Truth?

Rick's picture

April 7 AD 30, the Roman provincial governor Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” and this question is as relevant today as it was then. How did Jesus respond? What can we learn about the nature of truth that will equip us for the fight? 

 

185:3.4 “Then you are a king after all?” said Pilate. And Jesus answered: “Yes, I am such a king, and my kingdom is the family of the faith sons of my Father who is in heaven. For this purpose was I born into this world, even that I should show my Father to all men and bear witness to the truth of God. And even now do I declare to you that every one who loves the truth hears my voice.”

185:3.5 Then said Pilate, half in ridicule and half in sincerity, “Truth, what is truth—who knows?” 

The apostle John recounts for us Jesus’ interaction with Pilate in John 18:28-19:15. As Pilate struggles to sort out the accusations of the Jewish leaders, as well as the puzzling identity of his prisoner, one of his questions for Jesus is, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Jesus’ enigmatic answers to all of Pilate’s questions do not alleviate the governor’s confusion, but our Lord’s four statements can help us to understand the nature of “true truth” and to live consistently before our God. These four statements are:

1. “Is that your own idea,” asked Jesus, “or did others talk to you about me?” (John 18:34)

    In verse 33 of John 18, Pilate steps back inside his palace after hearing the charges being brought by the Jews against Jesus. He asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus does not answer Pilate’s question. Rather, he challenges Pilate to examine why that question may or may not be relevant. Jesus says, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” (verse 34). Jesus challenged the presuppositions inherent in Pilate’s question. Truth requires honesty! In his dialogue with Pilate, Jesus is essentially asking, “How was your thinking formed, Pilate? On what is it founded? Are you merely repeating something that you may have heard from others, or do you know enough for yourself to honestly make this inquiry?”

2. ” My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

   Pilate continues to press Jesus, asking, “What is it you have done?” (verse 35). Again, Jesus does not answer the question. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Pilate was thinking and speaking and acting temporally, while Jesus was doing so eternally. 

3. “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

   Truth is not relative. It is absolute, and you are either for it or against it. Jesus’ next statement to Pilate is Scripture’s strongest assertion concerning the nature of truth. In John 18:37, Jesus answers Pilate’s statement, “You are a king, then!” with these words: “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, “Truth does not blush.” Even knowing that Pilate has no philosophical or other worldview basis that will allow him to put these words into an appropriate context, Jesus still speaks the truth of an eternal kingdom of a heavenly realm.

4. “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)

The fourth and final statement made to Pilate confirms two other aspects of the nature of truth: one, that truth is not dependent on anything outside of itself, and, two, that truth cannot fail because it has eternal origins. Pilate asked, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” and Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:10,11).

   Pilate’s belief in his own absolute power over the life of Jesus rested on his perception of the scope of his authority. Was that belief ultimately true? If you believe in the resurrection, the answer is no. Jesus certainly died at the hands of earthly powers, but his resurrection from the dead proves that our Lord’s earthly circumstances were determined by his heavenly Father. Truth did not depend on what Pilate thought, and truth does not depend on what we think. Truth is! If something is morally true, it is not because a committee gathered and declared it so. Truth’s origin is far more substantial because it transcends even our biggest ideas. Having roots in eternity means the nature of truth is independent of and unfettered by the limitations of the human mind.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)

    Professor Allan Bloom began his 1987 bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind, with these words; and over the following decade relativism became so ingrained in the so-called “closed American mind” that it warranted its own epoch-defining cultural label: postmodernism. Postmodernism is our society’s term for the majority’s firmly held belief that truth is not knowable and, therefore, cannot be absolute.

   What is alarming is that today, the average man on the street holds a deeply troubled view regarding what truth is. Even in the church over half of all people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians believe that truth is always relative to the situation. Without some firm and compelling basis for suggesting that acts are inappropriate, people are left with philosophies like, ‘If it feels good, do it’, ‘Everyone else is doing it’, or ‘As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s permissible!'”

   How should we view the nature of truth? As one who is seeking the truth, you may quickly respond that moral absolutes do exist and they are knowable because God has faithfully revealed them to us. This is indeed true, and to believe it is at the foundation of our lives.

    Rickey H. Crosby  (Petitor Veritatis)