What is Truth?

First, please watch this video by One Time Blind, and then read the article…

John 18:37-38a 
Then Pilate said to Him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?

I have always found this exchange, this dialogue, between Pontius Pilate, who in this scene is the representative of the most powerful human force on the planet at the time, the Roman empire… and God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, to be quite fascinating. Just think of the juxtaposition of these two individuals…

On one side, we have the most powerful man in that part of the world, who a little later (after having Jesus flogged) would warn Jesus, “Do You not know that I have the authority to release You and the authority to crucify You?” (John 19:10) On the other side, we have Jesus Christ… GOD, who would respond, “You would have no power over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11)

However, the responses by Jesus (after being asked by Pilate if He is a king and also His response to Pilate’s threat of crucifixion) carried no weight. It posed no threat in the eyes of Pontius Pilate.  Pilate’s response to Jesus was very “matter of fact,” when he rhetorically says, “What is truth?

Pilate is not looking for an answer to his question.  He is simply expressing his worldview.  He is sarcastically doing what the world always does whenever it is faced with truth… It dismisses it in order to make an excuse for itself…

Why?

Because, quite frankly, the existence of truth is not very convenient for the world.  Truth forces the world to deal with its culpability, and man does not like that.  It ruins his day.

Paul addresses this…

Romans 1:18-22
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to thembecause God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

When Pilate says, “What is truth?” he fails to be successful at releasing himself from his responsibility to acknowledge who he is, a sinner. In other words, the ignoring of the existence of “truth” is not a “get out of jail, free card.” Ignorance is not only not an excuse, but ignorance is not even possible for man, as Paul explained.  We all know that “truth” exists because of the “things that have been made.”  Therefore, whenever man denies the obvious, man then pronounces judgement on himself.

Not only does Pilate pronounce judgement upon his soul by denying the obvious, the existence of truth (unless of course he repents of such, changes his mind, and puts his trust in Christ), but he also makes a grave philosophical error with his rhetorical question…

He separates truth from God.

Pilate treats truth as though it’s an entity unto itself. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but it will in moment…

By sarcastically saying, “What is truth?”, Pilate attempts to say that truth is simply just a philosophical concept, and not the grounding for reality. He “matter-of-factly” treats it as though it’s incoherent, like truth can’t even be known.

And, isn’t that just what the world always does?

The world (when it is to its advantage to do so), just like Pilate, will always dismiss truth in a “matter of fact” fashion…

“Eh… what is truth?”

But, we (Christians) know that truth is not separate from God because of how Jesus identifies Himself four chapters earlier:

John 14:6
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Jesus does not separate truth from Himself as Pilate and the world does. Jesus Christ (who is God) cannot separate truth from Himself, because He is the ideal embodiment of truth. He is, as Hebrews 1:3 says, “the exact imprint of God’s nature.”

In philosophy, there is an illustration which basically attempts to say that truth is something separate from God.  It’s called Ethyphro’s Dilemma. The ancient philosopher, Plato, wrote an account of a discussion which took place between his teacher Socrates and a religious expert Euthyphro. In it, Socrates is attempting to understand the essence of holiness with respect to the gods. It basically goes like this:

“Do the gods love holiness because it is actually holy, or is holiness holy because the gods love it?”

At the asking of this question by Socrates, Euthyphro is then left silent, not knowing which way to answer.

Bertrand Russell, the well-known philosopher and atheist, attempted to use this famous dilemma against Christianity in his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian”. What Russell proposed in his essay was a false dichotomy.

false dichotomy is when two opposing views, options or outcomes are presented in such a way that they seem to be the only two possibilities: that is, if one is true, then the other must be false, or, more typically, if you do not accept one then the other must be accepted. In other words, it’s an attempt to trap the one who proclaims truth.

Bertrand Russell, in attempting to degrade who God is and rend Him meaningless, made the following rhetorical question:

(I’m paraphrasing)

“Are things considered right or wrong just because God says that they are right or wrong, or is the concept of right and wrong something outside of God, which God then needs to reference?”

What Russell is basically saying rhetorically is…

“Does God just arbitrarily decide or declare what is right or wrong on some whim… just randomly deciding such?

Or…

Does God need to check to see if something outside of Himself is true?”

In other words, does God have to “Google it”, to find out what is actually right or wrong, and then declare to us what He looked up?

Bertrand Russell’s disrespect of God attempts to force us to make God either…

1) A random arbiter of truth, which means that truth doesn’t actually exist. What Russell attempts to do here is to label what the Bible refers to as “truth,” as really just being God’s subjective choice. And if truth is really just a subjective statement, and not an objective reality, then man has excuse because there is no standard by which man could be judged. It’s quite clever.

Or…

2) God is not all powerful (He is not omnipotent), nor is He all-knowing or omniscient, because He must refer to something outside of Himself which dictates what is true. Also, quite clever.

But, neither is correct.

God did not declare in Exodus 20:15, “You shall not steal,” just because He arbitrarily decided that stealing was wrong. Nor did God declare that stealing was wrong just because He had referred to some standard of theft outside of Himself.

No… Stealing is wrong because Christ is not a thief.  Lying is wrong because Christ is not a liar.  Adultery is wrong because Christ is not an adulterer… and so on.

When Pontius Pilate dismissively said, “What is truth?” he committed the same foolish error as Bertrand Russell.  He attempted to make truth to be a subjective entity on to itself, thus, trying to give himself excuse.

Pilate would again later reveal his self-delusional worldview, by acting as though whatever he says or decrees to be objectively real when he wrote a description of who Jesus was when he had Christ crucified…

John 19:16-22
“So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.””

Pilate thought of himself as the arbiter of truth, just as the world does, and he acted accordingly.

There is one thing, however, that Pilate did get correct after he asked rhetorically, “What is truth?”

John 18:38
“Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in Him.

Amen, Pilate.

There is no guilt in Christ Jesus.

Now, please do not go away thinking that what I am saying is that asking “What is truth?” is inherently wrong. It is not. What determines whether it is appropriate or not to ask such a question, is the intent behind the question. If you ask the question in the same vein as Pilate or as the world asks it (with a spirit of suppression or dismissiveness), then I need to warn you that you are not in a good place with respect to God, just as Paul described in his letter to the Romans. If this describes how you think, I would strongly urge you to change your mind or repent.

However, if you do ask this question, with the utmost in sincerity, then “What is truth?” is arguably one of the most important questions that you could possibly ask.

Why?

Because, the answer to this question is the basis for how a person perceives reality. The answer to this question is the grounding of our thought life… It’s the grounding of our opinions and preferences. It’s what guides our decisions and choices.

Take the video above…

Is the balloon red, or is it just the color that you choose it to be?

If the balloon’s color, and everything else in reality for that matter, is what it is just because we say that that’s what it is, then we live in complete chaos and nothing is actually knowable or even real.

However, we do know things, including the fact that the balloon is red… and there is no way around it.

So, how would you answer the question, “What is truth?”

Would you say that “truth” is that which corresponds to how things are? That, or something like it, is the most common definition of truth.

If you googled “truth,” the definition you would get, is this:

“Truth, is that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.”

So, let me ask you a question…

Do you agree with that explanation?

If you do, then I have another question for you…

By what standard do you determine whether something is true or in accordance with fact or reality? In other words, how do you go about verifying such?

Maybe, you never really thought about it before.  Maybe, you have. Either way, that’s how the world handles truth. The world says that truth is an entity on to itself and that it is determined by us, either individually or collectively. (Whatever works in the moment.)

Obviously, the world’s approach to truth is problematic. It fails to provide a basis from which we can know anything at all. It not only denies the standard (Jesus Christ), it denies any standard whatsoever.  Whenever and wherever objectivity arises, creating an inconvenience, the world then suppresses truth and instead embraces subjectivity.

The better way to answer the question, “What is truth?” is this…

“Truth, is that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality…

ACCORDING TO THE MIND OF GOD.

Do you see what was missing?

ACCORDING TO THE MIND OF GOD.

Only God can decipher reality properly. In order for us to also decipher reality properly, we must see things the way God sees things…

When one repents or changes their mind, one then has come to terms with who they are in comparison to God. Those who have repented and who also trust in Christ to take the punishment for their sins, which they themselves deserved, then start to see things and know things the way God sees things and knows things. Look at what Jesus says to His disciples:

John 15:15
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

See?

The converted person now knows something that they had not known before their mind had changed. Paul encouraged the Corinthian brethren by reminding them that they have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16) In other words, the Christian now not only sees reality according to themselves, but they also see reality according to the mind of God, and a big part of their walk with Christ is wrestling with these two views.

Paul writes about this in his letter to the Romans, where he describes what the Christian life is like, grappling with seeing reality through their own eyes, yet also seeing reality through God’s eyes as well:

Romans 7:15-25
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

A mark of a Christian is that repentance has occurred. A mark of a Christian is that their mind has been changed.

Romans 12:2
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God…”

When one has been transformed by the renewal of their mind, one then recognizes that Jesus Christ is truth.  When one has been transformed by the renewal of their mind, one then recognizes that Christ is the standard by which everything is measured…

Romans 2:16
“God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

Acts 17:30-31
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent (change their mind), because He (God) has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Jesus is the standard by which all of us will be judged.

When Paul wrote to the brethren in Colossae, he did a beautiful job of describing the standard (Jesus Christ), and how our understanding of Christ affects our minds

Colossians 1:15-23
“He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.”

Paul goes on…

Colossians 2:8-15
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.”

What is truth?

Jesus Christ…

Without God, whether He is acknowledged or not… neither Pilate… nor the world… nor we, could ever draw any proper conclusions… about anything. If you have not repented (changed your mind), and not yet trusted in Christ, I urge you to consider it today.

I want to end by leaving the Christian with Paul’s encouraging words to Timothy…

1 Timothy 6:13-16
“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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