"let god be true"

 

In a recent issue of this magazine, we published a response to the claim that Christadelphians are but one denomination within the wider Christian Family, and that the doctrines we believe comprise a particular point of view, which is equally valid as the points of view held by other Christians. This item generated some correspondence—both on an online discussion group, and also various e-mails.

In another unrelated thread on Facebook, a similar sentiment was expressed by a correspondent, responding to an item that the present writer posted. The context was our contention that to teach children to believe in Santa Claus was a form of idolatry, because it displaced God as being the giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift”, instead attributing gifts to Saint Nicholas (the meaning of the name Santa Claus). By teaching children to believe in Santa Claus is teaching them to believe in a non-existent provider of gifts, when in fact, our Heavenly Father is the provider of all that we have. It also induces covetousness in children, as they are urged to think about what they want, and desire to have, for Santa to meet their wishes.

There were a number of responses to this, including the following, which seems to be representative of a number of communications received over the last few months:

“Chris I can appreciate your difference of opinion….I just hope you keep your thoughts and bible verse references to what you believe away from those children whom are not yours. Nothing would be worse than providing children who believe with your views”

This piece of correspondence is interesting, in that it attributes what we posted as being “your views” and “your difference of opinion,” which it is hoped will be hidden from children. Even though the “bible verse references” that we presented are the source of our “views”, it is hoped that these be kept away, as “nothing could be worse” than them being showed to children. So it is, that even though our “views” rest entirely on Bible Teaching, they represent only our opinions, which could be damaging if they are made known.

A popular illustration used to present this position comes from Lillian Quigley’s book The Blind Men and the Elephant, which we considered a few years ago in this magazine. She retells the ancient Buddhist fable of six blind men who visit the palace of the Rajah and encounter an elephant for the first time. As each touches the animal with his hands, he announces his discoveries:

“The first blind man put out his hand and touched the side of the elephant. “How smooth! An elephant is like a wall. “The second blind man put out his hand and touched the trunk of the elephant. “How round! An elephant is like a snake. “The third blind man put out his hand and touched the tusk of the elephant. “How sharp! An elephant is like a spear.” The fourth blind man put out his hand and touched the leg of the elephant. “How tall! An elephant is like a tree. “The fifth blind man reached out his hand and touched the ear of the elephant. “How wide! An elephant is like a fan. “The sixth blind man put out his hand and touched the tail of the elephant. “How thin! An elephant is like a rope.”

An argument ensued, each blind man thinking his own perception of the elephant was the correct one. The Rajah, awakened by the commotion, called out from the balcony. “The elephant is a big animal,” he said. “Each man touched only one part. You must put all the parts together to find out what an elephant is like.”

Enlightened by the Rajah’s wisdom, the blind men reached agreement. “Each one of us knows only a part. To find out the whole truth we must put all the parts together.”

However attractive the logic of this story may seem to some, it’s flaws when applied to matters of religion are clear:

  1. If at best we each only know one part of the Elephant, who can see the whole animal to tell us we are only looking at a part, and not the whole thing?
  2. The logic only works in this story if each individual examines his or her part in isolation from the whole. Whereas in religious circles, the various parties draw different conclusions regarding the same parts of the Elephant. Take for example the Atoning work of Christ: churches teach he died as a substitute for us, whereas Christadelphians teach that he was a representative man. So in this single issue, it is not the case that the church is validly viewing a different part of the elephant, rather the argument is regarding the particulars of the same part.
  3. In the story, each man is assumed to be correct in his understanding of the part he touches – whereas in reality, such correctness is highly questionable – it is by Revelation, not by searching that God is found (Job 11:7).
  4. The characters examining the Elephant are solely left to their own devices to determine the truth of the part they examine, and each man is assumed to be correct in his understanding of that part he touches. The facts of the case, however, are that rather than being left to our own abilities to find the Truth about the Deity (Job 11:7), we have been provided with instruction in Scripture. The Bible claim is to be the immutable Word of the Living God, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

So then, the story of a man using his abilities to learn an isolated, single, and small aspect of the truth concerning the Elephant breaks down: a closer analogy would be for men to instead listen to one who has seen all the pieces describe the whole to them.

Several times, the present writer has heard this story of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” from the platform, to describe how men come to God with “different points of view,” all equally valid and acceptable. Other times, a similar message is presented, not using this story, but drawing on the same principles as the story is supposed to illustrate—as with the correspondence we have considered. When describing their various opinions on a given matter, it is becoming increasingly common for folk to speak of their “point of view”, with opposing ideas being called “a different point of view,” with both being equally valid.

WHAT CONSTITUTES A “VIEW”?

Interestingly, the Bible itself uses the language of Seeing or Not Seeing, in the context of receiving the principles of the Truth. So Messiah spoke of the Pharisees:

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mat. 15:14)

Also in Matthew 23, five times Messiah speaks of “the blind”. Again, the inspired Apostle Paul speaks of Israel:

“… blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).

Notice the absolute terms employed by the Spirit in each of these places: there are no differing “views” as some would have us believe. In fact, there is not a single instance in Scripture where alternative “views” are even hinted at. So far as the Bible is concerned, there are only two states: 1) Seeing, 2) Blindness. And by the very nature of things, a blind man cannot see—by definition therefore, he cannot have a “view” on anything!

The Master also speaks of those who can “see”, by contrast to those who shut their eyes to the Truth:

“… this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears:, for they hear…” (Mat. 13:15-16).

According to our correspondents, it is possible for men to have different “views” — even if they are radically different to each other—and for any to question any one of those “views” is to make a man “an offender for a word”. According to Jesus Christ however, those who close their eyes cannot see a thing. Being “blind” (even when wilfully so), they can have no sight, or “view” at all.

A passage that might be thought to have a bearing on the matter is in Matthew chapter 7:

“… why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Mat. 7:3-5).

This passage is plainly to do with clarity of spiritual vision. However, here, it is not a case of individuals each viewing different angles of a given thing, which when put together form a complete picture. Rather it is a question of having an overall deficiency of sight—or in other words, an inability to perceive—described by the Master as “blindness” and by the Apostle as “blindness in part” depending on the extent of the deficiency. Both brethren in the parable have a spiritual sight deficiency, no matter what angle they choose for their “viewpoint”.

BIBLE LANGUAGE

Whereas men use words such as “different views” to describe various opinions that they may have, it is significant that the Bible itself never speaks in this way. Here is a sample of Bible language regarding those who disagree with it’s teaching:

“but there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1)

“… which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray” (2 Pet. 2:15)

“if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed …” (Gal. 1:8).

In a recent issue we stated:

Sometimes it is said that we are “arrogant” in claiming to “have the Truth.” However, this overlooks the point that the Bible teaches a certain thing which is Truth (see. Jno. 17:17: “Thy Word is Truth”). By definition therefore, that which disagrees with the Bible is not merely a different “point of view”, but is something different to “truth” – “damnable heresies” It is not a question of saying “we’re the only ones who’ve ‘got it right’, but rather whether what we believe is taught in the Bible. Our adversaries speak of “arrogance”. But the One who humbly believes what the Bible teaches, and refuses to budge in his acceptance of the Truth is not called “arrogant” in the Bible. The Bible word is “faithful”.

Interestingly, not one of our critics address this point—they unanimously ignore it!

When we come to Scripture therefore, we do so in pursuit of Truth, spurning the opinions of men. It is written: “ … let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). The Bible, being of God is True. That which differs from it is not True, but a lie, and the proponent of it “a liar”. Sincerity is not enough: “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). True faith and kindness is to make known the teaching of the Word, and to teach our children the ways of God as a Provider, as distinct from the opinions and fables of men.

Christopher Maddocks