The Question Examined

Noise. If you’ve ever walked through Times Square, you’ve heard it and you’ve seen it. Sounds, movement, billboards and flashing lights all cry out for your attention, every sign proclaiming itself greater than every other sign. In much the same way, the cacophony of voices a pilgrim must face in the pursuit of truth in today’s world is maddening. Everywhere we turn there is someone making a claim, some outrageous, some believable. Is finding the truth today like finding a needle in a haystack?

Yesterday, we spent time introducing ourselves to the question posed by Pilate. Today, we’ll begin to take that question apart and look at it piece by piece. Let’s start by discussing the origin of truth.

The Origin of Truth

No one can deny the existence of truth. Perhaps I should rephrase that. No reasonable person can deny that people for thousands of years have believed in the idea of truth. They may deny that truth exists just as they may declare God dead, but they cannot deny that billions of people for thousands of years have believed that there is such a thing as true and false.

Well, this brings about a very important question, the answer to which will lead us in the right direction, like sniffing for clues. Where did this concept of truth come from? Why do so many people believe in “truth”? Probably the most obvious is that, simply put, this concept matches reality. If my leg is attached to my body, it is a true statement to say that my leg is attached to my body. If it’s not, and I say it is, that’s a false statement. The two cannot exist at the same time, and I am able to distinguish the one from the other. This is a rudimentary explanation, but this simple idea of true and false is very much alive and well in our practical everyday lives.

The concept of an absolute truth is obviously a much debated one, and as we mentioned yesterday, we could elaborate in a thousand different directions. We’ll talk more about the exclusivity of truth on Thursday, but today we’re going to narrow our focus on some Scriptures that address the foundations of truth. Let’s take a look at Ephesians 4:21:

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: Eph.4:21

We’re going to spend a lot more time looking at the context of this verse tomorrow to understand its application, but the immediate meaning of this verse is evident. Truth, or verity, is found wholly in Jesus; or as some translations phrase it: “He is truth.” What makes this particularly amazing is that John 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” If you read on to verse 14, you find out that the “Word” mentioned here was actually Christ Himself.

Study the word logos, usually translated word, in the Greek, and you’ll find that it can often mean “matter” as in “what it’s all about.” (e.g. what’s the matter with him?) Imagine that! John 1 tells us that Jesus Christ is a physical manifestation of what God is all about, and Ephesians 4 tells us that Jesus is truth. Are you starting to get an idea of what’s in the envelope, Professor Mustard?

The Role of Faith

One of the greatest dilemmas I’ve faced in my Christian growth is finding the appropriate role of faith and reason in life. Immanuel Kant, the 18th century philosopher, tried to resolve the coexistence of these two by essentially stating that a man cannot know God through reason, he must rely totally on faith. It sounds subtle enough, but the dangerous result of that thinking, however, is a faith not grounded in anything–an unreasonable faith. Remember that the God of Isaiah 1:18 is inviting us to “reason together”, a Hebrew word that literally means to weigh the evidence, of His forgiveness and salvation. Faith and reason must go hand in hand if we are to understand truth–faith in the reasonable Word of God.

Martin Luther, the great reformer, called reason “the devil’s greatest whore”, but what he failed to realize was that “sanctified reason” (as Jonathan Edwards calls it) is vital for the worship of our God to be complete. Jesus Himself gave us the command to love God with our heart, soul AND mind. Our spiritual journey requires a step of faith and a willing mind. Hebrews 11:1, the great Biblical definition of faith, partners the substance of things hoped for (a logical longing) and the things not seen (belief).

The Honey of Truth

Mary Oliver, Pulitzer prize-winning poet, scratched these words in the margin of one of her notebooks: “the sugar of vanity, the honey of truth”. How profound! There is substance to truth that does not exist anywhere else. Discovering the truth, whether it is startling or pleasing, is a powerful experience; no matter how many times people make the statement “ignorance is bliss”, there is a craving within every human being for truth. And that is why this is such an important study.

This question of truth, as highbrow and theoretical as it might seem in this study, will absolutely change the course of your life. C.S. Lewis said that when you’re a boat at sea, there are three things you need to find out: why you’re out there, how to keep from sinking and how to keep from bumping into other boats. In order to know why you’re out here, you have to believe that there is truth and that it can be found. If you don’t believe that, why go on? That’s why the Christian message cuts through to the heart of such staunch atheists (Lewis, McDowell, Chesterton, Muggeridge), because it gives purpose and meaning–HE gives purpose and meaning.

So again we come face to face with this Jesus, whom the Scriptures hail as Truth and as God. Will you reject the very thought of Him? Or will you respond as Peter responded in John 6:68: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

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