Truth doesn’t depend on opinion

As I committed to reading through Calvin’s Institutes with a friend, in honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, I thought it would be worth jotting down some bits that I found particularly interesting. Here’s the quote for today:

But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? Who can assure us that Scripture has come down intact even to our very day?

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, 7.1

The term “fake news” is enough to get a groan out of almost any of us. Whether it’s because you came across a “news” article that is clearly complete rubbish after a quick google search, or Trump’s latest critique of mainstream media, we’re all pretty sick of the idea.

But it’s worth thinking about truth, because many people like to hold to the idea of relative truth (especially when it comes to religion). The idea is: “Whatever works for you is fine, I’ve got my own thing.” Or, “I think all religions have different aspects of the truth”, or even “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you don’t try to tell others they’re wrong.”

The way that some think inside the church can get a bit iffy as well. There’s a widespread idea that the Bible is only authoritative because people inside the church had a meeting around 350 AD and decided so. So some people now have taken to working out new ways of looking at the Bible. I remember watching a talk show and a woman on there said quite unashamedly “I’m a pick and choose Catholic. I go with the bits from the Bible I like and ignore anything I don’t.”

Except that we don’t think of truth this way in any other context! I like the quote from Calvin because it cuts to the heart of this: As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! That’s right, isn’t it? I mean, if God is the one who rules the universe, what does it matter what we think about it? If we disavow God, the Bible, and everything associated, it doesn’t mean we’re right. And who is better to tell us what truth is than the one who made the world and rules it?

That’s what we have in the Bible — an assurance that God speaks, and that it tells us what he wants us to hear.


Malcolm Purdey is a Christian, husband, father, student minister and science nerd. He completed a PhD in Chemistry and worked as a research scientist before making the jump into ministry in early 2017. He has been married for 5 years and has two daughters aged 3 and 1.

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