A God-Centered Perspective on a Useful Saying

Posted: March 30, 2009 by Scott Kistler in Ethics
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I think that I first encountered the saying “All truth is God’s truth” when reading Mark D. Roberts’ Can We Trust the Gospels?.  He explained that he felt nervous about studying the Bible from a secular perspective in a Harvard course, but that John Stott gave him this phrase to ease his fears.  I believe that Roberts said that Augustine was the originator of the phrase.  This attitude is a helpful one in learning about almost anything.

The history of Western Civilization, the United States, and even Christianity are often marred with things that we wish we could erase.  Especially over the last 50 years, it seems, critics of Western culture, Christianity, or both have highlighted these errors, and honest people have to sadly acknowledge legitimate criticisms.

The attitude that “All truth is God’s truth” has provided a guideline for me in navigating criticisms of Western culture (which are sometimes extremely necessary) and Christianity (which are much more troubling to me).  In other words, God and the gospel are not threatened by Christians facing up to the murderous violence during the Crusades, the dispossession of Native Americans by many Americans who claimed Christ as their savior, and a host of other sins.  Talking honestly about these tragedies requires us to provide context (the Muslims had conquered the Holy Land themselves, of course, and Native American tribes certainly waged war against each other), but we can feel confident that dealing with the past isn’t a threat to the core of our faith.

But then along comes John Piper, challenging us to elevate our understanding of this idea to the highest possible plane:

Alongside “All truth is God’s truth,” we need to say, “All truth exists to display more of God and awaken more love for God.” This means that knowing truth and knowing it as God’s truth is not a virtue until it awakens desire and delight in us for the God of truth. And that desire and delight are not complete until they give rise to words or actions that display the worth of God. That is, we exist to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and merely knowing a truth to be God’s truth does not glorify him any more than the devil does.

And so there is a new challenge: when we learn, are we using it to increase our understanding and love of God?  Do we see all learning as ultimately in his service and for his glory?  I pray that I might, with God’s help, see how the truths that I learn ultimately show his glory and display more reasons that I should love him.

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