The Problem with Half Truths in Preaching

15/10/2012 — 4 Comments

You’ve probably heard or read this quote before, “The problem with half-truths is if you have the wrong half.” Well, the truth is that there is no such thing as a half truth. It doesn’t really matter which half you have, they are both falsehoods. I am not the first person to point this out. A casual scan through classical authors and ancient proverbs confirms this. It was Mark Twain who said that “a half truth is the most cowardly of lies.” Alfred Lord Tennyson put it even more darkly, “a lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.” A Yiddish proverb goes straight to the point, “a half truth is a whole lie”. So, what happens when we preach half-truths about God? But even before we answer this, what is considered a half-truth about God?

Here’s a point to ponder upon in your free time – Can we say that Islam is mostly true but not entirely true – considering that many of its teachings are exactly the same as those found in the Bible’s Old Testament?

The truth about half-truths is that they are not truths at all. Both halves are false. If we are talking about the nature of truth, then there’s no such thing as a half truth since nature is not quantifiable. You either know truly or you don’t. If we are talking about the quantity of truth, then only God knows anything fully. We can know truly without having to know fully (1 Cor 13: 12). Since God is omniscient, it is incoherent to speak about half the amount of knowledge God has about anything. So, there is really no such thing as a half truth. We should therefore not be comforted by such an idea.We are never really headed towards truth or away from it. There are no almost truths. We are either in it or outside of it. Forgive my grammar, we are either in Him or outside of Him. Truth is a person.

Jesus is the truth. To know Jesus is to know the truth. But what does it mean to know Jesus? Is knowing Jesus akin to knowing about Him or is it something else? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses know Jesus? Does Lucifer know Jesus? What does it mean to truly know Jesus? The answer to this question is the answer to the question “how can we truly know the truth?” And what is this answer? The Gospel of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To truly know Jesus is to be born again. It is to be redeemed from the wrath of God, the curse of sin. To truly know Jesus is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is to be reconciled to God.

And to truly know anything else in this world is to know it in light of the ultimate truth that makes sense of everything else – the reconciliation of God with His creation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no truth outside of the Gospel because there is no truth outside of Christ. Even our ideas about Christ that we get from the Bible must be subjected to the Gospel. They must be CROSS-examined. The Cross is the dividing line between all truth and all falsehood. The line cannot be drawn anywhere else apart from the Cross. The same applies to the truth about sanctification, the truth about marriage, the truth about our sexuality and so forth…

Therefore, preaching the Gospel without preaching sanctification may be considered half the story, but it is not half the truth. However, preaching sanctification without preaching the Gospel is neither half the story nor half the truth. It is another story altogether because we are no longer preaching biblical sanctification. The centrality of the Gospel in preaching is not hierarchical but foundational. It is not just the Gospel over all. It is the Gospel over, under and in all. “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” [Romans 11:36]. Jesus is more than a pointer to holy living, He is the point of holy living.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that every sermon that does not make an explicit mention of the Gospel is unbiblical. I am also not saying that any preacher that preaches an unbiblical sermon is not a true Christian. No, that’s not what I am saying at all. What I mean is that a redemptive attitude must permeate all preaching. Teachers and preachers must pray for the Spirit to train their minds for this. The Gospel must always be implied, even when it is not explicitly presented. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in many sermons or even on many pulpits. And that is why I am imploring all Christians to be vigilant and discerning.

Now, in the sermon that I reviewed recently, by Pastor K, the worldview expressed in the message revealed a distinct, almost explicit lack in the power of the Gospel for sanctification. What I mean is that the reasons that were given as to why we should reform our sexuality are not the ultimate reasons given in the Bible. They are almost true, yet, not quite.

Let me use an illustration. God wants us to love our neighbors. When we love our neighbors, there are advantages that come with that. E.g. we will be at peace with them, we will be happier, we will be doing what Jesus commanded, we will even create opportunities for sharing the Gospel with them. Those are good, social, psychological, missiological & often inevitable consequences of loving our neighbors. You don’t even need the Bible to predict those advantages. They are purely psychological & philosophical in nature. The problem is that they are not ultimately Christ-of-the-Cross-centered. They seem to somehow go only as high as the happiness of human beings, and the supremacy and glory of God is an appendix attached at the end.

The ultimate [true] reason for loving our neighbors must begin with a God who is love, making us in His image to display this intra-trinitarian love in community so that He may be glorified in our love for our neighbors. But then we realize that, because of sin, we are broken and dead reflectors of God’s image. We have rebelled against God. We are no longer able to love as we ought – as we are meant to. There is only one way through which we can be able to love as we ought, through Christ. Not through resolve, sheer determination and plenty of positive thinking – even though these are good. Not even through taking cues from the teachings and the life of Jesus recorded on our WWJD arm bands. No, something much more drastic must happen. Christ must take our place. There is no escaping the Cross. True Christianity is all about the Jesus of the Cross. Ignore the reality and centrality of the Gospel at your own peril.

“I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!”

[Acts 20:25-30]

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In His service and for His glory,

Cornell

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4 responses to The Problem with Half Truths in Preaching

  1. 

    Thanks Cornell for these articles. You have in some way made the message of the cross more clear and dear to me. Truly, apart from Christ, there is nothing we can do. Thanks again, and may God bless you 🙂

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