The accountant pores over his figures, burning the midnight oil in order to find his mistake, so that receipts and expenses will check. He proceeds from the very necessary assumption that figures cannot lie. Mathematics is intolerant. Two is intolerant. Two and two are always four and can never be made to add up to five. If the figures are correct and correctly arranged and correctly added the total must be correct. The only possibility of an error lies with the human factor who deals with the figures. And that human factor as a rational, moral creature is perfectly confident that if he struggles long enough the error can be detected and corrected.
The carpenter builds a house on the basis that the computations on his blueprint are all correct. He is very well aware that he is dealing with facts, and that facts cannot lie. If he makes an improper slant on his roof the two measured sections will never meet in the center. If he gives in to the impulse to skimp by cutting the boards shorter than his plans allow, his house will never reach completion. The completed house depends on the accuracy of the carpenter in dealing with facts. But the very fact that he sets out to build his house is evident that he trusts his competence.
The tourist on the highway consistently follows the highway signs in the determination to reach his destination. The signs may lead him from his westward course southward for a time, but he blindly follows in the confidence that this one way has but one goal, so that he can safely follow this way until his destination is reached. As long as the traveler is on the right road he can never go too far, for the right way is never wrong.
But the theologian. . . .
Sometimes his problem does not check and without further ado he calls it a mystery.
Sometimes he completely ignores the truth, inserts his own fancies into the Word of God and yet expects to find harmony and unity in his finished structure.
Sometimes he speaks of going too far on the right road and calls it overemphasis or one-sidedness.
God is Truth.
He is light and there is no darkness in Him whatever.
He is the true God; beside Him there is no other. All other gods are vain and empty, the work of men’s hands, but He is the True and Living One from eternity to eternity. Therefore Jesus can say, “This is eternal life that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent,” John 17:3. Although we cannot comprehend the unfathomable depths of God, we can know Him, for He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and enlightens our understanding to know Him. But we must know Him as He is. Not to know Him as He is detracts from His glory. To form our own conception of Him contrary to His divine revelation is to raise up an image before His very face. It is not for us to determine who and what He is, but He must reveal Himself to us. And He must be served as He is, for He is the only true God and jealous of His honor.
From God’s veracity must follow that God’s ways and promises and judgments and Word are Truth.
God knows all things perfectly. He knows them exactly as they are because He is far above all things. He is God. He has willed all things just as they are; has produced them in His divine thoughts; has called them into being by the Word of His power. His own laws govern all His handiwork. All creation finds its harmony and unity in Him, even as “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom is the glory forever.”
To formulate our own conception of things outside of God is to think the lie. Our sin-darkened understanding can never think anything but enmity against God. It has no place for Him. It knows no place for Him in creation, nor in the world-history, nor in our own lives. Just think of evolution, humanism, modernism. It refuses Him a place, conceives of all things according to the fancies and the dictates of a deceitful heart. The very thoughts of our mind are foolishness and sin against God. Therefore greater evil is hardly conceivable than that we insert our theories into God’s Word and make Scripture say what we want it to say. Only when we by grace have learned to submit ourselves to be taught of God can our thoughts be in harmony with His eternal thoughts and be acceptable before Him. Only then can we find peace in the perfect harmony and unity of all things in God. There lies the basic solution to all problems.
How necessary that we at all times submit our perverse will and darkened understanding to the light of God’s revelation. Only He can cause us to know His eternal thoughts, His unsearchable wisdom and His mighty works. Then we hear the heavens declare His glory, the day utter speech, and we see the night shew forth wisdom. In His light we see the light. Before that revelation we must bow in humble submission as before the only source of truth and knowledge. As willing pupils we must set ourselves to be taught of God, accepting the truth of His Word and rejecting all that is repugnant thereto. Truth is intolerant. It leaves no place for the lie.
In the light of these facts it must be evident that truth and untruth ‘Stand antithetically over against each other, even as light and darkness, faith and unbelief, Christ and Belial, God and Baal.
There are, then, no conflicting statements or contradictions in the Word of God. Truth cannot be in conflict with itself, nor can it raise contradictions, but is always harmoniously one in God. God cannot both will and not will to save all mankind; reveal Himself as both loving and equally hating the wicked. To maintain that Scripture teaches besides God’s sovereign, elective Grace a general, well-meant offer of salvation is to introduce the lie next to the truth of the Word of God. Furthermore, any apparent inconsistencies which we might meet in the Scriptures must always be ascribed to the darkness of our puny understanding. Nor can we rest content by covering them up as “mysteries.” It only remains for us to prayerfully labor with the Word of God, continually comparing Scripture with Scripture, until we have found the harmony and unity pervading the whole Word.
Neither can there be any possible danger of overemphasizing the truth to a point of “one-sidedness.” No more than a wayfarer can go too far, granted he is on the right road, no more can the Truth be overemphasized. A person cannot be too God-fearing, too righteous, too holy. In case we do speak of someone as being overly pious we do not mean that the person does actually manifest too much Christian piety, but that his sham-piety has reached a stage of fanaticism. Certainly a grave accusation. Moreover, it cannot be said that strict maintenance of the doctrine of Atonement or of the Virgin Birth over against Modernism can ever lead to an absurd one-sidedness or overemphasis. Which means that likewise the doctrine of God’s sovereign Election cannot be overemphasized or lead to a one-sided world and life-view. If so, it would necessarily have to be granted that the very doctrine of election is false. And certainly those who depart from the truth of the Word of God to one-sidedly emphasize the theory of a general, well-meant offer of salvation must experience the result that they have not merely slighted but have definitely departed from the way of God’s Election and Sovereign Grace.
It is always a danger signal when we feel that we must warn ourselves against going too far in developing the line of a certain principle. Truth itself cannot be wrong, but if we find that we have gone “too far” it can only mean that our conception of things is wrong and that we have lost the way, so that it is high time that we turn all the way back to the crossroads. That should have been a red torch for the Synod of 1924 when it felt constrained to hold up a warning finger to the churches and their leaders not to one-sidedly overemphasize and misuse the doctrine of Common Grace, lest the churches fall into the error of conformity to the world. And yet, after 16 years of possible reconsideration, even when many voices were raised in the church saying that the Synod has been too hasty, the Synod of 1940 once more places its seal of approval upon those very decisions of 1924.
Conclusion: More Zeal for the Truth.
There can be but one conclusion, an intolerant truth demands that we love it and cherish it at the sacrifice of all else.
The evil of our day is the great lack of love for the Truth. Swept along by the rush and turmoil of the helter-skelter existence of our day very few people put forth any real effort to know and understand the Truth. With the result that there is very little respect or love for it. And some would even defend this. More and more the idea is making inroads into the Church that it finally does not make so much difference whether you have any knowledge of the Truth, or what you believe, as long as you know that there is a God and have Jesus Christ as your Savior. The question which our fathers deemed so essential that they placed it both in the Baptism Form and in the questions for Public Confession of Faith seems almost out of place today: “Do you acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian Church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation, resolving by the grace of God to adhere to it and to reject all heresies repugnant thereto?’’ How little thought is given to this question when we are personally called upon to answer it in the presence of many witnesses. How else do you explain the readiness to compromise with the world and with unbelief, the unwillingness to sacrifice for the Truth, the ease with which some can forsake the Truth for every kind of ulterior motive?
Also in that sense it must be said, “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water,” Jer. 2:13. He who forsakes the Truth must die of spiritual thirst next to his own hewn out cistern of the lie.
More zeal to cherish the Truth entrusted to us! More diligence in searching the Scriptures, “studying to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” 2 Tim. 2:15. For only in the measure that we know and understand the Truth and are faithful to it can we experience its blessedness.