Christ, Truth, and Politics

Published in the Souvenir of Central India Theological Seminary of October 2005.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:38)

It is interesting to note that the only instance where Christ ever met Pilate in recounted history was at His trial. The ensuing dialogue between both of them is intriguing. It heavily concentrates on the urgency of Truth in a world mismanaged by humans.

The trial of Christ at Jerusalem reminds us of the trial of Socrates at Athens. Tertullian might have been too quick to retort “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” The unjust sentence of Socrates explicitly points out the fact that the greatest problem with humanity is not that it has not known the truth but that, to the contrary, having understood the ramifications of truth it has suppressed it and chosen to put an end to any voice that speaks on behalf of it. Weren’t there at least 80, of the earlier 220 who voted Socrates as innocent, who also later voted for his death penalty? Truth had less significance in the democratic Athens, whose laws Socrates himself highly respected. In Jerusalem as well, though Christ’s sentence was not decided through a Jury based on votes, yet it was the voice of the mob that prevailed against the truth.The obvious truth was that Pilate had found nothing worth condemning in Jesus. Yet, however, he talked of the Passover custom of releasing a prisoner and had Christ whipped despite the evidence that Christ was not a criminal.

The contrast between Socrates and Jesus is high at the point where Jesus begins to speak of a kingdom beyond this world and of His coming to bear witness to the truth. While for Socrates, truth had to be discovered through rational analysis, Christ claimed to know the truth and be a witness to the truth. While Socrates didn’t find any meaning in a world beyond Athens, Christ talked of a kingdom that transcends all spatial-temporal existence.

Pilate’s question to Jesus as to what was truth insinuates several meanings. He might have meant “Does truth mean anything at all?” or “What is truth in this situation?” or “Is truth absolute or relative?” or “Do politics and truth go together?” or “Even if there is something called Truth, is there any significance to it?” or “What truth are you talking about?” Whatever the import of the question was, the fact remains that Pilate found nothing appealing in any understanding of truth in a world that relativized everything to suit its selfish purposes.

Pilate had already become infamous for his hard ways of dealing with mobs. Josephus tells us of Pilate’s aversion of Jewish religious interference in his political moves. For instance, when he brought Roman banners with Caesar’s image on them, the Jews protested. He tried to put them down by deploying his troops only to find out that these people were committed to their religion more than they were committed to Caesar. In another instance, he sent his soldiers dressed in tunics to infiltrate the crowd and beat the offenders with clubs. They had protested against his secular employment of temple treasure. And so, now, when the Jews come to him with Jesus, he straight away dismisses them with the words “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” When they insist that he was a political malefactor, he takes him aside and asks him some questions only to find out that the Jews who once protested against the images of Caesar were now using the name of Caesar to get rid of Jesus. Later, Pilate finds himself accused of enmity against Caesar on grounds that he wished the release of Jesus. Understanding the breadth of experience Pilate had in politics, it is not amazing that his famous question “What is truth?” comes in response to Jesus’ statement that He was a King and had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. How could one be a King and also bear witness to the truth at the same time. Was the Roman Empire ready for such news?

Several centuries later, an Italian political philosopher by the name of Machiavelli was to write that a ruler is not bound by traditional ethical norms and is free to use whatever means available for his political purposes. His principles of power politics came to be known as Machiavellianism. Machiavelli proposed that it was better that a ruler be both loved and feared; but, since a combination of both was too difficult, it was desirable that a ruler be feared though not loved. His formulation of such principles was allegedly drawn from studies in Roman political history and the politics of his age. Unquestionably, tyranny and despotism are perfect possibilities in a political system that doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of God. Assuredly, every Nebuchadnezzar still needs a Daniel.

When questioned about His Kingship, Jesus promptly replied: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” This clearly recognized that force was indispensable to kingdom. Puzzling, however, is the way Jesus uses the concept of kingdom. He distinguishes between two kinds of kingdom: one, of this world; another, not of this world. He claimed to be the King of the latter with an additional comment that His servants didn’t help Him now because His kingdom was not from here. The word used for ‘world’ here is kosmos (world, order), not aion (age, course). It denotes this very physical world order that we live in. Important is also the phrase not from here, which is to mean that Christ’s kingdom didn’t have its origin or basis in this world. It is from above even as Christ is from above (the second man). And the King of this other-worldly kingdom is a witness of truth. His passion for truth led Him to come to this world confused by raging falsehood and deception. He said that everyone that belonged to the truth heard His voice. He was the King of the Kingdom of Truth. A few chapters earlier, He claimed to be the personification of Truth itself so that anyone who believes in Him and follows Him is delivered from the falsehood of this-worldly glory (which truly is darkness) and transferred to His kingdom of light. Knowing Him is far more urgent than knowing several diverse truths. He is the Truth that connects together all truths of past, present, and future and fills them with transcendent and eternal meaning. Pilate could not hear Christ’s voice. Dazed by Christ’s statements, he retorted “What is truth?” and left without waiting for an answer.

Immediately, he goes out and declares to the Jews: “I find in him no fault.” That was the truth. However, he added: But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” That was the falsehood. Why talk of releasing Christ as a criminal when no fault indicting Him had been found in Him? The ethical relativism of this-worldly politics thickens still further when the crowd demands the release of a notorious robber (they could endure physical robbery as long as their spiritual status was left untouched and their religiosity approved of). Pilate scourges Jesus and lets his soldiers humiliate Him thinking, perhaps, that this would soften the violent temper of the crowd. He still tries to stick closer to justice and truth though the current is tearing him away from it.

Jesus had told him earlier that His kingdom was not of this world. Pilate still seems to be out of touch with the import of His word. He asks Him: “Where are you from?” Jesus gave no reply. Pilate says: “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to crucify you, and I have authority to release you?” To which Jesus replies: “You could have no authority against Me unless it were given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” The relating of political authority to a transcendent Rulership above is significant. Hegel in his Reason in History writes regarding the role of the Divine in politics:
Religion is the sphere where a people gives itself the definition of what it regards as the True. Such a definition contains everything which belongs to the essence of the object, reducing its nature to a simple fundamental characteristic as focus for all other characteristics – the universal soul of all particulars. The idea of God thus is the general fundament of a people.

...secular existence is temporal and moves within private interest. Hence it is relative and unjustified. Its justification can only be derived from the absolute justification of its universal soul, its principle. And this is justified only as determination and existence of the essence of God. For this reason the State is based on religion.
Of course, Hegel writes of God, Religion, and Truth within the framework of his Phenomenology of the Spirit. But his insight into the necessity of truth and God as the unifying fundament of a people is great. Biblically speaking, God is the creator of man, and is the giver of not only political authority but also vision and direction to a nation. A nation which loses sight of God, will soon lose sight of practical value in truth and honesty. Private interest and engrossment with the present would reign high and become the ground for the release of despotism and tyranny. Jesus, by reminding Pilate that his authority was from above, was telling him that he was not autonomous in his field of politics. He was accountable to God. However, it is the one who handovers Jesus to Pilate that has the greater sin. Pilate has an opportunity to be just. He tries to release Jesus but is backfired by the crowd with the words: “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” Threatened by such accusation, Pilate gives in to the demand of the crowd and handovers Jesus to be crucified, at the same time referring to Jesus as the King of the Jews, to the chagrin of the priests who, themselves having succumbed to the relative situation, ironically exclaim that they have no king but Caesar. Pilate, however, doesn’t stop here. He inscribes on the title on Jesus’ cross the words JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS and refuses to change it despite the chief priests’ protest. Somehow, Pilate seems to be attempting to stick close to the truth despite his obvious distance from it. He had already fallen prey to the public appeasement of secular politics. Truth had fallen in the earthly city.

But Christ, the Truth of God, did not die forever. He rose again on the third day. By His physical death on the cross, He put an end to the falsehood of this world order and rose again as the Firstfruits of a new world order founded on the very fulfillment of truth (His life and teaching), righteousness (His obedience), and justice (His sacrifice). If He didn’t arise humanity would have been left without any hope of justice and a life eternal that transcended this world. But He rose again. And one day, He will come back to judge the world according to Truth (Romans 2:2). He will return in the glory of His kingdom (Mt. 16:28; 2 Tim. 4:1) to inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pt. 3:13).


Cognitive Voluntarism of James F. Ross

Excerpted from Epistemics of Divine Reality (2009, 2011)

In his paper Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology (1990),[1] James Ross defines ‘Cognitive Voluntarism’ as the view that ‘humans, for  the  most  part,  believe  not because they  are  compelled  by  the  evidence,  but  because  they  want  to  (sometimes  even   being  compelled by wants operating as “convictors”) because assenting appears to advance their ‘apprehended good”.’ Cognitive voluntarism is seen as our willing reliance upon people, feelings and outcomes, directed to our own fulfillment. According to Ross, it has reemerged as a basis for rational certainty, not only in empirical cognition generally, but in the most important commitments of our lives.

Ross begins by saying that rational certainty about God is more plausible than was believed in the fifties. The fact is that, the notion of what constitutes rational certainty is now better understood. The most important achievement, however, has been the rehabilitation of faith. Faith is seen as willing  reliance  on  others thought better placed  to  know, as well as willing  reliance on the regularities  we  find in  nature  and  people,  to indicate what we should  believe. Ross goes on to say that faith is undeniably a source of knowledge.

Faith is undeniably a source of knowledge, often more efficient than finding out for oneself, as the telephone book makes clear.  And  where  faith  falls  short  of  knowledge,  it  often supplies rational  certitude, even about the most expensive and conservatively entered  human undertakings, especially  in  engineering (bridge and theater design),  naval architecture (hull design), applied  science (nuclear power plants), and sometimes  even  in  our  formal  logical and mathematical disciplines. Faith is a foundation for rational certainty, maybe not a rock‑bottom one, but an indispensable one.  In fact, trust is the very fabric of social conviction and the golden thread of science.[2]

Thus, according to Ross, rational certainty finds its basis on faith, and faith is indispensable to it. The truth is that rational certainty is more a contextual thing than a universal thing. Thus, what is handed over down to the next generation is voluntarily accepted as truth with rational certainty since voluntary reliance is part of the sociology of knowledge. Everyone has his own system or framework of rational certainty. Here we may pause to consider that Paul on Mars Hill did not quote the Old Testament Messianic prophecies to the Greeks; the Old Testament was a framework of rational certainty chiefly and significantly for the Jews and not for the Greeks. Therefore, one cannot be in the position to judge anyone unless one is able to see from the other’s viewpoint. As Ross puts it,

You cannot get into a position to evaluate until you become an insider. There is no  access to the reliability of the “system” from the outside, not any more than there is access to the standpoint of musical, philosophical or aesthetic mastery of judgment, except by discipleship, first.[3]

This is reminiscent of Wittgenstein’s language games and forms of life. One cannot be in a position to even understand, far be to judge someone else’s position, except by participating in the other’s form of life that grants meaning to his position.

In addition to the significance of faith, the cognitive role of feelings to ground rational certainty has also been recognized. Ross says that feelings ‘are knowledge-making.’ It is the satisfaction and stability of deep feeling that ‘hardens belief into rock-bottom commitment.’ Feelings play an important role in both faith and reason. Statements like ‘I feel I can trust him,’ or ‘This argument is elegant,’ or ‘This argument is flimsy,’ demonstrate that feelings are not separate from the cognitive process of faith and reason. Thus, rational certainty is not cold. It is charged with feeling and reinforced with faith.

Ross points out that much of the stuff we believe in, and which is crucial to make sense of this world, is convictions beyond all data. For instance, belief in the origins, salvation-history, final judgment, after-life, etc. all go beyond empirical data but are voluntarily believed to make sense of the data at hand. In other words, a leap beyond is crucial to make sense of the present ground. Such ‘going beyond’ provides rationality to life. However, on finding such convictions directly refuted by experience, adherents do replace them with the ‘nearest tenable facsimile.’ Thus, faith has become crucial to make sense of any knowledge in this world. Further, a sense of the sociology of knowledge as the rationality of relying on those who ought to know has been recognized. For instance, we sit on a train with a feeling of security and satisfaction that we will reach the destination, because we rely on the railways, including the driver as the one who ought to know to drive the engine. This sense of certainty can only be lost by recurrent failure of the railways. Similarly, a worker follows the directions of the engineer, even as a soldier follows the directions of his commander out of reliance in people and the pattern of things.

“Faith”  is  no  longer   the  paradigm of “unjustified belief”  or  “belief  that  contravenes the evidence”, or “belief held against the demands of reason” as Locke and Hume, and even C.J. Ducasse (Nature, Mind and Death. 1948) thought, but  rational  trust in those who ought to  know and, equivocally but relatedly, reliance on the patterns in things.  Even non-thinking animals display what Santayana called “animal faith”, staking their lives hour by hour until they lose.[4]

Hints of Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite passion’ that seeks satisfaction can also be found in Ross’ cognitive voluntarism. We trust because we want something, he says. ‘Reliance is, itself, a mode of satisfaction.’ As an example, he refers to the hunter who relies on the flight pattern of turkeys because he wants to eat some. Thus, an internal urge, the will, for satisfaction may be considered as the engine of believing.

Augustine  says, “nemo credit nisi volens” (“no one  believes  unless  he wants to”); not that you can believe at will or even  disbelieve at will, though the power of the unconscious is awesome  at   rejection,  and  impressive  at  accommodation, regardless of the evidence.  Nevertheless, the will is the engine of believing, not the understanding (except in the few cases of the “manifest vision of truth”, of compelling obviousness, as Aquinas explained it). And even the compelling obviousness of one’s mortal wounds can be willed away, say, as a medic urges one to live, sometimes with success. The rest of the time evidence does not compel belief, the will supplies the commitment.[5]

Regarding the contention that the truth about the existence of God must be demonstrated before being believed in Ross, responds that ‘there is nothing knowable by a demonstration that cannot be known with certainty without one, and that includes mathematical and logical theorems.’[6]  Demonstrability cannot be considered to be the gateway to knowability. Ross argues that a genuine demonstration will rule out all counterpossibilities. However, such genuine demonstration has never been and cannot be given; since counterpossibilities from the other side are expected seeing that belief is more a matter of will than of reason. Further, a common ground regarding the validity of some demonstration is not agreed on because of contextual arrangements.

As has been said earlier, it is not simply data at hand but feelings urged by a desire for meaning that play an important role in the forming of convictions. However, feelings cannot be blindly left unrestrained. The refinement of feelings is important for a proper channeling in of knowledge. Practical wisdom, thus, is the ability to live wisely and well, and is the product of good training and example, internalized by one’s mimesis (imitation, e.g., of father by son) of refined understanding, feeling and even passion. Ross points out that a life without passion is feeble and furtive. Similarly, philosophy without feeling is philosophy without springs. When it comes to making sense of life, it is not science but practical wisdom that is more appropriate. Thus, one cannot ground his life on dry empirical proofs. According to Ross, feeling creates ‘conviction by combining satisfaction (fulfillment in some respect) with reliance (which is itself a kind of satisfaction in dependence, like lovers holding hands) into an outcome that is our conviction.’ Reliance on the community that says it has found out the truth (sociology of knowledge) and personal practice, mimesis, or imitation of it that brings satisfaction and rewards lead to convictions.

There are in-built wants that operate as convictors. Convictors convert data into conviction. Thus, according to cognitive voluntarism, people believe not by the force of evidence but by the force of wants that operate as convictors. Ross contends that this approach to knowledge is not something new but was recognized long back. For instance, both ‘Augustine and Aquinas (with differences) think our cognitive powers have basic drives (of which the rational appetite, the will, is the chief drive), and thus, have a targeted finality that is no natural end, but rather, life with God.’[7] It may be added that this view is also reflected in William James’ concept of ‘will to believe.’ In his The Will to Believe and Other Essays, he wrote:

…our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions. There are passional tendencies and volitions which run before and others which come after belief, and it is only the latter that are too late for the fair; and they are not too late when the previous passional work has been already in their own direction.[8]

He also adds that in ‘truths dependent on our personal action…faith based on desire is certainly a lawful and possibly an indispensable thing.’[9] However, James qualifies such freedom to believe what one wills with the condition that this freedom ‘can only cover living options which the intellect of the individual cannot by itself resolve….’[10] In other words, faith becomes inevitable where intellect cannot go on. So, one is compelled to choose from among the living options available. Since religion is a live hypothesis which may be true it cannot be left ignored. James’ view, however, is more pragmatical and similar to Pascal’s Wager. He says, ‘If religion be true and the evidence for it be still insufficient, I do not wish…to forfeit my sole chance in life of getting upon the willing side – the chance depending, of course, on my willingness to run the risk of acting as if my passional need of taking the world religiously might be prophetic and right.’[11] Evidently, the William James’ view doesn’t sufficiently take into consideration the existential motif of ‘infinite passion’ and the ‘sense of meaningfulness.’ However, it is quite close to the main idea of cognitive voluntarism.

According to cognitive voluntarism, then, the rational certainty of faith in God is more a contextual thing. There is an inner urge in man that attempts to find meaning out of all that he knows. Revelation provides the data, usually in the form of traditions passed on by the community, which makes sense of life. Practical wisdom holds on to such beliefs through pragmatic experience that refine the feeling and passion. Feeling combines with reliance to produce conviction. Reliance on verbal testimony is a very important source of knowledge.

Feeling creates conviction by combining satisfaction (fulfillment in some respect) with reliance (which is itself a kind of satisfaction in dependence, like lovers holding hands) into an outcome that is our conviction. Two kinds of satisfaction suffuse something we assent to. That's how we, those who did not discover anything or even repeat the inquiries, know that there are micro‑particles, electrons, molecules, atoms.  We rely on the community that says it did find out, and we get satisfaction and rewards by doing so.  Thus we are convinced.[12]

Subjectivity of truth, as in Kierkegaard, thus, is paramount. But, in addition is voluntary belief, in the sense that one believes what one wants to believe, or what one is satisfied with. No one stands in a position to evaluate anyone’s belief unless he enters the ‘form of life’, to use Wittgenstein’s term, of the other. Reliance and satisfaction, i.e., faith and feeling, thus are crucial to the noetic event. Faith is the foundation of rational certainty, and things are believed in because they make sense of life. Achieving this sense and meaning of life is the goal of practical wisdom, which goes beyond mere science and evidentialism.

Critique of Cognitive Voluntarism

Ross’ capture of the spirit of knowledge is excellent. Philosophy without feeling, he says, is philosophy without springs. Surely, ‘deep answers the deep’; humans have an inner and infinite urge that can only find satisfaction through faith in an infinite and living God. Therefore, we do go beyond available data to make sense of the available data. The question of origins, meaning, and destiny are unavoidable. Any nearest hint that carries at least some certainty (within the cognitive contextual framework) is immediately converted into a conviction. However, as Ross has pointed out, the danger of falsity can be there. Therefore, he stresses on the refinement of feeling through mimesis, which is observation and practice of those who can be relied on for knowledge of truth. This, obviously, calls for the openness and boldness to change on finding the convictions refuted by experience.

In conclusion, it may be said that Ross’ epistemology is very much of subjective experientialism. Though it is true that one’s experience can never be refuted by another, it still stands whether someone’s experience can comprise reason enough for another to rely on it. According to Ross, the answer is ‘yes’, if pragmatically satisfaction is visible, and this to the extent that mimesis of it becomes justified. For instance, a son sees his father walking and imitates in order to learn walking; he imitates the experience of his father to become an insider of the experience. Similarly, faith in God as demonstrated in a community life of moral righteousness, devotion, generosity, and other facets of religious life can be experienced through mimesis.

However, what about the possibility of being led into the wrong belief through such imitation? Ross answers that still this does not undermine the value of the social institution as a source of knowledge. Accordingly, a ‘social system that hands along truths about food and mixed truths and errors about health and how to live, and superstitions about God and “science”, might do perfectly well to hand along an improved product.’ In other words, there is no social institution or tradition that can lay claim to perfection in all fields of knowledge. Disagreements among sects over doctrinal points, within the major religions, are ample proof of it. However, some products have only one source and the only way to test the workability of the product is by ‘becoming an initiate and making it work.’ Thus, one can only experience the power of God’s love in Jesus Christ by saying ‘yes’ to the Gospel of Christ. There is no alternative source to it. Practice and experience itself justifies belief.

Though incapable of providing an absolute and standard test for truth, Ross’ cognitive voluntarism does demonstrate the relativity of rational certainty. The star over Bethlehem was proof of Royal birth to the Magi; it might have not been so to many others. The miracles of Jesus were proof of His divine authority to Nicodemus; it might not have been to some others. Proofs and demonstrations are only relatively significant; often, they follow faith. Thus, rational certainty is more a subjective issue. Moreover, Ross’ grounding of rational certainty on the will to believe is a significant step. He has also showed that the will to believe is prompted by the inner urge, feeling, and passion for sense and meaning in life. The existential motif, thus, can also be seen in Ross. Thus, cognitive voluntarism attempts to put faith and feeling into their proper place in the noetic event. This, however, is done at the expense of any absolute criteria for truth. The only reference point is the will. Will is prompted by feelings and wants that act as convictors. Thus, truth is more a matter of the subjective will than of objective reality. But, Ross is at least right in saying that in matters of ultimate value, that is, in convictions that go beyond data to infuse life with meaning, one cannot let go his convictions unless they are directly contradicted by experience and replaceable with some other hypotheses that seem to be more reliable. Thus, a Christian cannot throw away his belief in Jesus Christ, since it not only infuses his life with meaning but he also doesn’t find it refuted by experience. However, even if it is refuted by experience, he will not cast that belief out unless it is replaceable by some other more reliable belief; he cannot do so because the will to believe urged by the infinite passion within cannot rest calm without finding some source of satisfaction. Thus, faith is rehabilitated in cognitive voluntarism.

[1] James Ross, “Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology”, June 1990 (
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] William James, “The Will to Believe,” Philosophy of Religion, 2nd edn. (ed. John Hick; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970), p.219
[9] Ibid, p. 228
[10] Ibid, p. 230
[11] Ibid, p. 229
[12] James Ross, “Reason and Reliance: Adjusted Prospects for Natural Theology”, June 1990 (

Angels at Prayer - Some Witnesses

Incident 1: Place – Makhu, Punjab
In 1994, Pastor Surinder of Makhu, a genuine man of God whose life and ministry I personally witnessed, told us an incident from his life. He had the practice of kneeling by a chair and praying every morning or during any part of the day when he got any free time. There were two chairs there besides a bed in that single room where he and his family lived. And, because they didn’t have any church building then, people would bring the sick and demon-oppressed for prayers there. On Sundays, they would pull up a tent for the 600-800 people who joined the services. Once, Pastor Surinder was on a mission trip. His mom was sleeping on the bed at night. Sometime during the night, she awoke and was terrified by what she saw. She saw two persons kneeling by those chairs that were at the foot of the bed. When they saw her terrified, they rose up and came to her and asked why she was so afraid. They said that they come here to pray because her son used to kneel here and pray everyday and today was out somewhere ministering.

Incident Two: Place – Sanjaynagar, MP
Back in the 90s, we were once having a prayer time in the church building. There were only around 10 of us sitting in a semicircle and praying. Suddenly, my cousin Benny (around 4-5) shrank close to his mom all terrified. When his mom asked him what had happened, he said that while we were praying a shining being in white suddenly swept by my side. No one else but he saw this vision.


Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly… (Luk 22:43-44)


Toward the Tithe and Beyond | John Piper - Review

John Piper presents 7 Biblical reasons for tithing in this article. Quite contrary to the teaching of John MacArthur that Christians don’t need to tithe since they pay taxes to the government, Piper sees tithing as vital to a Christian’s being part of the Kingdom work. Tithing is also an antidote against covetousness, he says. Piper’s 7 Reasons reminded me of David Jeremiah’s 7 Reasons for tithing. Clearly, again contrary to what MacArthur teaches, Jesus made a distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. The book of Malachi that encouraged tithing against robbery of it so that there would be food in the house of God was not written to people in the theocratic times before the monarchy. Clearly tithing is not tax-paying. Piper’s article and appeal is a needed one in an age when Mammon tries to steal the true and total devotion that only belongs to Christ. Piper’s illustration from John Wesley’s life is touching indeed.

Take John Wesley for example. He was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.

This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”

See Also
Should I Give Tithe


Some Self-Defeating Philosophical Positions

Scientism – The principle that only scientifically verifiable statements are true is itself not scientifically verifiable.

Skepticism – The statement that truth cannot be known is itself a statement considered to be true, which by its own verdict cannot be known.

Logical Positivism – The principle that only empirically verifiable statements can be true is itself not empirically verifiable.

Kantian Phenomenalism – If causality is just an a priori mental category imposed on sense data, then the whole enterprise of trying to account for what causes the experience of phenomena becomes self-defeating.

Relativism - The statement "Only relative truths exist" poses as absolute truth, which is self-defeating.

Subjectivism - The statement that we cannot know the objective world is itself an objective claim.

Religious Pluralism - The view that all religions are fundamentally the same is itself an exclusivist, not pluralist, position.


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