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WHAT IS TRUTH? - The Long Search for Truth
The Long Search for Truth
History records great leadership and kingdoms that were established, flourished and dissolved through time. Historic figures such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Muhammad and Genghis Khan had beliefs and systems that they exercised for their successful exploits over multitudes of people in vast parts of the world. People under their dominion were forced to make changes to conform to their ruling authority. But the earth still rotates on its axis even though the bones of these rulers have long since turned to dust. New leaders today have an opportunity to direct nations and establish systems based on what they believe.
There are some principles that do not bend to the will of men regardless of how gallant their efforts. There are timeless principles that have ruled over mankind since the beginning of time. Those that respect these principles will abound while those that choose to reject them will ultimately be crushed by them. These principles are based on eternal truth that is foundational to our survival and success. When truth and sound principles are upheld, days of prosperity follow. But days of calamity follow men who put away truth to substitute wrong for right.
The question: “What is truth?” was asked by Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judaea, at the judgment of Jesus Christ before His crucifixion. Pilate was asked to judge a man that he knew nothing about. Pilate had great authority over his soldiers and the conquered Jewish nation but did not know this Jewish King who came to save the world. Rome ruled in great authority and lived in luxury but did not know of the pauper king among the people brought into their submission. It was then, as it is today; many who rule in great authority know nothing of the Suffering King to which all men must one day bow the knee in submission.
Truth existed long before Rome came into power but they had not been impacted by this truth. They reveled in their own power and authority. They, no doubt, touted in their day the lack of truth or absolutes in their worshipping of false gods as many are doing in our society today. But does denial of the truth by unbelievers make void the truth? To answer this question we must first understand the nature of truth.
Definition of Truth
There are many accepted definitions for truth. Definitions are written by people who evaluate certain characteristics of life and then define it in terms acceptable to a vast majority. Theologians, philosophers and scientists have evaluated many things and formed opinions accepted as authoritative references for those that seek truth in our educational facilities. These definitions may be man’s best effort to define a thing, but does the world’s acceptance of their analyses make it true? Is truth limited to man’s determination and reasoning when man still wrestles with theories about his own origin? The theory of gravity is true for all times, places and people on earth. Even though man makes use of the forces of lift and thrust to temporarily overcome gravity to fly planes, the definition of gravity is still true. Definitions for truth may change based on various criteria as disclosed below:
Truth has been defined as:
- real facts about something: the things that are true.
- quality or state of being true.
- statement or idea that is true or accepted as true. (Merriam-Webster)
Man’s Evaluation of Truth
Major Theories of Truth
Substantive theories - not universally accepted
- Correspondence theory- true beliefs and true statements correspond to the actual state of affairs, a traditional model tracing its origins to ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; assumption that truth is a matter of accurately copying what is known as "objective reality" and then representing it in thoughts, words and other symbols
- Coherence theory- truth requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system.
- Consensus theory- truth is whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group.
- Pragmatic theory- truth verified and confirmed by results of putting one's concepts into practice.
- Minimalist (deflationary) theories - a label to express agreement, stress claims, or form assumptions.
- Performative theory of truth- to perform the act of signaling one's agreement with the claim.
- Redundancy and related theories- asserting statement is true equivalent to asserting the statement itself.
- Pluralist theories- more than one property that makes propositions true.
- Most believed theories- survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views.
- Truth in logic- patterns in reason that can help tell us if a proposition is true or not
- Truth in mathematics- approach truth through model theory of truth and the proof theory of truth.
- Semantic theory of truth- philosophy of language which holds that truth is a property of sentences.
- Kripke (1940) theory of truth- language containing its own truth predicate; some sentences are neither true nor false
- Ancient history - The ancient Greek origins of the words "true" and "truth"
- Medieval age
- Avicenna- truth of a thing is property of the being of each thing which has been established in it
- Aquinas- a natural thing, being placed between two intellects, is called true insofar as it conforms to either
- Changing concepts of truth in the Middle Ages- changes from subjective to more objective one
- Modern age -(various viewpoints: Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, etc.)
Medicine and psychiatry -There is controversy as to the truth value of a proposition made in bad faith self-deception, i.e. a hypochondriac has a complaint with no physical symptom.
In religion: omniscience - perfect knowledge of all truth about all things. (Wikipedia)
Socrates- born in 470 BC and died in 399 BC - was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Socrates was married but was also believed to have had a fond attraction for young men. He was condemned for corrupting the young men in Athens and punished with death by poisonous hemlock. Socrates did not write down his philosophy;it was recorded by his prized student, Plato. Aristotle was a student of Plato.
Origin of Truth
The commentary on David’s comments in Psa 116 state: “I said in my haste, All men are liars.” All men are liars, compared with God. It is very comfortable, when we find every man a liar (no faith in man), that God is faithful. When they speak vanity every one with his neighbour, it is very comfortable to think that the words of the Lord are pure words, That God does and will preserve his own honour in the world, notwithstanding the sins of men. 2. That it is our duty, in all our conclusions concerning ourselves and others, to justify God and to assert and maintain his justice, truth, and goodness, however it goes. (Matthew Henry Commentary)
What is truth? It is true that there is a good and faithful God who is Creator and Sovereign over the world, Who instructed the first man in his responsibilities and Who will judge every man at the end of life for obedience or disobedience without regard to his influence or means. The first man and woman knew the truth because God personally instructed them in His ways. But that truth became perverted when they entertained the lies of the serpent and were cast out of the sanctum of Eden. Truth was lost for a time. God introduced Himself to Patriarch Abraham and the truth was known through Abraham’s descendants for many generations. After 400 years, God revealed Himself to Moses who was to be a deliverer for Israel, bringing them out of bondage and instructing them in the truth. God did deliver Israel from bondage and reintroduced Himself to the people as their God through Moses and the Ten Commandments. God was faithful to His people even though their continual sin and rejection of truth caused them to suffer captivity and bondage to other oppressive nations until the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948.
Throughout time prophets were sent to the people to turn them back to the truth that originated from God. Finally God’s Son, Jesus, came to atone for sin and restore truth to the world. The coming of Jesus brought knowledge of God and an opportunity for both the Jewish people and the world to have a personal relationship with God. Jesus established the church to promote the truth to all mankind. Christian believers fought religious wars and experienced oppression of the truth at times. The church was influenced by the dominance of worldly governments who followed false gods and persecuted the church. The plan of Satan has always been to destroy the truth and introduce his perversion for man. Institutions of higher learning originally established by Christian believers later replaced Christian references with worldly knowledge and science. The devil, as the enemy of God, has always tried to pervert truth through lies or subtle compromise to lead men ultimately down the path of total denial of God’s truth. But God has always preserved carriers of the truth who would proclaim it and again ignite the hearts of men toward God.
Christian dissension came into the Church of England through the German monk and Catholic priest named Martin Luther. He sought in the 16th century to purify the doctrine of the Catholic Church that had been compromised. He protested in The Ninety-Five Theses the Catholic practice of indulgences, that one could buy salvation through monetary donations to the Church. He asked in Thesis 86: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" His protest evolved into the Protestant religions and religious liberty brought to the new land of America. The Christian faith has been purged and sanctified through many processes over generations in America by spiritual “awakenings” and revivals that restored the true knowledge of God to the people.
Rejection of Truth
Like biblical Israel, America too has gone into multiple national sins. The truth is in jeopardy of being lost in America because men prefer to exalt their wisdom above the truth God has given. This truth that existed before man and that is beyond man’s knowledge, cannot be extinguished by man. Truth remains regardless of man’s choices but it can become suppressed or compromised from time to time because of rejecting God. Even some churches that were established in the truth have changed the truth by proxy of man. They may congregate in the name of the Lord but lack His power because of perverting the truth. Note that even in church today believers are led to believe that giving of money to the church will obligate God to grant them various petitions. Once again works are being added to grace and simple faith. Holy Scripture reveals in history this repetitive falling away and rejection God’s truth. Those seeking solutions for the world’s problems often consult the wrong sources for their answers. The answers are not in the history of Greece, Rome or philosophers of those periods. The truth is not determined by proxy of men. Leaders often reference the opinions of past and present worldly philosophers and leaders considered to be a source of wisdom; rather than referring to the nation’s founders that exercised wisdom through God’s word. These men were not perfect but they pointed us to further guidance from the One Who is perfect. The founders, no doubt, expected us to be smart enough to follow through on that course. God laughs at the calamity of man (Pro 1:26) but still beacons all men to return to the truth.
Let’s review God’s Word regarding truth:
- He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deu 32:4
- For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psa 100:5
- All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. Psa 25:10
- For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. Psa 33:4
- Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. Pro 23:23
- None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. Isa 59:4
- And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it upheld him Isa 59:14-16
- For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Joh 1:17
The mediocrity and trouble we see in the land today is the results God promised for rejecting truth (Deu 28). Choosing to believe the “smooth words” (Isa 30:10) spoken by false teachers has led society to dive further and further into sinful ways that lead to destruction. Our society has chosen to accept the opinion of worldly leaders rather than reading the bible that provides the truth. Our court system does not allow hearsay, but some of our leaders have rejected the eternal truth in favor of the opinions of men who will return to dust. When choosing to repair a Maytag dishwasher or a Ford car; we would not set out to do those time-intensive repairs without first going to the manufacturer’s manual for expert advice about the design specifications. Our “Manufacturer” lists His instructions and specifications for mankind in the guide book called the “Holy Bible” and this up-to-date manual is for all times. Yet the “Manufacturer” is considered inadequate by many to repair the lives of the humans He created. Man has chosen rather to use his own limited knowledge to remedy man’s problems rather than seeking the knowledge of the Supreme Father that made him. Man’s knowledge is perverted, filtered or second-hand at best. The “Manufacturer,” who understands all man’s intricate specifications is willing to give first-hand knowledge, and can heal every abnormality of man with or without surgery. This Manufacturer, who is Jehovah God, is able to heal our society as well. Where the best minds have conference together to cure our world and have failed over and over to cure disease, war and poverty, the “Manufacturer” knows that the problem is not the world that He created and pronounced as good, but that the problem is the corruption of man, himself. And when man realizes the problem starts within then he can begin to solve the problems outside of him in his world. God invites the searchers of truth to follow the path of past wise men. They are invited to come directly to the Source of Truth to know truth.
God loves mankind so much despite our sin that He put on a flesh suit and came down to pay our penalty for sin and provide the cure to our disease. This flesh and bone manifestation that was Jesus Christ came to earth to give us the remedy for all the abnormalities that have plagued us from the beginning of time till today. Jesus declared upon his arrival: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Joh 14:6). Jesus showed us the truth through His earthly ministry. He showed us the nature of the Father, how to love, live, pray and treat our fellow man. Truth showed up but many did not realize it.
Jesus Restores Truth
Pontius Pilate asked the “Symbol of Truth”: “What is truth?” Truth was put on trial, found guilty and condemned to be destroyed. The world continues to make this same mistake in various situations where truth is presented. Man’s pride is no longer willing to acknowledge the need of God or accept the lessons of history.Jesus counseled that His works would witness for Him and that His words would condemn the world. Here is His testimony at His judgment by Pilate:
Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Joh 18:37
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? Joh 8:46
A convicted heart will hear the truth, but a harden heart will not. Jesus explained why men refuse to accept the truth.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. Joh 3:18-21
Without true repentance, men cannot receive the truth. God touches the heart with Holy Ghost conviction of sin but man must be willing to repent and accept truth. Jesus further explained the difficulty of some to hear and receive the truth:
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved (Luk 5:36 -38)
The old bottles of wine are like harden hearts of sin that could not receive the new wine of God’s truth sent through His Son, Jesus. The Old Testament had prophesied this:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jer 13:23
Israel had for generations awaited the prophesied arrival of the King and restoration of their people but they did not realize the manifestation of the promise when He arrived to set them free. Without Jesus Christ, every man, generation and nation is in bondage and captivity to Satan, the liar and deceiver. So as Jesus, the Deliverer, stood before His people, Truth was examined and rejected.
Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. (Joh 18:37-40).
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. Joh 19:6
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (Joh 1:14, 17)
Some people may look at the decision of the Jewish leaders and wonder how could they have rejected and crucified Jesus, but the same decision is being made by people every day who are rejecting the truth of Jesus and choosing unbelief instead.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (Joh 3:16 -19)
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (1Jn 5:6).
Alternatives to Truth
Like the people of the bible, the great theologians, kings and conquerors of nations; we have the choice to build our personal kingdoms on the truth or a lie. People have set out to redefine truth in society and make it conform to their own preferences. Regardless of the quantity of unbelievers, the truth will not change for our generation. It may be lost to our generation as it has been for some past generations, but it will always arise again as a witness against the lie. God and His Word are one and the Truth shall always prevail. The bible is God’s written truth and is best understood by those to whom it is written: those that accept God and His Son. Every time the gospel message is presented, the hearer has an opportunity to accept the truth into his heart or be further hardened to the gospel message.
Jesus brought us the word that is truth. Satan, the father of lies, uses perverted knowledge, science and false religion to lead men astray. Jesus used Truth as an open door to bring everyone in, not to keep any out. Many people believe that Jesus came to give us religion, but religion was present before Jesus came to teach in Jerusalem. The Romans had the worship of their gods and their Jews had their religion. Jesus came to bring us grace and truth. He did not say that religion would set you free. He said: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (Joh 8:32). Truth, that is the love of the Father for all men, welcomes every man, woman and child to come to the bosom of the Father through Jesus Christ and find His acceptance. The way has been made for every person to know truth and live in victory through accepting Christ. Once the truth is received, God provides help to overthrow every lie of Satan and walk in truth. Truth sets the believer free but the lie leads one into further darkness, captivity and bondage. Jesus ascended to the heavenly throne but the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (Joh 16:13), came to the earth to lead all men into the ways of truth. The truth is that Jesus Christ came from heaven, lived in the earth without sin, paid the price for all of our sins, ascended back to the Father in heaven and now intercedes for us so we can have a personal relationship with our God.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Joh 14:6
Education causes men to boast in their knowledge but God must be received by simple faith. The scripture of 1Co 8:1 teaches that knowledge puffs up and the enemy has sold man a spirit of arrogance and pride that is self reliant. That is his nature and our inheritance though the failings of our spiritual parents, Adam and Eve. But the gospel tells us to humbly acknowledge our sin. We are adopted into a new family and are being restored to the image of Abba, our true Father in heaven. The Lord is ever so near to us and waiting for us to inquire of Him. “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us… (Act 17:27).”
Knowing the truth is as simple as our willingness to believe God and the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the truth and we are guided into more truth as we trust Him. When you walk with Truth, every lie is exposed, darkness is dissipated and only the bareness of truth stands. Truth with take you upon any present difficulty into a place of peace.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Psa 84:11
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Joh8:32
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: Mar 4:11
Do you want the truth? Believing truth is a personal choice that affects our immediate environment and shapes our world. Our lives are like the ripples affecting the flow of the pond when a pebble is thrown in. We are expected to influence our world because we are birthed into this world with purpose. Change comes about when we choose to fulfill that purpose. No one can improve the world alone, but all of us working within God’s plan makes a better world. We cannot fully realize the impact our lives have on others but our influence does cause a good or bad influence on our world. Our knowledge of the truth affects those in our immediate surroundings who influence those they meet and it becomes a ripple that can begin a flow or a flood. One man, Adam, led us into sin. One man, Jesus, leads us in the Truth. The truth is available to change our world for good.
God strategically places us in our environment to have the right impact on our world and spread His word to the world. We are asked to know the truth and then share it and lighten the darkness of this world. There is eternal truth that is available for every person that seeks it. Truth can bring about the prosperity and peace we all seek. Jesus brought us that truth. Let that truth be your guide and direction for life.