Truth? Says who?
Perhaps the most popular position today is that absolute, universal, unchanging objective truth cannot be known, if it even exists. The best we can do is to speak of "my" truth, or "your" truth. This is the tolerant, enlightened position. To speak of absolute truth, statements that depict reality as it really is whether we like it or not, is insufferable arrogance. Only ignorant would-be Ayatollahs claim to know "the" truth.
But wait a moment. Do you notice the self-defeating snare built into this position?
Is it really true that truth cannot be known? Is that true everywhere, at all times, and for all people? Is it true that one can only speak of his own truth? When I say, "No one can claim to know the truth," is that a true statement?
If it is a true statement, then it is a false statement!
Don't you see? If it is true to say none can speak of the truth, then we would be making a true statement that no one can make true statements. (Except for that one?)
The truth is, we can't even talk about truth without assuming that there is truth to be discussed. The bare assertion that truth is unknowable assumes that at least one truth can be known: the unknowability of truth! So, you see, this position collapses under its own weight.
If truth truly cannot be know, then the truest behavior would be to cocoon, to shut up all induction or communication, because the entire process is hopeless. (But if it is true to say that it is hopeless... then it is not hopeless!)
I think that most folks make these sorts of statements for one of three reasons.
- They may say it because they know a lot of other smart folks say it, and they don't want to seem weird.
- Or they say it because they're lazy, and have never really thought it through.
- Or they may say it because in their hearts they know that truth is unyielding, and can be awfully unwelcome... and even unfriendly.
So when someone tells me that my behavior is immoral, maybe I say "That's your truth," as a way of getting out of the discussion fast and cheap. I can seem tolerant, which is nice. What's more important to me, though, is that I can strong-arm the other fellow into tolerating my sleeping around—or my lying, or my thieving, or my selfishness, or what-have-you.
So what I am really doing is saying "I don't want to hear about it, it makes me feel bad." I am just disguising my dodge in a pseudo-philosophical clownsuit.
I can only get away with that sort of cop-out, however, if I don't think about it. If I do think about it, I'm in danger of asking myself some very uncomfortable questions. Like:
"When I say that his statement is just his truth, is that statement just my truth? If it is, then maybe his statement is my truth. Because if my statement is my truth and his truth, then I'm saying that I can impose my truth on him... in which case, maybe he can impose his truth on me! Aigh!"Dangerous thing, this thinking outside our cultural box.
I have not learned wisdom,Worse, we are all of us bent and twisted in the way we think, so that we are inclined to draw the wrong and most self-serving conclusions from what little we do know. We have access to the truth, but suppress it by means of our own delusions of godhood (Romans 1:18)
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son's name?
Surely you know!
"But wait," you say. "I hear Christians yammering on and on about 'the truth' all the time. They all think they know The Truth, and they all imagine that they can tell everyone what it is. How can you say they don't?"
Good question. Here's the answer: I phrased myself carefully when I said that "no mere mortal has the authority to create and impose truth on another." But this isn't what Christians do, when they're being true to their faith.
A compelling source of truth would have to be infinite in its grasp of the facts, unerring in its analysis of the significance of the infinite array of facts it grasped, and pure in its assessment of them. It would have to know everything perfectly at once, without ever needing to learn (i.e. to evolve from less-truthful to more-truthful).
This description fits no mere man, Christian or otherwise. But it does fit God, and that is the Christian's source for truth-claims.
After God spoke of old in many portions and in many manners to the fathers in the prophets, at the last of these days He spoke to us in the Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages (Hebrews 1:1-2)You see? "God spoke...He spoke." It is the Christian assertion that the one and only Being who has a transcendent, unconditioned, unerring and infinite grasp of all facts and meaning—having Himself created all facts, and assigned all meaning—has spoken. God has taken the initiative. He has pulled off the veil, chosen His words and imagery carefully, and communicated truth as He sees it.
And truth "as He sees it" is real truth—true truth, if you will.
So the Christian foundation is not in philosophy nor discovery nor research, per se. The Christian claim is not that we have figured out the truth, nor that we have plotted or graphed or syllogized or reasoned out the truth. It is not the Christian position that we have reached upwards and grasped truth.
Rather, it is our position that Truth reached down and grasped us.
And so, you see, far from being a position of arrogance, the Christian position is one of utter humility. (Don't misunderstand: individual Christians, sadly, may not be very humble people; what I am asserting is that their position is necessarily humble). The Christian, insofar as he is true to his calling, confesses openly "I could never have figured this out, and I never would have. But God has spoken, and I can only embrace and echo what He says."
And what's even more fundamental, the Christian truth-anchor is both propositional (statements about truth) and personal. The Christian's fundamental conviction is that, when Jesus Christ said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6), He was saying it exactly like it is.
This is the point of division between Christianity and every other worldview. The Christian position rests on the conviction that Jesus is truth incarnate, that His life was supremely authentic, and His words unerringly truthful and true.
So ultimately this truth-claim does not rest on the shoulders of any individual Christian, nor on all Christians lumped together. This truth-claim rests on the shoulders of Jesus Christ.
Any other position is not Christian.
Here then is the last implication I wish to draw from that. Jesus being who He is, and truth being what it is, this truth is your truth and my truth, whether we accept it or not.
Gravity has an effect on us, whether we believe in it or not. It is our truth. The consequences of disbelieving than be pretty disastrous, however.
No less, the consequences of disbelieving the truth of Jesus.
More on that, another time.