What is Truth?
In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Roman governor Pilate, “I have come into the world to bear witness of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my words.” Pilate responds scornfully – “What is truth?” he asks. For Pilate, as for many today who have bought into the Post-Modernist lie, the idea that anyone could claim to know absolute truth is preposterous. However, Christ has much to say about absolute truth.
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But what is meant by the word ‘truth’? Truth is a fundamental reality. Truth IS, whether anyone knows it or not. For example, the statement “one is greater than zero” is a fundamental reality. One IS greater than zero, and it has always been and will always be greater than zero. Even if nobody were ever to recognize this as truth, it would still be truth. This is the kind of truth Christ came to reveal –that which has always been and always will be: eternal, immutable, irrefutable truth.
Truth has several important properties that we rely upon in reasoning. These are such fundamental properties that we tend to intuitively use, but it is helpful to formally state them here for the sake of clarity.
- First, truth is consistent; multiple truths cannot contradict or conflict with one another. A corollary to this is that truth is exclusive, meaning that if something is true, everything that conflicts with that truth must be false. This may seem obvious, but many people today deny this, albeit not directly. “What’s right for you is not what’s right for me” and “Christianity is just one path to god” are two excellent examples of the raving lunacy that results when this basic axiom is thrown out the window.
- Second, truth is universal or objective. Truth is true for everyone, everywhere, every when.
- Lastly, because truth is consistent, it is also constructive. Given two or more truths, it is possible to derive further truths. This is another intuitively obvious property that we make use of every day. A good example of this is one we all learned in grade school geometry – if A is equal to B, and B is equal to C, then A is equal to C. This property allows extended chains of reasoning to arrive at truths that may not be immediately obvious.
All of these things are true of God’s word. God’s word is consistent; it does not contradict itself. It is universal, since it is “the faith which was once revealed to the saints for all time.” (Jude 1:3) Furthermore, Jesus himself shows us that the Bible can be used in constructive argument. When debating the Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead, He says in Matthew 22:32, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus’ argument goes as follows:
- God refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the present tense, stating that He is their God
- “God is not the God of the dead” – Present tense must refer to living people
- Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not dead, so there must be a resurrection
Jesus shows us here that we can take the Bible as hard fact; it is a solid ground to base our thinking upon.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about the subject of truth, especially in regards to how we can know what things are true. In John 17:17, Jesus gives the definitive statement about the Bible and its relation to truth. Speaking to the Father in prayer, He says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” Christ plainly states here that the word of God is Truth. The Bible is truth because it comes from the God of truth (Isaiah 65:16). The entirety of God’s Word is truth (Psalm 119:160); truth that is both absolute and immutable.
The word of God is the one source which we can completely rely upon; it is the one reliable foundation for our understanding of everything.