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What is Truth? Critique of Frank Peretti’s talk at Real Life Ministries

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The famed science fiction/thriller author Frank Peretti spoke at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls this weekend. Peretti is the author of many popular bestsellers, including “This Present Darkness,” “Monster,” and his latest “Illusion.”  His speaking style was warm and affable, more like a comedian than a preacher, leaving the packed house laughing in the aisles.

Peretti’s definition of truth was a fixed point of reference. It must have two qualities: it must be separate from you, and it cannot move. For demonstration purposes, he used a stool on the stage. As long as the stool remains planted in one spot, it serves as a reference point. But modern humanity has picked up the stool and walked away with it.

“A lot of people think they can take the truth, make it their own, and move it around,” he said.

Using Acts 17:24-31 as his text, Peretti proposed that Christianity is the only philosophy to answer the four big questions of life: origin, meaning, morals, and destiny. People want to know where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going. His talk centered mostly on absolutes. The infallible certainty of the Bible was the focus, pitted against a contemporary philosophical claim that there is no truth at all. Extreme viewpoints of science and philosophy were expressed for purposes of contrast. Evolution was described as “from the goo, through the zoo, to you.” God’s love gives self-esteem, but children are taught in schools they are nothing more than cosmic accidents.

What I found missing was any discussion of biblical interpretation. Orthodox Christianity, as was handed down to us from generations of our forefathers, has a wealth of knowledge going back 2,000 years. Take Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century as an example.

Thomas said, “Scripture speaks according to the opinion of the people,” meaning Genesis relates to the scientific and philosophical understanding of the time it was written, not ours. Augustine, in the early 5th century, wrote at great length of the difficulty of fallible human beings to get the Bible right. According to Augustine, interpretation must be informed by the latest developments in science (then called natural theology) and philosophy. Unbelievably, Peretti ignored all of this.

Even more ironic, Peretti spoke of absolute truth, yet his version of the truth is a very recent development. As late as 1900, every Christian leader had fully accepted Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Obviously this changed, so where did Peretti’s opposition come from?  If it were infallible truth, then certainly earlier generations would have born testimony. But my idea of what the Bible says differs from yours, and yours from Peretti’s, and we three differ from the other 7 billion people on the planet.  That’s why we need 23 quadzillion different Christian denominations (does anybody really know how many there are?) In tiny little Post Falls alone, I can’t even count the number of different churches constantly springing up. Each one has a different understanding of what the Bible says; that’s why a new church is needed, right?  So which is the absolute one?  Of course it’s going to be mine and not yours!

Although I enjoyed Peretti’s talk immensely, I came away deeply disappointed. If renowned leaders such as Peretti forget the knowledge of the past, where is our hope for the future? “Then I said, ‘For how long, O Lord?’ And he answered: ‘Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken,’”  Isaiah 6:11-12 (NIV).

Bruce Meyer
Bruce Meyerhttp://www.dominsions.com
Bruce Meyer writes about the relationship between the physical universe and the pursuit of spirituality.

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8 COMMENTS

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Eric Blauer
12 years ago

Bruce, your review seems a bit thin, was your take away only the evolution angle? If so, how does evo answer his claim and challenge:

“Using Acts 17:24-31 as his text, Peretti proposed that Christianity is the only philosophy to answer the four big questions of life: origin, meaning, morals, and destiny.

If these are the big four, what’s your take on a response?

And as far as science goes, it’s been a evolving truth for millennia too, right? Different people believing different things, etc…seems your crtique applies to science as well, beyond some main core truths.

Bruce
Bruce
12 years ago

Thanks Eric- good insights- I agree with Peretti that Christianity answers the four big questions. Evolution does not answer any of them, not even origins, And I agree with you that science is always changing and evolving. There is nothing in science that can answer any of these questions. That realm belongs only to religion, and will always belong only to religion.

Peretti took many shots at Evolution during his talk, and it was apparent he sees Christianity and Evolution in conflict. This is why I used evolution as an example, From my point, this is a big misunderstanding of Christianity as it has been handed down to us from the church fathers and our two thousand year Christian heritage. If we follow the traditions of Christianity, there is no conflict between Christianity and the science of evolution. Certainly there are problems with certain scientists or philosophers acting on their own (such as the philosophy of scientism) but evolution as a science does or says nothing to conflict with Christianity.

As far as answering the big questions of life, I am in agreement with Peretti. But if the church continues to do battle with evolution, it’s going to drive people to look for answers somewhere else. This is my big problem with churches like Real Life Ministries.

Ernesto Tinajero
Ernesto Tinajero
12 years ago

The four questions that Frank is reported to say the Bible answer: origin, meaning, morals, and destiny sadden me, because all too often these the question that many contemporary Christian want answered. They are also not the prime questions of the Bible, and can lead us astray, because we fail to ask the questions the Bible does ask. The Bible concerns itself with four other questions far more important than the ones the Frank reports. We know in the first century the most important question for philosophy of the Roman Empire was Aristotle’s “What is the Good Life?” The New Testament answers this question with the simple Jesus and following Jesus. The Tanak asked other three questions (and the New extends them as well): Who is God? Who is Humanity? What is the relationship between the two? All other questions are secondary and even minor compared to those four.
Unfortunately, the modern church has stopped asking those and is asking the Enlightenment questions of: origin, meaning, morals, and destiny, much to its detriment. When we view Adam as only a historical character, we can avoid the uncomfortable question of how we share with Adam a nature to be silent in the face of wrong. Since the Bible was not written in 1850, we have to break the bad habit of reading it as it was. Plus those four biblical questions are more important to living that the those of origin, meaning, morals, and destiny.

Bruce
Bruce
12 years ago

Thanks Ernesto- Great insights- I appreciate your input!

Eric Blauer
12 years ago

Wow…Ernesto for the WIN! Slam dunk…I’m like Job, I will sit and put my hand over my mouth. Good stuff.

Bruce, I share our frustration that open and sincere dialogue is rare I’m these matters, I think on both sides really. Both presumes you are an ignoramus or heretic if you don’t tout the party lines.

I’d be interested in seeing a solid attempt to address the issues with a panel presentation and group dialogue format sometime. Maybe SpokaneFAVS could host such event? Not a cage match but a sincere attempt to dialough and debate with friends not opponents. Not sure if such a posture is possible with most folks, it’s seems to go ballistic fast these days but I’d sure love it.

Side note: does any other regular have to sign in every single time I want to comment? This makes me want to just respond via Facebook. Ugh.

Bruce
Bruce
12 years ago

Eric- great idea! In fact we’ve been working on a type of panel presentation. It should be ready soon here on Spokane FAVS. Once it’s ready, I’d value your input.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
12 years ago

Eric, I think you’re having to sign in every time because you’re on an iPad or iPhone – we’re workin’ on it. Please bear with us!

Ernesto Tinajero
Ernesto Tinajero
12 years ago

Eric,

Thanks for you comment. It made my day.

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