesn’t matter what age we are living in, from the age of oral tradition to the blogging generation, stories continue to win the hearts of men. It doesn’t matter whether one is shipping a lie or mailing the truth, stories continue to be the best courier services.
It is therefore no coincidence that the Bible is a story. Of course, there are proverbs, laws, psalms and abstract apostolic teachings in the Bible, but all of these find their validity in the greater context of the biblical narrative. To isolate any law, or proverb from the story is to destroy that law or proverb. No wonder expository preaching is considered better and more faithful to the scripture compared to topical preaching. No wonder great Bible commentators and expositors emphasize context. The story matters. The overall account counts.
It is this story-line of thinking that led me to consider the way the Bible speaks about its own “ideas” or doctrines. You know, ideas such as Hope, Love, Truth, Life, Light, Wisdom…. and how all these notions are seldom addressed as abstract philosophical constructs. Each of these “ideas” is severally embodied in and identified with the person of Christ:
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” [1 Peter 1:3]
- “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” [John 14:6]
- “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12]
- “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” [1 Corinthians 1:30]
In the story of God, hope is ultimately [found in] a person. So is love, and truth, and light, and wisdom… you can add to the list. Any idea in the Bible that is contemplated apart from considering the person and work of Christ is incomplete, and bound to be misunderstood. It becomes unbiblical.
This realization is both liberating and humbling. It is humbling because it reveals the dangers of thinking about Christianity solely in terms of abstract or propositional categories of truth. It is liberating because it reminds us that the truth is bigger than our minds. The truth is that you don’t have to be a rigorous logician or philosopher to get God. No, I am not dismissing propositional truth [lest I be accused of McLarenism], I am only placing it in its right context – the person of truth. I believe in propositional truth. I just happen to also believe that it is best perceived and understood as a subset of the person of Christ. All truth has propositional aspects, but propositions alone are not the whole truth. There’s more… Much more.
Truth is a person.
We are prone to forget this. Sometimes we read the New Testament as if Genesis 3 never happened. That’s why we find ourselves putting asunder what God has joined together, we find ourselves “speaking the truth WITHOUT love” or having “faith that is NOT accompanied by action.” But if we train our minds and hearts [by the Holy Spirit] to always see truth as embodied in the person of Christ, we will realize that love is not an optional addition to truth, but a necessary component of truth. Both truth and love are inseparably embodied in the person of Christ. They are not just independent attributes of his character, but the very essence of his being. Jesus is the truth, Jesus is love, Jesus is the light. Therefore, truth and love find their unity and marriage in the person of Christ. To divorce the two is to present an incomplete Jesus, which is no Jesus at all.
Neil Postman says something quite insightful when talking about the media and how it shapes truth:
“Truth does not, and never has, come unadorned. It must appear in its proper clothing or it is not acknowledged, which is a way of saying that the ‘truth’ is a kind of cultural prejudice. Each culture conceives of it as being most authentically expressed in certain symbolic forms that another culture may regard as trivial or irrelevant.”
This is not a call to relativism regarding truth claims, but a call to acknowledge that truth is never naked, it is always dressed up. This is a call to realize that abstract or half-truths are complete falsehoods. The ultimate Truth chose to put on human flesh in order to ultimately express himself to human beings. Jesus Christ is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Pilate asked the wrong question, “WHAT is Truth?” (John 18:38)
No wonder he never got an answer. He was looking right at HIM.
Truth is a person. His name is Jesus.