Biblical Laws and Sublaws Uncover Truth
Truth uncovers reality; what is really happening. In any area of life (courts, science, theology) finding truth depends on following 5 biblical laws.
How do we discern the truth in Revelation? There are so many views, opinions, conjectures, and assumptions. Do we simply listen to our favorite authority figure, as do Muslims, JWs, Mormons, or the Jews in the days of Jesus to determine what we believe? Most sermons I have heard on Revelation originate either from a commentary or the doctrines of a favorite seminary. Even great theologians (including Martin Luther) have thrown up their hands in dismay at the book of Revelation. “There are so many different views, I give up,” said one pastor. When we compare the teaching of some who do go to the Bible verses, we might wonder, How did they get that idea out of that passage? No one could find their view by just simply reading the facts presented in the Bible; leaders have to indoctrinate their students to think the way they did, because their interpretations either could not be found in the Bible or broke basic rules of hermeneutics (rules for accurate interpretation) distorting Scripture. The right way begins by going first and foremost to the Bible ourselves; seek out the original source, God’s own words. Yet, even this presents a problem.
The problem is not the book of Revelation. The problem is how we think. The bottom line for believing any view or doctrine is truth. Is this interpretation the truth? Is this what God really said, really meant, really did, or will do? Truth is the bottom line. Truth is the goal. Is our thinking straight enough, clear enough, right enough, powerful enough to hunt down the truth in this world’s jungle of darkness, deception, delusion, distractions, and simple errors? What drives our thinking?
What is truth? There are 216 verses on the words “truth” and “true” in the New American Standard Bible. Truth is a primary attribute of God’s character. It permeates every other communicable attribute of God, everything He created, and His image from which the human being is created. Here is a summary of key verses out of the 216 showing the importance of truth:
Let’s back up from hunting down truth and start with a “simple” (ha!) question. What is truth per se? I once read a Harvard commencement speech by a valedictorian who stated that the one thing every student graduated with from Harvard was (and you will never guess this! but I am not kidding) “confusion.” He said everyone was allowed to believe anything they wanted, except that truth per se existed. This is postmodern philosophy espousing relativism wherein every person’s perception is “true.” Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who died in 1900, was a major proponent of this philosophy: “no truth” led to “no moral law” (since every society made up their own) and therefore “God is dead.” During the last 11 years of his life, Nietzsche went mentally insane with severe psychosis. He once wrote, “All superior men who were irresistibly drawn to throw off the yoke of any kind of morality and to frame new laws, had, if they were not actually mad, no alternative but to make themselves or pretend to be mad.” He believed in the destruction of objective truth, leaving only personal perspectives; a slave revolt against moral law; atheism and nihilism, leaving only one reason to live–“the will to power.” Forty years after his death, one man would take his philosophy to its logical conclusion; Hitler worshipped Nietzsche. We saw how that worked out.
Postmodern philosophy is the rage today, even in America. The biggest shock came with my own beloved conservative, evangelical seminary when I realized that every professor in the department held to postmodern philosophy over the Bible in the area of truth per se. So I wrote a 50-page paper (no names and very academic) in support of absolute truth against the teaching in every one of my classes, presented it by working my way up the ladder of rejection, and ended distributing it to every professor on three campuses, including the president and the seminary’s board. Charles Colson was on the board. Outside of the president, he was the only one who responded to the paper (with two words: “I understand.”) The president supported and praised whatever the professors were teaching without ever discussing the issue with me. Dr. Walter Kaiser had retired as the former president, but he told me to inform the leaders, not to expect them to reply, but they would deal with it. One of the most powerful men in the seminary (also the department head, my supervisor, and my beloved mentor) dealt with it (but not in a way Kaiser could have imagined). He tried three times to torpedo my doctoral dissertation on A Biblical Theory of the Human Personality (which had already been finished and approved in writing by him (all 800 pages) three months earlier before any other student had even started theirs). He made it clear that my arguments against their teaching would influence negatively what he did with my dissertation. I weighed my doctorate against all the pastors influencing churches across countries that this seminary was infecting with this philosophy and decided I was just a little person, so what if I went down. But if one church went down with Nietzsche’s cancerous thinking, I would be ashamed before Jesus if I said nothing. So I braced myself to lose my doctorate and continued the battle for truth. Then, as the top man, he went to his department and had everyone vote to push through a new ruling on dissertations limiting them to 100 pages (which looked like the crowning blow for mine which had taken two years to write) about six weeks before graduation. (This negated all of his signed approvals for every chapter including the final draft, which he called “excellent.” I had all A’s in my classes, so that was untouchable.) I thought my doctorate was lost, but God stepped in. I quickly edited one chapter (about a 100 pages), turned it in, and requested a meeting with him. (He had stopped talking to me outside of class and refused to meet with me, even though he was required to do so on a weekly basis.) My request to meet was one sentence saying I would like to talk to him about the ethics of what he was doing to my dissertation based on the current conflict over truth. He never responded. However, he stopped the persecution against my dissertation. Why? He was the seminary’s only professor for Christian Ethics. I graduated on time.
The loss of my doctorate would have meant the loss of a career, loss of jobs, shaming before churches, possible financial problems for my family . . . That was nothing. Truth was everything! How much will we pay for truth? God says, “Buy truth, don’t sell it,” (Prov 23:23). Truth costs. If the churches, much less good seminaries teaching thousands of pastors for countries around the world, are struggling in “confusion,” then the apostasy is closer than we think (2 Thess 2:1-4). In the end times, God will allow deluding forces leading to false beliefs (2 Thess 2:11). Sloppy thinking (neglecting God’s laws and sublaws for discerning truth, righteousness, and justice) is a treacherous path into darkness. .As the darkness descends, the cost of truth is going to skyrocket. With it, will come the ultimate cost for truth–which our Lord Himself paid on the cross. Will we be ready to pay the price? Jesus commanded us saying, “You also must be ready.”
So if some of the greatest minds academically and best minds theologically are building on a foundation of cracking confusion, then what is the truth? Before we look at the highest and final authority on the subject, let’s go to a child. Did God put an innate understanding of truth per se into the human heart? He says He did. He places His laws in our hearts, that is until over time we sear, scorch, and sin against them to erase them (Rom 2:15; 1 Tim 4:2). So I asked five-year-old Seth this question, “What is truth?” Could a child still recognize truth? The boy put down his toy, thought, and said, “It is something that really happened.” BINGO! Wow, Wow! WOW! The child knew. He was smarter than most Harvard graduates and seminary professors on this issue. He certainly struggled far less than I had in both time, effort, and thinking on the essence of truth per se. Simply put, truth reflected what was real.
Now consider the highest and final authority on the issue. There are 216 verses on the words “truth” and “true” in the New American Standard Bible. Condensing these verses into one definition: Truth is the clear and accurate mirrored reflection of reality. Truth reveals reality.
To help us learn to think clearly and sharply, God lays down laws in the Bible for discerning truth to know reality. These are the biblical laws of truth. They are so powerful that every just judicial system in the world throughout history has them imbedded in its foundation; all scientific discovery is based on them; solid economics, journalism, all technology, businesses, counseling, medicine, . . . every discipline that must interface with reality for success must apply these laws of God in their foundational thinking and practice. That includes theology and interpreting the Bible.
From these laws, every system expands into sublaws (rules, corollaries). Just judges in courts have studied years to train their thinking to discern clearly the difference between solid evidence and illogical irrelevancies. Textbooks are written on rules of evidence. Scientists have rules for accurate experimentation. They “practice the truth.” It takes years to learn clear thinking. Conversely, every system whether judicial, political, religious, educational, business, counseling . . . that neglects or suppresses one or more of God’s laws of truth will infect a fallacious component–a weakness, a cancer, a corner of darkness–into that system. After looking at these laws, consider how systems like Hitler’s Nazi state, cults, false religions, and abusive spouses break one or more of these laws to hold people in the bondage of darkness and pain. “The truth will set you free, . . . the Son of Man makes you free” (John 8:32, 36).God’s laws of truth are the keys to reality in both the physical world and in the spiritual world. Truth reveals reality.
Here is a summary of the most basic biblical laws for discerning truth in any discipline. They are followed by sublaws emanating from those prime biblical laws that are important for accurate interpretation of the Bible (sound hermeneutical rules):
THE BIBLICAL LAWS OF TRUTH “So that you might know the exact truth,” Luke 1:4
1) THOROUGH INVESTIGATION of issues, facts, evidence, empirical observation, proof, etc.
“You shall inquire thoroughly. And behold if it is true . . . . You “shall investigate thoroughly.” “Having investigated everything carefully . . . so that you might know the exact truth . . . .” “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled . . . we have seen and bear witness.” Deuteronomy 17:4, 19:18; Luke 1:3, 4; 1 John 1:1
2) LISTENING TO BOTH SIDES
“Then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges.” “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.” Deuteronomy 19:17; Proverbs 18:17
3) ONE WITNESS IS NOT ENOUGH, TWO OR THREE WITNESSES, TESTIMONIES ARE TO BE IN AGREEMENT, VERIFIED, SUBSTANTIATED, CORROBORATED. (Empirical observation, primary sources, etc.)
“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” “If I (Jesus) alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true (i.e. “admissible as legal evidence” NASB).” Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; John 5:31
“For many were giving false testimony against Him and yet their testimony was not consistent.” “And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.” Mark 14:56, 59
Collaboration of witnesses who twist or falsify their testimonies into agreement is wrong: “Seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify (falsely) against him.” 1 Kings 21:1
4) WITNESSES SHOULD BE OF GOOD CHARACTER, CREDIBLE AND RELIABLE
“If a malicious witness rises up . . . .” “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth.” “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” “A faithful witness (who “faithfully” follows God’s laws) will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies.” Deuteronomy 19:16; Psalm 35:11; Proverbs 6:12, 12:17, 14:5
5) THE DECISION MAKER (JUDGE) SHOULD BE PURE.
Hindrances to the discernment and execution of truth include:
Bribery, selfish gain, political advantage, seeking the glory of men, wanting all to speak well of you, peace at any price, fear, partiality toward rich vs. poor or those in authority vs. the powerless or those with whom we have alliances vs. strangers, conflicts of interest, hidden motives etc. Deuteronomy 16:19, 27:19; Proverbs 24:23; Luke 6:26; John 7:24
THE SUBLAWS FOR FINDING TRUTH IN THE BIBLE SOUND HERMENEUTICS
Every discipline that must use the laws of truth to interface with reality for success, also develops its own set of sublaws (rules) based on the major laws of truth. Courts have rules of evidence. Science has rules for experimentation. Theology adds hermeneutical rules. Here are a few of the main sublaws (rules) based on the laws of truth that are foundational for accurate interpretation of Scripture. Purity involves independent, objective thinking based on the laws of truth with truth as the highest goal.
Rule #1: Scripture is the highest and final authority.
God is perfect. Scripture is inerrant. Man is errant (thus, humility is indispensable). God’s authority is higher than man’s authority. When considering a doctrine or important concept do not add or take away from God’s word (Deut 12:32; Rev 22:18-19). Any interpretation of man that disagrees with the written word of God is wrong.
Rule #2: Scripture interprets Scripture.
For example, the definitions of words or meanings of phrases found in Revelation are often explained or amplified in other books of the Bible.
Rule #3: Scripture is God’s word. God has integrity, so the Bible has integrity.
There are no real contradictions in Scripture. Scripture follows basic rules of logic. Beware of logical fallacies and irrelevancies. I.e. If the pope/president/pastor says it, it must be true even if it contradicts Scripture. This statement contains two logical fallacies: (1) the assumption that power and position are always true, even when (2) the words of great men contradict the words of God in the Bible.
Rule #4: Research the immediate and greater context.
Immediate Context: the surrounding words, verses, passage, chapter, and book concentric circles of context–closer context outweighs farther context. I.e. The “day of the Lord” in Paul’s 1st Thessalonians passage is better defined in 2nd Thessalonians than it is by an OT book (another author, another time). Greater Context: all of the Bible. The part fits into the whole and the whole is made up of all of its parts. The piece fits into the puzzle and the puzzle picture is made up of all its pieces. The verse agrees with the Bible and the Bible is made up of all its verses. The Bible has integrity.
Rule #5: Use a literal interpretation.
“Literal” is what the original author intended as discerned by context for his audience. It is usually a simple, at-face-value, childlike understanding from the reading. Historic passages are interpreted historically as actual facts and events. Poetic verses are interpreted poetically. Physical objects and places are just that (i.e. the church of Ephesus is a real church as indicated by Paul, John, and Jesus–not an allegory or an abstract period of history, an idea found nowhere in Scripture). Interpret the word or verse according to its genre, given meaning, context, and linguistics. This is also called the grammatical-historical interpretation.
Rule #6: Occam’s Razor
Simple interpretations that fit the facts hold more evidentiary weight than complex interpretations that require many assumptions and complicated reasoning to overturn the simple, face-value, plain logical reading of the passage. This rule is based on reasoning from Occam’s Razor which states that the conclusion based on the most amount of facts with the least amount of assumptions has the highest probability of accuracy. Just courts do everything they can to stick with the facts and avoid assumptions and other logical fallacies such as conjecture, speculation, unfounded opinions, prejudice, bias, exaggeration, coloring opinions with heavy emotions to persuade, etc. Science, technology, medicine do the same. This powerful rule should also apply to sound interpretation of the Bible.
Rule #7: Direct (clear) verses hold more evidentiary weight than indirect (vague) verses.
Rule #8: Numerous relevant verses hold more evidentiary weight than few or one relevant verse.
Rule #9: Interpretations made according to hermeneutical rules carry more evidentiary weight than interpretations which include a breach of one or more hermeneutical rules.
Rule #10: Other
Linguistics (Greek, Hebrew meanings); historical setting, cultural setting, time frame etc. may add insight.
The biblical laws of truth and their sublaws are so wonderfully fantastic that they have uncovered marvelous mysteries in the Bible, not just for the great Reformers who brought the church out of the most profound darkness–such as selling salvation for money (Rom 6:23), bowing down and praying to statues (Lev 26:1), or negating the cross through works (Eph 2:8-9)–but for the average lay person. The Reformers developed the doctrine of perspicuity: Scripture has an innate clarity that the average person can understand. Jesus says we have a higher teacher, “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
However, the clarity of Scripture depends on the clarity of mind that practices truth through God’s commands to follow His laws of truth and sound hermeneutics.
To determine what will happen to this planet in this century (or the early next century) clear thinking according to and applying the laws of truth in the areas of science and the Bible is obligatory.
 Eph 4:23, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Rom 12:1, “Be transformed in the renewing of your mind.”
 Truth reveals reality: “what really happened.” Luke 10:21, God, “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”
 1 John 1:6.
 John 16:13.
 Man Against the Wall with His Bible. Image by Pexels from Pixabay. Pixabay: religious, adult, alone, Bible.