Review: Whatever Happened to Truth?

nullWhatever Happened to Truth?
Andreas J. Köstenberger

In our modern world, truth should be placed on the top of the endangered species list. The problem is, of course, even the concept of an “endangered species,” as an item of truth, is itself in danger –being more about animals people like, or the political agendas of a particular group trying to stop a particular project, than about species of animals that are truly endangered. And here lies the rub in our contemporary society: in a world without truth, how can you speak about anything at all.

The four authors represented in this book, a book of essays, each take a look at the concept and importance of truth from a different angle. Each of these authors will, on their own, be recognized by anyone deeply involved in the modern theological world. Each of them has a unique contribution to make to the conversation, as well. As collections of essays go, this is perhaps one of the few in the species in which every essay is nearly as good as any of the others.

Köstenberger begins the book by examining the concept of truth in the Gospel of John. While we often recognize the many patterns John used in his description of the life of Christ –seven signs, seven I AMs, an arrangement around the various Feasts, and others—we don’t often think through John’s opening statement, which makes a claim of truth about Jesus of Nazareth, and consider how that truth claim works its way through the trial of Jesus. The Truth is crucified by a man who asks what the Truth is –an irony of grand proportions that has lessons for all of us.

Mohler is next in line, with a discussion of the truth in contemporary culture. This is a chapter that challenges assumptions and undermines many modern arguments from a strictly worldview perspective. The main line of thinking here is that if there is no truth, then there is no way to know that post-modern thought, itself, is true in any meaningful sense.

The problem with the Enlightenment was the totalitarian imposition of the scientific model of rationality upon all truth, the claim that only scientific data can be objectively understood, objectively defined, and objectively defended. The loss in the wake of this modernist agenda was huge. It left Western culture with little more than a materialist worldview. However, in such a world of mere naturalistic materialism, what can truth possibly mean? –Page 55

Moreland is next up with a discussion of truth in modern philosophy, primarily dealing with the correspondence theory of truth, and it’s importance in the way we think. This is an important and interesting topic, explained in a way that even the average reader will “get it.”

Finally, we have VanHooser, one of the great modern thinkers in the realm of hermeneutics. He lays out the connection between our concept of truth and our understanding –or lack of understanding—of God’s Word.

For example, does the author of Joshua 9:13 intend his statement about the sun standing still to contradict a heliocentric worldview? Was Melanchthon right to attack Copernicus for suggesting that it is the earth, not the sun, that moves? Everything hinges on the notion of “affirming” and “addressing.” Joshua mentions the sun standing still; but is this what the narrative affirms? Is not Joshua rather affirming, in a manner that his readers could understand, that God supernaturally intervened on behalf of Israel? The point is that he is employing phenomenal language (e.g., everyday language about the everyday world) in order to communicate. To press Joshua 9 into the service of Ptolemaic science would be an odd use indeed of the passage. Why? Because the point of the passage lies elsewhere. To be precise, it is a theological and, yes, historical (but not astronomical) point. –Page 117

VanHooser does carry his thinking on these lines farther than most conservative scholars would, perhaps even draining the Scriptures of any scientifically verifiable information at all, but his essay is well worth reading and understanding.

Overall, this is a well written treatise on an important topic that impacts virtually every Christian in the world today. It’s well worth reading.

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