The title of this post is from the 1968 Star Trek quote I mentioned in The Era of Six Impossible Things: “Is truth not truth for all?” A Christian answers with a resounding, “Yes!”
When truth is in the realm of the physical universe each of us must answer, “Yes, truth is truth for all.” If you throw a ball into the air, it will fall. A denial of the truth of the existence of gravity on our planet or deciding that your own “truth” will be that gravity doesn’t exist in your backyard, will not change the fact that gravity is a physical law that does not change in accordance with your opinion or belief.
It’s another story, however, when it comes to discussing truth in the moral and metaphysical universe in our postmodern society because immediately people begin to say they have the power to decide for themselves their own “truth”. Paul has some interesting things to say in Romans 1:18-21 as he connects the physical and metaphysical.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Paul is describing those who do not have the specific and exact revelation of truth that God has given in the Scripture. Even without the Scripture, these people, as they observed the physical universe, knew there is truth in the metaphysical universe—truth about God. Not only that, but from the physical universe these men did know some things about God and His nature, and what they knew about God was enough for them to understand there were specific attitudes and actions they ought to have had and should have expressed to God. These things they refused to do. Paul writes these men suppress the truth about God they learned from the physical universe, and they do it by their unrighteousness. Men do not suppress the truth out of ignorance because they do not know any better—men by their unrighteousness act against physically observable metaphysical truth about God which they know from the physical world. Furthermore, God’s wrath is revealed against such men; God judges this suppression of truth.
Kent Hughes, in his book Romans, comments on the Greek word for wrath and on the phrase suppression of the truth.
“…it does not mean God is given to a capricious, uncontrolled anger….The word here is orge, which signifies a settled and abiding condition. It is controlled. “The wrath of God” is perfect, settled, controlled….
“…This suppression of the truth is not passive. It carries the idea of holding something down….The idea of suppression here is, continual and aggressive striving against the truth. Paul opens our eyes to the fact that all who are without Christ are in the constant process of holding down the truth and therefore are subject to God’s abiding anger.”
This concurs with A. T. Robertson’s translations and comment:
“Hold down the truth (ten aletheian katechonton). Truth (alētheia, alēthēs from a privative and lēthō or lanthanō, to conceal) is out in the open, but wicked men, so to speak, put it in a box and sit on the lid and “hold it down in unrighteousness.” ”
Paul goes on to connect the truth of the metaphysical universe to the truth of the physical universe in Romans 1:21-32. He states that God’s wrath is revealed against man by an action God has taken towards man. Paul repeats this action of God three times.
…they… exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…
Therefore God gave them up…
…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie
and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…
For this reason God gave them up…
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God,
God gave them up…
See Romans 1:22-26, 28 (ESV)
A. T. Robertson states,
“[This is] not three stages in the giving over, but a repetition of the same withdrawal. The words sound to us like clods on a coffin as God leaves men to work their own wicked will.”
To what did God give them up?
…in the lusts of their hearts…
…to a debased mind…
See Romans 1:24, 26, 28 (ESV)
In His wrath God gave them up to their own hearts and minds. And Paul lists observable, undeniable facts about man’s resultant behavior—in this behavior we see God’s wrath revealed. The behavior is both physical and metaphysical; it involves physical acts and mental thoughts and attitudes. Most of us would also admit the behavior can be described as moral behavior. God’s wrath is revealed…and we can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it in these acts and attitudes.
Do you understand Paul insistence that physical truth reveals metaphysical truth? Why is this so important? The truth that we know is for all in the physical universe (for all can observe it) reveals there is truth that is for all in the metaphysical universe. The created world gives evidence of God. We do not live in a postmodern universe.
In the chapter “The Man Without The Bible” from Death in the City, Francis Schaeffer analyzes how Paul speaks to men without the Bible (Paul does this three times in the New Testament in Acts 14:15-17, 17:16-32; and Romans 1:18-2:16) and states we must learn to speak as Paul did.
“The first thing Paul says to the man without the Bible is this: “You’re under the wrath of God because you hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Notice that he immediately begins to preach the wrath of God. Think now of this man without the Bible (and he is no different then than now). If you merely say what Paul did in 1:16 and 17, “Here’s salvation,” he will shrug his shoulders and say, “Why do I need salvation?” Or if modern man thinks he needs salvation, it will be some modern psychological salvation. But Paul says, “No. What you need is moral salvation. You are guilty. You have true guilt in the presence of God.” ”
John MacArthur writes,
“The world needs Christians who embrace an antithetical worldview, a biblical mindset that answers questions of truth and morality in terms of black and white. Why? Because there is no salvation without absolute, unshakeable truth. Compromising, changing, tolerant opinions don’t provide answers for the “crazy and confusing and painful” issues… Only truth saves and sanctifies and gives hope.”
Postmodern men and women are living against truth. They have put truth in a box, and they sit on the lid as they suppress truth in their unrighteousness. They are continually and aggressively striving against the truth. Some will be aware of tension within because they realize they are living against reality, and some may even know that contradictions within are tearing them apart, but all have true moral guilt before God whether they feel it or not. That is why they need to hear God’s wrath is being revealed against them.
And then they need to hear in the gospel God’s righteousness is being revealed for them.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy encompassing ontology (study of being or existence), cosmology
(study of the origin and structure of the universe) and epistemology (study of knowledge).
R. Kent Hughes, Romans, 1991, pp. 33, 32.
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1931, Vol. IV, pp. 328, 330.
Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City, 1969.
John MacArthur, Grace to You: The Rise of Extreme Tolerance.
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