What is Truth?
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”
But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
John 18:37-40 (NLT2)
In a previous post, we looked at the fact that there are several universal truths that cannot be denied. We live by them on a daily basis, simply because they are facts that are easily observable and clearly cannot be altered. For example, unless an object is capable of escaping our planet's gravitational pull, then "What goes up must come down." Mathematically speaking, one plus one will always equal two. If you pick up a hot coal with your bare hand, your hand will get burned - whether you are capable of feeling it or not.
But what about other types of truths, such as experiential truths? That is, for example, something that may not hold true for everyone, but holds true for one or more individuals.
- Practice makes perfect.
- Time heals all wounds.
- Love conquers all.
While none of the above statements are absolute truths, many of us - from personal experience - can agree that those statements are relatively true.
Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars and philosophers. There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth; what things are; truth-bearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.
If someone engages in a game of "Russian Roulette" we would not think of them as being brave and courageous, because - in all truth - they are being extremely foolish. So why are people who play the game "What is Truth?" considered great philosophers, when again - in all truth - they are being extremely foolish? An average five year old instinctively knows the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie. So why do grown adults engage in such vanity? The answer - in all truth - is a means to justify, rationalize and minimize a selfish and self-centered lifestyle.
When someone steals from us, or lies to us, or goes behind our back to gain an advantage over us, we become furious with that person. Why? Truthfully, because it is not right; because we are being wronged. Yet how many times do we wrong others to get what we want and/or think we deserve? How many times do we justify, rationalize and minimize the wrongs we perpetrate on others? In all truth? Probably more often than we ourselves are wronged. Yet we do it anyway, even though we know - in all truth - that it is wrong to do. So how do we go about justifying, rationalizing, and minimizing our actions? By claiming that morality (truth - specifically God's truth) is relative - even though we know - to our very core - that we are lying to ourselves. In fact we go so far as to encourage improper behavior in others, so that we can feel better about ourselves (justify our actions by saying "everyone else does it, so can I!).
I am speaking from personal experience here. My mother used to say, "Karl, the trouble you get into is bad enough of its own accord, but why do you always have to drag someone else in on it?" I would shrug my shoulders and mumble, "I dunno." But that was a lie. In all truth, it was more fun to have someone getting into trouble with me! When I had someone with me, I didn't feel like such a bad person; there was another person willing to do it with me, so it must not be so bad. Right? WRONG! As the old adage goes, "Misery loves company."
I didn't care about the truth. All I cared about was doing what I wanted to do - what I felt justified in doing. I played Russian roulette with the truth (and my life) for far too long. I played until I couldn't play anymore; until it became obvious (to me - long after the fact) that *my truth* was a big fat lie that had run its course. For me, the truth was, the emperor (me) wasn't wearing any clothes, I had only been pretending and getting other people to pretend with me.
The premise, perspective, or worldview (if you prefer), that I had chosen to base all my thoughts and actions upon, could not sustain me, because it was a false premise. It could neither out-last nor overcome the reality that is truth.
Truth is fact and the fact is that mankind is born selfish and self-centered and has no real desire to acknowledge that fact - let alone do anything about it - if and when that fact is fully realized. For to face up to the facts (reality, truth) means we can no longer claim "ignorance is bliss". It means we can no longer live as we have been living - entirely for self. And it is not out of fear that we resist change - though that is the excuse we use. (An excuse is actually the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.) As long as we refuse to acknowledge this (fact, truth, reality), we will continue to wonder why life is so hard, unfair, and unkind. And the reality (truth) is that we make it that way by refusing to change.