The following is an answer to a recent question I received from a seeking skeptic. May you be encouraged to boldly reason your faith in an intelligent and loving way. The World has great and honest questions. We should learn to patiently lend a listening ear and do our best in reasoning with them, leading them to God.
Here is the Question:Does the bible distinguish if it is more important to use the right words to express the wrong ideas or the wrong words to express the right ideas? Example, if I use the word “energy” in replace of the word God to express God, but think of the same image as those who say God, is this ok?
Here is the Answer (in the context of the letter i received, the person had many more questions which is why i gave this exhaustive illustration. ill share the other questions later):
First of all, A Christian’s life should be governed by the Word of God (the Bible). This does not mean that there are not Hypocrite-Christians who speak one thing and practice another as there are hypocrites in every faith and in every belief system. There are hypocrite atheists, agnostics…etc but this does not mean that we should reject absolutes simply because of errors in human behavior or follow-through. Truth is truth; in the Bible and elsewhere. We don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water so-to-speak. And if hypocrites (liars, money hungry TV evangelists, child-molesting priests/pastors… the list could go on) are the bath water and Jesus and the Bible are the baby we can just as well throw out the bath-water hypocrites and yet still deal solely with Jesus and the Bible. That is the decision each person must come to on their own: What do I believe about Jesus and the Bible. With that pre-face let me attempt to answer your questions.
The Bible says to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Imagine that a doctor just diagnosed you with a terrible deadly disease. “You are going to die!” says the doctor. You walk away feeling like you’ve been sucker-punched in the gut, scratching your head, saying to yourself, “What a cruel thing that has just happened to me.” You don’t blame the doctor for your disease. The disease was already there. The doctor simply let you know your inevitable condition. He revealed the reality of your condition: Certain doom. You don’t walk away going “What a cruel doctor.” But rather “What a cruel thing is going on inside of my body.” The doctor has simply told you the truth of what is happening in your body. Now, imagine that the doctor had just given you this death sentence and allowed you to just walk away hopeless, and yet withheld from you the further truth that He also knows of a cure for your body that will make you well. Now that might seem cruel. He gave you the diagnosis without the cure. He spoke some truth to you, and yet withheld other truth. This is not love, it is not loving. If a father sees his child playing in the street with traffic, the father does not simply allow the child to continue in the behavior because the child decides, “this is what I want to do,” but the father, because He loves His child must speak boldly to the child, letting him know that if he continues in this behavior, his life is in certain danger and inevitable doom. Does this spoil the child’s fun? For a moment it might, but if the child hears the voice of the father and listens, than the love of the father has won the life of the son. If the son does not hear the father’s voice and obey, than he has taken his life in his own hands and will sadly die. The heart of the father was to speak the truth in love, giving his son the bad news (you cannot continue this way) so that he can experience life; receiving the good news.
This is the same as our diagnoses/ cure scenario with the doctor and the patient. In order to bring healing to the patient, the doctor must give him a proper and true diagnoses even if it is hard to give (because that is the loving thing to do), and as a bonus and a blessing, the doctor gives the hope of a cure. But as we know from life, truth is not always welcomed or received. The patient may not accept the cure because he does not want to accept the preceding diagnoses. But as we know, you cannot have one without the other. You will not accept the cure for cancer if you don’t first accept that you have the disease. Though the doctor was faithful to deliver his message to the patient (or speak the truth in love), it is up to the patient to receive or reject both. One option leading to the reality of death (whether he believes it or not), or the other leading to the reality of Life.
So, in using words, we are to speak the truth. And do it in a way that would reflect the heart of God: love. Though truth is truth, however it comes across, there is a tactful, gracious, and loving way to display and speak it to others.
So, if someone says “Energy” or “Mother-nature” and really means “creating-force” or “God” I would need further clarification. Because as Christians, we are to say what we mean and mean what we say. I say, Jesus is God and nothing was created without Him. I simply mean that Jesus is God, God is Jesus, Not “mother-nature” , Not some mysterious force, but a known, revealed God who has a name and a certain, absolute identity.
Hey Jeremiah… long time…
I think the question speaks to our understanding of communication as well. That is that communicating is a two way street, and if I am communicating an idea to someone it is as much my responsibility that that person understands what I am saying as much as it is there responsibility. This should be heeded in return as well. For a term like “energy” in place of “God” might be fine if it encompasses the full understanding of God to that person, however, it would be wrong to insist on the interchangeability of the terms to someone who views them as two separate things. I do love your response, many good things in there. I think this is a concept often missed as Christians relating to the world, we should use whatever language best communicates the idea of our Loving Father and Jesus Christ. But we are not the ones who should decide what language is best, it should be tailored to the person to which we are attempting to communicate.
Good Words Brother…
Thanks for the comment brother! Good thoughts.
Thank you for posting this Jeremiah! I think you hit the nail on the head with the ‘Doctor’ reference. Far too often, we find that people will hear news that indicates a terminal condition (as we all have with our sin nature) and feel that they need a second, third, fourth opinion that will allow their fatal condition to be watered down to a minor scratch. We all want the good news that Jesus saves all, but most don’t want to acknowledge that sin separates us from God. It’s hard to be that Doctor without having those ‘patients’ say that you’re cruel, judging, or just flat wrong. I love that scripture verse reminding us to ‘speak the truth in love’ because it’s impossible to ‘convince’ someone the truth, and sometimes much harder to just let the Holy Spirit move in their lives by leading them to the truth.
Thank you for the post, and keep them coming!