Discerning Truth from Error
With the prevalence of social media and meme theology, we have become inundated with every form of philosophy and opinion–so much so, that often contradictory ideas can cause confusion and doubt, even among Christians.
Oh, the ideas have always abounded, we just weren’t always so aware of them. And as my own experience testifies, anyone can be a blogger or published author. Therefore, as Christ followers, we must be all the more diligent to know the truth and recognize error.
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”2 Timothy 4:3-4, NIV 84
For this reason, I take seminary classes in biblical studies and strive to learn and grow so that I may never lead someone into error. I pray daily that God would use me to share only truth.
In the last few years, I have read many articles by progressive Christians that pervert the Scriptures in order to support their beliefs, mostly in what appears to be an attempt to be socially accepting and affirming of all lifestyles and opinions.
While as Christians, we should be loving and accepting towards all people, we still must stand on the truths of Scripture, not wavering on the essential truths of the faith.
Damaris was a woman who lived in a time much the same as ours. She was a citizen of Athens in the first century, when philosophies and intellectual ideas abounded, not only in the university but also in the marketplace.
Several centuries earlier, the Greek Empire had excelled in art, literature, and philosophy. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle led the way in philosophy and higher education. By the time Paul landed in Athens, the city was full of idols as well as those who debated different philosophies about life.
Stoics believed in living with nature and avoiding emotional experiences and desires. Epicureans taught that life was all about pleasure and seeking one’s own happiness.
When Paul arrived in Athens, he “reasoned with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17).
According to Luke, the writer of Acts, the people became very interested in what Paul was sharing.
“(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”Acts 17:21
Sound familiar? Sometimes I feel that’s all our society does anymore. We fall prey to fake news and become embroiled in controversies because our itching ears want to be convinced that our way of living is okay. If we talk about it long enough or follow the right influencer, we can convince ourselves that we’re okay, you’re okay, and we’re all okay.
But the truth is that we are all sinners, and apart from the mercy of God shown through His Son Jesus, we are all deserving of death (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Without Jesus, we are not okay.
In a culture of confusion and chaos about God, knowledge, and life, Paul shared truth.
“‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.'”Acts 17:2425
Paul established God as Creator, which conflicted with the views of many Greeks, who feared offending any god, and the Stoics, who believed God was part of nature.
“‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.'”Acts 17:26
Paul taught that God is sovereign over every aspect of life, which conflicted with the ideas of the Epicureans, who believed things were left to chance.
“‘God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”‘”Acts 17:27-28
Paul then quoted two of the Greeks’ own poets. He used their own ideas to lead them to truth.
“‘Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.'”Acts 17:29-30
Paul then presented them with the Gospel of repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ, who was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.
“When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.”Acts 17:32-34
Just as we can sometimes become confused about what is true in our culture, I’m sure Damaris had similar questions. Because she was present at the meeting of the Areopagus, many believe she was a woman of means and intelligence.
She probably had listened to many debates among scholars and thinkers of the day, often with very differing views. We sometimes can hear two sides of an issue, and both sides seem compelling. How do we know what is true?
Many will tell us that truth is relative. They believe there is no standard of truth because no one can really know what is true. But if we say that we can’t know truth, our very statement can’t be true.
And if we say what is true for you is your truth, and what is true for me is my truth, we are saying two possibly opposite ideas can both be true. But two opposite ideas cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.
Truth is what matches reality. And it is not subject to the individual; truth is absolute.
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.”John 21:24
John’s testimony corresponded to reality, because there were others who witnessed to this truth. If we want to know truth, we need to read and study the Word of God, the source of all truth.
We can easily be deceived by the many ideas and philosophies we hear today, even as Christians. If our theology is derived from memes and blog posts, rather than Scripture, we need to turn back to the Word.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”Colossians 2:8
Damaris responded to the truth when she heard it. May we be so rooted and grounded in the Word of God, that we too can respond to truth and reject what does not line up. Only then can we obey the Great Commission to make disciples, teaching them to obey what Christ has commanded (Matthew 29:19-20).
For more on women of the Bible, check out my latest book, Just Like Us: Wisdom from the Women of the Bible.
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