Archives For truth

Posts from Jonathan Sherwin on the subject of truth.

Truth Under Fire

March 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

On the 26th October the Union Flag was lowered at Camp Bastion. The next day the last of the British troops left Helmand Province. Over the following days and weeks many newspaper articles, television documentaries, and pub conversations assessed the overall value of the British military campaign in Afghanistan. “What did we achieve?” “Was it worth the cost?” “Will our efforts have a positive result on the country next year, in 5 years, in 20 years?”

The British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said that some mistakes were made in our 13 years in Afghanistan but that many good achievements have been made also.

The stories of tragedy, heroism, dismay, and hope have been coming to us for over a decade and soon it will be the job of historians to disseminate all of what we know and present the case for the success or failure of the overall mission.

This won’t be an easy task but it is driven forward by a strong collective sense of a nation seeking to know the truth of a situation for many so far removed from their day to day lives, yet so frequently punctuating their evenings through news broadcasts.

It’s because conflict is so costly that we won’t accept cheap answers. When lives are on the line suddenly quick-fire soundbite-replies to the big questions don’t cut it. When casualties of war mount up there grows a vested concern that truth not be listed among the number lost.

It is right to probe, to strain, to strive for the truth in these situations. With knowledge comes understanding and we hope wisdom for the future.

War has a way of framing questions rather bluntly. It also reveals how casual we can become with the search for truth in other, less immediately affected areas of our life.

Conflicts are violent and immediate and the questions we ask surrounding them are marked in the same way. Yet our own lives also have huge questions that perhaps don’t strike us with the same urgency. What we live for, what rules we live by, what hope we look to – these massive questions that religions seek to answer are treated rather shallowly.

They’re not so ‘in our face’ but surely they are of equal value to the questions that we ask of conflicts? Perhaps even more so?

Yet instead of investigating, searching, and seeking to discover the truth for these big questions so often we are satisfied merely to find what works for us and leave the bloke next to us to find his own way too. We wouldn’t want to interfere too much in his life and we certainly wouldn’t want to invite too much attention from him!

In our pseudo-civil attempts to restrict any meddling in our private affairs we end up demoting truth from her true authoritative position. If all we want is something that works for us then we answer the largest questions of life with simple pragmatism, disconnected from what may be true. Or another way of thinking about it is that unhappy with the prospect of having to bend our lives to a superior truth, we decide to make ourselves the sole arbiter of what’s true for us.

Can you imagine if we treated the Afghanistan conflict in the same way? If in the House of Commons instead of debate and counter-point, each Member were granted their own viewpoint regardless of its correspondence to the reality of the situation? This nation would deride the self-serving views of our politicians swiftly and trust would be destroyed.

Questions surrounding the things most valuable to us deserve the best answers. The struggle with the biggest questions of life is a noble quest and to shortcut the search by setting aside truth for personal preference risks a betrayal of the truth and an act of personal deception.

Sorted Magazine: Jan/Feb 2015 EditionThis article first appeared in the January/February 2015 edition of Sorted Magazine.



It was a great privilege to study under Professor John Lennox last year. Here’s a recent clip of his November 2012 debate at the Oxford Union.

You can catch Professor Lennox, along with Amy Orr-Ewing and the RZIM team at the Oxford Training Day on Saturday 26th January.

Confidence in the Truth

Featuring: John Lennox, Amy Orr-Ewing, Keith Small, Tanya Walker
Location: Examination Schools, 81 High Street, Oxford
Date: January 26th 2013 – 8:45am start

For more details and to book online visit the event page.

Sorted Magazine
Sep/Oct 2012 edition of Sorted is on sale now in newsagents in the UK. Get your subscription online.

“Christianity? There are some good points to it, but I just can’t believe that one faith is superior to others. That view is intolerant.” You know the idea, it has been said in many ways. Christianity, it is understood, is basically unfair because it says that everyone else is wrong. Oh, the arrogance of this, the intolerance to other ideas and people!

In Britain today there are many people of different backgrounds, from all types of races and people groups. We can enjoy just about any food from around the world and explore just about any belief without ever leaving these fair shores. The world has come to this country and along with it has come a wonderful variety of customs, traditions, and of course, religions.

Unity in all of this diversity is greatly prized. Ideas which threaten the peace are pounced upon quickly. We can of course agree, discrimination against individuals can and should be fought against. We applaud the efforts of organisations such as FIFA to eradicate racism, a horrible and cruel practice. We celebrate equality for women in the work place as noble and worthy. But does it mean that we have to accept all religions as having equal weight? Is it discrimination to say that just one religion is correct?

Essentially this argument boils down to truth claims. When someone says that they don’t like Christianity because it is intolerant they are making a claim about truth. “I don’t like your exclusivity. I don’t like that you say that Jesus is the only way.” But as we examine those very statements being made we realise that the person making them is asserting an exclusive view too! The person who doesn’t like Christianity’s truth claims is in fact saying that their view of truth – that many viewpoints are equally valid – is the right way, the only way, to proceed. In fact, exclusivity is OK – it just must be this type of exclusivity. But hold on, within this belief this person must grant Christianity’s view too. It all starts to unravel somewhat.

The question in fact reveals that Christianity – or any religion – can’t be written off simply for making exclusive claims. All religions and ways of thinking hold some kind of exclusivity at some point. What we must do is investigate the claims that Christianity makes. Do they stack up? Does the evidence fit? Does Christianity make more sense of the world than other religions and belief systems? What we really need to do is investigate, as Alister McGrath says, what Christianity is all about. This is what we will begin to look at in future columns.

This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct edition of Sorted Magazine. Pick up your copy today at WH Smith or get your subscription today.

Do Unto Others

March 25, 2011 — 4 Comments

Brian McLaren has recently responded to an article John Piper wrote in the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan. Both men exhibit compassion and sympathy towards the victims of this tragedy and encourage Christians to help where they can.

In reading McLaren’s response, I was however slightly bemused that McLaren went after Dr. Piper’s theological position, which differs from his own, with the argument that it is sometimes hard to draw absolutes, “black and whites” as it were, from the Bible. Here is what McLaren says to John Piper’s response in an opening paragraph (emphasis mine):

“This response will no doubt be deeply satisfying for many people of a certain theological bent, those who want simple answers to go along with their aid and empathy. This clean and clear theodicy, an explanation for how evil and suffering can exist, resonates well with the old saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.

But as I’ve suggested elsewhere, for all its air of confident piety, that axiom is more than a little misleading. I think the underlying meaning of the saying could be more accurately rendered like this: “The Bible says something which I interpret in a certain way, and I believe that interpretation, and that settles it!” Yes, acknowledging the complexities of the interpretive process has a way of reducing the simplicity of one’s answers. But in the interest of truth and honesty, we often have to let black-and-white, open-and-shut simplicity at least temporarily dissolve into the grays of complexity and even the darkness of perplexity.”

The ironic twist as that towards the end of McLaren’s piece, he then turns to Scripture, and the “jagged history of our planet”, himself to argue his black and white position. He makes statements about who God is, what He is like, what His purpose is for us:

“To me, as I reflect on the Scriptures and on the jagged history of our planet, it is better to say that God’s sovereignty is not totalitarian. God isn’t the kind of king interested in absolute control. God wouldn’t create that kind of relationship with the universe because God isn’t that kind of God. Instead, God creates space and time for a universe to be, to become, to unfold in its own story, its own evolution. God’s kingship is God’s absolute commitment to be with us, whatever happens, always working to bring good from evil, healing from suffering, reconciliation from conflict, and hope from despair. This is the God I see imaged in Jesus, born as a vulnerable baby, growing as a vulnerable boy, living as an unarmed man with courage and kindness. This is the God imaged as a king who washes the feet of his subjects, a king whose power is revealed not by killing and conquering but by suffering and dying . . . and rising again.”

I appreciate that theology can be hard, and I can support robust discussion between differing scholars as we seek to understand God through the Bible and the work of Jesus. No one person or stream holds a monopoly on the truth, although there may be more truthfulness found in some than in others.

In the process of our continuing theological discussions, surely it would be wise to employ ground rules and acknowledge common points of reference? The first of these could perhaps be the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12.

Tough theological positions differing from our own that others hold, palatable or otherwise, need to be critiqued in the same manner with which we would want our own to be examined. At the end of the day we have a responsibility before God to continually pursue truth ourselves (Philippians 2:12), not for personal goals but as a continuing testament to the glory of God.

Wayne Grudem at WEST

June 7, 2009 — 3 Comments

This week I shall be hopping on the train from Tuesday to Friday to head to Bridgend, to the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST). WEST are in the middle of their Summer Season and this week I have the immense privilege of sitting in on Dr. Wayne Grudem’s ‘Doctrine of Scripture’ week. This is what WEST has to say on the week:

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is a core text in numerous seminaries around the world. This week presents a rare opportunity to hear the much esteemed Professor of Bible and Research at Phoenix Seminary reassert and defend the absolute integrity of the Bible in the light of current threats and misunderstandings.

I believe that this week is going to be really useful to me. In my time with the YWAM in Maui, I learnt much on the need to rigorously defend the integrity of the Bible. More than this, we need to be postively asserting the truth of God’s word. We cannot keep quiet on this matter for their are many voices shouting their anti-truth objections, from within as well as outside of the church.

It is also perhaps an interesting week that leads me up to next Sunday when I have a sermon entitled, ‘The Church as an Army.” Armies are trained to fight, and to fight objectively. What will the church in the UK fight for? Will perhaps part of it’s objectives be the defense of the inerrancy, infalliabilty, and ultimate authority of the Bible. Do we realise that if we lose Scripture, we lose Jesus and are left leaderless, hopeless and utterly lost?

I look forward to learning much from Dr. Grudem and posting some of what I have learned here.

“This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.”

Mark Galli with some very interesting thoughts, on Christianity Today.

I’ve run into this very quote and situation numerous times, each time the implication being that we need to be ‘actionally active’ and ‘verbally passive’, or something like that. It’s as if we read the book of Acts and ignore the great sermons (which to me seem to be the thrust of much of the book) and say that actually we just need to keep quiet and get on with it.

Of course, this isn’t true; the gospel needs to be preached verbally and through the effective preaching of the Word the Holy Spirit regenerates hearts to serve Him well too, providing another effective witness.

But our culture has for much part lost the value of words, and so little mantras like the one above (for it really is like a religious chant) slip in, sound cool, but if left unchecked can be quite dangerous, especially to a young Christian mind.

So let us continue in the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2) so we might use wisdom and discernment in dealing with the bombardment of ideas jumping our way, that we might sift out truth and discard error.

We’re in a shooting war and we can’t afford to put down the rifles that God has given us to advance his Kingdom. The preaching of the Word by the Holy Spirit is powerful, life-changing and glorious. He has promised the power of it to us (Isa. 55:11) and we have witnessed it ourselves. We must not get muddled and confused where God has spoken plain and clearly.

At last night’s service in Bath with Dr. J. I. Packer we were treated to a quick question and answer time before the main message (which incidentally was taken from Luke 1:67-80 entitled, “Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment.”) From this Q & A session I want to highlight three questions and their answers that I found particularly insightful and helpful.

1. What advice would you give to Christians young in the faith?

  • “Soak yourselves in Scripture.” Packer hit first and foremost the absolute neccesity that we need to be in the Bible often. Packer is in his 80’s I believe and he mentioned that fact that people don’t read their bibles as their fathers and grandfathers once did. What does that mean for me who could be his great-grandson?!

    At this point he talked about the ESV Study Bible for which he served as Theological Editor and mentioned that is much more than just another study Bible, but rather it is, “put together as a resource for the Christian life.” That is, that the study Bible complete with articles, notes, charts, maps etc. was designed to help the Christian in all matters of their faith.

  • The next point that he made was that we need to be in prayer. We were exhorted to, “practice prayer, both in company, and on your own.” As well as having a life of personal prayer we need to, “get into a prayer group.” Packer stressed the importance of the Christian walk being that as a walk of fellowship, and not isolation.

    I thought that was great coming from a man who might actually be able to remember the beginning of modernity. I find that many among the crowd who want to do church in a ‘post-modern’ way seem to think that they have discovered ‘community’ for the first time. Ahh, but not so. Because it, as with other doctrines, have been dismissed by some in some generations in the past does not mean that it is a new or bold discovery.

  • Dr. Packer also told us that we need to be actively seeking to discover what gifts God has given to us. When we discover our gifts we can then begin to use them! We are “saved to serve” and church is not a place to sit idly by without joining in and fulfilling our own unique role in the body (Col. 1:24 – verse added).

And what about Christians at the other end, those much older in their faith?

  • “Remember that the Good Lord never changes.” I’m only 25 so I’m nodding appropriately and writing and thinking that hopefully one day this might mean a little more to me. All I can take it for is that when you have seen a lot of life, and a lot of change, we must remain strong and take heart in the Unchanging One.
  • “Remind yourselves of the works of God.” This is one that I think is good for us all. We must remember to be thankful and give praise to God for the wonderful things that He has done in our lives.

3. For what can we pray for you?

Finally, the question was asked for what can we pray for Dr. Packer? As you may know, Dr. Packer and others from his church have been having a rough run of it of late. The whole sad ordeal to me highlights the state of some parts of the church. The glimmer of hope to be found is in the people who made a stand, take God at His word and take His Word very seriously.

It is a brave man who is still very much passionate about His God to stand firm, when He has been standing so strong for all his life. Dr. Packer in this regard is an inspiration to me and a testimony of the Holy Spirit’s grace that enables sinners to run hard, run strong, and finish well. My prayers will be with him and his church over the next few weeks.

In studying the Reformation recently I am amazed at the work of God who in His faithfulness kept the church – His bride – on track. Now, historically I became queasy when Christians started talking about brides and bridegrooms outside of weddings. I have pictures of women (and, sadly, men too) thinking that they’re the bride and Christ is the bridegroom, which is just weird. But recently I’ve began to appreciate the idea a little more.

Ephesians 5:25 shows a man how he should love his wife: the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. became man, lived a life of rejection, humiliation, stress, pain and ultimately death). In essence, to man-up is to become Christ-like. A husband is to give his life for his wife, which is what Jesus did for the church. Which, as a side note, is one very good reason for believing in the church and not saying nasty things against it. Because in the words of one my professors, “The one way to really get a guy angry is to start sounding off against his bride.”

And Jesus did give himself for the church. He is in relationship with us, and he cares. So it’s no wonder that we had a Reformation, when we look at it from Jesus’ perspective. From our perspective, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the church could get back on track after doing an excellent job of losing it. But Jesus takes the relationship quite seriously. In his sovereignty he steered us back in the right direction.

Now, the Reformation started almost 500 years ago. Where are we today? I think of England. A once mighty, holy, pious nation that sent out missionaries to the ends of the earth and stood strongly for Jesus. I think of Scotland, which – after the efforts of John Knox – became known as a bastion for Biblical Christianity, in to which men were born that later went on to help shape the theological foundations of the United States. We barely find a shadow of the past alive today. Why? What happened? What disaster took place? Francis Schaeffer says this about the evangelical church in general …

“Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accomodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.

And let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross from of worldliness in the proper definition of that word. And with this proper definition of worldliness, we must say with tears that, with exceptions, the evangelical church is worldly and not faithful to the living Christ.”

Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster

Francis Schaeffer wasn’t really accepted in England all that much, from what I can gather. By his time, perhaps, too many leading Christian intellectuals were of a liberal persuasion and had already devalued the word of God and rejected truth.

What we need today is men who aren’t going to cowardly succumb to the age of the day. We need guys to take a stand against all the ridiculous nonsense coming from inside the church and put God back on the throne. The Bible, once more, needs to be elevated to it’s proper authority. Jesus needs to be proclaimed unashamedly and boldly, as King of all – and Christians need to start living as if He really is King of their lives. John Calvin correctly understood that if Jesus really is Lord, then He’s Lord of all. We need to grasp this truth once more. We also need to pray, hard. We need to pray for our nation and for God to move. What we need, is another Reformation.

The last Reformation came at a cost. Many men lost their lives, their jobs and were kicked out of their countries. The cost again will be high. But is it worth it? I suppose the only questions really is: is God worth it? Will we man up and “get in the game” or will we melt into compromise and worldliness?

Sometimes I become depressed. What a job we have before us! But my God is an unchanging God. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. His promises never change and His word is true. When our courage fails, He is faithful. But now is not the time to melt to nothingness. Now is the time to stand up and boldly, loudly, unashamedly preach Jesus, Lord of all. There is hope for my nation. I am still proud to be British. Into this nation I was born, and for it I shall pray. Jesus, come for your bride. Bride, we need to awake and get to it.

Over the last 3 weeks I have spent some great time with the current DTS in Maui. I’ve a had a few sessions in which we had a quick introduction to Apologetics and Truth.

This post is really just a recap of some of that content with some links to further study. If you’re a student and have questions feel free to contact me – I’d love to hear from you.


Apologetics is the encompassing term that we give to the practice of ‘defending the faith’. We derive the term from the Greek word apologia. This word was a Greek legal term that meant ‘to give a defense’.

Biblical Mandate

In 2 Corinthians chapt. 10 v.5 Paul states this,

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

The context of this verse is warfare, and warfare not in the flesh but in the spirit. In understanding this we come to conclude that the discipline of Apologetics is a part of Spiritual Warfare, that is combating the Lie with the Truth.

Satan is the father of lies (see John 8:44) and it is his plan to spread the Lie in as many ways as possible to aid in the destruction of Man and Creation. As Christians we lay claim to the Truth, and must defend this Truth to all who ask. Our principle from this comes from 1 Peter chpt. 3 v.15:

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Peter is quite clear about our charge. We should be ready to answer the honest questions put to us about why we believe what we believe.

People in the world today are starving for authenticity. We have countless “reality” TV shows that draw strong audiences. There is tremendous interest for what is perceived to be real, raw and honest. This works in our favour as Christians! We can live out our lives authentically, honestly and completely. Our Christian lives are fully liveable – through His grace – and we can do so without violating our truths (see the next section on truth).

The flip-side to this is that if we do not live authentically with the beliefs that we profess, we can end up promoting a counter-apologetic that will do more harm than good. I wonder at the number of people who have been ‘put off’ from Jesus by the ill-witness of His followers. This weighs particularly heavy on my own heart

More to come …