When I was in college (a Baptist University), I was introduced to this interesting proverb: “All truth is God’s truth.” Since this came from biblical teachers whom I respected and trusted, I wanted to test out this theory. It’s obviously not a direct quote from the Bible, but is it true? And if so, what does it mean?
What people usually mean when they say this is that while God’s word is completely trustworthy, it doesn’t contain all truth. Mathematical equations are not in the Bible, nor are chemical formulas. The truth that Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President is not in the Bible, and that’s true as well. When it comes to what we need to know about God and people, however, the Bible is 100% accurate and it's all that's necessary for us to know as far as how to believe and behave.
What about other sources of truth, like philosophy? They can’t add to God’s truth found in Scripture, but they might add to our understanding of what God has already said. Naturally, everything they say is fallible and needs to be tested against God’s word, but does that mean we should just abandon it? Does this mean that reading great works of literature is a waste of time?
What about the phrase “Consider the source”? When people say this, they usually mean that if you can discredit the source of something, you automatically discredit what that source is saying. Shakespeare had very insightful things to say about humanity, but his personal life was far from perfect.
I think that this passage, among many others, can give us perspective on this issue. The book of Numbers introduces us to a strange character named Balaam. I won’t go into much detail about his background, but it is worth noting that every time he’s mentioned in Scripture, he’s condemned, usually as a false teacher who will say anything for money. So we definitely don’t want to follow his example, but what about what he said? Apparently when he was hired by Balak, the Holy Spirit took over Balaam's mouth and inspired Scripture from it! In fact, in vss. 15-17 of the next chapter he provided a prophecy about the Messiah!
One of the sermons I preached in class at Seminary was on Acts 17:22-34, Paul’s evangelistic speech to pagan philosophers in Athens, who neither knew nor cared about Moses’ writings. We’ll examine that passage in greater detail at another time, but for now it’s worth noticing that Paul quotes approvingly from pagan philosophers and poets in vs.28. Does this mean that Paul believed that the poets and philosophers were inspired? Absolutely not! But it does mean that Paul recognized that there was enough truth in some of what they said in order to make it worth his time to be familiar with them, especially in the pursuit of bringing lost people to a saving knowledge of Christ.
In summary, my suggested applications are this: 1) Know your Bible backwards and forwards, 2) Be very careful about the “truth” you consume and compare it with Scripture, and 3) Be on the lookout for God’s truth “hiding” in the most unlikely of places.
Lord Jesus, you are the Truth incarnate. Help me to see your Truth everywhere around me.