Summary: Fact-checking rates claims as true or false. Someone cannot determine what is true unless they claim to hold the keys to truth. Civil unrest often stems from a clash of truths. It's important to know the "real" source of truth.
I’ve entitled our message this morning, “What Is Truth?” based on a question posed by Pontius Pilate toward the end of our text. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “truth” is defined as, “the body of real things, events, and facts.” It is also defined as “a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality,” and as being “in accordance with fact.”(1) The definition we just heard of truth “being in accordance with fact” is the reason why we need to consider today’s passage of Scripture. You see, the word “fact” has become a substitute word for truth, one that’s deceptively being weaponized to redefine our understanding of truth and morality; and our passage today reveals to us what truth really is.
We live in a day and age of something called “moral relativism,” where the notion of truth is “relative” to our own life circumstances, our own preferences, and our own biased opinions. People will say, “There is no absolute truth. We define our own truth. I have my truth that works for me; however, it might not work for you. You can believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe. Just don’t tell me that your belief is the only correct view, or the truth.” The notion of “tolerance” stems from moral relativism; the view that we should all tolerate everyone else’s truths.
I find it interesting that we have transitioned from the idea of “there is no truth,” and “tolerating everyone else’s truths,” to now relying heavily on something called “fact-checking,” which is being used by big-tech, such as Facebook and Instagram, to censor free speech by deleting information deemed to be false. So, what is a fact? Well, the term “fact” is defined as, “something that actually exists; reality; [and] truth.” Also, “a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true,” and “something said to be true or supposed to have happened.”(2) So, the word “fact” is defined by using the word “truth.” This tells us that fact-checking is really just “truth-checking.”
The website BallotPedia, which is dedicated to voting, says the goal of “fact checking” “is to provide accurate, unbiased analysis of statements made in public in order to correct public misperceptions and increase knowledge of important issues. Modern fact-checking analyzes claims and rates them as true or false.”(3) True or false, huh? Let me be clear in pointing out that an individual, or an organization, cannot determine what is true unless they claim to know the truth or hold the keys to truth. That sounds a little exclusive and intolerant to me.
You see, fact-checking goes against moral relativism, because there are people holding their own opinion, claiming that their beliefs are the only correct ones, and then forcing those views on the rest of society. And if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve probably noticed that the civil unrest in our country right now stems from a clash of truths, where one group is trying to force its notion of truth on another group. So, the battle in our nation right now is really about truth, and the real war – the spiritual war – hinges around truth. So, I think it’s important that we ask the question, this morning, “What is truth?” Or better yet, ‘What is the truth?” So, I want to invite you to stand in honor of God’s Word, as we read John 18:33-38:
33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”
So, let’s begin looking at this passage. Notice that when Pilate began questioning Jesus, He in turn asked Pilate, “Are you speaking for yourself about this?” (v. 34), as if to say, “Are you wrestling with this matter in your own heart?” Perhaps Pilate was searching for something spiritually; perhaps searching for truth, as we see when we get to verse 38. But in asking Jesus if He were the King of the Jews, Pilate was wanting to know two main things. First, Pilate was checking to make sure that Jesus wasn’t exalting himself above Caesar, for there was to be no king nor god above Caesar; and anyone claiming such would have committed a crime worthy of death. Jesus answered by saying that His kingdom and His servants were not of this world.