What is truth?
“What is truth?” Pilate queried contemptuously (John 18:38). Like many today he probably thought the question was neither answerable nor relevant. Few folks really contemplate the question any more than Pilate did. But it is worth more than momentary reflection. The answer is vital to life.
Some major questions of a worldview are: Who is God? Who is man? Where did we come from? What is wrong with the world? Can it be fixed and if so, how? What is our destiny? These and other questions of worldview that we all answer, either consciously or unconsciously, are insufficiently answered until we have answered the questions related to truth itself. The concept of truth is under heavy fire today. It is said to be relative and different for different people depending on their situation at the moment. But the Bible has a lot to say about truth, and nowhere does it call it relative. In fact, no religion of the world thinks “their version of truth” is relative. Truth by definition is exclusive, but with so many voices claiming to “have it”, how on earth is a person supposed to figure it out? Even those who deny that truth exists claim that they are speaking truth! So what can we make of this entity called “truth”? Is it something real that can be known, or is it what the self-professed experts claim—non-existent and/or unknowable?
“In April, May and June of 2010 there was an oil spill in the gulf waters that threatened wildlife and the economy of the gulf coast region.” Would you challenge the truthfulness of that statement? Probably not. Why not? Because you believed the evidence put before you on TV or the internet (not consistently reliable sources of truth, by the way!). However, without going to the area and investigating the facts for yourself, by faith you believe the statement to be true. And since the oil spill did happen, and did have the above effects, the statement is true regardless of any human’s affirming it as true. Truth is always like that. It is objective reality—fact—irrespective of human perspective, embrace, or rejection of that reality.
“Truth is vital to life” is the claim we are making. For instance, to sustain life we depend upon truth as much as we depend upon the air we breathe. Regarding our physical world, most reasonable people would concur. But suppose you disliked the narrow and absolute truth that you need a certain percentage of oxygen to live. You, thus, would seek to disprove the truth that ‘humans cannot survive for long on much less that 21% of oxygen containing air.’ Unless you called off your experiment in time, your reality would be the other side of this life!! Or, try challenging the law of gravity—or rather do not try, for gravity will always win! We can trust the laws of nature to be consistent and if tested irresponsibility will result in the death of the challenger. Truth is horribly narrow in the physical world. In order to project a rocket beyond the earth’s atmosphere to hit the moon, or Mars takes working within the tiniest windows of truth in physics, aerodynamics, gravity, and numerous other realities that scientific engineers deal with to make the launch successful. A million examples could be cited that the physical truths that create boundaries in our lives are realities (truths), but we rarely consider them. Nevertheless, we abide by them and live respectfully within them. To challenge any physical law without the proper protection that overcomes them to some extent is to find them unyielding and totally intolerant of exceptions. However in the spiritual and moral realm man assumes he is god; that truth is relative, situationally dependent, or non-existent, awaiting the great wisdom of our choices.
Could it not be that spiritual truths are as narrow and unyielding as physical laws (truths)? The saying today is, “I have my truth and you have your truth!” Says who? That is like saying “I have my math and you have your math!” Well, the reality is that two plus two is four on every continent and throughout the universe. It finds no exception. Why would spiritual and moral truth be different than truth in the physical world?
Truth, basically, is “that which corresponds to reality”, or “that which really exists, unchanging in its nature”. Scientists, who too often deny the existence of objective truth, nevertheless totally depend upon it to do real science; they count on the predictability of the physical laws (truth) to verify or challenge their hypotheses and thus move forward mankind’s knowledge. (Do laws of any kind not imply a law giver? Where did the laws of nature come from? What do they mean? – read more about this issue in this article) But as mentioned before, most opinion makers of our day assume that moral/spiritual/religious truth is unlike physical truth. Just observe the moral shifts that have occurred in our nation over the last several decades! But God’s morality (truth) is no more easily changed than the laws of mathematics or physics. God says in Romans 1:18-20 that His divine nature and His call of right actions are clearly known by men, but that we choose to suppress truth so we can pretend to be god, and do whatever we prefer. The rest of the chapter also tells the outcome of denying truth and pretending that it cannot be known.
Moral/spiritual truth cannot be relative. C.S. Lewis brilliantly illustrates this in Mere Christianity by stating “the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson.”
Next time you meet someone who says that truth is relative just try taking their wallet.
*Most of this post was provided courtesy of Lynne Smith