Man’s Noblest Function

By J. Randal Matheny

Man has no nobler function than to defend the truth. —Ruth McKenney

This quote, apparently by the American author and journalist, appeared in an email without context or explanation. From McKenney’s life, she would undoubtedly have meant something different by her worthy sentiment than Christians do as far as the content of truth, although many of us would hasten to agree with her statement.

But she was wrong.

Man has a nobler function. Defending truth is good and necessary, but does not lie at the peak of the scales of those greatest purposes that man could adopt.

At the end of his life, our Lord Jesus’ prayer was that he might glorify the Father (John 17:1ff). At the beginning of his ministry, his concern was that his followers would, like him, glorify the heavenly Father (Matthew 5:13-16).

In the Old Testament, a person was urged to tell the truth under testimony, because a greater issue was at stake: “give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him” (Joshua 7:19 ESV).

The Christian use of the body has a greater purpose than health or reputation: “glorify God with your body” (2 Cor. 6:20 NET).

Even the Christian mission has a higher calling than just saving souls and living exemplary lives, but these are means through which pagans may “glorify God when he appears” (1 Pet. 2:12; cf. 2 Cor. 9:13).

The overarching purpose of man is to glorify God. Under this noblest of functions, to paraphrase McKenney, fit all the activities and all the efforts of Christ’s disciples.

If saints believe that man’s noblest function is to defend the truth, they will ever seek for error against which they may throw themselves in its fulfillment. They will become spiritual ferrets, running through the hidden pipes of churches in search of doctrinal departures and moral turpitude.

And since they must fulfill that function, if they cannot find error, they will fabricate it. But there is more to life in Christ than ferreting out error in order to defend the truth.

In heaven, not only will death and pain and tears be gone, but error as well. But man will still be able to glorify God in the highest.

Is not a function or purpose that may continue into eternity far higher and greater?