Summary: 4th of July - We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident - what is truth
What is truth?
I chose this passage today to help create a foundation for all of us as we look at Independence day, the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed. In fact, one of the best known statements from our Declaration of Independence states that our declaration is based on truth. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Is truth self-evident? Is what we know true? How do we know what truth is?
I spent time this week asking that question in various locations.
First I spent time with the philosophers, who asked the question in different ways. One of the most intriguing involved whether we could even tell someone about color and still be telling the truth. A simple example is an apple.
If you look at an apple, you might tell us it is red. Someone who is color blind might be equally certain it is green.
Both of you would be expressing what your eyes told you. But the truth may be something else entirely. We are actually calling the item by the colors that are reflected off of the item, not the colors that are absorbed by the item. Wouldn’t the true color of an item be the very opposite of the one we see?
Philosophers could not agree, even on how we describe and identify the truth about the objects around us.
Needless to say, when I looked at what Philosophers called truth, I discovered they had only questions to ask, not truths to answer.
Then I went to the consultants who want to give us answers.
Unless you live in a world without television or news, you know that there are multiple sources of polls and information gatherers. Perhaps you have been annoyed on more than one occasion when one of them calls you at home wanting your opinion.
The problem is this: The way people answer depends upon two things. First, it depends upon who is asking the question. Second, it depends upon how the question is asked. Each question that is asked colors how later questions are answered. As a result, it is nearly impossible for a poll of any kind to be completely unbiased.
In fact, the very fact that they reach people through the phone means they are only reaching a small group of people who are willing to answer questions from strangers on the phone. Today, a significant number of people don’t even answer the phone if they don’t know who is calling. This type of poll is no longer a representative sample of people.
The consultants want the truth, but they can’t give us the truth.
So, how can we find truth?
Next I went to some of our Theologians and I found my answer:
Here’s a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Truth is what God calls us to do and be. God is our creator – and truth exists as God created it to be. Without God, there is no truth.
When we talk about truths that are self-evident, we are talking about God given truths. It is impossible to describe truth without that concept.
Truth means nothing apart from God. It cannot be explained without God. Philosophers over the centuries have tried and failed. Since God alone is the creator of all things, God alone is the creator of all truth. If a truth is self-evident, the truth exists always. And in order for that to happen, there needs to be a creator of such truth.
The whole concept of truth falls apart as soon as you remove the concept of God from the center. Without a source at the center, all of us will simply define truth based on what we want. Truth becomes “our truth,” not something for everyone. What I see as true is “my truth.” What you see as true is “your truth.” There can be no universal truth unless there is a universal creator at the center.
There is nothing universal without a creator who is also universal. Whether you look at right and wrong, or express it as good and evil, there has to be a source that is right and good for you to recognize that and for you to differentiate it from that which is wrong or evil. Without this source of rightness, all is chaos.
In fact, the widespread violence that we see in our society today is exactly what happens when a society gets lost and no longer holds to the fact that truth exists, much less that it is self-evident.