Presenting Propositional Truth With Conviction and Compassion
Imagine a person getting ready to meet with a doctor to hear the results of a biopsy. Now imagine how ludicrous it would be for that person to say, "Hey Doc. Could you perhaps not get too literal in your explanation of my test results? How about presenting it to me in the form of an allegory? Or maybe you could make the results sound more like a "fantasy" than a reality? I don't think I am ready to hear the results just blurted out as a matter of fact. What do you think Doc? Can you help me out here?"
That hypothetical patient represents a dominant mindset in our world today. Many people have become extremely resistant to the idea of propositional truth, not in the area of medicine, but when it comes to God, eternity, sin, and forgiveness. You sound like an "absolutist" if you are overly dogmatic on religious assertions. That was actually the term someone used years ago when suggesting that I present God's Word with less certainty. In fact, people who don't believe that God's Word is "God-breathed" (see 2 Tim. 3:16) may even think you are arrogant if you present propositional truth with assurance and conviction.
There is no doubt that some professing believers have been arrogant in their hearts when presenting propositional truth. However, that arrogance comes from the flesh and not from the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is filling a person, he or she is filled with the love of God for those who are hearing the message, as well as with a spirit of humility. In our world today, many think that presenting "doubts" about God and His Word somehow seems more loving than presenting propositional truth in a factual manner. It sounds more "tolerant of other views" when you keep your positions and your doctrines "loose" and flexible.
Our Lord never used that deadly approach. Jesus always told the truth, and He did so with clarity and compassion. Sometimes He spoke very directly about the facts of sin, forgiveness and eternity. Other times He used parables to teach the lesson. Both approaches were extremely effective, and both approaches were aimed at presenting a message that is absolutely true and necessary for the spiritual well-being of the hearers.
Christians are in a sense like doctors. We have been given tools and wisdom from God to help diagnose spiritual issues, and spiritual problems, and spiritual solutions. We can beat around the bush, or we can tell it like it is, but we don't help anyone if we act as though propositional truth is "up for grabs." It isn't. God has established the boundaries, and the facts, and the solution to man's sin. There are various ways to illustrate the story, but the facts of the story don't change. If we give the impression that the facts of sin and grace, and the cross and the empty tomb are somehow up for grabs, then we deny the very Lord who bought us with His own blood.
Now there is a pretty radical proposition: God purchasing men with His blood. (See Acts 20:28 & Rev. 5:9) Too graphic? Too violent? For some, yes. But their aversion to the graphic nature of it doesn't make it any less historical, and real, and necessary for the "patient" to hear. Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) So do you qualify, or are you too "righteous" to be saved?
Nobody wants to hear bad news from the doctor, and nobody wants to hear bad news from God's Word. But what if hearing that bad news is necessary in order to show us our need for the good news? What if we need to hear the truth about our sin so that our heart can be prepared to hear the message of God's grace in Christ? Then would you want to hear propositional truth, if it would help you to see your need for the Savior?
I think the biggest issue some people have with propositional truth is that it makes them feel "boxed in." It sounds so definite, so absolute. There is that word again. Well that's Christianity isn't it? It is absolute. God is absolute. Sin is absolute. The kingdom of God is absolute. Justice and mercy are absolute. Caring for the poor is absolute. Forgiveness of sins is absolute. And heaven and hell are absolute. Jesus said that He is the only way to heaven. As offensive as that message is to modern ears, it is nevertheless the absolute truth, regardless of who accepts it, and who rejects it.
Maybe there is a reason why none of us look forward to hearing the test results from the doctor. Deep down, we realize that the results might indicate a problem. It seems easier in a way to bury my head in the sand and pretend that problems cannot touch my life. That gets a person only so far. Jesus can take you infinitely further.
So would you rather meet with "the Great Physician" today, or only after it is too late for Him to apply His medicine to your soul? The choice is yours. He won't force you to sit down with Him today, but that meeting will take place, one way or the other, one day or the other. That is not only a proposition. It is a guarantee. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." (2 Cor. 5:10) It doesn't get any more absolute than that right there. Martin Luther was correct when he stated, "Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity." Well said, don't you think?
There is the matter of speaking the truth. And then there is the matter of "speaking the truth in love." (Eph. 4:15) Both are essential in our witness to the Gospel. If we attempt to speak the truth without love, we will not have the blessing of God upon our work. God is truth, and God is love. God is literal, and God is compassionate. When He comes to dwell in our hearts through faith in Christ, He empowers us to become compassionate and literal in our life of discipleship and in our explanation of Christianity. Any other approach will simply leave the patient guessing about his illness, and the necessary remedy. It is never good when people are left guessing about something as important as their immortal soul.
Come to think of it, is there any other concern in life that even comes close to the importance of your soul's health? Doctors assist in physical health, but what about the soul? Who is going to care for your soul, especially if you have little concern for it yourself? Your body is going to die. Your soul does not have to be lost throughout eternity. There is a way to be healed forever. Jesus died on the cross for you. The healing flows from that historical event, and from that point of power and forgiveness. Will you go there today and receive your healing through faith in the Savior?
God loved us enough to send His only Son to save us, (see John 3:16) and He gave us His Word which is filled with propositional truth, and a compassionate, literal explanation of how to be at peace with God. So who wants doctors or Christians to speak in vague terms when our bodies and souls stand to gain, or lose, so much?
"Just give it to me straight Doc. And give it to me straight Christian. Don't you dare beat around the bush when life and death are at stake."