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Truth and the Sacred

WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING

Torah Portion: Parashat Terumah (“Contribution”)

Shabbat: Feb. 11, 2023 / Shevat 20, 5783

Torah: Exod. 25:1-27:19

Prophets: 1 Ki. 5:26-6:13

New Covenant: 2 Cor. 9:1-15 ; Matt. 5:33-37


TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT

Jesus’ Prayer For All Believers

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me”. John 17:20-23

 

"Let them make me a mikdash ("holy place," "sanctuary"), that I may dwell in their midst" (Exod. 25:8). Though this verse refers to the physical mishkan (i.e., "Tabernacle"), it more deeply refers to the duty of the heart to sanctify the Name of God and bring a sense of holiness to the inner life. This requires that we focus the mind and heart to honor the sacredness of life, taking "every thought captive" to the truth of God in Messiah (2 Cor. 10:5). Since our minds and hearts are gateways to spiritual revelation, we must be careful to not to abuse ourselves by indulging in sloppy thinking or unrestrained affections. God holds us responsible for what we think and believe (Acts 17:30-31), and that means we have a duty to honor moral reality and truth. There is an "ethic of belief," or a moral imperative to ascertain the truth and reject error in the realm of the spiritual. Since God holds us responsible to repent and believe the truth of salvation, He must have made it possible for us to do so ("ought" implies "can"). And indeed, God has created us in His image and likeness so that we are able to discern spiritual truth. He created us with a logical sense (rationality) as well as a moral sense (conscience) so that we can apprehend order and find meaning and beauty in the universe He created. All our knowledge presupposes this. Whenever we experience anything through our senses, for example, we use logic to categorize and generalize from the particular to the general, and whenever we make deductions in our thinking (comparing, making inferences, and so on), we likewise rely on logic. We have an innate intellectual and moral "compass" that points us to God.


Since we all necessarily must think in order to live, we should value clear thinking. This should be obvious enough, though people often make various errors and misjudgments because they devalue the effort required to carefully think through a question. As William James once said, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." When it comes to questions about the gospel, however, God regards such carelessness to be blameworthy. Again, the LORD holds us accountable for what we think and believe, especially when it comes to the reality and mission of His Son.


The truth about God is always available to human beings, if they are willing to look for it. The Divine Light that was created before the sun and the stars represents God's immanent presence that "lights up" all of creation - including our minds (Gen. 1:3). As Paul stated, "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen so that people are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). The heavens are constantly attesting to the reality of God's handiwork (Psalm 19:1). All of creation "shouts out" that there is a God. Since an infinite series of causes is impossible, the Cosmological argument for the existence of a First Cause is intuitively known to be warranted...


The witness of God's truth is foundational to all of our thinking as well. If you regress far enough in a chain of reasoning, you will always encounter first principles, intuitions, axioms, and "apprehensions" of the laws of thought. This is how language works, or rather, how our mind necessarily discovers truth about reality. For example, the law of contradiction (or identity) is not discovered in experience, but is brought to experience by the operation of the mind. All reasoning is ultimately grounded on foundational first principles that are regarded as self-evident and that are known through the light of the mind itself. Even the pagan Greeks understood this. For instance, Aristotle said that both deduction and induction ultimately were based on the "intuitive grasp" of first principles of thinking itself.


It's important to realize that no one "invented" the rules of logic (such as the law of identity, the law of contradiction, valid rules of inference, etc.); no, these are self-evident and presupposed in all forms of intelligible thinking about anything at all. In other words, God created the mind so that true thinking is possible. If you are reading these words, you are presently using logic. You are identifying and combining letters, interpreting their meaning, making connections and comparisons, and therefore making inferences. There is no way to argue that logic is "artificial" or culturally relative. No one can consistently use logic to argue against its universal validity. The revelation (not the invention) of logical first principles is part of God's "signature," if you will, of how the mind is wired to correspond to reality. Reason discovers order in the universe but does not create it ex nihilo. If you deny this, you have opted out of the realm of thought altogether and entered the realm of the absurd.


Likewise we have intuitive awareness regarding the existence of moral truth (i.e., the standard of justice and moral law), aesthetic truth (i.e., ideals of beauty, goodness, worth, and love), metaphysical truth (i.e., cause and effect relationships), and so on. Even scientific truth is based on principles that transcend the discipline of science itself (for example, the assumption that knowledge is "good" and should be obtained is not an empirical statement). The human mind naturally uses these sorts of categories in its thinking all the time, but each of these are ultimately derived from the rational mind of God Himself.


God created people so that they could discern truth about reality. The mind functions according to logical laws because it is made in the image and likeness of God Himself... God Himself is the ground of all logic, since He created reality and structured the world to be knowable according to its laws. As it is written: "In the beginning was the word/logic (ὁ λόγος), and the λόγος was with God, and the λόγος was God" (John 1:1). God created a world that exhibits order and great beauty. And since human beings were created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, our thoughts (and the words used to formulate our thoughts) as well as our actions are likewise intended to exhibit order and beauty. "For the fruit of light (καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματος) is found in all that is good and right and true" (Eph. 5:9). Therefore "whatever is true... think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).


Followers of Yeshua are commanded to love the truth and to think clearly about their faith. The ministry of reconciliation itself is defined as "the word of truth, by the power of God, through weapons of righteousness" (2 Cor. 6:7). Indeed, the word of truth (τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας) is a synonym for the "gospel of salvation" itself (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; James 1:18). We are saved by Yeshua, who is the "way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). God commands all people to believe this truth (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Tim. 2:4). People perish because "they refuse to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Therefore we see that the issue of truth is central to salvation itself....


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