Prior to his death, burial and resurrection, Jesus was taken by his own people to be interrogated by the Roman Governor Pilate. During their conversation, the subject of truth came up. When Jesus said that he "bore witness to the truth," Pilate asked a very important question -- one that somehow plagues mankind to this day.
He asked, "What is truth?"
In modern times, many people sound a lot like Pilate. A recent Barna Research Group survey regarding what Americans believe asked the question, "Is there absolute truth?"
Sixty-six percent of adults responded that they believe that "there is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct." An amazing seventy-two percent of those aged 18 to 25 expressed this belief.
And, I recently read that in a series of more than twenty interviews conducted at random at a large university, people were asked if there was such a thing as absolute truth - truth that is true across all times and cultures for all people.
All but one respondent answered along these lines:
1) "Truth is whatever you believe"
2) "There is no absolute truth"
3) "If there were such a thing as absolute truth, how could we know what it is?"
4) "People who believe in absolute truth are dangerous"
As far as I can tell, there seems to be two positions about what is true about truth. The first is that truth corresponds to reality. IN this view, a statement may be considered true if it agrees with a factual reality. Therefore, any statement is either true or false; it can't be both. An example would be the statement "I am standing in front of you" is only true if I am standing in front of you.
The second view, held by many today, says that truth is relative, not absolute. This basically says that what is true depends on the views of individuals or cultures and not on whether statements correspond to objective reality. For a statement to be true simply means that a person or culture believes it to be true; people with this view of truth will often say things like, "Well, if that's true for you ..." or "We can't judge other cultures ..." or "What is your truth?" So, when truth is deemed dependent upon the person or culture holding a certain belief, anything can become "true."
One person may say "Jesus is Lord" and another can say "Allah is Lord." This way of thinking says that both statements can be true if they accurately express the sentiments of the speakers. This view seems to advance tolerance and civility, but it does so at the expense of logic. The very definition of "Lord" precludes the possibility they can both be "Lord."
In addition, it seems to me that those who say there is no absolute truth make decisions every day based things they believe are true or false; for example they may flip a light switch believing in the reality of electricity; they drive a car believing in the effectiveness of the engine. I doubt that someone undergoing brain surgery would want to be operated on by a surgeon who did not believe that some things about the brain were true and some not true.
If there are no absolutes, there is no right and wrong. I could kill you, steal from you, or lie to you, and you can't say it is wrong because if I believe I should do such things, and succeed, then it works for me and it has become my personal truth (and who are you to judge me?).
So what is the Biblical view of truth?
I believe that when the Bible speaks of truth, it describes those statements that are factual and absolute, not relative.
We can call ourselves whatever we want, but I'm not sure we can call ourselves Christians unless we believe in moral absolutes of right and wrong, and accept Jesus and His Word as the ultimate source of truth, especially in regards to morality.
I think we might see ourselves in the passages from the gospel of John which show us the conversation between Pilate and Jesus.
Jesus says "Those who are of the truth hear my voice." That's when Pilate asks the question ... "What is truth?" And then he turns and walks away.
Sadly, like many of us, it appears that he wasn't really interested in the truth.