Article of the Month

May 2010

ABSOLUTE TRUTH

 

In the world of the philosopher, or in the everyday world of human experience, it is convenient or expedient to think of truth as flexible—RELATIVE TRUTH they call it. What is meant, of course, is that if there are no absolute truths, it becomes so much easier to justify our actions, to make up our own rules, and not to be accountable to any fixed principles. To a Christian, however, absolute truth is vital.  

The Apostle John

Each of Jesus’ Apostles seems somewhat unique in personality and in interests. It is interesting to note that the Apostle John seems to have an affinity for the subject of truth. He writes on it in his Gospel and epistles about as much as the other Apostles combined. So, while we will quote from Paul and James, we will find John supplying the most intriguing information on truth—frequently when quoting Jesus. 

John realizes that truth is not just for information. Truth is a LIFE STYLE built on infallible (absolute) information. Hence we find his joy: “I am very glad when brethren come and bear witness to your truth, that is, how are you are walking in the truth.” I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (III John 3, 4)

Religious Truth

Truth is a big subject. There are scientific, truths; there are mathematical truths; but there are also truths which are more difficult to pin down. Social “truths,” for instance, vary greatly from time to time and place to place.  This might make some conclude that SOME truths are, indeed, flexible (relative) rather than absolute (immovable). Thus we have truths which are demonstrated not by scientific methods, but by a code of ethics established by a higher authority. A Christian or a Jew, for instance, concludes that only the Creator can establish inviolable rules for conduct. Thus, religious truth becomes a matter of FAITH rather than of PROOF. It will remain so until God reveals Himself unmistakably in the Peaceable Kingdom which now lies so close at hand. (Matthew 6:10)

The Apostle James (1:18) goes so far as to teach that the very existence of a Christian as an entity that is “begotten” to a new nature (that is, who will be resurrected as a spirit being instead of as a human), is begun by God’s giving the “word of Truth” as the begetting agent. In other words, our discovery and conviction of eternal, secure, absolute truths is what makes us into Christians in the Biblical sense.

We would not want to imply that scientific truths are outside of the realm of religion. Frequently the Bible is found to have established scientific truths long before scientists have settled upon the same information. Indeed, truths on all subjects must be harmonious or they are not truths!  Ultimately, as man progresses toward perfection in Christ’s Kingdom, it will become clear that truths in every domain are of Divine origin; they will be inclusively harmonious and absolute.

John, however, is primarily interested in the character-power of religious truth—those rules and concepts which will ultimately support abundant and quality life for all. Scientific truths can be fascinating and helpful; but ultimately they will be only academic tools to support the exuberant life which men will be experiencing.

Jesus and Truth

In John 1:17 we are informed that religious truth is beyond a set of laws for behavior. “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” This does not say that the Jewish Law did not embody truth! What it does say is that truth (in its real sense) is internalization of fixed principles. Truth existed long before Jesus’ earthly ministry, but Jesus began to REVEAL how these truths were going to work in and for the benefit of mankind.

In John 3:21 and its context, we see that truth and light are equated. Thus, if we comprehend absolute truths, we are DRAWN TO LIGHT and its source which is Jesus. We begin to lose the fears so prevalent among humans that our darkness might be exposed. We love truth; we love light; we want it to expose and eradicate any darkness in us.

Jesus would have us know that a true worship of God necessitates truth AND THE SPIRIT of that truth. (John 4:23, 24) It is not belief that matters, but rather the change that comes from believing. Thus the Apostle James famously says, “You believe there is one God. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder! But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:19, 20) So, James concurs that truth without its internalization is of no profit. If these truths were relative, these arguments would be weak, indeed!  But the POWER of God’s absolute truths is mighty. Hence Jesus concludes: “If you abide in my Word, then you are truly disciples of mine, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, 32)

Jesus was so much the embodiment of all truth (even though it would not all be revealed at once), that he categorizes himself with three words in John 14:6:

(1)   He is “the way”—the only door through which true learning and access to vital relationships is attainable;  

(2)   He is “the truth”—the only secure teacher through whom truth can be determined to be an absolute;

(3)   He is “the life”—the one who will GIVE LIFE to those who ultimately traverse “the way” and imbibe “the truth.” These will be his disciples in this age, and the willing of mankind in the next age.

 

The Manipulation of Truth

We live now in a time when truth is so expendable and handled so loosely that most of the world is justifiably skeptical about any claims regarding what is true. This is stronger today because of the enormous effect of communication systems; but the phenomenon is not new. Pilate was a confirmed skeptic. His words to Jesus, “What IS truth?” echo through the age as a challenge to the existence of absolute truths. (John 18:38)

Jesus did not answer him. Skeptics don’t receive answers well. But Jesus does answer the question when he rebukes Satan (who should have known better). Jesus simply quotes the words of Moses from the Jewish Law (Deuteronomy 8:3) to show the only source of truth—the source of FOOD FOR THE SOUL!  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Unfortunately, man has compromised himself. He has learned (like Satan) to manipulate information to support his own warped concepts. As Romans 1:25 pointedly summarizes it, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature (self) rather than the Creator.” This will not always be so. The incoming Kingdom will cover the earth with the knowledge of God (THE Truth) as the waters cover the sea. That will leave no room for skepticism or the deceptive manipulation of ideas. (Isaiah 11:9; Revelation 20:2, 3)

Finding Truth and Representing It

If we have been blessed with understanding now, ahead of the world of mankind, we maintain and grow in that understanding because the Holy Spirit (the mighty and varied influences of God) will help us to find the fixity of truth. As Jesus said in John 16:13, “the spirit of truth…will guide you into all the truth”—all necessary truth for our new-creature growth, and all properly available at any given time.  This is in answer to Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:17-19: “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy WORD is truth.”  There is no other available source for truth. Only God’s Word allows us to find the fundamental truths of the universe as well as of our own beings.

Sir Isaac Newton was very much a scholar of Scripture and a disciple of Jesus—even though he is known almost exclusively for his scientific efforts.  But he gratefully attributes his scientific genius to his familiarity with the Bible. He humbly acknowledged Scripture as the fount of all truth.

All of Jesus’ disciples, his “church,” should do likewise. The true Church should be fully convinced and confidently secure regarding the absolute truths of God’s Word. As Paul states it, the church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15) And we can be this if we eliminate our personal opinions of truth.  Again, as Paul puts it, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth.” May we be blessed to do so!

 

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