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Thinking Differently

Matthew 3:1-2 reads, ‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Repent means many things, but the essence of the word is ‘to think differently’. We need to think differently. We need to think differently about the nature of progress, knowledge, and truth. We so easily buy into the humanistic concepts of our age. We tend to accept unthinkingly that scientific advancement is both good and inevitable and that competitive individualism is a virtue. We need to learn to think critically.

Several years ago, I supervised my first Masters candidate. He had completed a four-year degree programme at an accredited institution and had been in the pastoral ministry for more than a decade. The first chapter of his thesis arrived and I was distressed to find that it was little more than a bunch of quotes strung together. I sent his work back with explanations of how the thesis needed to reflect his own thinking. His second attempt was little better, so this time I sent him my own rework of a part of his chapter as an example of how he should develop his thesis. I was dumbfounded when I read his third submission; he had cut and pasted my work! I sought help from my friend and colleague, the late Dr Rex Mathie, and he explained two things to me. Firstly, in my student’s culture there was no higher honour he could give his professor than to quote from his teacher’s work. Secondly, nobody had taught him to think. Despite four years of full time higher education, this man did not know how to think critically.

The rate of change that is upon the world is bewilderingly fast. The foundations of society are shifting more quickly than the polar ice cap is melting. Technology is shaping a world we will hardly recognise in ten years time. If we are to survive, we need to learn to think creatively. However, God expects more than survival from us; he wants us to thrive. To thrive, we need to learn to think critically. This applies to all people but it is especially applicable to Christians. We are the ones who should be forming world opinion. We are the ones who should be leading a confused generation back to truth and godliness. We should be the inspired thinkers of our time.Truth Is The Word Book

One of the effects of the blizzard of change we are currently experiencing is the cloud of deception it generates. James wrote to the church of his day, ‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers’. (James 1:16) That warning was important then and it is even more important now.

To avoid deception we need grace, wisdom, and critical thinking skills. We need to learn to evaluate, test, analyse, and judge.
Satan usually appears as an angel of light, and deception most often presents itself clothed in fine sounding words and enticing proposals. We will be in grave danger if we do not learn to think critically. Remember, Jesus said that ‘false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform miraculous signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones’. (Mark 13:22-23 NLT) We have the Bible, and we have access to the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Yet what many of us appear to lack, are critical thinking skills.

I recently completed a revised edition of the book: Truth is the Word – restoring a lost focus. Its second chapter is all about how we acquire knowledge. I have also designed the entire book in a way that stimulates thought and improves thinking skills. You can find out more about it at


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What is Truth?


“What is truth?” Pilot asked Jesus (John 18:38). Ask a typical evangelical Christian this question and the likely answer will be “The Bible is truth”. What we generally mean when we say this is that we believe that the Bible is the source of truth. Consider for a moment, though, how Peter, Paul, or John would have answered that question. In terms of scriptures, all they had was what we call the Old Testament. We know how the apostle John would respond to such a question because he wrote ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ (John 1:17-18)


Church leaders only finally recognised the collection of writings of the New Testament as ‘truth’ in the fourth century. In 367 AD bishop Athanasius listed the current twenty-seven books of the New Testament in his Easter letter. Later, the councils of Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397 fixed the Canon of scripture, for the Western church. So then, what would the early Christians have regarded as their source of truth?


The Lord Jesus was quite clear in His idea of truth. He said “I am the way and the truth and the life”. (John 14:6) It is ironical that when Pilate asked his question, the truth was actually staring him in the face!? Jesus often said “I tell you the truth” and His disciples recorded what He uttered. Yet, truth is more than what Jesus taught. You see, Jesus himself is the source of truth.


This is a critical understanding. If we regard the Bible as the source of truth then we will expect to find truth only in the form of propositional statements. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day believed that the Old Testament scriptures were the source of truth yet Jesus said this to them; “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40) We tend to regard the Pharisees with patronising condescension yet we often make the same fundamental mistake they did.


I believe in the inspiration of the Bible. I am convinced that it is the God-given documentary record of the truth. I am equally convinced that Jesus, himself is The Truth. Therefore, I come to the Bible not just to interpret its truth but also to find, in and through it, the one who is the truth, Jesus Christ the Lord. There are big differences in these two approaches to the Bible. On the one hand, we view the Bible through Christocentric spectacles. On the other hand, we view Jesus through biblical spectacles. Of course, the two concepts are intertwined. It is hard to ‘see’ Jesus without the aid of biblical spectacles. Equally, it is hard to know how to use biblical spectacles unless we focus on Jesus. The Bible is the God-given forum for encountering and learning about and from Jesus, and the Lord Jesus is the interpretive key to understanding the Bible.


The great Protestant reformers did the church a great service by rescuing it from corruption, ignorance, and religiosity. In their zeal for truth, they brought the scriptures to the fore and made them accessible to all. However, they shifted the focus from personal truth to propositional truth and from experiential encounter to doctrinal understanding. I am not saying that this was their intention but it certainly seems to be the effect that they produced.


We need to recover the early church’s focus on encountering Jesus whilst holding fast to sound doctrine and practice. Most of us have been trained to think in ‘and/or’ terms. Either ‘this’ is right or ‘that’ is right. What is more, if ‘this’ is right then ‘that’ must be wrong. However, the Bible contains many conceptual contradictions and constantly challenges our commitment to and/or thinking. We need to learn to hold two concepts in dynamic tension. Jesus is truth. The Bible is truth. For me, the challenge is to comprehend the source of truth. Jesus is the source and all other forms of truth are therefore derived.


So, Pilot’s question should have been, “who is truth?” The answer is, “Jesus is the truth”. The Bible is the record of the truth, the documentary repository of truth, and the inscripturated Word of God. Jesus, in Himself, is the source of truth, the Word made flesh, the eternal Word of God. If we hold fast to this understanding then we will have little difficulty in interpreting the scriptures. What is more, Bible-study will be more than an academic exercise; it will be an encounter with the living Lord of the scriptures.



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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.