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More than Propositions, but Not Less*


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The reason behind postmodernism’s contempt for propositional truth is not difficult to understand. A proposition is an idea framed as a logical statement that affirms or denies something, and it is expressed in such a way that it must be either true or false. There is no third option between true and false. (This is the “excluded middle” in logic.) The whole point of a proposition is to boil a truth statement down to such a pristine clarity that it must be either affirmed or denied. In other words, propositions are the simplest expressions of truth value used to express the substance of what we believe. Postmodernism, frankly, cannot endure that kind of stark clarity.

In reality, however, postmodernism’s rejection of the propositional form turns out to be totally untenable. It is impossible to discuss truth at all—or even tell a story—without resorting the use of propositions. Until fairly recently, the validity and necessity of expressing truth in propositional form was considered self-evident by virtually everyone who ever studied logic, semantics, philosophy, or theology. Ironically, to make any cogent argument against the use of propositions, a person would have to employ propositional statements! So every argument against propositions is instantly self-defeating.

Let’s be clear: truth certainly does entail more than bare propositions. There is without question a personal element to the truth. Jesus Himself made that point when He declared Himself truth incarnate. Scripture also teaches that faith means receiving Christ for all that He is—knowing Him in a real and personal sense and being indwelt by Him—not merely assenting to a short list of disembodied truths about Him (Matthew 7:21–23).

So it is quite true that faith cannot be reduced to mere assent to a finite set of propositions (James 2:19). . . . Saving faith is more than a merely intellectual nod of approval to the bare facts of a minimalist gospel outline. Authentic faith in Christ involves love for His person and willingness to surrender to His authority the human heart, will, and intellectual consent in the act of faith. In that sense, it is certainly correct, even necessary, to acknowledge that mere propositions can’t do full justice to all the dimensions of truth.

On the other hand, truth simply cannot survive if stripped of propositional content. While it is quite true that believing the truth entails more than the assent of the human intellect to certain propositions, it equally true that authentic faith never involves anything less. To reject the propositional content of the gospel is to forfeit saving faith, period.

—John MacArthur, The Truth War (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 14–15.

* First posted January 7, 2008.



Posted 2019·07·08 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Reruns

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