What is Truth?

“What is truth?” This is the question Pontius Pilate asks of Jesus just before he is crucified. Jesus had testified that he “was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37-38). Particularly in the gospel of John, Jesus takes a hard line on the importance of truth, and that opposition to the truth is not merely alternative facts but are, in fact, lies. In John 8:31-51 Jesus tells the Jews that were following him that by being faithful to his teaching they will know the truth and “the truth will set you free”. But those who fail to do good works are “children of the devil”, who is the “father of liars”.  Harsh words from one who is too often characterized as “meek and mild”. In the past few months the ideas of “facts” and “truth” seemed pretty irrefutable; but that is no longer a reality in America today. Oxford English dictionary selected “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year. It’s defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

What is truth? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who died in a Nazi prison for his part in resisting Hitler, wrote in his essay “What is meant by ‘Telling the Truth’?” in his work Ethics, that “If one speaks of God one must not simply disregard the actual given world in which one lives; for if one does that one is not speaking of the God who entered into the world in Jesus Christ but rather of some metaphysical idol.” The physical world and how we speak and behave within it matters greatly to God. Bonhoeffer goes on to say that “God’s truth judges created things out of love, and Satan’s truth judges them out of envy and hatred. God’s truth has become flesh in the world and is alive in the real, but Satan’s truth is the death of all reality (361). To acknowledge the truth of God is to go beyond how we want things to be as to be personally beneficial and instead look toward the way things are and the way in which they are to be as disclosed in scripture. It is a speaking out in love, not in self-righteousness or self-aggrandizement, but in the righteousness of God which brings glory to God by lifting up all that God created, loved, and declared good. To insist upon “alternative facts” that seek to glorify only ourselves is by definition antithetical to God’s Truth and in opposition to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Together may we walk in the footsteps of Christ who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)

Pastor Tara