You may have heard that phrase before or recently seen flags with this slogan.
On the one hand its meaning is ambiguous because normally a definition goes along the lines of “A cat is a small four legged house pet.” A definition by nature defines something.
Regardless of the ambiguity in this case the meaning is clear. ‘Love is love’ is put forward to mean that any emotional attachment we might feel toward someone (or something) regardless of who (or what) that is, is justified merely on the basis of the emotion being displayed. It doesn’t matter who or what you love because ‘love’ trumps all values.
Imprecision in definition is a practice open to abuse.
In 1971 Oxford defined love as “that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which manifests itself in solicitude for the welfre of the object, and usually also delight in his presence and desire for his approval; warm affection, attachment.” Aside from neglecting to note love as a verb and not a noun (an action and not a thing) at least 1971 Oxford has a meaty definition.
Today Mr. Oxford defines love as “a very strong feeling of liking and caring for somebody/something [sometimes romantic].”
The best definition I’ve ever encountered for love (Greek, agape) means to prefer, to prefer someone or something more than yourself, to prefer what God has said, and to show this through one’s actions. This is the definition we find in 1 Jn 5:3a:
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
By definition then, to love means to prefer what God has said (the truth) and do it. If we prefer anything and do anything other than what He has said it cannot be love but is sin; and we humans love to sin. Thankfully God preferred us so as to send His Son to rescue us from sin (Jn 3:16) so we might live a life of true love, love for God and others as defined by Him, the author of reality.
Because words have meaning and meaning conveys truth and truth never changes (Heb 13:8; 1 Pet 1:25) it actually does turn out that ‘love is love’ after all but not in the way many think.
Have you ever met someone who is a Posivitist? What is a positivist? Someone who will only allow positive thinking (c.f. mindfulness), affirmations, self-empowerment, promotes a “positive space,” displays or writes positive plagues or mantras, advocates acts of kindness, feels and uses ‘energies’ and never accepts critique or realism. This is a positivist and positivism is positively growing in our society!
When I first encountered a positivist I was—frankly—confused. Where is this coming from? What does this person believe? How widespread is this and what effect is this having on our culture? Without knowing more I was unequipped to deal with it as a Christian.
Where does such thinking come from?
There are a number of possible sources by which some might arrive at this way of thinking:
Simply put Positivist believe that fostering “a positive mental attitude, supported by affirmations, will achieve success in anything.” How one thinks is central to tapping into the spiritual universe to bend it to your will. Spirituality is impersonal and self-focused.
What affect is it having on our culture?
In a culture that desires to appear spiritual and fix their problems themselves Positivism offers a lot of perceived benefits (chiefly feeling spiritual without God). If you look around it has worked its way into self-help workshops, schools, counselling, stress management, corporate practice, preaching, etc. You might say it is ‘everywhere’ and its way of thinking is so prevalent bits of it can be absorbed into our way of thinking often without even realizing it.
A Biblical Critique/Alternative
Now certainly the Bible would have much to say against ‘impossibility thinkers’ as it related to faith and hope in the God of the impossible; yet the Bible is also a realistic book (we call this truth) and often speaks in the negative concerning sin or lies (“thou shalt not”), while positively endorsing what is right and true (“Honour your father and mother”).
On key questions that religions and worldviews address, Christianity and Positivism are more often than not at complete odds:
How can we share the Gospel with a Positivist we may know or love? Certainly there are inconsistencies, certainly upon what objective truth one basis their belief needs to be considered; yet ultimately we share the Gospel with gentleness, respect and conviction and let it reverberate against their worldview. They are looking for someone; it’s Jesus. Point them to him as the answer to their spiritual quest.
I have recently observed a growing distrust, of the news, of government amongst Christians. What shall we make of this? Here are some meandering thoughts.
Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32b)
Hold onto those works, we’ll return to them in their context.
First, in our world today there is growing distrust of truth and impairment of freedom. This in turn produces a form of bondage. In the old days news was supposed to be unbiased, a presentation of the facts more or less, leaving the readers or viewers to decide. The pursuit of truth requires a freedom to inquire and follow where you believe the facts take you. It seeks to be objective. The moment freedom is removed or facts are viewed in a biased way then truth itself is compromised. The prevailing philosophy of our time, postmodernism, has no doubt underpinned this as it views all truth as subjective, your truth, my truth, not the truth. The problem is that over time growing subjectivity in the media (on the left and the right) meant that biased news began to be labelled “fake news.” Both left and right used this to advance their agenda and exploit the other side. “Fact checking” became the hallmark of left and right. Echo chambers have paralyzed any meaningful conversation. The recent pandemic has only exacerbated this. What is true? What is real? A want of truth paralyses society because relationships are rooted in trust and so mistrust becomes a form of bondage.
Second, the rise of authoritarianism threatens truth and freedom. Putin’s authoritarian coverage of Ukraine is a prime example of this. Today I listened to a Russian living in Ukraine trying to convince his Russian father that what he was being told on state media wasn’t the same as reality on the ground. But this is where truth and freedom come closer to home. Here in Canada Covid states of emergency shut down reasonable discussion over the virus and our response, Bill C-4 has restricted expression and investigation into areas of morality and identity, the recent use of the Emergency Act allowed political dissent to be deemed as treason, and the controversial Bill C-10 would grant further powers of censorship. But this should not surprise us because neo-liberalism—a prevailing ideology—places the group ahead of the individual and uses tactics of demonization and power to advance its agenda rather than logic and truth. Thankfully we’re not so far along in this process as other countries in the world but the development is disconcerting. Even journalists of our own state funded media outlet, CBC, have quit the company over this sort of culture. We should be rightfully concerned over the normalization of cultural and state promoted authoritarianism and what this will mean for tangible freedom.
Truth leads to freedom because unhindered by lies we can better our lives in light of the truth.
However, given the news and politics we shouldn’t stop believing everything or to believe the opposite as some are inclined to do or embrace conspiracy theories. We must remember that thinking is part of God’s common grace (c.f. Mt 5:45), a non-saving gift to all (or most!) of mankind. For example, even though we may disagree with someone’s worldview in country X,Y, or Z we may still trust that the product they produce can be worn, eaten, driven or used.
I encourage people to do a number of things: diversify the sources that you read for your news and think about what is presented (I read many of the major global news networks). Also ask good questions like what are the facts? are the sources trustworthy? am I approaching this subject in an unbiased way? am I thinking about it logically? Am I really interested in the truth?
We’ll find a measure of freedom in these two things.
More importantly, let’s return to that quote from Jesus and see what true truth is and how to find real freedom. Here is John 8:31–32:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When we come to believe the ultimate truth, our Creator Jesus, and accept Him as Lord and Saviour then we are freed spiritually from the bondage to sin and the lies of the enemy. Not only is our soul freed but our mind; we gain a new worldview to see things rightly through the lens of Scripture. This is all very liberating.
The irony is that those who may be physically free in this world (free media, free countries) may indeed be spiritually enslaved, and those who are physically oppressed and enslaved (c.f. a Christian in a North Korean work camp) are actually spiritually free.
Freedom is important. The freedoms we enjoy in the West are a result of Christian influences. However, the greatest freedom we can possess is the freedom of our soul, a freedom that no one can take away.
Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name: (Jeremiah 33:2, ESV)
Haven’t you read the Scriptures? (Matthew 19:4, NLT)
I love a good buffet. I’ve been to some good ones (including in England where they’re called carvery’s). In discovering the Mennonite buffet in Varney, ON (Pebbles), I’ve probably arrived at as close to the heavenly banquet as is possible here on earth. You can choose from the grill, soups and breads, salads, roast beef or turkey (and fixings) and other hot dishes like meatloaf. Top it off there are homemade pies, squares and even ice cream. As a treat—for it isn’t cheap—it is a wonderful place to dine.
Truth, however, isn’t like dinning at a buffet where we can pick and choose what to believe. Sadly, in our relativistic post-modern age that is exactly how truth is view, if we believe in truth at all. Like the cultural compromise and corruption of the church of Smyrna this view all to easily permeates the church. We often hear talk of my truth and your truth, revealed truths or revelations vs. the truth or revelation. The Spirit trumps Scripture. Rather than exegesis (drawing the meaning out of the text) many practice eisegesis (imposing my view on the text). Subjective experientialism and not objective truth and reality is the meal of the day. Organized religion is bad but my religion or spirituality is ok. But this really is all Cotton Candy theology. It may taste good to eat what you like and when you want it but it will leave you feeling empty and you’ll never grow into the person God wants you to be.
A far better diet is to—in faith—eat what God desires us to eat by submitting to His truth, revealed religion. Like the Scriptures at the beginning, Scripture abounds with the authoritative and objective proclamations of the Lord.
True religion is revealed not realized or invented. It’s embraced and not sampled or created. It is the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). Now that is something to feast on!
Long title; short blog.
To many people the knowledge of God can lead to pride: that they know Him, how much they know about or of Him. Scripture paints a very different picture. The knowledge of God is humbling:
May we know Christ and make Him known, in humility. Surely, the Lord will use this for His glory.
Though contemporary society can shy away from such a question as “too judgemental,” to do so is actually spiritually injurious; Jesus and the Apostles commanded us to be alert (Mt 7:15).
Often we can tell a false teacher by measuring their truth/teaching by the standard of the Gospel or the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Gal 1:8; Jude 3).
Another way is to watch out for polluted behaviour because bad beliefs produce bad behaviour (or faith produces the fruit of faith and visa versa).
Scripture lays down some other methods to be sure, however, in reading John 7:18 I was struck by another, which taken with the others, provides a helpful test:
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
This is in the context of Jesus telling the truth and seeking His Father’s glory in contrast with the religious leaders, but it sheds light on the false teachers we may face too. False teachers are: 1) proud (even if mildly concealed), 2) which works out in a promotion of their own thoughts (vs. God’s truth) and 3) for their own glory, or so that others would think well of them (think cult) rather than praise God. This can be true of preachers or people; but regardless of the context are three things we all need to be on the lookout for.
…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
—Jesus (John 8:32)
Someone recently sent me a quote attributed to George Orwell, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” This got me thinking.
If you were like me you had to read one of two books (or both) in high school, George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) or 1984 (1949). In these books Orwell showed both insight into wartime totalitarian regimes (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) and also great prescience, forward thinking, as he warned of many dangers to personal freedom that such regimes, and their way of thinking, were liable to cause in the future. Evidently, Orwell didn't believe society had seen the end of such tyranny.
Animal Farm is about the animals of a farm that revolt against their farmer and establish a commune. In the end this communist experiment goes awry as power is centralized with the pigs. The slogan that had begun, “All animals are equal,” degenerated into the most famous line in the book, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
1984 is a story of a distant time (in the past now!) in which a utopian society had been produced through centralized control under the guise of offering “freedom.” Newspeak, Doublethink, Big Brother and the Thought Police are all key words that give a window into the control that existed within this "utopian" totalitarian society. As the main characters begin to think for themselves they yearn for true freedom.
Classic liberalism championed the freedom of the individual as created in the image of God (Gen 1:27, and thus was a predominantly influenced by Christianity). This was the basis of modern Western society—a secular freedom as close to real freedom that one can arrive at apart from Christ—but which is now under attack by a creeping new influence: neo-liberalism (or neo-Marxism), that privileges the group against the individual and seeks to exert coercive influence against any that would oppose its worldview.
Let’s think about the wisdom of Orwell and apply it to today (i.e. where can we see seeds of his critique in society at large? [btw- this is no attempt at a conspiracy theory!]).
What similarities do we find in our present culture?
As post-Christian society becomes further unmoored from its foundation in Christ, Christians will be called to speak the truth in love, and will often bear the brunt of hatred as a result.
But individual freedom and the pursuit of truth aside (as important as those are), is not what Jesus is getting at in Jn 8:32. He is saying we are actually all spiritually enslaved to sin but that He came to offer the greatest liberty, freedom from it and the ability to follow Christ and live the good life we were created to live. Jesus is the truth, not only the ultimate reality but true and good. We are false and sinful. He came not only to live out a true life, but to die for our falseness so we might live truly. He calls us to believe in His truthfulness, so we might be restored and walk in the truth ourselves.
Thanks George, but thank you most of all Jesus.
 I couldn’t find the original source but this certainly sounds like Orwell, and even if it isn’t is still a helpful quote.
 Orwell was a nominal Anglican (at best). Yet, it is striking how this quote bears a Gospel semblance. Jesus spoke a similar truth concerning what He was hated and why His followers would be likewise hated in Jn 15:18.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11
The Bible means “The Book.” It is a book unlike any other for in it we have the very words of God. When it speaks, God speaks; authoritatively and truthfully on all matters upon which it positively touches. For those convinced of this from the Bible itself, the testimony of the Spirit, reason and logic, experience, etc, there is no other place to look for truth for in Scripture alone are found the words of life.
A friend of mine has a common saying, “if you’re not reading the Bible, you shouldn’t be reading anything else, for you’ll have no standard by which to evaluate its truthfulness.” This is not mindlessness or uncritical detachment; for the one who has placed their faith in revelation over reason it is recognition that God’s word is truth, spoken by the author of truth, to inform how we ought to understand reality as He’s created it. He’s given us minds, so we should use them, but the greatest wisdom is in trusting the mind of God revealed in Scripture.
There is the old adage, you are what you eat. Ps 115 says the same thing, “Those who make them [idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them.” If we indiscriminately take on board whatever we hear, read, listen to or watch, we are like waves tossed to and fro, we’re undiscerning fools that will be led away into great sorrow. We’ll become just like what we absorb. We must be anchored to the truth of God’s word and try every thought, word, deed, idea or attitude by it.
Here God’s Word is like a filter. It helps us sort between what is helpful and unhelpful, true and false. Many years ago it was said that the RCMP didn’t teach constables about every single counterfeit bill but rather taught them to know an authentic bill and so be able to try every bill by that standard. If we’re not spending time in the truth (and with the Truth) how are we to discern truth or goodness:
In the early Church there was a man by the name of Marcion (c. AD 85–160), who stands for us not as an exemplar but as a warning. Marcion held to a number of grave errors. He held a dualistic view of matter and spirit and saw all physically things as evil (vs. Genesis that says God created all things as “very good”). He also dismissed the Old Testament and any Jewish portions of the New Testament as irrelevant, unnecessary, and again, evil. These two errors stemmed from the third, his view of God. Marcion believed that the god of the OT and the god of the NT were in fact two different gods. One was filled with wrath and anger (the OT god) and the other with love (the NT god). Marcion was a gnostic, a complicated religious view that essentially believed a secret knowledge [gnosis= knowledge] was necessary for the spirit to find salvation and escape the body. Though originally a part of the church in Rome, he was condemned as a heretic for these pernicious lies. However, parallel gnostic churches arose and co-existed with orthodox ones for many years.
The older I get and the more I study history the more—on the whole—I am convinced that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Like Marcion, there are many today who believe—if not explicitly at least implicitly—that the god of the OT is a different god than the NT (and if they were following C2C would rejoice to have left the drab and dreary OT behind them and be in the bright and cheery NT).
Not only does this view fail to comprehend the grand story of salvation history, seeing, instead of continuity, discontinuity; it also fails to see God’s character as more than merely loving. It fails to see the characteristics of God so hated in the OT in the NT and the characteristics of God so cherished in the NT present in the OT. The same God is in fact God of and in the OT and the NT.
For example: in the OT God shows grace and not wrath (full wrath) when Adam sinned; He began a rescue plan to save mankind through Abraham’s descendant. When the Israelites made a Golden Calf, He did not destroy them all but only judged the perpetrators. In the face of spirals and circles of evil in Judges and Kings He showed patience. All of this is why the resounding chorus of the OT, and you’d be deaf not to hear it, is expressed in Ps 103:8: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (c.f. Ex 34:6).
Turning to the NT when God, expressed in gentle Jesus meek and mild, is supposed to be woolly love (a love Biblically unrecognizable), while finding great displays and teachings on love, forgiveness, mercy, etc, we also find words such as:
Do you see the point, why Marcion was dead wrong on a fundamental point and why so many progressives and liberals are today? The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT, one and the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit: full of justice and grace, truth and love, wrath and mercy.
As we continue in C2C and go about our lives may we never forget the perniciousness of this ancient heresy, often expressed today, but unveil it for what it is: gravely mistaken.
There are many things I, as a pastor, would rather write about, but it often behoves me, for the sake of my sheep and those who would be gathered in, to defend the faith, to protect and guard from error, so that the saints may be edified and sinners saved. This is where Jude found himself:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Liberalism (and I daren’t even give it the satisfaction of enjoining it to that blessed title, Christianity), is a new religion that was birthed in the nineteenth century (1800s). Like Satan posing as an angel of light or a wolf dressing in sheep’s clothing, Liberalism (lateral deists as a friend of mine calls them), guises itself as Christian, though in peering into the [initially] subtle differences, one finds an entirely different religion. We’d do well to know what Liberalism is, so in spotting it, we might turn from error fix our eyes upon the truth of Jesus.
A newspaper from the 1920s, an era where Liberalism and orthodox Christianity were in conflict, contrasted the chasm like differences between the two.
One author who wrote on the subject was J.G. Machen in Liberalism and Christianity (1923). In his classic work he argued that Liberalism was indeed a new religion.
To further illustrate the differences, consider the Fellowship’s Statement of Faith (1953) (and still today) contrasted with the much more orthodox United Church Statement of Faith (1925) and their most recent statement, Songs of Faith (2006), on the subjects of the Bible, Jesus and Mankind (these three are chosen because of their centrality in the faith):
Doctrinal error and moral misguidedness—accommodating to the world, syncretism—has meant that the once largest Canadian Christian denomination is now one of the fastest dying religions in Canada (the old statistic was that one church building closed each week; now the figure is that, with the Anglican Church and some others, 10,000 buildings will close in 2020 alone). While a dead orthodoxy can certainly lead to closed churches, a vibrant orthodoxy normally to lead to spiritual flourishing and healthy churches (as seen in the independent and non-religious study from Ontario in 2015).
Like Jude, may we cling to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints,” which along is true, which alone can save; and having come near the end of our Old Testament journey in Cover to Cover, may we take heed of the danger that will come to God’s people when we compromise with the world in belief and practice (i.e. Judges).