What Is Truth?

Nearly two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judea serving under Emperor Tiberius, asked Jesus, What is truth? The problem was, he didn’t stick around for the answer but headed outside to tell the Jews Jesus wasn’t guilty of the crimes of which they were accusing him.

Jesus, you see, had just said that He came into the world to testify to the truth and that everyone “who is of the truth” hears His voice.

In light of the context, Pilate’s question seems disingenuous. It was more dismissive than it was searching, as if truth was an ephemeral will-o’-the-wisp, impossible to grasp.

In that regard, Pilate would have made a good postmodern thinker.

Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp binary classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on who the interested parties are and the nature of these interests. It claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective. (excerpt from “Postmodernism”emphasis mine)

What a contrast to Jesus’s testimony. He not only told Pilate He came to communicate truth, He told His disciples He is truth.

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

Of course, to believe Jesus’s statement, of necessity we must believe that the Bible faithfully recorded it.

Back in the eighteenth century, a scholar named Hermann Samuel Reimarus, using the methodology employed to study Greek and Latin texts, concluded that very little of the New Testament could be considered as indisputably true. That is to say, he had no proof that anything recorded in the Bible was untrue, but it lacked the supporting evidences from extra-Biblical sources.

Of course a good number of extra Biblical sources confirming Biblical truth have since been discovered, but the horse was already out of the barn, and higher criticism or “historical criticism,” the new term now favored, had already begun to sift through the Bible for the “historical Jesus.”

Similar efforts were being made regarding the Old Testament and scholars were concluding that it was nothing more than a human document. Apparently everything came under question, including authorship.

No longer was it sufficient for the book of Isaiah, for example, to state in the first chapter that these were the prophecies of Isaiah the son of Amoz.

The point is, a set of scholars came to believe that, despite internal evidence to the contrary, they could determine, thousands of years after the fact, what was true and what wasn’t.

The internal evidence I’m speaking of includes the clear declaration in various verses that these things are so. It also includes the evidence that the New Testament writers quoted the Old as proof of what they were saying. It also includes writers like Paul referencing Old Testament individuals like Adam in a parallel argument to explain what Christ means to people who believe in Him. (Why would Paul compare Jesus to a myth if he wanted people to believe in Him?)

In addition, there is a collection of methods such as what the leaders of the church wrote in the years following the writing of the last book of the Bible, that scholars use to verify the veracity of Scripture.

Other scholars will rely of methods such as socio-scientific criticism:

A typical study will draw on studies of contemporary nomadism, shamanism, tribalism, spirit-possession, millinarianism, etc. to illuminate similar passages described in biblical texts. (excerpt from “Biblical Criticism“)

With all the voices saying this or that, I can see a Pilate throwing up his hands and saying, What is truth?

As I think about this subject, I come to a central point — does the Bible depict truth as I know it, starting with the existence of God. Does He exist and is He the person the Bible describes?

Oddly enough many people make that determination without having ever read the Bible. I suspect such a decision says more about the person than it does about Truth. I heard, for example, Christopher Hitchens in a debate, and he said, for all practical purposes, that he didn’t believe in God because he couldn’t stand the thought of a “tyrant” telling him what to do.

The bottom line for me is this: if the God of the Bible exists, then He is all powerful. Could an all powerful God communicate through people to reveal Himself? Could He preserve and protect that communication down through the ages? Could He be sure that those writers who contributed to it gave a unified message? Could He verify the truth of that communication to individuals through His own Spirit?

If He could not do those things, then it would seem He is not all powerful, calling into question all the key components of the Christian faith — specifically the Son of God come down in the form of Man, dying for the redemption of sinners, rising on the third day to be seated at God’s right hand until He returns again in glory.

None of those things could be true unless God is all powerful. And an all powerful God can do all those things, He can let people know He did them, and He can let them know why He did them by producing a reliable, authoritative written record.

It seems to me unless a person believes in a “different God,” the Bible is His authoritative word. If Truth exists, if God exists as an all powerful person, what couldn’t He do to make Himself known?

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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