What is Truth?

What is Truth?

J.N. Manokaran

“Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”   “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:37-38)

The classical skeptical question of Pilate has been asked in all generations.  The question has many connotations:  What is the origin of truth?  How can we know the truth?  Is truth relevant?  These are very much essential questions that provide purpose and meaning for life.  However, there are many who are not concerned like Pilate about the truth.

Origin of Truth

Truth is used as a generic term.  Speaking the truth, observing, inferring, knowing truth is referred to mundane things around us to complex things as science and technology and profound things that includes spirituality.  There is also reference to partial truth and complete truth.  There are others who think, truth is an illusion (maya).  The proverbial story of blind men, trying to know or figure out the elephant clearly explains the dilemma of man with regards to truth.  Each blind man came to his own conclusion about the elephant that was partially true.  Each one of them thought it was a wall or a tree trunk or a pillar or a rope or a spade plate/hand fan or a stick/pipe.  None of them had a complete picture.  From their respective perspective, understanding and experience, they were pretty sure; which is termed as subjective truth.  There were as many subjective truths as the observers were.

However, a person who could has complete sight, manages to see the whole elephant.  Even a person who could see, only can observe the external features and would not be able to perceive the internal structure of the elephant.  The normal person could not see the digestive system or lungs or heart or brain of the elephant.  He will need a special tool like an electronic scanner to peep into the inner parts of the elephant.

In my opinion, the proverbial story provides three kinds of truth:  Subjective truth, Objective truth and Absolute truth.  Nevertheless, in the world people get confused with the three.  Subjective truth may be validated by experience or could be blind belief or faith.  Objective truth could be validated by experiments, science and technology.  Again, this functions in the realm of visibility.  The unseen or invisible realm is sometimes beyond the reach of experience or expertise.  Hence, Absolute Truth needs special perception or reception to the revelation of God.

Wholesome truth

The struggle and pursuit is to understand the whole or wholesome or absolute truth.  This involves internal and external; visible and invisible.  Science with advance technology and technological tools could explain the visible external or internal that is not apparently visible but has physiological or material structure.  When it comes to invisible aspects without material structure, science and technology fails.

‘The truth’ is absolute, wholesome, complete, perfect and beyond human comprehension.  The truth here refers to self-existing creator who would be naturally beyond human comprehension as humans are created beings with limited understanding.  The self-existing Truth is God, who is Sovereign, Eternal, Almighty, Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient.  Beyond doubt, there is truth that exists and humans have tried to understand or grasp or embrace the truth.

Enigma of Knowing the truth

Is it possible for human beings to know “The Truth”?  People have come up with several ideas and suggestions.  Some people think that the Truth cannot be known.  It is beyond capacity of humans.  It should not be a pursuit of a person.  Human beings have amazing intelligence.  Human brains have great capacity to think, research, invent, and create.  In spite of, this awesome capacity, humans cannot understand or grasp the truth.

There are few who think, ‘Truth is irrelevant’ – hence need not waste time in knowing the truth.  Even if truth is known, it has little use for people living on earth.  Thinking beyond what is seen and observed is not needed.  Such thoughts and ideas do not bring any benefit to humanity.

The truth is not important or a priority in life.  So, it is not worth the time invested to pursue the truth.  The truth does not have any consequence, so no need of sincerely seeking the truth.  Understanding truth may not reorient or reform their lives.  Truth could be one of the millions of pieces of information that floats in the world of ideas.

Some thinkers have opinion that they can arbitrarily decide or determine the truth and also create their own truth if necessary.  Each individual is supreme and has capacity and authority to determine what truth is and what is not.  Some governments promote myths and legends as truth.  Media could make a hype as truth to gullible viewers.

There are others who think, the truth is just subjective and it has no objective features or structures.  Whatever a person thinks to be true is true for him.  Even if the majority of the people in the world hold another opinion, it is immaterial.  As far as he is considered he can cling to that subjective experience of truth.

For some truth is a collective judgment of society or community.  The majority opinion should be taken as truth is some people’s argument.  The truth debate could be settled in a democratic style of voting.  The idea that gets a majority vote is the truth.  There is possibility of mass deception and mass hysteria.

Definition for truth

People try to define truth as transcendent fundamental spiritual reality.  Some define truth as that is real, genuine or facts.  John MacArthur writes:  “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God.”[1]  The Absolute Truth or The Ultimate Truth is God Himself.  The Truth has to be beyond what is experience or observed.  Hence, the bible affirms the Truth has been revealed.  Truth cannot be arrived by reason alone, there is a need for revelation.

Absolute, Abstract, Appeared

The Bible teaches that the Truth is Absolute truth.  It is not a relative truth.  God is Spirit, that means he does not have a physical form.  However, that God Appeared as incarnation – Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ.  Lord Jesus Christ clearly stated that He is The Truth (John 14:6).  The statement clearly demonstrates that He is the Absolute Truth, Only Truth and Ultimate Truth.  God’s Word is Truth:  “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17)). Jesus, as the Word become flesh, is full of grace and truth  (John 1:14)  Lord also qualified his statement by adding Way and Life.  Lord Jesus Christ is the Way to Truth and when we get the Truth, we have Life Eternal.  Somehow, Pilate did not enquire deep enough to arrive at the truth as he was in a hurry.  Millions bypass Truth in several of their life junctions and end up in error and death.

However, God also self – expresses Himself by various means.  Humans could know God as He has revealed himself through nature, his creation.  Psalmist declares that Heavens declare the glory of God.  (Psalms 19:1)  God’s invisible attributes – Human conscience, moral laws are ingrained in human heart that again reveals God.  (Romans 1:19; Romans 2:15) Wisdom, Power, Beauty are on constant display in God’s creation.  (Romans 1:20)

Since, God is the Truth, those who worship him should worship in truth.  (John 4:23-24).  The seeker or follower or disciple should pursue with right and righteous intentions.  In Christian life, Truth is compared to a soldier’s armour of belt.  (Ephesians 6:14)

Relevance of Truth

There is great relevance of truth in our lives.  Lord Jesus Christ said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:32)  This freedom is not about political, social, economical and any other freedom, it is the spiritual freedom.   “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  (John 8:34)  Freedom is directly connected to the Truth, God.  It is impossible to get forgiveness from sins and deliverance from the slavery of sin apart from God.  True freedom is freedom from domination and damnation of sin.  The spiritual relevance of truth is significant and important.  This freedom to receive forgiveness opens doors for Eternal Life.  A person who receives, experiences and knows this truth gets assurance of a life that would be in God’s presence after the earthly life is over.

Buy the Truth

Solomon advises:  “Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well.”  (Proverbs 23:23)  Truth surpasses wisdom, instruction, teachings and insights.  Lord Jesus emphasized this by the parables:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)  Paul who had wealth and the best education of his times reflects:  “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ. “  (Phil 3:8)  The warning is also included in the statement of Solomon.  We are not to sell out the truth.  No compromise of truth, no deviation, no dilution, no distraction from the path of truth.

Challenge

The open question asked by Pilate to Lord Jesus Christ is still asked by millions today.  The irony is that Pilate asked the right person who himself is the Truth, but did not wait or listen to get an answer.  Today, people are asking the same question to wrong persons and are misguided.  The responsibility and challenge of finding the Eternal Truth is each individual’s duty or prerogative.  It is a privilege and blessing to really know The Truth.

 

 

 

[1] John MacArthur, http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A379/what-is-truth retrieved on 1 March 2016.

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About J.N. Manokaran

Preacher, Teacher and Writer. Serving Lord Jesus Christ through Community Bible Study
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