How Do We Know/Discover The Truth?

by Nazarene Pastor Dan Campbell (HighCross Ministries)

(High Cross Ministries, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 incorporation created to frame and facilitate the evangelical Christian ministries of Dan & Tammy Campbell.  Our purpose is to share the Word of God and lift high the message of His cross through music, preaching, writing, and teaching ministries. Throughout a lifetime of ministry opportunities, we intend to follow God’s call to reach the lost and disciple the believers using the gifts & talents that He alone can give.)

I believe the church is in a state of flux regarding the long-heralded truth known as The Inerrancy of Scripture. There are several well-known Christian teachers who are teaching doctrines that are contrary to Scripture, and they often explain their teaching by advocating an understanding of scripture as full of errors. “The Bible must be wrong”, for example, because it doesn’t make sense with my conclusions, or “The Bible is out of date”, for example, because a modern issue is beyond it’s teaching. Still, many Bible teachers, including me, still hold to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and hold that any modern issues must still be understood in the context of full scriptural authority.

For generations, and without substantive resistance, the Protestant church has taught that the Bible is the final authority for us. For certain, there are areas of secular life about which the Bible is specifically silent. In each of these instances the values and principles taught in scripture can be applied to discover not what God did say about these specific things, but what God would say about them, given what we know of God from the Scripture. And thus, my generation and our denomination has had very little substantive conflict over whether God’s Word is the final authority for our lives.

But today there is reason for confusion. Various Bible translations and paraphrases of the Scripture are full of contradictions. Instead of making a thoughtful, discerning decision about which translation to read many people pick which one is easiest, most convenient, or which ever one is suggested to them. Many years ago, while working at a Christian book store in Olathe, Kansas, I was given the task of being in charge of a large section of the store reserved for the display and sales of Bibles, Bible software, commentaries and reference materials, Bible study guides, etc. One of my specific tasks was to create a categorized binder which would give guidance to customers in selecting an appropriate Bible or Commentary for them based upon what specific theology they adhered to, and which church they attended. All of the material was Christian material, but the lines of demarcation were well drawn. It was interesting work for me, then a masters student at Nazarene Theological Seminary, and also very eye-opening regarding the differences between our Christian churches. Yes, there is much confusion out there.

But the differences between denominations are minor compared to the lines being drawn today. Many Christian leaders are casually lending support and lip-service to some well-known Christian teachers who have crossed some pretty formative lines in our theological understanding. Instead of simply seeing lines of theological differentiation between denominations, we are now seeing in our churches, our schools, and in our publishing companies, a re-emergence of leaders who clearly teach doctrine that is outside of orthodoxy. The foundation of our Christian understanding of the truth is crumbling. It is disturbing. Among well-known and widely heard ministers there are those who teach such wrong doctrine as 1) Jesus may not have been born of a virgin, 2) Heaven and Hell may not be real places, 3) Creation may have been a Biblical myth, 4) Satan may not be a reality, 5) the Bible may not be the final authority on matters of faith, etc. I have been shocked, then disturbed, then bewildered, and now am incensed by what I have heard and continue to hear. The problem isn’t that we are dumb, or even uninformed. The problem is that we listen blindly to the wrong teachings. The church needs to be repopulated by a generation of Christian leaders who rebuild our foundation of Christian thought finally on the authoritative Word of God.

Let’s look back at one Christian leader who got it right. John Wesley sought out truth from several different sources, but strained all acquired truth through the authority of the Scripture. His pathway to truth is now called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Information about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is widely available on the internet and the following information is from Wikipedia.

The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist Albert C. Outler in his introduction to the 1964 collection John Wesley (ISBN 0-19-502810-4).[1][2] Upon examination of Wesley’s work, Outler theorized that Wesley used four different sources in coming to theological conclusions. The four sources are:

•Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
•Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
•Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
•Experience – a Christian’s personal and communal journey in Christ. (www.wikipedia.com)

Wesley taught that the world in which we live was a gift from God, but that man has spread the lies of the devil so widely that believers must adequately protect themselves in order to preserve holiness of heart and life. Wesley, himself, who came to be known as the father of Methodism, established many very methodical practices to keep himself from impurity, from sin, from temptation, and from wrong doctrine. In his quest to keep himself and his doctrine well founded upon Scripture Wesley determined that any thought (reason) must be accountable to the Scripture, and personal experience must be accountable to Scripture, and any tradition of man, including what has been taught ot us by any human source must be accountable to the Scripture. John Wesley was not so blind as to not see the mistakes that men make in translation. Instead he was so convinced in the doctrine of Biblical Authority that he founded his faith upon the belief that God would forever protect the inerrancy of His Word. I believe that John Wesley would not have formed Methodism at all if he had not believed in the inerrancy of Scripture.

In our day, many denominations are straying from this teaching. The United Methodist Church, the standard bearer of the Wesleyan movement, is now forming doctrine based upon reason rather than Scripture. The scripture is clear, for example, that homosexuality is a sin, but the UMC is now ordaining openly gay ministers. Why? Because they reason that the Scripture must be wrong when homosexuality is forbidden there. Do you see how reason has become the final authority instead of Scripture? The Catholic church, which never stated agreement with Wesley, has always believed that Church tradition is of higher authority than scripture. This was the defining reason for the Reformation; that men are saved by grace alone, but the Catholic church believes that that grace must come from the church. And in recent years there have been a multitude of leaders teaching that something experienced in the throes of spiritual ecstasy is to be more formative to the individual even than the words of Scripture. Friends, these teachings are wrong. These avenues for pursuing the truth are good, but must always be understood through the Word of God. We have a great deceiver (Satan) among us who wishes us to have only a form of Godliness. This mere form of Godliness is attractive, and gathers large crowds, but it has no power. It is deceit.

Every Christian has the responsibility to know the Scripture so that we may test and approve the truth.
Originally posted at Nazarene Pastor Dan Campbell’s blog at HighCross Ministries

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7 responses to “How Do We Know/Discover The Truth?

  1. Excellent information. Thank you, Pastor Campbell. I agree especially with this: “The church needs to be repopulated by a generation of Christian leaders who rebuild our foundation of Christian thought finally on the authoritative Word of God.” This can only happen as we begin to make significant changes at our Nazarene universities. If this repopulation doesn’t begin soon, I fear our denomination will split and/or die out.

  2. Manny:

    In Proverbs [22:28] “Do not remove the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set.” Here Solomon commands the children of Israel not to remove or alter its heritage (as we are seeing today).

    Landmarks in the OT were held Sacred by the Jewish race. It literally meant the difference between a family’s survival and starvation. The removal of one’s landmarks by another was a crime, and were under the penalty of a curse. Deut. [27:17] “Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.”

    There is a parallel truth that the church can draw from these passages. Mainly that we are to guard against bringing in new doctrines, unfounded teachings (by anyone) or untruths, and any form of secularism into our worship that undermines the moral teachings taught in holy writings. We are to hold these landmarks as Sacred.

    What we are witnessing today is a lack of trust in the Word of God. I wonder if most clergy spend as much time in the Bible as they do books written by others, or has the Bible become second place in their study?

  3. The only thing I would caution with Outler’s Quadrilateral formation of Wesley’s doctrines is that it MUST be clear (and I certainly hope Wesley himself believed this) that Reason, Tradition, and Experience are always to be subservient to the authority of Scripture. The way it’s structured above, it gives the impression that the four concepts are on equal footing.

  4. To the most recent writer:

    Wesley wrote:

    “Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it. You are in danger of [fanaticism] every hour, if you depart ever so little from Scripture; yea, or from the plain, literal meaning of an text, taken in connection with the context.” (Works, 11:429).

    Here is an excellent article on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral from a trustworthy group:

    http://www.fwponline.cc/v14n2/v14n2reasoner.html

  5. Thank you for the reference, Joe. I realize that it sounds nitpicky, but to exalt tradition and reason with Scripture is to take steps in the direction of Roman Catholicism.

  6. The way someone explained it to me (a free methodist) was that reason, tradition, and experience were only to be put through the “filter” of Scripture as the supreme authority so that the previous three could never stand on equal footing with Scripture. That might help but keep in mind that I am far from an expert on Wesley.

  7. Hi Timothy,
    You are probably right as to how Wesley looked at that, although I am not an expert on Wesley either. But if Wesley did not hold to that belief, then I would have to say that he was wrong also!
    If you were to spend time on NazNet, a Nazarene forum, (not a recommended thing for your health) you would eventually read the distortions of Wesleyan history, as well as the denial of scriptural inerrancy, the belief that unbelievers are annihilated, that Adam came into existence after years of some form of manlike creature evolved and then God changed it to a man, open theism, and so much other nonsense. It is almost laughable, except that many of these folks are pastors who are deceiving those in their congregations.

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