The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
  • The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
  • The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception

The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception

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by John MacArthur

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Right now, Truth is under attack, and much is at stake. Christians are caught in the crossfire of alternative Christian histories, emerging faulty texts, and a cultural push to eliminate absolute Truth altogether. As a result, many churches and Christians have been deceived. Worse still, they propagate the deception that poses itself as Truth! In The

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Right now, Truth is under attack, and much is at stake. Christians are caught in the crossfire of alternative Christian histories, emerging faulty texts, and a cultural push to eliminate absolute Truth altogether. As a result, many churches and Christians have been deceived. Worse still, they propagate the deception that poses itself as Truth! In The Truth War John MacArthur reclaims the unwavering certainty of God's Truth and anchors Christians in the eternal, immovable promises that are found in His Word.

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Library Journal

Relying on sound biblical doctrine, MacArthur (editor & compiler, MacArthur Study Bible; Twelve Extraordinary Women) tackles postmodernism and its view of truth. That MacArthur is a conservative Bible-believing fundamentalist Christian is no secret. What may surprise lay readers, however, or those who might dismiss a fundamentalist as an extremist is MacArthur's ability to approach logically and sensibly the concept of truth and the philosophy of postmodernism. He clearly and concisely presents postmodernism's teachings, the faultiness of these teachings, and why Christians should not only be concerned about but also be engaged in a war against them. The war he has in mind is one of ideas, "a battle against false doctrines, evil ideologies, and wrong beliefs." MacArthur's willingness to call certain things false, wrong, and evil reflects his deep conviction and profound belief in an absolute truth, the truth of the Bible. Though at times his arguments are harsh and abrasive, they are always uncompromising and sprinkled with concern and compassion. One need not be a fundamentalist Christian to read and enjoy this book; its well-defined arguments, beliefs, and ideals can benefit anyone. Recommended for all libraries.
—Wesley A. Mills

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Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-6263-3

Chapter One

Can Truth Survive in a Postmodern Society?

Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" -John 18:37-38

Considering who stood before him and the gravity of the issues he was being asked to decide, Pilate's attitude was astonishingly dismissive. But he did raise a vital question: What is truth?

Where, after all, does this concept come from, and why is it so basic to all human thought? Every idea we have, every relationship we cultivate, every belief we cherish, every fact we know, every argument we make, every conversation we engage in, and every thought we think presupposes that there is such a thing as "truth." The idea is an essential concept, without which the human mind could not function.

Even if you are one of those trendy thinkers who claims to be skeptical about whether "truth" is really a useful category anymore, to express that opinion you must presume that truth is meaningful on some fundamental level. One of the most basic, universal, andundeniable axioms of all human thought is the absolute necessity of truth. (And we might add that the necessity of absolute truth is its close corollary.)

A Biblical Definition

So what is truth?

Here is a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the self-expression of God. That is the biblical meaning of truth, and it is the definition I employ throughout this book. Because the definition of truth flows from God, truth is theological.

Truth is also ontological-which is a fancy way of saying it is the way things really are. Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the "God of truth" (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, "I am ... the truth (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is "the brightness of [God's] glory and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3). He is truth incarnate-the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) "cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth "which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23).

Of course there cannot be any discord or difference of opinion between the written Word of God (Scripture) and the incarnate Word of God (Jesus). In the first place, truth by definition cannot contradict itself. Second, Scripture is called "the word of Christ" (Colossians 3:16). It is His message, His self-expression. In other words, the truth of Christ and the truth of the Bible are of the very same character. They are in perfect agreement in every respect. Both are equally true. God has revealed Himself to humanity through Scripture and through His Son. Both perfectly embody the essence of what truth is.

Remember, Scripture also says God reveals basic truth about Himself in nature. The heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). His other invisible attributes (such as His wisdom, power, and beauty) are on constant display in what He has created (Romans 1:20). Knowledge of Him is inborn in the human heart (Romans 1:19), and a sense of the moral character and loftiness of His law is implicit in every human conscience (Romans 2:15). Those things are universally self-evident truths. According to Romans 1:20, denial of the spiritual truths we know innately always involves a deliberate and culpable unbelief. And for those who wonder whether basic truths about God and His moral standards really are stamped on the human heart, ample proof can be found in the long history of human law and religion. To suppress this truth is to dishonor God, displace His glory, and incur His wrath (vv. 19-20).

Still, the only infallible interpreter of what we see in nature or know innately in our own consciences is the explicit revelation of Scripture. Since Scripture is also the one place where we are given the way of salvation, entrance into the kingdom of God, and an infallible account of Christ, the Bible is the touchstone to which all truth claims should be brought and by which all other truth must finally be measured.

The Inadequacy of All Other Definitions

An obvious corollary of what I am saying is that truth means nothing apart from God. Truth cannot be adequately explained, recognized, understood, or defined without God as the source. Since He alone is eternal and self-existent and He alone is the Creator of all else, He is the fountain of all truth.

If you don't believe that, try defining truth without reference to God, and see how quickly all such definitions fail. The moment you begin to ponder the essence of truth, you are brought face-to-face with the requirement of a universal absolute-the eternal reality of God. Conversely, the whole concept of truth instantly becomes nonsense (and every imagination of the human heart therefore turns to sheer foolishness) as soon as people attempt to remove the thought of God from their minds.

That, of course, is precisely how the apostle Paul traced the relentless decline of human ideas in Romans 1:21-22: "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools."

There are serious moral implications, too, whenever someone tries to dissociate truth from the knowledge of God. Paul went on to write, "Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Roman 1:28). Abandon a biblical definition of truth, and unrighteousness is the inescapable result. We see it happening before our eyes in every corner of contemporary society. In fact, the widespread acceptance of homosexuality, rebellion, and all forms of iniquity that we see in our society today is a verbatim fulfillment of what Romans 1 says always happens when a society denies and suppresses the essential connection between God and truth.

If you reflect on the subject with any degree of sobriety, you will soon see that even the most fundamental moral distinctions-good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, or honor and dishonor-cannot possibly have any true or constant meaning apart from God. That is because truth and knowledge themselves simply have no coherent significance apart from a fixed source, namely, God. How could they? God embodies the very definition of truth. Every truth claim apart from Him is preposterous.

In fact, human philosophers have sought for thousands of years to explain truth and account for human knowledge apart from God-and all who have tried have ultimately been unsuccessful. That has led to an ominous shift in the world of secular thought in recent years. Here's a thumbnail sketch of how the change came about: Ancient Greek philosophers simply assumed the validity of truth and human knowledge without attempting to account for how we know what we know. But about five hundred years before the time of Christ, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle began to consider the problems of how to define knowledge, how to discover whether a belief is true, and how to determine whether we're actually justified in believing anything. For some two thousand years, nearly all philosophers more or less presupposed that knowledge is conveyed somehow through nature, and they set forth a number of naturalistic explanations attempting to describe how truth and knowledge can be communicated to the human mind.

Then in the middle of the seventeenth century, at the dawn of the so-called Enlightenment, philosophers such as Rene DesCartes and John Locke began to grapple very seriously with the question of how we gain knowledge. That branch of philosophy became known as epistemology-the study of knowledge and how human minds apprehend truth.

DesCartes was a rationalist, believing that truth is known by reason, starting with a few foundational, self-evident truths and using logical deductions to build more sophisticated structures of knowledge on that foundation. Locke argued, instead, that the human mind begins as a blank slate and acquires knowledge purely through the senses. (Locke's view is known as empiricism.) Immanuel Kant demonstrated that neither logic alone nor experience alone (hence neither rationalism nor empiricism) could account for all human knowledge, and he devised a view that combined elements of rationalism and empiricism. G. W. F. Hegel argued in turn that even Kant's view was inadequate, and he proposed a more fluid view of truth, denying that reality is a constant. Instead, he said, what is true evolves and changes with the advancement of time. Hegel's views opened the door to various kinds of irrationalism, represented by "modern" systems of thought ranging from the philosophies of Kierkegaard, Nietzche, and Marx to the pragmatism of Henry James.

Elaborate epistemologies have thus been proposed and methodically debunked one after another-like a long chain in which every previous link is broken. After thousands of years, the very best of human philosophers have all utterly failed to account for truth and the origin of human knowledge apart from God.

In fact, the one most valuable lesson humanity ought to have learned from philosophy is that it is impossible to make sense of truth without acknowledging God as the necessary starting point.

The Great "Paradigm Shift"

Lately, many unbelieving intellectuals have admitted the chain is broken and have decided the culprit is the absurdity of any quest for truth. In effect, they have given up that pursuit as something wholly futile. The world of human ideas is therefore currently in a serious state of flux. On almost every level of society, we are witnessing a profoundly radical paradigm shift-a wholesale overhaul in the way people think about truth itself.

Unfortunately, instead of acknowledging what truth demands and yielding to the necessity of belief in the God of truth, contemporary Western thought has devised ways to rid human philosophy of any coherent notion of truth altogether. The concept of truth is therefore under heavy attack in the philosophical community, the academic world, and the realm of worldly religion. The way people think about truth is being totally revamped and the vocabulary of human knowledge completely redefined. The goal, clearly, is to usher every notion of truth off into oblivion.

The goal of human philosophy used to be truth without God. Today's philosophies are open to the notion of God without truth-or to be more accurate, personal "spirituality" in which everyone is free to create his or her own god. Personal gods pose no threat to sinful self-will, because they suit each sinner's personal preferences anyway, and they make no demands on anyone else.

That fact underscores the true reason for every denial of truth: "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Here the Lord Jesus says people reject truth (light) for reasons that are fundamentally moral, not intellectual. Truth is clear-too clear. It reveals and condemns sin. Therefore, "everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (v. 20). Sinners love their sin, so they flee from the light, denying that it even exists.

The war against truth is nothing new, of course. It began in the garden when the serpent said to the woman, "Has God indeed said ...?" (Genesis 3:1). A relentless battle has raged ever since-between truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness, assurance and doubt, belief and skepticism, righteousness and sin. It is a savage spiritual conflict that literally spans all of human history. But the ferocity and irrationality of this present onslaught seems quite unprecedented.

The far-reaching ramifications of the recent paradigm shift are obvious already. Over the past generation-and especially the past two decades-we have seen convulsive changes in society's moral values, philosophy, religion, and the arts. The upheaval has been so profound that our grandparents' generation (and practically every prior generation of human history) scarcely would have thought the landscape could possibly change so quickly. Almost no aspect of human discourse has been left unaffected. The traditional, nominal devotion to ideals and moral standards derived from Scripture is dying with the senior generation.

Many believe the paradigm shift has already brought us beyond the age of modernity to the next great epoch in the development of human thought: the postmodern era.


Modernity, in simple terms, was characterized by the belief that truth exists and that the scientific method is the only reliable way to determine that truth. In the so-called "modern" era, most academic disciplines (philosophy, science, literature, and education) were driven primarily by rationalistic presuppositions. In other words, modern thought treated human reason as the final arbiter of what is true. The modern mind discounted the idea of the supernatural and looked for scientific and rationalistic explanations for everything. But modern thinkers retained their belief that knowledge of the truth is possible. They were still seeking universal and absolute truths that applied to everyone. Scientific methodologies became the chief means by which modern people sought to gain that knowledge.

Those presuppositions gave birth to Darwinism, which in turn spawned a string of humanistic ideas and worldviews. Most prominent among them were several atheistic, rationalistic, utopian philosophies-including Marxism, fascism, socialism, communism, and theological liberalism.

Modernism's devastating repercussions were soon felt worldwide. Various struggles between those ideologies (and others like them) dominated the twentieth century. All failed. After two world wars, nonstop social revolutions, civil unrest, and a long ideological cold war, modernity was declared dead by most in the academic world. The symbolic death of the modern era was marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the more apt and imposing monuments to modern ideology. Because the wall was a concrete expression of modernity's misguided utopian worldview, its sudden demolition was also a perfect symbol for the collapse of modernity.

Most, if not all, of the major dogmas and worldviews from the modern era are now deemed completely outmoded and hopelessly discredited in virtually every corner of the intellectual and academic world. Even modernist religion's fascination with higher criticism has given way to abstract spirituality.

The overconfident rationalism and human conceit that characterized the modern era has finally-and fittingly-had most of the wind taken out of its sails.


Accordingly, the new ways of thinking have been collectively nicknamed postmodern.


Excerpted from THE TRUTH WAR by John MacArthur Copyright © 2007 by John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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