Os Guinness on Why Truth Matters

More than 4,000 evangelical leaders have currently gathered in Cape Town, South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization. The first Lausanne Conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 and was organized by influential evangelicals such as Billy Graham and John Stott. This year’s convention continues the focus on the mission of the global church and evangelism, with speakers including John Piper, Tim Keller, Chris Wright, Ajith Fernando, Michael Ramsden, and many, many more.

One of the presentations worth considering was that given by Os Guinness on day one. His topic was the importance of truth for the church today. He offered six reasons why truth matters supremely, and why those Christians who are careless about truth are as dangerous as the open skeptics of our day:

  • First, only a high view of truth honors the God of Truth.
  • Second only a high view of truth reflects how we come to know and trust God.
  • Third only a high view of truth empowers our best human enterprises.
  • Fourth only a high view of truth can undergird our proclamation and defense of the faith.
  • Fifth, only a high view of truth is sufficient for resisting evil and hypocrisy.
  • Sixth, only a high view of truth will help our growth and transformation in Christ.

And his conclusion: 

“If our faith is not true, it would be false even if the whole world believed it. If our faith is true, it would be true even if the whole world and the entire cosmos were against it.

So let the conviction ring out from this Congress: We Evangelicals do not just believe the truth. We do not just claim to know the truth, and to defend the truth. We worship “the God of truth,” whose Spirit is “the Spirit of truth,” whose “Word is truth,” whose Gospel is “the message of truth,” and whose Son our Lord is “the way, the truth, and the life.” And we ourselves are committed, humbly but resolutely, to becoming People of Truth. Here we still stand, so help us God.”

You can watch his address on the Lausanne website or download it below. 

Why Truth Matters

Without truth we cannot answer the fundamental objection that faith in God is simply a form of “bad faith” or “poor faith.” The wilder accusation of “bad faith” … is one of the deepest and most damaging charges against [faith] in the last two centuries. …Christians believe, critics say, not because of good reasons but because they are afraid not to believe. Without faith, they would be naked to the alternatives, such as the terror of meaninglessness or the nameless dread of unspecified guilt. Faith is therefore a handy shield to ward off the fear, a comforting tune to whistle in the darkness; it is, however, fundamentally untrue, irrational, and illegitimate — and therefore “inauthentic” and “bad faith.”

In modern times the charge of “bad faith” was raised by the French existentialists but is more widely associated with Marxist and Freudian attacks on religion — religion for Marx was the “opium of the people” and for Freud a “projection.” Needless to say, the germ of the charge is far older and wider. “Fear made the gods,” wrote Lucretius as a first-century B.C. Roman. Or as Henrik Ibsen remarked as a nineteenth-century Norwegian, “Take away the life-lie from the average man and you take away his happiness.” Whatever the historical period, the dynamic of the accusation is the same.

… There are several possible responses to this charge, such as those who wield it are rarely courageous enough to turn it on their own beliefs, the very charge is itself the biblical critique of idols, and so on. But at the end of the day, there is no answer without one: Those who put their faith in God do so for all sorts of good reasons, but the very best reason is that they are finally, utterly, and incontrovertibly convinced that the faith in which they put their confidence is true.

Os Guinness in Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, & Spin (Baker Books 2000), pages 76-77.

Os Guinness on the Essence of Apologetics have posted some talks by Os Guinness given to the L’Abri fellowship in the UK. Although the lectures were delivered some time ago, they are a great introduction to the issues involved in the task of defending Christianity. Guinness is an important contemporary evangelical thinker and commentator, and has written books such as Time for Truth, The Journey, The Dust of Death and Fit Bodies, Fat Minds.

There are four lectures in the series:

Part 1: What is the essence of apologetics?
Part 2: A Biblical basis for the essence of apologetics.

Part 3: How to communicate in apologetics.
Part 4: Persuading the hard-hearted [to be posted]

Some of the lecture notes:

Part 1: What is the essence of apologetics?

In Part 1, Dr Guinness considers reasons that some people are wary of apologetics and highlights some of the limitations that can apply to apologetics.

Some limitations of apologetics:

* Much apologetics is limited in appealing only to the open and the interested. What about the other 95%?
* Much apologetics is limited in appealing only to the needy.
* Much apologetics is limited in appealing only to those with a similar worldview to us.
* Much apologetics is limited in appealing only to the rational, literate, abstract thinker.
* Much apologetics remain within Christian circles and never makes it’s way into the world.

“… to transcend these limitations, we’re going to have to develop an apologetics which is flexible enough to communicate to anyone at any level of consciousness, any religion or worldview, of any nationality or language or whatever. In other words, the tough thing in modern apologetics will be to develop a persuasive cross-contextual communication. That’s what the best apologetics always was in the past – and is in the Scriptures. It’s what the modern situation calls for and what some of the best modern theory points towards.”

Part 2: A Biblical basis for the essence of apologetics

In Part 2 of this series, Dr Guinness considers whether there is a Biblical basis for apologetics, from both Old and New Testaments.

Some conclusions from the New Testament evidence:

1. Apologetics is Biblical, not post-Biblical
2. It has nothing to do with ‘being apologetic’
3. The New Testament metaphors are mainly legal, not military
4. Covers the formal and informal defence
5. It is for all Christians, not just for some
6. It is used with ‘insiders’, as well as ‘outsiders’
7. It is profoundly intellectual, but it is equally powerful morally and spiritually

“Apologetics is pre-evangelism, which is communication that clarifies what is obscuring and obstructing the good news. And in this sense, it is the necessary foreword or preface wherever there is indifference or complacency or resistance or hostility. It is the intellectual, moral, spiritual bush-clearing operation that is the preparation for the gospel to come in.”

Part 3: How to communicate in apologetics.

Four parts of cross-cultural communication:


Finding out where a person is:

1. Listen to people as individuals
2. Learn the language of their worldview and lifeworld
3. Know how unbelieving minds work

Aspects of unbelief:


(I’ll update the post, when the following two lectures have been added)