What Is Truth?

John 1:43-51. 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”  51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

John 18:38.  “What is truth?”

UPDATED AND CORRECTED (HURRIDEDLY) 1/18/2021

Wonderful Words of Life:  Truth (Noun); True (Adj.); Truly; (Adverb), tell, testify to, or speak the truth, (Verb)

Aristotle on Truth:
“To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not is true.”

Webster gives two definitions of truth:

First, truth is that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. This refers to truths that are easily demonstrable.  Examples: That little Chihuahua is smaller than most other dogs. The car is red. The shutters on the house are green.

Second, that which is true is a fact or belief that is accepted as true. This definition covers theories of one kind or another. They are often not as easily demonstrated to be true.  Good examples can be found in many fields, such as science or economics.

Example from Science:
The Big Bang is a scientific theory about the beginning of the universe that is generally accepted as true. Of course, scientists continue to explore new theories about the beginning of the universe.  Today, some scientists suggest we are living in “a multi-verse,” which implies not a single beginning, but an unlimited number of “universes” which imply an unlimited number of beginnings.

This is like the Hindu theory that the earth is balanced on the back of a big turtle. One man asked, “Well, what is the turtle standing on?”  Another reply, “I have you there. It is turtles all the way down.”

In a philosophical sense, truth is the end of inquiry.  Once it is found, further inquiry and alternate theories of the thing once in question will no longer be necessary.  Obviously, in the case of the scientific beginning of the universe, the search for truth is, at minimum, still going on.  The Bible tells us that God made the earth through his command, it does not answer the question of just how this was done, science must try to do that.

 Example from Economics:
The Trickle-Down theory is an economic theory that declares that when taxes on the rich are reduced, the rich will get richer and they will buy more goods. This results in an expansion in the economy which will create additional demands for goods. This will in turn create additional jobs, and the wealth will trickle down to those who are not as wealthy. This is demonstrably true.  When the rich have more money, they spend it, often for luxury goods. Conspicuous consumption by the rich is everywhere evident in the developed world. The second part of the Trickle-Down theory declares that when taxes are reduced, the rich will get richer, and they will invest more of their money into a business, creating new jobs that pay higher wages. The second part of the Trickle-Down theory has not proven to be true. Indeed, the vast majority of economists insist that the richest of the rich have gotten richer, while the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle-class has continued to shrink.  Consider these facts:

According to the Brookings Institute, as of 2016 the richest 1% now holds more wealth than the entire middle-class. This is a dramatic rise over all previous centuries.

According to Pew Research, in the 21st century, the wealth gap between upper-income, middle-income, and lower-income families continues the trends of the 20th century, with gaps growing wider. At the median, from 2001 to 2016 upper-income families add 33% to their wealth. At the same time, middle-income families saw their median net worth shrink by 20%, and lower-income families experienced a loss of 45%. In the 21st Century, the gap between the upper-income, middle-income and lower-income families is wider than over all previous centuries in the modern era.

In a philosophical sense, truth is the end of the inquiry.  Once it is found, further inquiry and alternate theories of the thing once in question will no longer be necessary.  Obviously, in the case of “trickle-down economics,” the search for truth is, at a minimum, still on.

Though not strictly proof against the Trickle-Down theory, according to Oxfam International, the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population. That is the richest 2,153 people own more wealth than the poorest 4,600,000,000,000 people.

Truth and the Bible, Especially the 4th Gospel
The Bible has a lot to say about truth, and John’s Gospel has more to say that than any other book in the Bible.  The difference between philosophical/scientific truth and Biblical truth is that the facts of the Bible are revealed by God which the Bible assumes.

As an aside, the Bible recognizes two kinds of truth.  1) Special Revelation, which can only come from God, such as the incarnation of Christ. 2) Revelation in Nature, which is philosophical and scientific.  Psalm 19 is a good example of Revelaiton in Nature. Therein we read, the heavens are telling the glory of God,” or Romans 7:23, wherein the apostle writes, “…but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” Likewise, the Bible recognizes both forms of revelation as progressive.  Revelation in Nature is progressive. We now know more about the Revelation in Nature, such as “the heavens telling the glory of God” than the author of Psalm 19, because he looked at the heavens with his naked eyes, and we look through the Hubble telescope, etc. Special Revelation is also progressive. We know more about Jesus Christ than did Moses, in the days of his flesh.  As we read in John 1:17, “The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Moses may have seen the foreshadowing of the Atonement between God and humankind that was in Jesus in the sacrificial system of Israel, but Moses did not have a fraction of the information about Jesus that is now available to us who live in the light of Christ, his life, death on the cross, and Resurrection.

According to the 4th Gospel, the following things are true:

1) God is the only true God, 2) God is true, 3) there is also a true light (Jesus), 4) true riches (Jesus), 5) a true bread from heaven (Jesus) not from Moses but from God, and 6) those who do what is true (followers of Jesus and those who will become followers of Jesus), 7) Those who do what is true come to the light. 8)“The time is coming and now is when true worshipers (followers of Jesus) will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth (the Truth of Jesus).”  9) Jesus declared himself the true bread when he said, “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”  10) Jesus declared himself to be God’s true “planting” in the world when he said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”  Jesus the vine grew up out of Israel which Isaiah 5:3 called “God’s vineyard.” Likewise, in John 18, Jesus declared himself to be the “ladder” between heaven and earth.  He said, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” He is also the truth about God and the way to God for us.  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14)

John’s gospel also speaks to us of truth-telling.  It tells us:

1.That a partial truth is often not finally the truth. In John 4:18 the Samaritan woman at the well told Jesus that she had no husband. Jesus responded, “What you have said is true!, for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Telling a partial truth is an old trick. It is the favorite tactic of all who are trying to direct people away from the real, demonstrable truth.  Hitler said that if you tell a lie often enough, people will come to believe it.  He used his lies to gain control of Germany, destroy 6,000,000 Jews, and plunge the world into war.

2.Truth is more important than “signs and wonders.” In John 10:41 we read that, “Many (people) came to (Jesus), and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” John’s truth was simply to point to Jesus.  Sometimes we make truth depend upon success.  Unfortunately, truth often suffers at the hands of people who “cannot handle the truth.”  We often prefer our version of facts over the truth. That is why Oswald Chambers said, “It is easier to be true to our convictions than it is to be true to Jesus Christ.”  And that is why the hymnist wrote:

New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth;
We must onward still and upward, who would keep abreast of truth.

3. The authority behind the 4th Gospel, “the Beloved Disciple” is true and a true witness. In John 19:35 we read that when the side of Jesus was pierced with a spear, blood and water came forth. Thereafter we read, “He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.” And in John 21 we learn that Jesus did not say that the Beloved Disciple would live until he returned—as was being reported throughout the church of that day, but that if Jesus allowed him to live that long, it should not matter to Peter. In verse 24 we read, “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.” Obviously, the Beloved Disciple had died, and that precipitated a crisis in the church that had to be explained. The need to “sort out truth” is imperative, not only in a constitutional democracy like ours, but in a church like ours.  This is a task for the body of Christ, the church, which is directed by the Head of the Body, Jesus, and animated by the Holy Spirit.

4. We ought to be suspicious of people who constantly boast and testify to themselves. In John 5:31, Jesus himself said, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true.” And in John 7:18, Jesus adds, “Those who speak on their own (behalf) seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.”

My mother used to tell me that if I wanted others to speak well of me, I ought never to speak well of myself, but to live well.  Or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Let me finish with a look at the 4th Estate. The first 3 Estates refer to the three divisions of European society in the Middle Ages: the 1st Estate was the ruler, king, queen or emperor. The 2nd Estate was made up of the privileged clergy and nobility, and the 3rd Estate consisted of the commoners, businesspeople, serfs, servants, etc.  It was not until the rise of the modern democratic world that the 4th Estate received the power to protect the 3rd Estate, the common people, from abuses of the 1st Estate, meaning the ruler and the 2nd Estate, the privileged nobility and clergy.

Do you remember the Adventures of Superman?  Let me ask you a question.  Was Clark Kent the secret identity of Superman or was Superman the secret identity of Clark Kent?  The shows tag line ran thus, and it answers the question:

“The Adventures of Superman. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. “Look, up in the sky, it a bird, its a plane, its Superman.”  Yes, its Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Grammatically speaking, Clark Kent is the secret identity of Superman, not the other way around.  And it is Superman, “disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper,” who fights “a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

The whole tagline, wittingly or unwittingly, is a tribute to the importance of the 4th Estate, Journalism.

When I was a student at South Park, we were taught the importance of the 4th Estate, the press, journalists, and journalism who told the truth in order to preserve the great freedoms of our democracy.  Those who did not tell the truth were accused of “yellow journalism.” Of course, the way this truth is told has changed a great deal over the course of our “Baby Boomer” lifetimes.

The early part of my life (though I was ignorant of it) was still the hey-day of print journalism.  Reporters roamed the city, the state, the nation, and the globe. The wire services gave us access to news from around the world. In the early years of the 20th century, with the advent of Radio, the great radio Networks reported the latest news first, but it was of necessity brief. With the help of the wire services newspapers gave us the news in more detail. Because there was a delay, and a filtering process, print news tended to be more accurate than radio news. Likewise, the daily paper was divided between hard “news” and “editorials”, which were further divided between those “editorials, written by the newspaper staff, and those submitted by the newspaper’s readers in the form of “Letters to the Editor.” During this period, if we wanted to know more about the news as was available in the newspaper, the great magazines like Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, and many others gave us access to it. The magazine carried more than news—many also featured commentary.

Then came TV. My teenage years were dominated by Television Network News, CBS, NBC, ABC, Walter Cronkite, Huntley & Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, etc.  In those days, the news was reported as hard facts, and commentary was still clearly identified.

Cable changed all that.  CNN was the first, then FOX, MSNBC, etc. More and more the line between “hard news” and “commentary” was blurred.  One news mogul said it was all “entertainment.” People lined up to get their/our news according to our social and political bias.  Social Media has made this even worse—there are millions of contributors who are not held responsible for their words. And what has that given us?

A high percentage of Americans doubt the legitimacy of an election certified by members of their/our own party, including the Attorney General, the State Assemblies and State Election Officials, and prominent Senators.  “It was stolen,” they/we say.  And that assertion gave rise to the events of January 6th in Washington, D.C.

Pilate once looked at Jesus and said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) That same question is a question for our time, too.

When the 4th Estate is controlled by a few who belong to the 1st and 2nd Estate, whether they be “rulers,” “clergy” or “American nobility (the super-wealthy)”, who will protect the 3rd Estate then?  Without a strong, trusted 4th Estate, we better beware. When people who are out of power e_ (3rd Estate the issue of “justice,” people in power (1st and 2nd Estate) will always accuse them of socialism, etc.  Justice is not socialism.  Socialism always seeks “equality.” Justice does not seek equality it seeks justice, which always allows for the ingenuity and work of individuals.  Justice also seeks to secure the rights of all, especially to what Americans have long called the four great freedoms: Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear.

One of the most important tasks in life is to continually decide for ourselves, “What is truth?”  In the language of the New Testament, we must not “believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1) Those of us who have decided that Jesus Christ “is the Truth” should not be afraid of the truth as defined by Aristotle and Webster.  But are we?  Let us be honest with ourselves. If we cannot be honest with ourselves, truth does not have a chance.  It is my personal conviction that all too many Christians are not up to deciding upon the truth because we prefer to be told what it is, no debate, no worries. Life seldom works like this, and the Bible is Exhibit A. In former generations, the search for “the simple truth,” has been a strength of the Moravian Church. I pray that it still is.

The Pastor

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2 Responses to What Is Truth?

  1. Bravo por ponerlo aqui para que todos pueden ver su idea de la verdad….Bravo

  2. Patti Petree says:

    Sorry, but 4.6 billion is 4,600,000,000. Truth.

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