What Determines Truth for You?

“You can’t argue against someone’s experience”

“But this book {that doesn’t line up with scripture} helped me and made me feel closer to God.”

“We play rock music in our church service {or have sermons based on movies or hold church poker nights} because it makes the unsaved feel comfortable and want to come.”

These are all things that I’ve heard people say at least once. Some more than once. And it makes sense to them. If something works why not use it or read it or do it?

In other words, truth is determined by consequences.

Pragmatism first became popular in the late 1800s and was introduced to society by several different men–two of whom you may recognize. John Dewey, of library fame (Dewey decimal system) and C.S. Lewis, the “Christian” apologist. I use quotes because C.S. Lewis’s beliefs and interests were actually not all in line with the Cristian faith (see here and here and here for more information). I continue to remain amazed and dismayed that he has become so respected in the Christian world.

There are some real problems with the ideology of pragmatism for a Christian. Although Christians try to join their biblical beliefs with this philosophy all the time, we can see how pragmatism is a slippery slope that leads us away from scripture.

First, we have to recognize that only one thing can determine truth. Is it scripture or is it by what works? We can’t philosophically have it both ways. We will have to make a choice.

For instance, take the Christian who reads a book that makes them feel good but has a message that does not align with scripture and then they go on to recommend that book to all of their friends. They have chosen pragmatism over scripture. By default, they have made the choice to elevate the consequences (their good feelings) over what the Bible says.

Or take a church that brings in secular rock music or worldly movies to their services. They nobly profess to do this to make the unbeliever comfortable. This works. But, again, they are elevating what works (unsaved in their pews and feeling comfortable) over what scripture teaches (Love not the world or the things that are in the world I John 2:15).

In fact, that church had already given in to pragmatism when they realized that their numbers would increase if they chose to market to the unsaved rather than to follow the biblical church model. In scripture we find that the local church isn’t for the unsaved but for the saved; and that it doesn’t exist to make us feel comfortable but to encourage, teach and support us as we strive to grow in holiness. Comfort is never the goal of church. For saved or unsaved. And, yet, pragmatism, would say that comfortable = increased numbers at church. See how this works?

Can you see how this has infiltrated and changed everything?

It has crept into our own lives far more than we even realize. I wrote in this post how I was struggling to get through Jeremiah and mentioned to my brother (Pastor Dean) that I just wasn’t enjoying that particular book of the Bible. He laughed and reminded me that the Bible wasn’t for my enjoyment but to teach me about God. Oh, how dismayed I was to realize that I was viewing my personal Bible reading pragmatically! I was judging my Bible reading by how it made me feel.

Can you see how seductive this belief is? How invasive and natural it has become for us to judge things in this manner? We see it not only in churches, but on a large scale in the corporate world, in the academic realm, and everywhere else. It has invaded en masse and it’s not going anywhere soon.

But we can’t have it both ways. We can’t have our experience determine truth and the Bible determine truth. If we don’t intentionally set a line in the sand and say we choose the Bible, I can almost guarantee that we will be lured away into this dangerous and faith-squashing philosophy.

Second, we have to recognize that if truth is determined by consequences, then it must follow that truth is changeable. What works one year may not work another year. What worked in the past may not work in the future.

But God tells us that truth never changes. His Word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is the same forever. Isaiah 40:7-8 puts it like this–

All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

Peter repeats this thought in I Peter 1:23-25

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth [i]through the Spirit in [j]sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of [k]corruptible seed but [l]incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides [m]forever, 24 because

“All flesh is as grass,
And all[n]the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the[o]word of the Lord endures forever.”

From these verses we know that God’s truth does not change. Current culture does not change it. Modern desires and demands do not change it. Because truth doesn’t change.

The Bible remains a blessed anchor in the midst of a world where “truth” is what anyone wants it to be. Where “truth” is what works for that moment.

Pragmatism is a big word but it has literally affected each and every one of us. It is important that we examine our hearts and lives for the fruits of this deadly philosophy that so easily and subtly slip in.

Because we know that the Scripture does determine truth and we know that the truth we find there never changes. What a relief in this ever-changing and mixed-up world!


*A link for further research–

ThoughtCo:What is Pragmatism?


8 thoughts on “What Determines Truth for You?”

  1. This post made me sad. I really appreciate your blog, but feel sad that you would “trash” a brother who deeply, sincerely loved Jesus and tried to honor Him because there was a lot he got wrong. In fact, I believe it’s guaranteed that WHATEVER Christian writer you read or quote will get some things wrong. We need to reject what’s wrong but not be ashamed to hold fast to what is good in our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. I can only assume you are referring to C.S. Lewis? Did you read the articles I gave? I would ask: How much can one get wrong before they become someone we should avoid? How much can they get wrong before they should not be considered a “Christian” if we are defining the term by scripture? Lewis didn’t believe in original sin, he doesn’t believe in the biblical atonement, he doesn’t believe there is a hell, and he believes some people will be saved without ever knowing Christ (universalism). You don’t think these are deal breakers?

      And I guess the other question I would have is how do you know that he “deeply, sincerely loved Jesus”? Have you talked with him? Because he said so? Deep, sincere love of Jesus is shown by our actions (John 14:15; I John 5:3). For example, when Jesus says He is the only way (John 14:6) then we are not showing Him love if we write, speak, or otherwise communicate that people can reach heaven without Him. This would be the opposite of love, because we are teaching what goes against what Jesus taught. Words are easy but if actions don’t back them up they mean nothing.

      I am sorry that you are upset but I don’t apologize for naming Lewis. When we allow ourselves to read those who are off on core doctrines, we are easily swept up into the stream of false doctrines, as well. Personally, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I do hope my readers would feel the same way. Hope that at least gives you the reason why I did what I did :)

      1. Obviously I have not spoken to Lewis in person. I haven’t spoken to you, either, who knows what you are like face to face! ;-) We’ll have to agree to differ, I think. Nothing I have read by Lewis has tempted me to dismiss faith in Christ as God in the Flesh, or the Bible as God’s Word, or my own need for Christ’s atoning death, etc, etc.Yes, sometimes I think something he writes sounds a bit “off” but I feel free to say, naah, I don’t think so, and move on. I bet sometimes I say things a little “off” too, no matter how faithful to the truth I sincerely desire to be.
        InIerestingly, I notice you refer to Luther and Calvin as heroes of the faith in a later post. I have a dear friend, a Jewish believer, who was horrified that anyone would celebrate Reformation Sunday when Luther was such a rabid anti-Semite. And while I confess I have read very little of Calvin’s original writings, some of what I hear of as Calvinist doctrine today is so abhorrent to me that I want to run the other way from anything labeled Calvinist.
        Yes, there are popular “Christian” authors that I would NEVER recommend, But I think it’s also true that you could dig up dirt on anybody you’d care to name–other than Jesus, of course!
        May God bless you, dear sister in Christ.

        1. While I know Luther was anti-semitic (something I do not approve of in any way) I do not believe this is a core doctrine. I don’t agree with him but it is not a salvific issue. I am not aware of every little thing that Calvin held to, however, I am very aware that he has been much maligned and much that has his name attached did not even originate with him. But, again, any issues he had were not salvific. Meaning they are secondary issues. I read many books by authors with whom I wouldn’t agree on these secondary, non-salvific issues. I do draw the line, however, at reading someone who would teach that someone can be saved without Jesus and who denies the atonement as taught in the scriptures, as C.S. Lewis does. These should be major red flags for any Christian. But, as you said, I believe we will need to agree to disagree :) I hope you will still keep reading the blog, anyway, despite this difference. And I do hope you will give this further thought and read the posts about him, to help you discern a bit better when you do read his work. :)

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