What Is Truth? Does It Matter?
There seems to be a deficiency of truth nowadays, or maybe it has become a thing of the past, you know, passé, like cassette tapes. Some believe truth does not matter. Or maybe it did at one point, but not anymore. Others insist that truth is what you make of it. It is no wonder that “post-truth” was named the Oxford Dictionary word of the year 2016.
Truth Still Matters
Many of these arguments however do not seem to stand the test of logic, nor even experience. When Rudy Giuliani said “truth isn’t truth” on August 19, 2018, the media called him out on it, with phrases such as: “tell a jury about it” or “let’s see if this would stand in court.” The truth of the matter is that truth still matters. When a murder takes place, we want to find the culprit. When a heist occurs, we want to figure out who stole the money. When we are wronged, we search for the wrongdoer. If we are wrongfully accused of an act, it becomes imperative for us that the truth be known. Truth suddenly ceases to be relative, and becomes relevant. Truth, after all, still matters.
When we hear certain phrases such as “I love you” or “I forgive you,” do we want the meaning of these to be true? When we hear a diagnosis with a potential for cure, do we take the words to be true? Do we want them to be true? When we experiment in our labs or do scientific research and clinical trials, do we want the results to be true? Or at least the premise on which the experiments are being performed? When we ask our children a question, do we want true answers? Truth, after all, still matters.
Loyal to the Truth
In fact, the post-truth phenomenon is not a recent invention. It is as old as sin and its nature. Long ago, when there were only two human beings on the face of the earth, a creature showed up to question the meaning of truth: “Did God actually say?” Then came the fall, and this question has been repeated over the course of thousands of years, to this day. The inclination toward autonomy was preferred over obedience to the truth. This desire for autonomy, for self-actualization, for self-esteem, for personal preferences continues to fight truth for the throne of one’s loyalty.
This raises the question of loyalty: should I be loyal to a person, or to truth? Many people, because of employment, or aspirations, or some other cause, sense a need to be loyal to a person. Yet people come and go. They change. Their affiliations vary, and so would loyalty to them if they stand as its basis. But such a base is unstable, shifting, ebbing and flowing. However, if truth is steady, if it is universal, if it is unchanging, then loyalty to it would make feet stand on solid ground. When people come and go, when aspirations change, when affiliations vary, truth remains true, and loyalty to it unwavering. Such loyalty would then not be self-serving, but would serve the cause of truth, a greater cause indeed.
The Theological Truth
Truth is divisive, offensive, and exclusive. By its nature, truth is objective and excludes non-truths. When Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he did not mean he was one among many. His words did and continue to divide, offend, and exclude. So do the words of all who claim to have the truth. When Christ said he is the truth, he anchored truth in his person, in his being, indeed in his Godhood. Truth therefore is related to God; it is theological.
Truth claims are made every day all around the world. Every religion makes a truth claim. Every accuser makes a truth claim. In fact, every person makes truth claims. In the marketplace of ideas, truth claims abound. But merely claiming something is true does not make it true. Therefore, truth claims cannot all be true, as Rudy Giuliani himself understands. They could possibly be all wrong, or one of them could be true and thus exclude other claims. As intelligent, reasonable beings, we are to practice discernment among truth claims, weigh those claims against one another, put them through the test of logic, and most importantly determine how they relate to a steady, stable, unchanging reference point, which is only found in the unwavering one, God alone. Without such a reference point, without an anchor, without an unshaking foundation, a worldview risks collapse, just like a boat risks drifting if not anchored, or a house risks falling apart if it does not have a solid foundation.
Convicted by Truth
Two thousand years ago, during a trial, the Son of Man said: “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The man who presided over the trial responded with a question: “What is truth?” To his own undoing, he had asked the question scoffingly, without waiting for an answer. He then turned his back and walked away. He faced the truth, the author of truth, in person, but refused to listen to him. Instead, he condemned him to death. But truth is stronger than sin, stronger than death, stronger than denial. Truth is alive and well. Truth prevails. Truth lives. Truth reigns.
A conviction of truth will give meaning to our life and credence to our human endeavors. A conviction of truth leads to obedience to God and to understanding right and wrong, good and evil. A conviction of truth will honor the author of truth and make the cost of truth bearable.