“What is Truth?”

“What is truth?” said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. — Francis Bacon

Truth is commonly believed to be subjective, a matter of perspective that depends on one’s culture, society, ethnic group, gender and other contingent factors. Many believe no one worldview can rightly claim to be true because there are many truths. Things are only “true” if they are meaningful to the individual. This post-modern view of truth is detached from objective and knowable reality.

The difficulty for us who follow Christ is two-fold. First, our culture is increasingly pressuring us to adopt its diminished and warped view of truth when our Christian faith cannot coexist with such a view. If the gospel is news at all, let alone good news, it must be true. This means it must report facts and correspond with objective and knowable reality. The apostle Paul makes this point concerning Christ’s resurrection from the dead. If Christ has not been raised then our faith is empty and we are the most miserable creatures on earth (1 Cor. 15:14-19). He stakes everything on the objective truth that Jesus’ resurrection is an historical fact. If this is not objectively true then the entire Christian faith is irrelevant.

Second, it is challenging to communicate a faith based on objective truth to an audience who doesn’t believe in objective truth. But we can’t effectively persuade our post-modern neighbors to see the truth of the gospel if we do not have a firm handle on it ourselves. So we ask, as Pilate once did, “What is truth?”

For a statement to either be true or false, it must first be meaningful and intelligible. For example, the statement “Rocks explode” is neither true nor false, because it is nonsensical even though it is grammatically correct. The statements “There is one God,” “There are many gods,” and “There is no God” are all meaningful but they cannot all be true. Each statement is making a meaningful claim but they may or may not correspond to reality.

Second, for a statement to be true it must correspond to reality, it must be factual. Facts determine the truth of a statement. We may be entitled to our own opinions but we are not entitled to our own facts. Believing a statement is one thing but that statement being true requires some proof to back it up. The statement “Al Gore won the 2000 U.S. presidential election” is false because it does not correspond to reality.

The statement “Jesus lived in ancient Palestine” is true because it corresponds with objective history. But what about statements made in the future tense like “Jesus will come again”? This statement is more difficult to prove because it is an assertion about a future event. It is certainly meaningful and it is either true or false; Jesus will either return or not, the two statements are antithetical.

Can we rationally believe this statement with the same degree of conviction as those concerning the past? We can and should  believe it because God has given us sufficient reason by keeping his many prophetic promises in the Old Testament. God’s faithfulness in keeping past promises should give us confidence to trust him to keep his future promises. God is consistent and is a God of truth and not falsehood. He does not contradict himself and cannot deny himself or lie. His word is truth (Psa. 119:160; Jn. 17:17) and his word always corresponds to reality.

In the same way, moral statements in Scripture are true because they match reality. The statement “Adultery is wrong” is true because it corresponds with the objective moral law of God which is grounded in his own perfect moral character. This statement is not verified by appealing to historical fact but rather moral fact.

Whatever postmodern wind of doctrine blows against us, Christians must hold to the anchor of God's truth.