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Is There Truth?

“What is truth?” This was Pilate’s question to Jesus. Sadly, he turned away from the one King who could have answered his question (John 18:38). In much the same way, many today are turning away from the One who can show them eternal truth.

John Leo, in an editorial for U. S. News & World Report, July 22, 2002, wrote, “A Zogby International poll of college seniors came up with a fascinating finding. Almost all of the 401 randomly selected students around the country–97 percent–said their college studies had prepared them to behave ethically in their future work lives.” However, Leo went on to report that, “73 percent of the students said that when their professors taught about ethical issues, the usual message was that uniform standards of right and wrong don’t exist (‘what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity’).”

The survey was commissioned by the National Association of Scholars. Stephen Balch, who is part of that group said, “the results show the dominance on campuses of postmodern thought, including the belief that objective standards are a sham perpetrated by the powerful to serve their own interests” (Ibid).

Postmodernists see individuals as products of a specific culture who must guard against the temptation to inflate their own norms into universal standards and dress up their own interests as objectivity. To claim knowledge as universal truth is impossible. There is no truth, just narratives and stories that ‘work’ for particular communities” (Ibid).

For this article, we will assume there is a God. Further, we will assume the internal testimony of the Bible is accurate. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit reveals the mind of God to man (1 Cor. 2:6-12). The words of the Bible are the God-breathed words of the Creator (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit bore inspired penmen along like the wind in the sails of a ship (2 Pet. 1:20-21). No man set down words of his own invention. So, Paul told the Thessalonian brethren, “because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).

Now that we have seen the words of the Bible are the words of God, we must recognize the words of God are truth. After all, it is impossible for God to lie. In his writing to Titus, Paul plainly stated, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (1:2). The writer of Hebrews also said, “That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (6:18; see also 1 Sam. 15:29).

God’s truthful word reveals Jesus as the embodiment of truth. John opened his gospel record with a clear statement concerning the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (1:1-3). He went on to explain who the Word was when he wrote “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Later, Jesus described himself as the truth (14:6), being the one sent from the only true God (17:3).

When Jesus, the embodiment of truth, was preparing to leave the earth, he told his apostles God would provide them with the Spirit so they could recall all the Lord had said (John 14:26). A part of the Spirit’s function was to give them a fuller understanding of truth. Jesus plainly stated,

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you (John 16:12-15).

While many who profess to believe in Christ would say they believe there is such a thing as truth, their lives reflect something quite different.

In two national surveys conducted by Barna Research, one among adults and one among teenagers, people were asked if they believe that there are moral absolutes that are unchanging or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation. The perspective was even more lopsided among teenagers, 83% of whom said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of whom said moral truth is absolute (Barna Research Online, February 12, 2002).

“By far the most common basis for moral decision making was doing whatever feels right or comfortable in a situation. Nearly four out of ten teens (38%) and three out of teen [sic] adults (31%) described that as their primary consideration” (Ibid). Shockingly, only 13 percent of so-called Christian adults said they made moral decisions on the basis of principles taught in the Bible, while, “Just 7% of teenagers said their moral choices were based on biblical principles” (Ibid).

According to Barna, large numbers of Christians view activities like abortion, gay sex, cohabitation, drunkenness and viewing pornography as morally acceptable. “Without some firm and compelling basis for suggesting that such acts are inappropriate, people are left with philosophies such as ‘if it feels good, do it,’ ‘everyone else is doing it’ or ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s permissible.’ In fact, the alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: ‘whatever.’ The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions” (Ibid).

Now that we know truth exists, we need to realize it is possible to know the truth. Jesus told certain Jews who believed on him, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). With all we have already seen, it is not surprising that Jesus said sanctification comes through the truth and God’s word is that truth (John 17:17). No wonder Paul urged Christians to “Test all things. Hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21).

God’s people will see that truth is knowable truth and follow its instructions (John 18:37). Just as Jesus confessed his Sonship before Pilate, so must all who would be his followers (1 Tim. 6:11-13). This will, in turn, lead each Christian to publicly proclaim Jesus as the Christ like Apollos did once he had been taught the way of the Lord more perfectly (Acts 18:26-28). In fact, Jesus gave his followers a commission to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them by the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20).

Paul’s closing prayer in his letter to the church at Rome demonstrates an ongoing emphasis on proclaiming the truth about Jesus.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen (Romans 16:25-27).

Such preaching is directed toward truth seekers who will search out God’s word to verify the truthfulness of the message they have heard proclaimed (Acts 17:11).

Once people have obeyed the truth, they will become defenders of it (Jude 3), knowing only the true gospel will set men free (Gal. 1:6-9). So, each faithful follower will follow John’s directions in his first epistle. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (4:1).

In our postmodern world, Christ’s followers must assure the world truth exists and proclaim it fully. That proclamation first entails obeying the truth and then teaching it to others. When necessary, Christians will also stand squarely for the defense of the truth. In short, there is truth, we can know it and must rise to its defense.

Gary C. Hampton