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Really All Truth?

When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead those who believe in him unto all truth in John 16, did he actually mean "all" truth, or "all religious" truth?  There are many who believe they are doing God and the Church (especially those they deem "children in the faith" and "unlearned") a service by injecting additional adjectives into scripture passages that do not have them, claiming to do so out of a desire to "clarify" the text.  However, I find that such adjectives invariably restrict the scope of the scripture being so "clarified"  in a way that protects some cherished doctrine that would be otherwise refuted if the scope was truly unrestricted.

As an educator, I have found that the incorrect preconceptions that a student brings to an otherwise understandable subject are powerful blocks to learning.  One class of pre-conception is what I call "concept freezing", where the applicability of some concept is unjustifiably restricted so that its full implications are not appreciated, explored, or exploited by the learner.  For instance, we may try to emphasize that "A" must be done before "B" and that "A" must be done before "C", but the student may incorrectly conclude that "B" must necessarily come before "C" when, in actuality, "C" can come before "B" and still meet the two explicity stated "musts" specified.  Concept freezing causes the student to put a mental straight jacket on the concept that unduly restricts it. 

When it comes to bible passages such as this, it should be obvious that adding an adjective, no matter how justified, freezes and restricts the idea that would otherwise be conveyed straightforwardly by the sentence.  Indeed, "adjective injection" is a common mechanism whereby preconceptions are programmed into the human heart by the one doing the injecting, often leading to the person unthinkingly supplying the adjective into the passage in the absence of the injector/programmer.  One of the most striking examples that actually supplanted a noun was the teachings of "Christian" Southern pastors justifying slavery because it was the natural outworking of "the curse of Ham".  It is true that, per the post-flood Genealogies, the peoples of Africa are descended from Ham, but the actual curse was put upon his son Canaan (Genesis 9:18-27)!  It was my privilege to drag a fellow black college student into the college library and make him read the passage to disabuse him of the notion.  Repeated teaching of this falsehood continues to be so prevalent that even a Conservative Rabbi was shocked when informed of the fact.

Obviously, changing a noun in scripture is a rather blatant violation of a restriction that originally applied to the Book of Revelation, but which has been expanded to cover all Scripture.  Perhaps they believe that it is okay to modify an otherwise straightforward interpretation of a text if it is done via mental programming of the Human Heart to mislead the Inner man instead of a blatant modification of the physical text.

Jesus faced a similar form of programming while he was on earth, for people insisted on thinking "Kingdom of Israel" whenever he said "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God".  I believe that the reason Jesus spoke in parables is because he knew that a preconception is best undermined and eventually eliminated if approached obliquely rather than head-on.  Even then, there were limits to what he could do: in John 6:60-70, Jesus tried to explain his personal role in the process of salvation to a large group of disciples and lost many of them when they were offended when he explained that they still didn't believe in him because of their inability to understand what he was saying.  Peter was so programmed with the popular view of the Messiah as a conquering liberator that he sought to "correct" Jesus' thinking about the Messiah when the latter predicted his crucifixion.  (Matthew 16:21-23Mark 8:27-33)  Contrary to popular opinion, the Christ of Christianity does not accept mere belief in him as being adequate.  What He accepts is a belief that is founded upon, and flows from, a correct understanding of his words, acts, and claims.  When he tells those who say "Lord Lord!" that he never knew them, it isn't because he has somehow lost omniscience, but that they had worshipped an idol that they had constructed that may have looked like him, but wasn't truly him.

In keeping with Jesus' policy, I will not directly attack the preconception in your mind that insists on thinking "all religious truth" when the text only says "all truth".  Rather, I will be indirect and note that adding the adjective essentially turns what was a universal positive phrase that does not exclude any truth into a restricted form that explicitly excludes all but one kind of truth.

The transformation of the statement is mathematically significant.  The unrestricted form not only assured the disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them to all truth, but that such a leading would not lead them to any falsehood, since the only way a falsehood can be given is if the truth it contradicts is withheld.  In contrast, the restricted form essentially restricts the truths that the student can be led to by the Holy Spirit to only religious truths.  If there is a truth that is not religious in nature, then the Holy Spirit, per the restricted form, will not necessarily lead the student to that truth.

What I am trying to say is that the restricted form ("all religious truth") is the kind of statement that is easily refuted if the univeral form is actually true.  That is, all we have to do is present evidence of the Spirit giving a truth that is not religious.  Because it is true, the universal form is not refuted, but because it is not religious truth, the restricted form is refuted.  Note that a qualified form ("He will lead you into some truth") would not be refuted either in this case, but that would require changing the text or the meaning of the word "all", at which point we would be justified to claim that the Revelation ban was being violated by the one proposing such a substitution. 

While one counter-example is all that is required, I will present four.

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