Scripture and Truth
Tchividjian has a significant discussion on truth and scripture. He starts by saying it is not so much the doctrine of scripture that we as Christians do not pay attention to, it is the reality of scripture. We say we believe in inerrancy and suffiency of scripture, but then do not actually look to scripture for our daily life. Churches (and pastors) often feed into this by becoming more like advice givers than bible preachers. I am on-board with all of that. But then he starts talking about sola scriptura and he looses me. I just find the concept of sola scriptura as most Evangelicals teach disingenuous. We do not actually believe in scripture alone. Instead we believe in tradition and teaching about scripture that we do not write down into formal traditions. And worse yet, we ignore the writings of Christians for hundreds years. Scripture is about community and the Holy Spirit. Anyone that is not reading scripture in the context of a church community and under the guiding of the Holy Spirit is not really reading scripture. They may be reading the words on the page, but it is not the holy word of God. It is through reading scripture in the context of thousands of years of other Christians that we insure that our understanding remains orthodox. And no matter how we try, we will always be influenced by our teachers, whether those teachers be the church fathers or our kindergarten Sunday School teachers. So I do not understand his deviation into sola scriptura.
The next transition confuses me even more as he moves the discussion to truth being the foundation of community. And while I don’t completely disagree with him he makes a cheap shot that I think illistrates where we would disagree as we worked this out in the real world. He makes a crack against emergent church by claiming the “those that claim to be most interested community are the same that are most likely to reject truth. You cannot have community that is not based on trust and trust cannot occur unless you have truth.” (This is my paraphrase since I was listening on audiobook.) I agree you need to have trust, but isn’t that trust based on love and grace? If you are basing it on the other having truth as you understand it, then you will be disappointed every time. No one can live up to those requirements.
He tries to illustrate his point by saying that Christians should be the most trustworthy people out there. I agree with this section. He talks about a used car salesman that he knows that said when he became a Christian he transitioned from trying to sell the best car, to selling the car that was right for the buyer. He was trustworthy and people came back. I fully agree with this idea, but I think we are using different concepts of truth and love. In my mind, the used car salesperson is being loving and focusing on the needs of the other not on truth. Yes he knows that God is the final arbiter of truth. Yes he is being honest with the buyer, but that seems to be based on love and care for other other, not truth. Most of the time when I hear Christians talking about truth they are talking about why the other is wrong, and doing it in a way that is not all that loving.
When Jesus talks about how we will be known as Christians he does not say, “You will be known by your truth.” He says, “You will be known by your love for one another.” Lots of people wield truth as a sword, cutting and hurting those around them. At the same time some claim to be all about love, but then do not lovingly tell one another the truth. So I want to reject the dichotomy that is being created between Truth and Love. Truth has its most power when used in Love. Love is most loving when Truth is told. When when it comes down to it, Truth is not the verb, Love is the verb. We are called to Love and be Love to one another. We cannot Love without Truth, but the action is Love.
Overall this was a great book to stir up my thinking about how the church as an institution and myself as an individual should interact in culture. I disagreed with a lot, but you often learn more from disagreements than from reading someone that you agree completely with. What I appriciate is that with very minor exceptions, Tchividjian bent over backward to keep the kingdom as primary. His writing was with a humble spirit and attempting to build up the church and not tear it down. Highly recommend.
If you are going to buy it and are an Audible.com member, get it there, it is only $6.39 for members. If you are not a member and want to try out the service it is only $9.99 for non-members. If you don’t want to deal with the DRM from Audible you can get it on MP3 file from christianaudio for $12.98. If you want to read it, it is $12.23 in hardback at Amazon or $9.99 for the Kindle version.