Number two in a new Sunday Series on virtues
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. John 18:37-38 [ESV]
Last week I began this special series with a reflection on the virtue of beauty. In my eagerness to begin, I neglected to mention some basic information.
This is the second of seven contemplations on various virtues and their meanings for our lives. There may be others who will disagree on whether seven is too many or not enough.
I would reply that seven seems sufficient to cover the basics for a practical understanding. It is, after all, considered by many to be the number of completion in Scripture.
These are biblical and philosophical musings from this author’s interpretations and point of view. It is my sincere hope that these can prove edifying to others who chance upon them.
In the modern age, perhaps the most difficult task in life is to correctly identify truth. One obvious reason is today’s overload of information, both true and false, appearing in various formats on the internet.
However, it is vital for every person to be able to determine what is true just to live each day. According to dictionary.com, the word truth is defined as,
1.the true or actual state of a matter:
He tried to find out the truth.
2.conformity with fact or reality; verity:
the truth of a statement.
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like:
There are many other dictionary entries for “truth,” but these are the most basic which apply to all the others. The first definition is the least useful because it defines truth as, well, what is true.
Entries 2 and 3 define truth as a concept. Truth is comprised of facts that best comport with what is real.
On a practical level, most people understand that truth must align with reality. Yet the question of Pilate still resonates with many when he asks, “What is truth?”
I believe this is because knowing what truth is seems easier than identifying the truth among the chaos around us. In order to successfully navigate toward identifying truth, we must first understand that truth is absolute.
The Absolute Truth
The truth about truth is that it cannot be denied. Truth is an absolute. This means that truth exists independent of acknowledgment.
In other words, the truth about anything or anyone exists even if no one sees it or agrees with it. This assertion goes against the prevailing leftist view that truth is relative to one or more viewpoints.
The common refrain from the Left is characterized by the statement, “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” The correct response to that statement is, “Nonsense.”
It is nonsense because it is a self-defeating statement. If there is no absolute truth, then even the statement, ‘there is no absolute truth,’ is untrue.
If one claims this statement is true, then we know there is at least one absolutely true fact. However, it is the fact that no truth is absolute!
Truth deals in reality, in facts and actualities of what is and what is not. However, identifying the truth often means dealing with falsehoods and distortions of the truth.
Faith and the Truth
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 [ESV]
The falsehoods and distortions of the truth exist all around us. In order to both identify and deal with them, we must be intimately familiar with what is actually true.
It is much like someone in a bank who must determine which bills or coins are counterfeited. In order to accomplish this, they must know every possible facet of a real bill or coin.
Yet, even the expert can be fooled by a thorough enough deception. The truth about truth is absolute, but it is also impossible for imperfect humans to know the truth perfectly.
Even science recognizes this and it is reflected in the classic scientific method. What we know as scientific ‘fact’ has been subjected to a process of testing designed to disprove the hypothesis or theory or even a scientific ‘law.’
The reasoning is that if a proposition, such as the Law of Gravity, can have serious doubt cast upon it with an experiment, it is likely incorrect. If that cannot be done, it is very likely correct and true.
Therefore, though the truth is absolute, the certainty of the truth is not. Why not? Because all of us process our environment by placing some faith in our senses to give us correct information.
In fact, that is what human beings have to do to live life at all. Sensory input tells us that we do not exist alone, that we live with others as co-workers, friends, families, and foes.
The only alternative to this is living as though everything and everyone else we see or hear is an illusion of our own mind. Though that is an entertaining concept as seen in the fictional film “The Matrix,” it is not reality.
We are not like the character of Neo in that film. We cannot simply ‘take the red pill,’ to know the truth.
How Can We Know the Truth?
How can we bridge the gap between the truth that exists and our knowledge of that truth? There is no way to do so by relying on human sources alone.
Human knowledge and searching can take us far along the road to truth, but not to the point of perfect assurance. To get there, we must travel the less comfortable path which goes beyond the senses.
Jesus put it this way when speaking to His disciples,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16,17 [ESV]
The ultimate, absolute truth is found through the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That guidance is available solely by trusting in God the Son, Jesus Christ.
A few verses prior to the above citation, Jesus says this,
…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 [ESV]
The truth that is necessary to go about everyday life can be garnered from many human sources. The ultimate truth which gives real meaning to life can only be realized through faith in the One who declares He is both the way and the life as well as the truth, Christ the Lord.
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
Top Image courtesy of Bill Dimmick’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Mathematical Association of America’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Face Thinking’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of duncan c’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of Sarah Fagg’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 5 courtesy of Waiting for the Word’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
All other sources linked or cited in the text
First published in TIL Journal