The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is spoken daily in courtrooms throughout the land of the free and the home of the brave. And why shouldn’t it be? Our founding documents mention the importance of truth and take the time to declare a few self-evident ones. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. Truth matters to each of us and especially to God!”
A brief observation reveals that truth seems to have changed over the years. In Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the definition of truth we find is, “Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be. The truth of history constitutes its whole value. We rely on the truth of the scriptural prophecies.” Today’s Merriam Webster’s definition includes, “the truth: the real facts about something: the things that are true, the quality or state of being true, a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.”
Truth today is filled varying opinions and definitions. Just ask SIRI and she’ll point you quickly to Wikipedia, which kicks open the door to a number of opinions, and in a postmodern world that denies that truth can be known, the question is more important than ever to answer. You see, truth is not simply whatever works, truth is not what makes people feel good, truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty-one percent of a group can reach a wrong conclusion. Truth is not defined by what is intended. Good intentions can still be wrong. Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie.
There are a number of philosophies and worldviews that challenge the concept of truth. The philosophy of relativism says that all truth is relative and there is no such thing as absolute truth. But one has to ask — is the claim “all truth is relative” a relative truth or an absolute truth? Those who follow the philosophy of skepticism simply doubt all truth. The disciples of postmodernism affirm no particular truth and the popular worldview of pluralism says that all truth claims are equally valid. Of course, this is impossible, and for that matter, pluralism says that it is true and anything opposed to it is false, which is a claim that denies its own foundation!
Along with a realistic look comes the often unpopular and offensive nature of truth. A common complaint against anyone claiming to have absolute truth in matters of faith and religion is that such a stance is “narrow-minded,” or that it is arrogant to claim that someone is right and another person is wrong. Yet another protest against truth is that it is offensive and divisive to claim one has the truth. Instead, the critic argues, all that matters is sincerity. The problem with this position is that truth is immune to sincerity.
The fact remains, truth is unaffected by sincerity. Someone who picks up a bottle of poison and sincerely believes it is lemonade will still suffer the unfortunate effects of the poison. Finally, truth cares nothing of desire. A person may strongly desire that their car has not run out of gas, but if the gauge says the tank is empty and the car will not run any farther, then no desire in the world will miraculously cause the car to keep going. As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The fact is, the truth matters … especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie. And nowhere is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.”
May we be reminded that truth has always mattered to God. Deuteronomy 32:4. Stated, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” One of my favorite writers, Oz Guinness, states in his book, A Time for Truth, “all truth is God’s truth and its true everywhere for every one even if no one believes it!” So speaking in an election year, truth is not subject to your vote or your opinion.
Once, when a stubborn disputer seemed unconvinced, Abraham Lincoln said, “Well, let’s see how many legs has a cow?” “Four, of course,” came the reply disgustedly. “That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?” “Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply. “Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg!” Truth is what we must know, understand and embrace. In fact, Jesus himself claimed to be truth. To know the truth, let me recommend that you get to know Jesus. That ladies and gentlemen is the truth about the truth, and this truth lives.
Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council, who writes a weekly column published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.