In a world awash in lies, it can be challenging to think of the future as a time when truth will triumph in history.
Lies and falsehoods fuel the kingdom of man, providing the cover under which humanism operates. In order to maintain the façade of absolute, godlike sovereignty, modern states exert control over what is and is not truth. A god cannot err, so history and facts are accordingly rearranged by the state to ensure that its infallibility is maintained. George Orwell’s depiction of a Ministry of Truth makes clear that such manipulation is structured so that the state may remain absolute. Nothing is off the table in propping up the state as the god of a culture.
Orwell saw the state as the institution that turned truth into a pliable asset to be placed under its direct control. Spin doctors and those who “control the narrative” bend and warp the truth, but the state has no monopoly here. When social media giants block stories that they regard as unflattering or harmful to their cause, they impose an additional layer of control beyond the state.
It’d be tempting to point fingers at secularists who, in Nietzsche’s words, seek to “seize control of explanation itself.”1 But Christian scholarship suffers the effects of blackballing and suppression even within its own ranks.2 Christians are hypocrites to criticize secular conduct while hiding their own dirty laundry. Humanists suppress truth because they can, and Christians do so for the same reason.
Each Orwellian Ministry of Truth determining “all the news that’s fit to print” is doomed: they labor in vain that try to build and maintain such vanities. Once we sweep aside their pretense of relevance, we can renew our confidence that truth will triumph in history. The ocean of lies, not God’s truth, will be flushed down the memory hole.
Pilate tried to bat away Christ’s claims by countering with “What is truth?”3 Pilate was more honest than today’s humanists, who want to sneak “truth” back into their worldviews. Note how anti-Christian novelist Philip Pullman4 provides for a plot device called an alethiometer (from aletheia, Greek for truth). The alethiometer “tells the truth,” and by the end of Pullman’s trilogy God is exposed and overthrown as a big lie. It wasn’t enough to depose Truth Incarnate: Pullman needed another source of truth to fill the vacuum.
Every Man a Liar
It is always tempting to quote Romans 3:4 as a rejoinder.5 “Let God be true but every man a liar” is one of the keys to dismantling every pretended Ministry of Truth designed to guard man’s “refuge of lies” (Isa. 28:15). Paul’s point clears the way for the victory of God’s truth in this world, because His Word will never return to Him void (Isa. 55:11, cf. Isa. 45:22–23).
Romans 3:4 concludes by quoting from Psalm 51:4:
God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
John Murray explains the significance of Paul’s quotation:
[Paul] has been making emphatic protestation to the effect that the unbelief of men does not bring to nought the faithfulness of God. The appeal to David’s confession provides him with the strongest kind of confirmation. For David had said that sin, since it is against God, vindicates and establishes God’s justice. If sin does not disestablish the justice of God, neither can man’s faithlessness and untruth make void the faithfulness and truth of God. God must be true though every man be a liar.6
There is eloquent progression here. It is not simply in the face of the fact that some do not believe (vs. 3) that God’s faithfulness is inviolate. Even if all men were liars God’s truth remains unmoved (cf. Psalm 100:5).7
C. H. Irwin expands on Paul’s meaning:
The promises of God will be fulfilled, even though there are some who do not believe on them. The Law of God will assert its claims, even though there are some who repudiate them … God’s faithfulness is not affected by the unbelief of his own people. (Italics in original.)8
Sanday and Headlam concur that Paul declares the Most High to be “guiltless in respect to the promises which He has fulfilled, though man will not believe in their fulfillment.”9
Moisés Silva draws attention to the same theme in similar words:
Nevertheless, the purposes of the Creator, who is also the Savior, cannot be thwarted by human weakness.10
We must refuse to walk by sight, holding fast to the truth that God’s revealed purposes cannot be thwarted. As Murray noted, “God is not determined in His purposes or in His promises by what is extraneous to Himself or to His will.”11
In his discussion of Romans 3:4, R. J. Rushdoony cites from Gifford’s exposition at length:
God’s truth is absolute and independent; it cannot be impaired, even if man’s foolishness be universal … Truth must be ascribed to God, and none but God.12
Consider the relative quantity of unbelievers/liars in the preceding verse, Romans 3:3. In English, we tend to think of a small proportion when reading that “some did not believe.” But Gifford teaches otherwise:
It is to be remarked that “some” in the original signifies a part of the whole, but not necessarily a small part. It may be a very great part and majority of the whole,—as in Hebrews 3:16, where it is said, “Some when they heard provoked, howbeit not all that came out of Egypt with Moses.” All did provoke God on that occasion except Joshua and Caleb, and those who were still too young to bear arms … (Chalmers).13
Just as massive unbelief prevailing in the past had absolutely no effect on God’s promises, so too does unbelief today have no bearing on whether the truth will conquer the world.
Accordingly, we must not only walk by faith (rather than by sight) but we must also not walk in unbelief and in concert with those who reject the certainty that the gospel will conquer. Let God be true, but every man a liar on account of their unbelief.
Don’t the Wicked Hold All the Cards?
King David said, “I have seen the wicked in great power” (Psa. 37:35). Too many Christians leave the matter there, but the verses before and after that observation point out that the wicked will lose all their power in time and history, and that God’s faithful people will see them and their plans come to nothing.
When we argue that world conditions and present wickedness must determine our assessment of the future, we effectively call God a liar. Isaiah asserted that “the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance” (Isa. 40:15). Moreover, “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing” (Isa. 40:17). Dust on the balance that’s less than nothing—this means we need to see the nations as impotent, as incapable of having any impact whatsoever on the course of events. To imagine differently is to imagine a vain thing (Psa. 2:1).
The Wrong Side of History
Too many Christians also adopt the enemy’s position that history embodies a principle of inevitability … a principle effectively outside of God’s control and counsel. This is why we increasingly hear the phrase that someone “is on the wrong side of history.” This is an appeal to the current flow of history as determining right and wrong. The future is appealed to as judge over today’s policy-making. The intent behind the phrase is to shame people to go with the flow, rather than to be seen by future generations as reactionaries impeding supposed moral progress.
Those who only care about their reputations don’t want to find themselves on the wrong side of history. Those submitted to God should reject such argumentation. As Rushdoony noted, “Sometimes faithfulness to God, being in step with the Lord, requires us to be out of step with other people.”14
Remember that nobody was more on the wrong side of history than Christ, and He changed all subsequent history. Such reversals aren’t uncommon. In music, Johann Sebastian Bach was on the wrong side of history too, but he divided musical history in half and is a perpetual presence in the second half.15 Following the multitude and deifying the flow of events is a formula for irrelevance—because emulating the dust of the balance that’s less than nothing is folly.
Today’s oft-shouted refrain is “the whole world is watching!”—which is intended to be the truth all must bow down to and submit to, or else. But we know that it is God who is watching, and He still sees even after Twitter blocks its feeds.
Truth and Victory
Note the relationship between truth and victory in how Jesus Christ interprets Messianic prophecy. According to Isaiah 42:3, He shall lead justice to truth. When Christ quotes this prophecy (Matt. 12:20) concerning Himself, He changes the last word: He shall lead justice to victory. Truth in Isaiah becomes victory in Matthew. Jesus Christ is uniting the two concepts: victory is bound up in the Biblical conception of truth as it touches upon the expansion of Christ’s rule over the world from the right hand of the Father.
Isaiah’s conception of leading justice to truth is crucial here. Christ establishes justice “in truth” because “by every other mode of dealing, justice would be established in appearance and outwardly only.”16 Humanism only delivers the appearance of outward justice, founded upon sand. Because “the isles wait for His law” (Isa. 42:4), the victory established in the truth will be a total one, not a superficial, fragile one.
Don’t Focus on God’s Instruments
Christians are prone to discount the idea of gospel victory. First, they believe the task is too difficult and the world too far gone. Common sense dictates rejecting such optimism (just as the common-sense Sadducees rejected the resurrection of the dead). But the Scriptures don’t permit us to elevate the creature over the Creator, so pessimists try another argument: the church isn’t qualified to evangelize the world. It is comprised of weak and flawed people who couldn’t possibly turn the world upside-down again.
But 1 Corinthians 3:7 alerts us to not focus on God’s chosen instruments.
So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Focusing on the credentials of those who plant and water is meaningless, because they are nothing (are not the determining factor).
We love that final verse about God giving the increase, but the more closely we examine Paul’s statement, the more we realize that any focus upon the instruments is foolish. At no point are the results contingent on their qualifications. Paul has outright asserted that he is nothing, and Apollos is nothing. Modern Christians aren’t nearly so humble, so pessimists they remain.
Our eyes should not be upon God’s enemies (though they be numerous and powerful), or upon the greatness of the task (to justify folding our hands in defeat). Our eyes should not be upon ourselves. These are all weights to be set aside (Heb. 12:1) so that we can look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). If you look to Jesus, you can see only the certainty of victory. Look to the world of men, and you will sink in the slough of despond.
Pessimists think themselves wise analysts and realists. Our model, however, is Abraham. He refused to consider two things that we consider fatal objections: his dead body and Sarai’s dead womb (Rom. 4:19). “He staggered not at the promise of God” (v. 20). We must stand with Abraham and not stagger at God’s promises for this world. No other considerations matter. Even if “truth is fallen in the street” (Isa. 59:14) and “truth faileth” (v. 15), God will unfailingly act (vv. 16–21).
In his commentary on Corinthians (forthcoming), R. J. Rushdoony says this:
In 1 Cor. 4:3, “by man’s judgment” is in the Greek literally “by man’s day.” God has His Judgment Day at the end of history, but sinful man passes judgment daily on his fellow men.
Paul’s use of “the day of man” as against “the day of the Lord” is very telling. The prevailing power of “the day of man” all too often governs the church. It is this humanistic judgment, that men fear and move in terms of, which is a very great sin. “The day of man” is a continuous backbiting judgment by men on one another, whereas God’s great day is at the end of history. A present-oriented people will serve “the day of man” and live in fear of its judgments. Paul’s total trust is in the Day of the Lord. “The day of man” is all around us, but it is a trivial matter as against the Day of the Lord.17
Nonetheless, “the day of man” will fade away in history because “the darkness is passing away” (I John 2:8) and every knee shall bow (Isa. 45:22–23). We will one day see many a “city of truth” (Zech. 8:3) living according to Zechariah 8:16:
These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates.
Lies and tumult have no future because they contain the seeds of their own destruction. The people of God will cling to the truth against all opposing considerations because Christ is Truth Incarnate, and the ultimate victory of truth will be absolute and total before He returns.
1. Robert Erwin, The Great Language Panic and Other Essays in Cultural History (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990), p. 69.
2. The treatment of Dr. Greg Bahnsen remains an ugly cautionary tale in this regard, while Dr. Michael McVicar carefully documented Christianity Today’s concerted suppression (well before Twitter or Facebook existed) of R. J. Rushdoony, cf. https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/working-with-pygmies-r-j-rushdoony-christianity-today-and-the-making-of-an-american-theologian.
3. See the excellent discussion of this in Ron Kronz, Fighting to Win (and other things I didn’t learn in Sunday School) (Self-published, 2020, ISBN 9798645681418), p. 40.
4. See Lee Duigon’s perceptive review of Pullman’s trilogy at https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/satanism-for-young-readers-a-review-of-his-dark-materials. HBO is currently churning out its own version of the trilogy to finish what the 2007 movie version, The Golden Compass, began.
5. The most memorable rejoinder citing Romans 3:4 appears in Greg Bahnsen, “The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction Vol. 3, No. 2, [Winter 1976–77], p. 54.
6. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), p. 95.
7. ibid., n.2.
8. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, ed., The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, n.d.), vol. 18, sec. 2, p. 89.
9. William Sanday, Arthur C. Headlam, The Epistle to the Romans (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903), p. 72.
10. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids, MI:  2007), p. 293.
11. Murray, op. cit., p. 95. Murray further asserts that “the unbelief of Jews does not disestablish the truth and abiding validity of God’s oracles” (p. 94).
12. R. J. Rushdoony, Romans and Galatians (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1997), p. 37, citing E. H. Gifford in Cook’s commentary. Rushdoony provides data for the original 1881 London printing, but it is far more readily available today in the 1981 reprint by Baker, thus: F. C. Cook, The Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: [1871–1881] 1981), vol. 9, p. 83. The following endnote, which goes beyond Rushdoony’s citation, references this Baker reprint as “Gifford, op. cit.”
13. Gifford, op. cit., p. 83. See end note above.
14. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Vol. 7 (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon/Ross House Books, 2016), p. 39.
16. Ernest Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (Mac Dill AFB, FL: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), Vol. 1, p. 543.
17. R. J. Rushdoony, Commentary on 1st and 2nd Corinthians (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon/Ross House Books, 2021), loc. cit.
- Martin G. Selbrede
Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s publications, Arise & Build and The Chalcedon Report. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.