Trouble with Truth

blurry church
original image by Wayne Gooden from Pixabay

Some high-profile Christian writers/teachers instruct pastors to be careful about letting their congregations know exactly what they believe. And there are church websites that show a rather traditional statement of faith, even though it doesn’t quite match up with the beliefs of some of the staff or with certain practices there.

Some church sites say vague things like, “We have stayed true to our heritage and core values…” Since they have adopted unscriptural and interspiritual practices, it’s probably smart for them to avoid showing an actual statement of faith.

On the website of Solomon’s Porch, there are lines about being “deeply connected to God” and “worshipping God.” But instead of a statement of faith, we find this note:

“You will not find statements of what our community believes on this site. Belief is a dynamic, lived reality and doesn’t lend itself to website statements.”

I was surprised to find that a rather old book spoke to the idea of being clever in disguising one’s beliefs. An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by Robertson McQuilkin (published 1989; revised 1995) tells the story (p 433–434) of a 1984 meeting of evangelical seminary students. The speaker was a liberal teacher who didn’t believe that a number of Bible statements attributed to Jesus were actually his, but were by someone else and also were inserted into the Bible later. One of the students expressed concern that if you said that from the pulpit, the congregation might be upset. The speaker then illustrated how a minister could make a statement that the audience would “hear” in one way even though the minister meant it in another.

Here it is: “The author, in Mark’s Gospel, tells us that Jesus said…”

Author McQuilkin calls this “lying with true words.” Those words themselves are true, but they are deceitful (and cowardly?) since the man himself doesn’t believe that Jesus said those words. He knows that most people will absorb that statement as meaning “Jesus, in the book of Mark, says…” But he means “Whoever wrote Mark’s Gospel is quoting what we’re supposed to believe are the words of Jesus…”

Some of the thinking these days insists: “There’s no such thing as absolute truth.” Maybe that’s being extended to: “When the truth is inconvenient, don’t even bother telling it”?

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