Bill, thank you so much for posting this!
On Fri, 12 Apr 1996, Bill Hamilton wrote:
> Some time ago I mentioned an article by William Willimon in the 4 March
> Christianity Today on the evolution reflector and/or the asa reflector.
> Gordie Simon forwarded the folowing review of that article. With the
> author's permission, I am making it available to the evolution and asa
> This doesn't imply endorsement. I certainly don't agree with everything
> Howard writes. But I think Willimon's article deserves discussion, and
> Howard's review is a good start.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sun, 3 Mar 1996 00:48:32 -0500
> From: HOWARDLION@aol.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Cc: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: Jesus' Peculiar Truth (long)
> Please allow an old Schaefferian to put in an oar on the issue of truth as
> raised by William H Willimon in his Christianity Today article "Jesus'
> Particular Truth," March 4, 1996. pp. 21-22.
> I agree with Willimon that knowing facts about God is not the same as knowing
> God. Mere cognition is not relationship. Likewise, in contrast to Aquinas,
> Willimon recognizes that our intellect is marred by our sin, just as is the
> rest of who we are. Only by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit in our
> heart can we receive Christ. But Willimon presses his points too far.
> I really do not believe that there are varieties to truth. Truth is simply
> accurate information about something that exists. All other definitions
> mislead by centering in one way or another on humanity's perceptions,
> experiences, thoughts, or acts of will. False meanings of truth include
> focusing on arrogant or despairing human subjectivity, and slicing truth into
> various epistomological compartments such as spiritual and religious truth,
> artistic and mythic truth, and scientific and rational truth. Another common
> mistake is to blend "Truth" with deity. This can be done by such turns of
> thinking as granting truth a reality apart from particulars (Plato), viewing
> truth as part of a monistic ultimate reality (Buddhism), or by personifying
> truth as Jesus (Willimon).
> All such concepts lead us astray from acquiring reliable information about
> what and who is "out there", including ourselves. Truth is to be discovered;
> it cannot be invented, asserted, felt, or met.
> I am reminded of the story of a friendly cat that one warm day wandered into
> a first grade classroom. As the children took turns petting the purring
> feline, the teacher took advantage of the "teachable moment" to ask the
> pupils about its appearance and behavior. Things went smoothly until the
> children began to wonder about the cat's gender. Not wishing to get into
> that subject, the teacher tried to move the attention of the class to other
> things, but little Johnny was adamant that he knew how to tell whether it was
> a boy cat or a girl cat. In resignation the teacher asked, "Okay, Johnny,
> how can we tell?" "We can VOTE!" Johnny proclaimed.
> Willimon claims that "the truth is a person, personal" and the person is
> Jesus. This is an inversion of Jesus' claim to be "the truth." In saying
> this in connection with being also "the way and the life," Jesus meant that
> He is the prime, trustworthy source for reliable information about His
> Father's provision for making people right with Himself. As the writer of
> Hebrews points out, Jesus, who is greater than Moses, is the greatest of the
> prophets. He spoke to the people for His Father by His words, actions, and
> Willimon is correct in saying that what God through the gospel offers us is
> "not absolute truth reduced to propositions," but rather Jesus. But
> Willimon makes it seem as if we must separate Jesus from "absolute truth."
> This is totally false and unnecessary. In John 9 a man born blind met
> Jesus and was healed by Him. But he did not realize who Jesus was. Knowing
> that this man had healed him, the former blind man concluded that Jesus must
> be a prophet, a man sent by God. The healed man stood by his conclusion
> about Jesus in the face of enormous pressure from the religious
> establishment. But he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. The man's
> problem was not a moral one. It was an intellectual one. He lacked
> information. So Jesus came back and told the man that He was the Messiah and
> the man worshipped Him.
> For more than twelve years now I have worked full-time to introduce people of
> other cultures to Jesus Christ. Sometimes my international friends need
> simply to be told the Good News, that is, reliable information about Jesus.
> Once told, they welcome Him into their hearts. One man from mainland China
> announced to me that he had come to the US "to learn the name of God." "In
> my country," he continued, "we cannot learn his name. But here I can. I
> believe he is the God of the Bible." Not surprisingly, this man believed in
> Christ almost immediately after hearing the gospel.
> Other international friends come to understand the gospel, but find the cost
> of trusting in Christ too high. Some refuse because they realize they would
> have to give up their independence or their sinful ways. Other times the
> chief reason is relational. For example, a Chinese Malaysian woman told me
> that if she stayed in the US, she would become a Christian because she
> recognized that Jesus was the only way to be reconciled to God. But since she
> must return to Malaysia with her husband, she dared not embrace Christ. If
> she became a Christian, she would lose her children and her husband because
> her Malay husband was, by law as well as heart, a Muslim.
> Willimon claims that John is the only Gospel that "bothers much with 'truth'
> talk." This is inaccurate. All four Gospel writers show concern to present
> reliable information about Jesus. Luke introduces his Gospel by saying he
> has "carefully investigated everything from the beginning' and has written
> "an orderly account" so that the reader "may know the certainty of things."
> Like Luke, Matthew and Mark carefully record the acts and teachings of
> Jesus, including His propositional claims about Himself.
> The Bible does not start with us, but with God, an always existing Person who
> created the matter-energy-time framework of our earthly existence. This God
> of the Bible created us with an ability to discover accurate information
> about the universe, and holds us accountable for any failure on our part to
> recognize His existence and honor His greatness through our day-to-day
> experiences in His universe (Romans 1).
> Moreover, Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:17 affirm that Christ also sustains
> the universe by His word of power. Therefore, Willimon's supposition that
> "objective, absolute truth" can somehow exist as something unindebted to and
> separate from Christ and His willful, specific activity is erroneous. No
> matter how humans "vote," Christ holds all things together. We are never
> truly "on our own."
> Willimon declares that we people "do not have the resources, on our own, to
> think about matters like God, truth, peace, justice before knowing Jesus."
> This extreme statement removes any common ground for dialogue, let alone
> cooperation, between Christians and non-Christians in such matters as public
> policy, education, and science. It overlooks the fact that while all people
> are sinful, we also bear God's image. The concept of total depravity means
> that all our actions and motives are tainted by sin. But this does not mean
> that our actions and motives are nothing but depravity and falsehood.
> Non-Christians and Christians can join together to outlaw slavery and to try
> to find cures for cancer.
> The Bible tells us that this same God has spoken to us in a way that we, made
> in His image, can understand. He emptied Himself and became human, lived a
> righteous life, died for our sins, and rose again to give us His life if we
> will receive Him. He also caused about 40 humans to write a special record
> of His dealings with us, focusing on the life, death, and resurrection of
> Himself as the only begotten Son. This special record, the Bible, is
> accurate and understandable to humans of all ages, levels of intelligence,
> and ethnic and cultural backgrounds as thousands of Christian missionaries
> over the centuries will attest.
> Willimon would have us believe that "it is a mistake to talk to people as if
> they are capable of knowing the truth if it is skillfully argued before
> them." But surely Peter, Stephen, Phillip the Evangelist, and Paul, as they
> proclaimed the gospel as recorded in the book of Acts, believed just the
> opposite. So did the writers of the New Testament. Hence Peter claims that
> his hearers may rely on his testimony that Jesus rose from the dead because
> "we are all witnesses of the fact" (Ac 2:32). Paul declares in 2 Co 5 that
> God has appointed him and his fellow believers to be His ambassadors whose
> job it is to communicate His message of reconciliation with accuracy and
> cultural appropriateness.
> Of course, the response of the hearers of the gospel varies. In Acts many
> rejected the gospel while many others welcomed it and turned their hearts
> over to Christ. The latter did so only by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
> But as J.I. Packer rightly observes in "Evangelism and the Soveignty of
> God," the biblical concept of evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the
> gospel. No reference to results is appropriate.
> Having raised all these objections to Willimon's article, I must conclude by
> saying that I value his call that we Christians be cross-culturally
> sensitive. He rightly describes the culture in which we live as toxic,
> relativistic, morally chaotic, deceptive and deceived, anxious, dislocated,
> and alienated from God, He is correct in observing that a reference to
> "absolute truth" may not be the best way for us Christians to begin a
> dialogue with children of this relativistic age.
> However, even the most ardent relativist knows not to attempt to get to Japan
> from the US by bicycle. And there is no way to introduce him or her to the
> real Jesus without communicating absolutes.
> Bill Hamilton | Chassis & Vehicle Systems
> GM R&D Center | Warren, MI 48090-9055
> 810 986 1474 (voice) | 810 986 3003 (FAX)
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