Wisdom and Truth: A Christian Understanding

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Despite all the relativism today, there is no culture in this world that does not still value wisdom. Centuries after their death, many philosophers like Confucius and Socrates are still revered by many. And if you study their lives, there is much to respect them for.

Philosophers are people who put in extra endeavor in exploring the central questions of life.  Typically, their whole lives center around resolving existential questions about the human condition. Many of their contributions in fields like ethics have been valuable to the human society. Both philosophers mentioned above in particular lived commendable lives of integrity.

 

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However, if we look at the world today, much of it remains the same as it was 2000 years ago. It is to some extent true that deep down human nature is (flawed) human nature, and so we cannot expect it to change to an absolute degree. Yet while human nature has stayed the same throughout the years, worldviews seem to have changed drastically in that time.

So if human philosophies actually offer answers to the world’s problems, why is the only thing many people sense today is that there is no absolute or objective truth? Society in many parts of the world seems to have hit a blank wall or a dead end. And so, many feel that the only truth is found within themselves. This is the lure of New Age philosophies.

 

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True Wisdom For Life: The Book of Proverbs (Ref: heavens-beauty.info)

 

As Christians, our source of wisdom cannot lie in the ideas of men. I am saying this as a person who loves the field of Philosophy and has a deep appreciation for Classical Studies. But if we truly believe in a transcendent God, then our wisdom must come from the Source and Fount. What is wisdom in the Biblical sense? Is Truth objective or subjective?

 

Truth: Objective or Subjective?        

This is a timeless question. No Christian would doubt that the Scriptures are a record of objective truths handed down by God. Though the surrounding circumstances were extremely challenging during the early days of the Church, the Christian society, guided by the Scriptures, was strong and against all odds it stayed strong and cohesive. Not only did the society stayed strong, it broke all seeming possibilities and miraculously triumphed against the world’s largest and most powerful empire of the time. Today 2.4 billion people identify themselves as Christians.

 

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Yet in the search for ‘objective wisdom’, throughout much of the history of mankind, we have slowly drifted away from God in favor of men’s ideas, and gradually relegated God and His word to the sideline. About two hundred years ago, a Danish man, Soren Kierkegaard recognized the problem.

He mourned that the Church of his time had gone detached away from God. Man’s relationship with God had been relegated to a matter of concept and speculation. He was horrified that people who professed they were Christians and who could talk about God and about Christ, and yet could not feel the power of the truth they were facing. If Christians truly believed in the extraordinary story of Calvary, and if it was truth to them, it would permeate their whole lives and not result in apathy. 

 

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In his book, ‘The Journey So Far’, (tracing the story of philosophy through the ages and how men have shifted from God-centered worldviews to human-based ones and relativism), Peter Hicks described the dilemma that was confronting Kierkegaard.

The objective thinker contemplates the world slowly, indecisively, uncommittedly in the hope of finding God.  The personal and subjective passion of the experiential Christian for the Truth would drive him forward. He would leap out to the Truth, entering into a relationship with it, even without pausing to define it through his own notions (Page 355). His life would be centered on a passionate relationship with God and His word. This passion is what much of the Church has lost even since Kierkegaard’s time.

 

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Even so, Kierkegaard, without meaning to, has contributed to a greater drift away from God. This is where we are today. Much of the world has a conceptual idea of God without experiencing a relationship with Him. Others view truth as a wholly subjective thing, based on their personal experiences and their own definition of who they are.

This is the actual existential problem; a society who are either bored and lethargic or unmoored. In order to gain genuine wisdom, and what life is all about, we must return back to a God-centered worldview. God’s truths are objective but it demands a personal and subjective engagement and response from the individual.

 

What are the Aspects of Truth in the God-centered Worldview?

We need to return back to God. Only He can give us wisdom for our questions in life, for everything in it was created from and through His will and power, and they are subject to Him. The Christian understanding of Truth must be God-centered. God is the reason and foundation for Truth and Truth exists because He exists.

 

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We discern this even in the patterns of His design for creation. Like the patterns in His creation, Truth is an expression of the nature of God, and cannot be isolated away from Him. It is unchanging, holy, and personal just as God is personal, holy, and eternal. It does not change according to the whims of men. 

The fact that God presented Himself to us as Persons also reflects the significance of the personal aspect of Truth. Our relationship with Christ is with a Person, it is not merely an academic or intellectual question. Just as Christ exemplified discipline, grace, love, obedience, and the like on a personal level, it also requires a personal involvement from the believer into the New Life. This involvement must go beyond an objective indifference.   

 

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Ref: daveconnolly.org

 

The Christian’s response to God’s Truth must have an ethical and practical attribute. Because God is active and always engaged in His eternal purpose, Truth in us will not be Truth unless it is applied and lived out. Unlike much of the thinking pattern of the world today, from a God-centered worldview, there is no serious division between the various types of truth. They all overlap and interact in a unified and cohesive whole.

Nature, for example, is a creation of God, and so, for a believer, scientific questions or truths have an ethical and practical implication. Unlike secular scientists who approach first from the evidence of their senses, a Christian is able to discern patterns in science based on their knowledge of God. How he responds to the questions of science comes foremost through His awareness of God. For a Christian, all truth is one for it is all theological (based on God).       

 

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Peter Hicks put it this way. For a Christian, truth is much more than just a set of beliefs. It is an actual relationship with a Living God. This demands much more than just a passive agreement to the conclusions of a dialogue or discussion, or even a persuasion through proofs.

The response to Truth opens up the whole of a Christian’s life. The will, the heart, the feelings, the spirit, and the “moral person” are all involved. For a Christian to respond to these areas, he writes, the presence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit are needed (‘The Journey So Far”; Page 100).  

 

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– Jason Law

NOTE: This article is guided extensively through Peter Hicks’ book ‘The Journey So Far‘.

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