What Is Truth? A Christian Perspective
What is truth, how it’s anchored in God, why we expect truth, and why we don’t want truth (sometimes).
True is that which conforms with fact or reality. Truth is not determined by personal feelings, popular vote, scientific consensus, or any human court of appeal. Truth simply is what is and is anchored in the God who created and sustains the universe.
What is truth? People have been asking that question a long time. Just before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus of Nazareth to death in 1st century Judea, he cynically asked the Christ, “what is truth?” (John 18:38). And just like many today, Pilate didn’t wait around for the answer.
In a world that’s awash in news, so-called “fake news”, and misinformation, truth can be difficult to locate. We know politicians lie to make a point, journalists lie about imagined experiences, and our parents even lie about Santa Claus. We’ve even create verbiage to hide our dishonesty so that it seems moral as in “white lies”. (No wonder we’re all skeptics!)
Truth is hard to find these days. But in the Christian tradition truth is of paramount importance. Because truth is a reflection of God. That’s why I want to define truth, determine its origins, why we expect it, why we often don’t want it.
Truth Defined: Truth Is What Is Real
According to Steven Lawson, writing for Ligonier.org, truth is…
“Defined as that which conforms with fact or reality. It is genuineness, veracity, or actuality. In a word, truth is reality. It is how things actually are.”
Truth corresponds with what actually is. Truth is what is real. In philosophy, this is referred to as a “correspondence theory” of truth. Truth is not relative to another person’s or society’s perspective, instead it is absolute for every human being, peacock, and blue whale. One person may ‘feel something is true’ but without objective verification, it means nothing. Truth is not determined by personal feelings, popular vote, scientific consensus, or any human court of appeal. Truth simply is what is.
Epistemology, or the study of how we come to know truth, may be the most foundational topic in philosophy because it informs every other area. Not surprisingly, there are several different explanations of truth in philosophy. Feel free to explore those various concepts. However, I contend the correspondence theory of truth is the correct perspective because it is supported by the nature of God.
“Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Truth Is Anchored In God
Truth comes from somewhere. Truth doesn’t materialize out of thin air, but originates in God himself. Lawson continues…
“Theologically, truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Truth is the self-disclosure of God Himself. It is what it is because God declares it so and made it so. All truth must be defined in terms of God, whose very nature is truth.”
Truth is tethered to the character of God. Truth is not simply a description of what is real, but is anchored in God’s personality, attributes, and nature. You and I cannot escape our skin. In the same way, God cannot escape what is true. Because that is a fundamental part of his being.
Therefore, God determines what truth is. He defines what up is, where the bottom of the ocean is, where we came from, and where we are going when we die. All other methods of learning whether in the sciences or in theology is an attempt to discover what is plain as day to the God who created everything (Genesis 1:1) and upholds the universe by his word (Hebrews 1:3).
“So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes.” Isaiah 65:16 (emphasis mine)
Why We Expect Truth: We’re Made In God’s Image
Everyone expects truth. That’s why nearly every segment of society vilifies any form of hypocrisy, or pretend truth. Nobody respects a faker.
People may say things like ‘truth is relative’ or ‘every person has their own truth’, but nobody really believes that consistently. Those who may declare ‘truth is relative’ are the same people who get offended when someone insults them, steals from them, sleeps with their spouse, or otherwise breaks faith with them. It’s because they want truth in their dealings with other people. In fact, we all want the same thing: truth in our relationships.
The reason for this is simple. God created human beings in his likeness (Genesis 1:27). Because he is truth and we’re made in his image, we have a longing for truth in our bones. We expect truth from each other and we respect truth when we see it.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Why We Don’t Want Truth (Sometimes): We’re Fallen
Though we may expect truth from other people, humans have a complicated relationship with truth. After the Fall (when Adam & Eve rebelled against God in Genesis 3), every person fell into a pattern of sin against our Creator. One of those sins in dishonesty (Exodus 20:16, Colossians 3:9).
So though we may affirm honesty is the best policy and reject all forms of fakery (in theory), we ourselves find it difficult to keep everything on the level. We lie to each other and to ourselves. Sometimes we lie to gain an advantage, sometimes for fun, and sometimes there’s no good reason. Lying is simply a part of fallen human experience….though we know better.
But like every sin, lying can be forgiven. If we confess and forsake dishonesty before God, we can obtain God’s mercy (1 John 1:9). Christ died for liars like us.
“All mankind are liars.” (Psalm 116:11)