Opposing Caesar (6)
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also...”
In the world of the Roman Empire, “truth” was highly pragmatic. Whatever sufficed, or whatever one had to do in order to survive and prosper within the Roman system was considered “true.” But most people knew this was only a façade. When Pilate chided Jesus with his “What is truth?” retort, he was not so much asking a question as declaring a conviction, that truth, as desirable as it may be, is not something the average Roman could ever expect to know.
For Pilate and people all over the Roman world, “truth” was whatever the Emperor decreed and the Senate confirmed. To stand against Rome and her view of truth was as foolish as defying the law of gravity. You could end up getting seriously hurt.
What goes around comes around. Today, once again, we have entered an age in which pragmatism is the standard of truth: whatever works to get us what we want, and leave room for others to get what they want, must be true. The only fixed norm of truth in ancient Rome was the capricious brain of the Emperor. Whatever fixed norm of truth exists today is similarly to be found within the desires and decisions of individual men and women. To suggest otherwise – to suggest that people are not finally and fully autonomous – is to open oneself to ridicule, or worse.
Those who believe that “truth is what you make it” have little patience with those who insist that “Truth is what God declares.” Jesus Christ claims to be the Truth; He tells us that His Word is Truth, and that, as we live our lives trusting in Him and abiding by His Word, we will know the Truth that sets us free from the death-grip of sin, doubt, fear, hopelessness, and death.
Paul and his friends got in trouble in Thessalonica – as in many other places – because they challenged the extant standards of truth and insisted that Christ and His Word alone are Truth. A good many people, and many of them people of influence and power, were heavily invested in the pragmatic view of truth practiced throughout the Roman Empire, and they were not going to take it lying down to be told they had been downright lied to all their lives.
The Christian claim to know the Truth sounds arrogant, unrealistic, and condemnatory to the pragmatists of our day, just as it did in ancient Rome. The Christian practice of resorting to Scripture for solutions to whatever seems wrong with life is greeted with scorn and denunciation by those who will not yield their presumed autonomy to an ancient Book and its defenders. They will have none of such nonsense in their public square.
In our day, as in ancient Rome, the powers-that-be and their cultural elite sidekicks have captured the bully pulpits of the land, and they are using them to propagandize a view of truth that could not sustain the Roman Empire against internal corruption, and will not sustain ours. At the risk of scorn, opposition, and conflict of various kinds, Christians, who know the Truth as it is in Jesus, must stand up and declare their allegiance, expose the folly of pragmatic unbelief, and call the world to its senses, before it is too late.
For while many Christians may find it easier and less threatening to sit silently by while proponents of the Lie poison every nook and cranny of life with the myth of pragmatism, God will not. Even now His wrath is beginning to be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Let’s make sure that we don’t, by our craven silence, find ourselves on the wrong side of the Lord.
This week’s series, Opposing Caesar, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more insight to this topic, get the book, Worldviews in Conflict, by Ronald Nash, from our online store. We also encourage you to begin your own group study of The Manhattan Declaration, a concise and eminently reasonable call for Christians to take their stand against the encroachment of the State.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.