by J. Randal Matheny
The night was cold, and the trip was slower because of Friday afternoon traffic. The timing for our departure from home was bad, and Vicki and I missed dinner before we left. As we arrived in São Paulo, traffic was backed up, and we hit other bottlenecks along the way. All told, the trip took us two hours.
July is vacation month in Brazil, and that, coupled with the chilly weather, kept some away. Still over 20 people appeared for the special study sponsored by the School of the Bible. The school is an outreach that offers regular classes, but this study was a monthly feature for students, dealing with more polemical and thorny topics.
Months earlier I had been invited to speak on the topic, “The True Biblical Baptism.”
Little did I know that Pope Benedict XVI would set up my topic nicely.
On July 10 two documents were released by the Vatican which affirmed the view that the Catholic Church is the one true church. It denied that “the Catholic Church has ceased to regard herself as the one true Church of Christ.”/1
The first document quoted the Vatican II Council that “[t]his one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic … constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”/2
The religious world was chagrined that such exclusivistic language was used. Since most are today influenced by a relativistic post-modern view of the subjectivity of truth, this type of language was unwelcome.
But it is easier to talk with this kind of Catholic, who believes that a certain “true” thing exists, than with a religious person for whom truth is relative, and your truth, however good and wholesome for you, may not be the truth for him. Conversations with such a person tends to make one feel like Alice in Wonderland has come to real life.
So my comments that cold Friday night used the Vatican’s documents as material to work on the concept of what is true. Even considering the concept implies an objective pattern, model, example or form.
Like when my wife decided she wanted curtains in the house. She decided to have a sister in Christ who is a seamstress make them. Vicki measured the windows and called the seamstress with the measurements. But when she went to get the curtains, they didn’t fit. For some inexplicable reason, there was a difference between her tape measure and the seamstress’s. The truth of one was not the truth of the other. Somebody’s tape measure was off.
Religious, moral and spiritual questions have a tape measure call Holy Scripture. If I measure my life, faith and practice with a tape measure that doesn’t match the Bible, on the final day I’ll discover that my faith won’t fit in heaven.
If my baptism isn’t the true biblical baptism, I’ll be lost in my sins. If the church of which I’m a part isn’t the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’ll not enter into eternal joy with his people.
Post-moderns and other relativistic folk can easily tell when somebody is shortchanging them at the cash register, because they have an objective standard. It’s a shame they refuse the true standard God has given in the Bible.
For them, true in the religious sense means whatever they want it to mean.
Last Friday night, during our coffee break, we discussed what the temperature must have been. No post-moderns there, since nobody dared say the temperature is whatever you feel like it is.
We all knew it was cold. And when we opened the Bible, we all could know what was true for everyone, everywhere, for all time. Because we had the measurements right in front of us.
What is true in religion is not what you want it to be, but what God has said is true.