Glorifying His name through wood products

The Galilean

What is Truth?

What is Truth?

In John 18:37-38 Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate in the Praetorium and says… “You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (KJV)

I spoke once at the church on the topic of truth.  Truth is all around us and yet there seems to be confusion as to whether it really exists.  The western society I live in seems to make truth relative to opinion. So let’s clear up a few fallacies about truth.

A couple pop culture statements:  Truth is relative.  Truth cannot be known.  Nobody knows what the truth is. That’s true for you but not true for me.

A couple pop culture statements:  Truth is relative.  Truth cannot be known.  Nobody knows what the truth is. That’s true for you but not true for me.

The biggest issue these statements have in common is they are self-defeating statements.  They are implicitly false and used by many people in the world today who would like you to think that truth really is in the eye of the beholder.  Let’s look at these statements one at a time.

Truth is relative.  If truth were really relative could somebody actually make an absolute statement saying it is relative?  This statement is in fact a truth claim! This is clearly a false and self-defeating statement.  It has no merit and is not a well thought-out defense of someone seeking truth and thinking they know it.

Truth cannot be known.  Really?  Are you sure about that?  That sounds like a pretty confident/true statement to me.  If truth cannot be known then how can someone make such a bold statement that it cannot be known?  Again, another truth claim and clearly a false statement and self-defeating. 

Nobody knows what the truth is.  I suppose nobody knows what the truth is except the author who penned that last statement?  Again, false, self-defeating, and unable to stand our litmus test.  In Christian apologetics, the late Norman Geisler and contemporary apologist Frank Turek would call this defense the ‘Road Runner Tactic’ because similar to Wiley E. Coyote when he runs too far off the cliff chasing the road runner, he soon realizes that he has no ground to stand on and he plummets to his demise.  (1)

That’s true for you but not true for me. Is this statement true? It sounds like a truth claim. It must be an opinion and fortunately for the world, truth doesn’t rest on an opinion. The true statement should look something like this: if it’s true for you then it’s true for me as well.

Truth can be known and it’s absolute.  Let Geisler and Turek tell us about a few other truths:

Truth is discovered, not invented.  We discovered there was a law of gravity, just like we discovered the earth was a sphere.  We did not invent it.

Truth is transcultural and transtemporal.  It is true for everyone, everywhere, and at all times.  Gravity exists for everyone across the world and throughout the course of time.

Truth is unchanging even though our beliefs may change.  The earth was always a sphere even though it took us centuries to figure out that it truly wasn’t flat.

Beliefs cannot change a fact.  I hope this doesn’t need an example.  We are wrong a lot. People come to their beliefs in a variety of ways and throughout the course of their life will inevitably change those beliefs based on new information, experience, revelations, etc…Beliefs change a lot.

Truth is not affected by the one who professes it.  Whether you are a Harvard Law professor, a Buddhist monk, or a transient on the street; if you know truth it doesn’t matter a lick who delivers it.

Truth is absolute. It has to be.

Truth is absolute. It has to be.

So it doesn’t take much effort on our part to be informed that truth exists.  But is it important to us?  Or maybe better yet, which truths are important to us, the ones that offer comfort more than the ones that make us squirm?

We don’t have to be a believer in really anything greater than ourselves to see that truth matters to us a great deal.  If you were lost and wanted directions, would you not want truthful directions to the place you were trying to find?  What about if you had to go to the doctor for advice on what to do regarding a health condition?  Would you not want them to be truthful about your treatment options and probabilities of success?  What about when you ask a police officer or a judge something, or how about your spouse?  What about when you ask your kids why the window out back is broken?  This might be a stretch (gulp), but what do you expect when you turn on the news?

Not only is the truth all around us but we expect it in all of our interactions in our daily life.  Imagine having conversations with people where everything was a lie? Would you ever want to talk to anybody? Who could you trust? The conversation alone would be worth nothing. We may not realize it but when we have conversations we many times are just trying to validate truth claims and become better informed to the truth (or falsity) of our worldview.

We do rely on truth to make informed decisions that, if nothing else, just keep us alive.  But we also prioritize truth.  The fact it is a truth there are black chairs in the church where I worship is far less important to me than the truth that I have enough gas in my car to get home after church.  It wouldn’t take us long to figure out truth involving mortality would be pretty meaningful for us as well.  The truth of whether I have enough gas in my car to get home pales in comparison to the truth that if I don’t drink enough water and eat enough food in a timely manner, I will expire from this earth.  And so I do that because living is deemed a priority for me at this time and it is a very real truth that I want to keep living almost more than anything else in the world.  For if I’m dead I can’t really go concerning myself with gas in my car or black chairs at church can I? So from a mortality standpoint, if God exists and life does not end at the grave, that would seem to be a pretty important piece of my life that I would want to be informed about as far as truth. For it would seem like my moral behavior, which often can have some influence on mortality, on this Earth would be indicative of whatever I understand eternal truth to be.

Let’s look at a number of truths affecting mortality, many of which are moral truths.  Some folks across the world believe it is a woman’s right to abort a child for any number of different reasons.  Some folks across the world vehemently oppose this “right” of a woman.  I’ll leave it as an aside right now, but just to plant a seed, where does this idea of “rights” even come from? Evolution? What if your understanding of “rights” evolved differently than mine? Whose viewpoint warrants the true belief?

From a moral standpoint, if we were to allow women to abort unborn babies, what moral sideboards do we have in place when the baby is born?  Why can’t we kill the baby after it’s born?  Why is it morally acceptable to kill a baby in utero and not once it is born?  Tell me, who builds these sideboards, a mother, a president, a Congress, a Supreme Court?  And who are we to really debate when personhood begins? Is this a potential person or a person with potential? Think about this slope we have just slipped on and are now tumbling down. We have opened up the gates. But also think about all the things to debate? Personhood? Are we really going to debate personhood? So in regards to the truth of this matter it is either morally right to kill an unborn baby, or morally wrong. It cannot be both, and while circumstances may offer emotional appeal, they do nothing in regards to the truth of the matter.

Now the topic of abortion is seen as a moral dilemma in the eyes of many but it is only one because humanity has made it so.  If God exists there is no dilemma here, for God values all of human life, and at least Biblically speaking, has given the reader clear commands to not commit murder (Exodus 20:13). Since I have opened up divine commands as being part of our duties as stated in the Bible, I have opened up the Bible to the appropriate criticisms associated with some of these divine commands. And until I have a topic written covering some of these I will refer the reader to Paul Copan’s book “Is God a Moral Monster.” (2)

On the topic of abortion, I would think it strange to see a pregnant deer ramming herself against a tree trying to abort her baby, yet even more strange having people watch it, muttering to themselves, ‘well, I guess that’s her right.’ Or even worse, what if we aided in the death of the fetus of that deer by jumping in and assisting her in this action? In so many ways we truly are worse than animals. It can be truly frightful to follow the implications of our worldviews to their logical terminus.

Truth claims are also relativized in regards to euthanasia, poverty, homosexuality, divorce, animal suffering, capital punishment, and many others. In regard to euthanasia…

As I write this there are people all across the world suffering conditions that are so deplorable we could never fully appreciate it unless we were in their circumstance.  So why don’t we act with compassion and allow their lives to end or somehow aid in the end of their life?  By what metric would we measure suffering commensurate with a decision to end that person’s life?  And who again decides that?  Can we start killing old people just because they are old and unproductive members of society, even though they may not be sick?  Again, if there are no moral truths in the matter then there are no sideboards, just well or ill-informed opinions. But surely most people would find it morally wrong to kill somebody just because they were old.  Wouldn’t they?  There is moral truth that murder is wrong (of course you have to believe in an objective moral standard though), we may again just not believe it under certain circumstances.  The apostle Paul tells us regardless of our belief system that truth is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). (KJV)

Does the wolf feel sorry once she takes down the deer?  I think not.  It’s not written on their hearts. Humans, we alone, are the moral agents.

Does the wolf feel sorry once she takes down the deer?  I think not.  It’s not written on their hearts. Humans, we alone, are the moral agents.

If there are moral laws (truths) then there is a moral lawgiver, for every law has a lawgiver. And there appear to clearly be moral truths, not things that are just socially acceptable or unfashionable.  If these claims are plausibly true (which they appear to be; see Moral Argument section) then we need to search out the moral lawgiver.  In this quest there are a number of options and it’s not hard to narrow it down fast.  But before we do that let’s look at a contemporary popular saying of all belief systems/religions being true.

It doesn’t take probably more than a half hour of semi-serious research to understand that while some belief systems/religions have a few slight similarities, most of them are profoundly different when the topics turn to sin, forgiveness, salvation, reconciliation, works, faith, heaven, and hell. 

A person would not mistake the sport of football for baseball, or baseball for ice hockey. Yes, they are sports where two teams compete against each other. In fact there are many similarities such as each team wears jerseys, has a certain number of players on the field at any one time, there is an objective with rules to the game, some sort of object has to be put in a goal to score points, and the team with the most points when time expires wins the game. But the differences! The differences are so stark in contrast a person would have to be deluded to think these sports were the same.

And so we come to belief systems/religions, or maybe we should just call them worldviews, that way we are encompassing all people with any belief system, outside of agnosticism (please get in the game agnostics!). And worldviews are much more important than sports because worldviews establish how we find purpose, meaning, and value in our limited time on earth. All worldviews are in fact true, but only true in the fact they truly exist, not the fact they teach truth. For if God exists, God is by nature immutable and consequently not a God of conflicting messages (for the Buddhist is not a Christian, and a Christian is not a Jew, and a Jew is not a Muslim, and a Muslim is not an atheist, and all for very specific reasons), and the burden rests upon the seeker to seek the evidence of which worldview is most plausible. By plausible I mean more true than false, true enough that a defeater doesn’t exist that is powerful enough to overcome it. More true than any negations set against it.

So the seeker has to be open to understanding how God has revealed Himself to us. For we know if God exists one of His attributes has to be that He is a personal God, for a decision was made to set in motion the creation of the world and have creatures of free will determine if they will seek a relationship with Him.

So the seeker has to be open to understanding how God has revealed Himself to us. For we know if God exists one of His attributes has to be that He is a personal God, for a decision was made to set in motion the creation of the world and have creatures of free will determine if they will seek a relationship with Him.

So where does that lead us but to seek where the truth lies?  After all, truth is an either or propositional statement, not a both.  Either it’s Islam or Christianity, or none of those, either it’s Hinduism or Judaism, or none of those, either it’s Buddhism or Atheism (yes atheism is a belief system as well), or none of those.  So this quest is up to you.  It’s a journey you have to take for yourself, and one in which you have limited time.  You have to discover truth, it’s not just something you believe in.  After all, how many times have you believed something and been wrong?  You must discover it and when you do, allow it to convict you in your heart.

So go ahead and take your journey towards discovering truth, but in the meantime I’m going to give you what I’ve discovered about truth. I have a saying I really like and it goes something like this, ‘when you stand up for truth, be prepared to stand alone.’ I can tell you that knowing truth, eternal truth (not just opinions about which flavor of ice cream is best), can be very isolating. Talk about strange looks when you make a truth claim about God. More than once have I gotten the ‘man you are one crazy dude’ look when I’ve spoken on truth.

In my experience on this Earth it seems that many people are okay about talking about truth except when it comes to eternal topics. Then it gets a bit uncomfortable. After all, who am I to tell you that you may not quite know truth, or that your worldview might be fallacious? I appreciate when somebody shares their version of it that isn’t based on just feelings or experiences, but sound reason as well. I personally have yet to hear defeaters against Christianity that are more plausibly true than what the Bible teaches, but I am still open for people to have dialogue with me, for that is the only reason I am where I am today with my truth quest. I have not always been a Christian and have possessed worldviews in the past that were based more on emotion than logic and evidence.

Eternal truth topics also really hits people where it hurts, which is typically their pride. After all, they have been going along in this world fine for quite some time, and now somebody is going to tell them that their worldview is false? Come on! How arrogant is that! And what if these people have kids? Have they been teaching their kids fallaciously for years? Not many people are open to this sort of involuntary self-reflection and in fact, most people just get defensive and dig in.

But think about it, if somebody had the cure to cancer and wanted to share it with you and your family, are you going to ignore them? What if they wanted to pay off all of your debt, like your mortgage or something? And the best part is there is nothing you have to do except receive the gift! You’d be a fool not to do it!

Well, similarly to why most people don’t go to restaurants that serve one entree (in fact most restaurants have more options than anyone could ever choose), we like options that fit our lifestyles. Why? Because most of us are on a happiness or comfort quest and not a truth quest. And so truth gets thrown out because most of the time it’s just not convenient and we continue to look for happiness in all sorts of places. And when we can’t find it in a sober state of mind, we invent happiness by imagining it and medicating ourselves to find it.

I am here to tell you that truth exists; eternal truth. And if you have an open heart and an open mind, you can receive the truth into your heart. There is so much evidence! There was a man who walked this Earth 2,000 years ago who spoke a lot about truth. I encourage you to find the Gospel of John and read about some of what was said about Him as well as what He said. Here are some great ones:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, ) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 KJV)

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 KJV)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6 KJV)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6 KJV)

“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:19 KJV)

There aren’t many people in the recorded history of the world who spoke this way and didn’t get thrown into asylums. In Jesus’ case, He was executed for these claims. But Jesus was a healer, a miracle worker, He helped people. He was not a crazy man. His ethical teaching, while some would say hard, if not impossible to follow, made sense from the standpoint of a devout follower of God, especially a person claiming a unique relationship with God like Jesus did. Many critical scholars believe these historical claims too. So what are we to make of this?

At some point we all will hopefully try to discern how our existence in this world matters. After all, you are going to cease to exist someday and one should try to understand the truth and meaning behind that finality, and everything leading up to it. For if we were immortal we wouldn’t need to talk about things like purpose, meaning, and value. They would be irrelevant. In fact, if we were immortal God would be irrelevant. It is because we all die that we need to seek the relevancy, the ultimate relevancy of our life.

My friends, Jesus has provided a purpose to your life. He provided value. He provided meaning. And He has provided truth. Lay down your pride and what you think you know, and surrender to Him. Say yes to Him, and allow your life to be transformed and truly understand there is a Creator God; a God who loves, a God who is fully good, a God who is just, and a God who forgives. If you seek truth you will find Jesus. In Jesus you will find ultimate purpose, value, and meaning in this life. It is this knowledge that will prepare you for your eternal life to come.

(1) Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Crossway Books Publishing, 2004)

(2) Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Published by Baker Books, 2011)

(KJV) Bible: King James Version