December 2013

If it works it must be true

Series: Truth on Trial – part 3

Pragmatism is the theory that truth is a matter of the practical usefulness of beliefs. What works must be true. Truth is equated with results – to illustrate this let me give a recent example of this from church life.

For several months a group of people in one of our congregations wanted the leadership to endorse their particular approach to ministering healing. They believed that many human problems were the result of ‘generational curses’. I am not going to argue here from the biblical evidence; I want only to point out the role that pragmatism played in the discussions. The Elders argued that the only basis for the ‘truth’ of such an approach to healing had to come from the Word of God. The questions were; ‘What do the scriptures in their entirety teach in this regard?’ ‘What did Jesus teach and practice in this regard?’ and, ‘What did the early church practice in this regard?’ At first there was some attempt by the people concerned to validate their practice from isolated proof texts, but in the final analysis it came down to, “But it works, so it must be true”. More comprehensively put, the claim was as follows; “My nephew was sick and dogged by bad luck for years. When I spoke to him about this he admitted that his grandfather, on the other side of the family, had been a member of a secret society. ‘There you have it!’ I told him, ‘you are under a generational curse!’ So I immediately broke the curse in the name of Jesus and by pleading the blood of Christ, and he was healed and his whole fortune changed from there on. So, it must be true and of God because it ‘worked’.” 

To quote  from my book Truth is The Word:
The pragmatic theory encompasses the thoughts of scholars such as William James, John Dewey, Charles Pierce, and F.C.S. Schiller. It appears to be the dominant theory of truth in our age. Despite protestations, it is probably the dominant theory of truth amongst many Christian groups. I would go one step further. Pragmatism merely says, “If it works it must be true,” but many believers extend this to “if it works it must be good.”
So, if the real basis of truth is neither relativism nor pragmatism, then what is it? I will answer this question in my next post by returning to the encounter between Pilate and the Lord Jesus.

Truth is The Word – Restoring a Lost Focus has recently been revised and published in e-book format. Find out more from the author on Jesus, truth and biblical interpretation in this revised edition! 

If it works it must be true Read More »

Different strokes for different folks

Series: Truth on Trial – part 2
In my previous post I quoted from my book Truth is The Word that ‘in our day, we have reduced truth to just another aspect of personal or community preference. Relativism and pragmatism rule.’ Relativism is the theory that truth is not the same for all people and that there is no single, unchanging and absolute truth concerning anything. When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) he was expressing the still common belief that truth is something very abstract and variable. Your truth is not necessarily my truth but that doesn’t mean that your truth is not as valid as mine – ‘Different strokes for different folks’, as the saying goes. Or, ‘let us all find things to agree on and agree to disagree on everything else’ – another current attitude towards truth.

We are all familiar with this approach to truth in the political arena and have heard these concepts put forward in many forms under the banners of tolerance, acceptance, mutual respect, and so on. But would it surprise you to learn that relativism is also common in the church? Allow me to quote again from my book: Some of today’s theological philosophers argue that there can be no single definition of truth. They believe that reality, language, rationality, and knowledge interweave and entangle to create not one truth but many truths. Most postmodern theologians regard all knowledge as historically and culturally conditioned. For them, truth does not stand outside of the historical-cultural matrix. In other words, truth is not something eternally fixed and revealed by God, but rather something that emerges from culture, history, and group agreement. They regard truth not so much as objectively ‘out there’, but as a product of communities of language users.

This has profound implications for the church. Because of this sort of thinking, many people do not regard the Bible as authoritative. There is no ‘truth’ interface between the church and the world, between Christianity and world religions, or for that matter between one church and another. Everything is relative and subjective.

If you doubt that this approach to truth is common in the church then just listen to how people in small group meetings typically respond to questions. “Well, in my opinion…” or, “Yes but I think that…” as opposed to “The biblical evidence is… “ or better still, “The Lord Jesus said…”

In my next post I will deal with ‘pragmatism’, the second major truth model of our day.
Click here for Series: Truth on Trial – part 1

Truth is The Word – Restoring a Lost Focus has recently been revised and published in e-book format. Find out more from the author on Jesus, truth and biblical interpretation in this revised edition! 

Different strokes for different folks Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.