Summary: Truth is: 1. A person 2. Real 3. Eternal
Truth has fallen on hard times. In a Barna research poll that was just completed this month, several troubling facts came to light about where the American public is intellectually and spiritually. The poll examined several different beliefs and found that, “most adults reject the notions of original sin, the existence of Satan, and salvation by God’s grace alone.” It also discovered that “Americans tend to think that the core documents of the world’s major faiths, such as the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon, are ‘different expressions of the same spiritual truth’ and that praying to the dead can reap personal benefits.” It goes on to say, “Americans are nearly as likely to say that Jesus Christ sinned as to believe that he lived a sinless life.” The research team concluded that, “the United States is the world’s greatest melting pot of cultures, and that diversity is clearly evident in the [religious] beliefs of its people.” In other words, many people order their lives after what they hear from Oprah or Dr. Phil as much as the Bible — if not more. They see no difference between them.
I was in a meeting recently where we were basically told, “No one is really wrong, and everyone is right, and the important thing is that we have unity and all get along.” What was being described, if it had actually been lived out, would not have been unity, but chaos. If you live in a world where no one is really wrong and everyone is right, then the sniper out on the east coast is as right as the police who are pursuing him. If everyone is right, and no one is wrong, then the morals of the serial rapist on the campus of Ohio State University are on equal par with the ethics of Mother Teresa, who selflessly and sacrificially ministered to the lepers of Calcutta.
It may surprise some people to realize that many of our secular universities no longer pretend to believe in truth, let alone values and morals. In a recent magazine from one of our universities in Ohio, a professor is quoted as saying, “We want to prepare students on how to think, not tell them what to think.” On the surface that may sound good, but the philosophy behind it is: “Truth is something you discover in your own mind. There are no facts, no absolute truths, no rights or wrongs, it is up to you to come up with your own truth.” You have to wonder about an academic institution that believes that truth is relative and that people develop their own truth. How could you ever give a test or assign grades in that kind of setting? How would you like to go to a doctor who did not accept the truths that were being taught in medical school, and decided to come up with his own truths?
As Christians we believe that there are important truths that govern life, and that these truths are absolutes. These truths do not come from us, they are beyond us. That is, they are truths that cannot be influenced or changed by human behavior. They are true whether anyone believes in them or not. They are true whether anyone agrees with them or not. They are true whether anyone likes them or not. They are absolute truths because they come from an absolute God, and they are the foundation of life itself. God created truth, and the world has been built upon it. You don’t break these truths, they break you if you fail to follow them. You can disbelieve that there is such a thing as gravity if you want. You can dislike the law of gravity. You can even defy the law of gravity. But if you do, you will not break the law of gravity; it will break you. It is an absolute law that God has built into the world. And when we fly an airplane, we are merely applying other universal laws that we have discovered.
It is always fun to ask those who believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth, if they are absolutely sure that there is no absolute truth, and how they know it. This kind of thinking comes from a philosophy called Nihilism. Nihilism is defined in the dictionary as: “The philosophy of extreme skepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence.” There are no values, no morals, no meaning or purpose to life, and no truth. Into this darkness the light of the gospel comes with its penetrating good news. There is truth. Life has values which bring meaning and purpose to life. There is hope.
When people ask, “What is truth?”, we have an answer. We say, first of all: Truth is a person. Jesus Christ was the revealed truth of God which came to us in the form of a person. God did not send the world abstract ideas, he sent us a person. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He did not say that he came to tell us the truth, or show us the way, he said he was the truth. He is the embodiment of truth, and we began to understand that as he lived and taught among us during his time on earth.