Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist, once famously said, “There is no truth. There is only perception”. Of all crazy and damaging ideas that have plagued this world, this is perhaps the worst and yet most widely accepted. For example, Syd and I have been watching a docuseries on Scientology, and their main assertion is, “What’s true is what’s true for you”. But how can this be possible? It seems a badge of honor, a mark of integrity to challenge the concept of truth itself. You are seen as a bigot and an “[insert prefix here]-ism” if you defend the idea that there is objective, moral truth in this world. It’s why we even live in what’s called the “post-modern” age, as postmodernity is “characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy).
Yet for the Christian who believes in objective truth and hangs our entire existence upon it, this is nothing new, because the third chapter of Scripture details that mankind would rather reject truth than shape themselves around it. That is, Adam and Eve stood around the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which in sum represents the question of who gets to define good, evil, and therefore morality. Desiring this ability for themselves, they reached out, ate the fruit, and the fallout is evident. Immediately there is shame, slander, and a curse. We need only travel a chapter more to see the first murder before reading of the wicked acts of a man like Lamech. Genesis 5 then is a depressing read that contains the phrase “and he died” 8 times, before Genesis 6 proclaims, “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)
When we reject truth, we reject reality itself, and ever since Adam and Eve decided to reach out and be their own moral compass, mankind has been wrestling with the question of who determines truth, and that always leads to chaos.
This is why, whenever the topic of truth arises, it’s difficult not to place ourselves with the jeering crowd before Jesus, as we watch his interrogation at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Jesus had stated that he’s come “to bear witness to the truth”, but Pilate sneers back, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). What he’s saying is, “What’s true for the Jew is not true for the Roman”, and it reveals that Pilate is metaphorically reaching out with his ancestor to pluck that forbidden fruit and define for himself good, evil, and morality.
This is, at the very base, what is wrong with our world today. Romans 1:18 tells us that it’s by our unrighteousness that we suppress the truth. Yet one verse before he says that “righteousness comes by faith”. In other words, to not have faith in Jesus ultimately leads to unrighteousness, a suppression of truth, and “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). That’s why I’ll write on the essence of truth and its manifestation in true love in coming weeks, but for today let’s simply define truth.
Well, as we see from our world, truth is non-existent, even if it’s illogical to say that what’s true for you might not be true for me. Sure, maybe that works if you said that chocolate ice cream is the best flavor, because even though you’re wrong, it depends upon your subjective tastes. But what’s undeniable is that we have tastes, and that tastes vary; that is truth. More than that, when it comes to the core matters of how we define and view the world, there cannot be different sets of truth. Two religions cannot be right at the same time, and a boy cannot be a girl anymore than red can be blue. That’s not bigoted to say; that’s simply pointing out the limitations on a created mind. I can’t subjectively define truth any more than you can, because if I say, “There is objective truth that’s right for me and not for you”, every time I stop at a stop sign, I’ve obliterated my core values, because I’ve submitted my “truth” to the law’s. We are governed by a higher order – that much is undeniable. Even to say, “truth is relative” is an objectively true statement.
So, how, then, does the Scripture define truth? First, it immediately tells us that there is a source of truth: God Himself. This is seen in His creative acts of Genesis 1-2. Mankind can stand at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, reach out, and try to determine its own reality, but it’s God who made the tree in the first place and placed the command upon man not to eat of it.
However, to dig deeper, the Hebrew word for truth is ʾemet. That is comprised of three different Hebrew letters: the first in the alphabet, a middle letter, and the final letter of the alphabet (equivalent, for example, to the English letters of “a”, “m” and “z”, if they formed the word “amz”). What it shows is that Biblical truth is not just a partial idea; it’s the beginning, middle and end of a matter. What that reveals to us is that Biblical truth is something that is wholly right, and therefore is not simply something to know, but something around which to conform the very center our lives.
Next time we’ll look at where to find this truth. However, for now, “…stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught” (2 Thessalonians 2:15a); there is truth, and it should necessarily cover the beginning, middle, and end of who we are. To compromise that is to lose everything.
My name is Bryan Lanting. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and I am presently serving Mt View CRC as their pastor. I am married to a wonderful wife named Sydney, and both of us are loving life, loving Lynden, and loving the Lord!