Truth… What Truth?
Jesus said we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free.
Jesus said that the Comforter will guide us into all truth.
There is a raging debate going on these days whether there is any such thing as objective truth and, if there is, how could we know it given our epistemological, cultural and finite subjectivity. Ironically, the claim that there is no such thing as objective truth, or truth for all people at all times under all circumstances seems to be an objective truth. Sure sounds like one to me.
In the face of such an absurd contradiction, I’m not sure the issue is really about truth itself but the kind of response that truth requires of us. For example, if x is true, then going against x, denying x or ignoring x seems to be irrational and foolish. So, I think most of us can agree that holding your head under water without breathing leads to death by drowning and that this is a true statement. The appropriate response is to avoid holding your head under water for long periods. But, people don’t like being told what to do even when it is in their best interest. There is an inherent rebellion in each of us and by saying there is no such thing as absolute truth and then we can pick and choose what is ‘true’ as its suits us. Your truth is different from mine, neither is ultimately right or wrong so lets just go merrily along our way.
But, you see this just isn’t going to work. When little bands of ‘truthers’ ( we have our truth, you have yours) rub against each other, conflict is inevitable. They either have to ignore each other or try to overcome the obvious fallacious thinking that ‘they’ (the other groups) have. But, the premise that there is no such thing as objective truth disallows any kind of debate but, interestingly, debates do occur right along as though there was such a thing after all. It is what I call a ontic contradiction; that is, the very structure of human existence via the Creator requires absolute truth so saying it doesn’t exist or cannot be known is to lapse into absurdity. So, even though some would say there is no truth, they live, act, and think as if there is truth after all. And the contradiction becomes even more apparent when the claim there is no absolute truth is treated as if it were, well… true.
I think at the center of all this weirdness is ‘lawlessness’, a resistance to the demands of God upon human beings. It is all very clever; take away truth and moral and epistemological relativism become the norm. However, we know this truth: that for all people at all times under all circumstances there is no such thing as moral relativism but there is such a thing as absolute truth. Simply put, moral and/or epistemological relativism exists only in the absence of absolute truth; it cannot stand on its own. Hence, to justify all sorts of what we know are sinful activities, the world (kosmos) just denies the absolute truth that they are indeed sinful and all is well. And Paul said a time would come when lawlessness would be the norm, not the exception. This is why I think the lines presented at the beginning of this blog are so important. Christians believe in absolute truth; they have to if they believe Jesus is Lord and Saviour. Christians also know that the litmus test for whether truth is truth is freedom, freedom from all sorts of bondage’s. Christians also know that in matters of perplexity, of which there are many these days, the promise is that the truth will be revealed to us, that we will be guided into it and not left floundering about.
Now, it is important I emphasize the ‘we’ part of this. The ‘we’ to whom I am referring is the Body of Christ, the Church, not ‘a’ body of Christ, not ‘a’ particular church and especially not a particular person. And the ‘we’ part is also important because, whether we like it or not, this prevailing lawlessness affects us, all of us, no matter what geo-temporal fellowship we might belong to. In fact, the more we defend truth against all that is false, the more likely we will feel unpleasant consequences. But we will hear the argument from many voices that our faith, our truth is just for us and that other faiths and other truths are equally valid, that Christianity is just one of many religious expressions pointing to some kind of ultimacy. And this alone is perhaps why understanding the litmus test of truth is so important, that ultimately it sets people free when no other freedom is possible. The absolute truth is that Christianity alone is capable of undoing the greatest bondage of all, namely sin and death. We know this because “whom the Son sets free is free indeed” and ‘we’ Christians walk in that freedom because we know the truth and it has set us free. But more on all this later. Stay tuned.