That question still haunts us today as much as it did when Pilate asked it of Jesus some 2000 years ago. Pilate, of course, was responding to a statement Jesus made while being interrogated before his crucifixion:
“You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
I imagine Pilate’s question as more of a dismissive retort than one honestly looking for an answer. No different than today in our modern (or postmodern, or post-postmodern?) society. In a world of “I’m ok, you’re ok” and moral relativism, we seem to have collectively given up on trying to answer – or ask – this question of “What is truth?”
But I believe it’s a tremendously important question. Don’t we all want to be on the side of truth?
Truth, by definition, is the quality or state of being true.
Seems simple enough, especially when the truth you’re referring to doesn’t carry significant implications: “Yes, it’s true that I like BBQ ribs (mmm, ribs…)”, or “Yes, it’s true that 2+2=4”. Or there are truths that can have significant and immediate consequences if ignored: ”No, gravity does not apply to MEeeeeeeee…__!” Truth objections of this sort tend to be short lived and self-limiting. These are examples of what I would call “small t” truths.
But what about “capital T” Truth? By that I mean universal, foundational Truth that transcends time, location, culture, and people. Truth that does not change, regardless of circumstances. To be sure, physical laws such as gravity could be classified this way, but I’m interested in Truth that relates to human thoughts and behavior. Truth that pertains to who we are as human beings. Truth that carries significantly more weight and importance than our likes and dislikes, answers to math problems, or even effects of physical laws. Truth that is Truth whether we like it (or believe it) or not.
Does such Truth exist?
Well, let’s look at who we are as human beings. As I see it, there are only two possible scenarios.
– 1) We humans were created by an all powerful, all knowing, sovereign God.
– 2) We’re simply the result of a series of cosmic organic accidents.
And if we’re cosmic accidents, then I would submit there is no universal “capital T” Truth. Whatever truths that appear to exist are simply opinions/desires or perhaps societal patterns that have proven to be beneficial over time. We’re only subject to our own will and to people or groups of people that are strong or persuasive enough to impose their will upon us. In this scenario truth is simply what works or what you can get away with. Really no truth at all.
But what if we humans are the product of a divine creator? If we have been created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, then we are subject to our creator and to what that creator has established as truth. God as the creator is, by default, the standard of truth.
And this is exactly what the Bible claims. Consider the Gospel of John, which contains several truth claims made by, or about Jesus. And remember that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). He is God the Son; God in human form.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
This last statement is the key that unlocks our question. It changes the question from “what is truth?” to “who is truth?” and then answers it with everyone’s favorite Sunday school answer. Jesus. Jesus is the truth, with a capital T.
Look, left to our own devices we’ll always miss the mark when it comes to truth. As sinful, imperfect people (and that’s all of us by the way – no exceptions), we’ll always bend, change, manipulate, and re-interpret the truth based on our circumstances, desires, and skewed perspectives. So instead of trying to pursue truth as an intellectual concept or even a list of rules, let’s look to the one that is the essence of truth and pursue Him. Pursue Jesus.
And how exactly do we pursue Jesus (and by extension the truth)? Start with the Bible. Remember that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, and Jesus is the Word (the Bible) made flesh. The Gospels are a good place to start, especially the Gospel of John with his focus on what Jesus said and who Jesus was while he was here on earth.
And as we come to know Him and trust Him and put our faith in Him, see that through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus did more than just show us the truth. He becomes the Truth (righteousness) for us. The great exchange – my sin for his righteousness! “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Corinthians 5:21)
May God bless you as you seek Him and His Truth.