Testifying to the Truth and Creation

Photo by Marcello Newall

Photo by Marcello Newall

  1. Jesus’s Mission: The Truth

In our age of moral and cultural relativism the mere mention of the word ‘truth’ can seem totally out of place. ‘What is truth?’ was Pilate’s question, and yet Jesus before him proclaimed that the purpose of his mission to earth was to testify to the truth: ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth’.[1] It would seem from this passage that Christ’s mission entailed more than simply the salvation of humanity and the world. God wanted to witness and demonstrate to the spiritual forces in the heavenlies various aspects of who he is. We know from Scripture that the history of the world is in reality the stage of the demonstration of God’s power, wisdom and love to the principalities and powers.[2] Witnessing to who God is, to his character and his purpose in history is therefore one of the main tasks of the Church. Many seem to have reduced the Church simply to the role of vehicle through which God dispenses salvation. Central as this is, it tends to negate the prophetic role of the Body of Christ and its role as salt and light in the world.

And the truth is that ours is a culture of death, as T.S. Eliot wrote:

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.[3]

We see symbols of death and violence all around us. Killing and violence are celebrated, as is war and most are so completely desensitized to it that they hardly even notice. Our entire society seems permeated with a sense of necrophilia and of eerie transience. Within this darkness Christians need to manifest God’s life and peace by showing the world that another way is possible.

  1. Sin, Righteousness and Judgement  

The Bible when dealing with the human condition and the meaning of history uses three categories. We are told that when the Holy Spirit is present he will bring attention to these concepts: ‘And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment’.[4] The category of sin refers to the broken unity between God and man, among men and within creation and that of righteousness to the necessity of living righteously through faith. The final category is judgement or the future: a time of reckoning is coming when mankind will be answerable to Christ.[5]

When humans deviate from these categories God’s light begins to dim and they inevitably fall into nonsense and futility. We see this time and again in history but also presently where countless millions live their lives without any hope, meaning or purpose under the guise of hollow values or following after empty mirages. The fact that the majority of humankind shows little to no interest in the plight and misery of billions of God’s creatures shows the deep spiritual and moral bankruptcy of this Age.

  1. Prophets or Court Jesters?

In our discussion on how the Church testifies to the truth we must distinguish between what being a prophetic voice entails. Many within professing Christianity fail to understand the difference between prophets and court jesters. In medieval times, but in other forms also, court jesters had the role of mocking the king and his entourage much like comedians today. In reality though court jesters while seemingly attacking dominant power structures actually served the purpose of reinforcing them. The court jester showed the king areas of his personality or reign that needed adjustment and that otherwise may have eventually have caused rebellions or an uprising amongst the people. Court jesters were often ridiculous figures with many being physically deformed. These clowns ate at the king’s table, lived at his court and risked essentially nothing because of their mockery. They were particularly important in that normal people would have risked their lives had they criticized the king. In final analysis they were really part of the system that they attacked and lived off it.

Prophets on the other hand have always spoken against systems of oppression externally. The hallmark of a prophet is being willing to suffer for what he/she believes: often the death of prophets has been their greatest testimony.[6] In this sense Jesus represents the archetypical prophet who is excluded from society and who eventually loses his life for his message. He ends up being killed and is excluded from both the religious and political system. As the very incarnation of the prophetic tradition, Jesus was crucified for his adherence to the truth.[7]

While in our contemporary Western society we may not risk our lives, the same principles apply: where there is unwillingness to suffer or be excluded we will end up being court jesters and not a truly prophetic witness. While the price to pay may be very high every Christian following the Lord’s footsteps can hold fast to the words: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'[8]

  1. The True Revolution

There have been many revolutions: some have been violent while others have brought technological progress like the Industrial one. We’ve had communist revolutions, a French example and perhaps the most famous of all, the American Revolution. The term ‘revolution’ actually comes from astronomy and refers to when a planet returns to its original position after having completed its orbit.[9] In this sense the goal of a revolution is to bring a situation back to its ideal state. When we understand this it becomes apparent that most of the movements in history termed ‘revolution’ are really not revolutions at all and the only authentic revolution is the Christian one that wants to bring creation back to its original state of non-violence as described in Genesis 1-2.[10]

The revolt of the true revolution, the Christian one, differently from other revolutions, which targeted particular ideologies as the source of all the evil in the world, is against a spiritual system which Scripture describes with the symbolism of “Babylon the Great”. Babylon, the city founded by the violent Nimrod, is seen as an emblem of the spiritual forces opposed to Christ and his purposes. This system of violence is presently ubiquitous worldwide and seeks to commodify both humans and animals, which like products end up being bought and sold. However, like the Hydra of Greek mythology, it seems to constantly present itself in new forms. In this sense it is primarily a spiritual system that cloaks itself with different disguises and can only be overcome spiritually.[11] The book of Revelation gives us insight into its workings and final demise:

Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’ And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.[12]

  1. The Return of Jesus

Many human beings seem to live their lives as if the world is destined to continue indefinitely. Yet the world in its present state is coming to an end: the theologian Oscar Cullmann described the present situation as the difference between D-day and V-day. Like the Nazis in WWII the forces of evil that currently hold creation in bondage have been defeated through the Cross but God’s victory hasn’t become fully manifest yet. In this day and age it requires courage and faith to side with God while we are still in enemy’s territory. In the meanwhile the Church must seek to proclaim the message of peace and redemption of God’s coming kingdom and it must continue to believe that

suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.[13]

[1] John 18:37
[2] Ephesians 3:10, Colossians 2:15
[3] “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot
[4] John 16:8
[5] Matthew 25:31-46
[6] Martyr in Greek means to testify
[7] John 14:6
[8] Matthew 5:10
[9] “On Revolution” by Hannah Arendt
[10] Also Isaiah 11:6-9 and Revelation 21:4
[11] Revelation 12:11: «And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death» (KJV)
[12] Revelation 18:10-13
[13] “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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4 Responses to Testifying to the Truth and Creation

  1. Roslyne says:

    Thank you for this really inspirational piece Marcello! So many good points made!! Where you make the comparison of the ‘Hydra’ it reminded me of what Bishop John Austin Baker talked about in a sermon back in 1998, “For the Hydra with which I am concerned is the way in which various human activities are constantly developing new ideas which involve the abuse of animals in new ways. By the time we have secured some sort of action against one abuse, a hundred new ghastlinesses have started up… All these monstrous heads are heads of the same beast; and it is that beast of unprincipled selfishness and evil in the human heart, issuing most noticeably in cruelty of all kinds, that is our real enemy. That is the message we have to get across, both warning people of the dire danger to their world; and also wooing them to the beauty of something better.” Blessings, Ros

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill says:

    “While in our contemporary Western society we may not risk our lives, the same principles apply: where there is unwillingness to suffer or be excluded we will end up being court jesters and not a truly prophetic witness.”

    This whole piece you wrote was very good. I especially like how you noted the above. It’s almost it’s as if we seem like we are doing something, but we really aren’t. If we aren’t sacrificing or feeling pain whether it be physically or emotionally, well then we are jesters, not prophets. I don’t like all the pain I feel when standing up for animals and for Jesus, but His words in Matt. 10-11 remind me and comfort me that it is “normal”.

    Liked by 1 person

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