Redefining Our Terms

Truth seems to be in short supply these days. I think many would agree with that statement, but, in order to agree (or disagree), one must understand what I mean by truth. When I speak of truth I’m speaking of something that is objective. The words “constant,” “solid,” “unbending,” and “unyielding” come to mind when I think of truth. When we say the bible is true we are not simply saying it is factually accurate. We are saying what the bible teaches is accurate and true for all time. In other words whatever God has said in the Scriptures is just as true today as it was when written and will forever be true. Now, that is just fine if we like what the bible says. But what do we do if we do not like what the bible says? Many of you are already thinking of verse 18 of Romans chapter 1.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 ESV)

God’s wrath is being revealed against those who in their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Notice Paul did not say, those who in their unrighteousness change the truth. The reason Paul did not say “change the truth” is because it is impossible to change truth. Any truth, biblical or otherwise, is immutable (unchangeable). No matter the time or circumstance, two plus two equals four. Truth is immutable because truth comes from God and he is immutable.

Even so, we as fallen people try to change the truth, which is actually suppressing the truth. One way we do this is by redefining our terms. The only reason for redefining terms is to justify sin. For example, we redefine the word truth. Instead of being something objective we make it something subjective. You can have your truth, and I can have my truth, even if they are completely contradictory. This is nothing new, though. In John chapter 18, when Jesus stood before Pilate, he said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate replied in a most postmodern way, “What is truth?” Pilate was saying truth is subjective. If truth is subjective, there is no longer any basis for passing judging sin. How can something be sin if a person is simply acting on their truth?

In order to justify homosexual sin our culture has redefined marriage. (I recently wrote about that here.) Also, we have redefined what it is to be human. The objective, unchanging truth is human life begins at conception. However, the definition of when human life begins was changed to justify the murder of unborn babies.

One of the worst redefinition of terms occurs not only in the world, but also in the church. We redefine God. God is love (1 John 4:8). This is objectively true. Unfortunately the definition of love is not stable, and our definition of love is all we want to attribute to God. Many characteristics of God are ignored or explained away, such as his immutability, omniscience, and omnipotence. However, the attribute of God that is suppressed the most is his holiness. Holiness implies an impossible standard. Since we can never meet that standard God’s love must overrule his holiness. We see this when the “church” says God approves of homosexuality and gay marriage because two people love each other. We see this when we are told a God of love would not send anyone to hell. Notice that in order to ignore holiness the definition of love must be changed. This definition of love says that if I love someone my highest goal for them is his or her happiness. This definition of love ignores justice. Nowhere does the bible set God’s love in opposition to truth and justice. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:6 says love “rejoices with the truth.”

Of course, the problem with redefining terms is it doesn’t change reality. Truth that is suppressed does not stay suppressed. As an example consider abortion. Through the recently released undercover videos about Planned Parenthood we find out that those who are performing abortions clearly understand those unborn babies are human beings. No one wants to sell and no one wants to buy a non-human body part. Even before the videos, though, advances in science have shown the humanity of unborn babies. This is embarrassing for those who want to defend abortion, but defend it they will, truth be damned.

Embarrassment is the least of our worries, though. The real tragedy for those who redefine God is the fact that redefining God does not change God. God is holy and no amount of redefinition will change that. What God considers sin is sin no matter how it is redefined. There is nothing that is covered (suppressed) that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known (Matthew 10:26), and you can be sure your sin will find you out (Number 32:23). Since God is holy and God does not change (Malachi 3:6), his standard is high and his standard does not change. The unvarnished, hard truth is we cannot meet this standard. The solution to this dilemma is not to attempt to change God or his standard but to embrace the truth of the cross. God is love, and God is holy. These truths gloriously meet at the cross of Christ. God is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Jesus met God’s standard and took God’s wrath against sin on behalf of his people. This is our only hope because the truth that God is holy will one day no longer be suppressed. It will be evident to all.

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