~by Randy Bushey
Jesus answered, “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.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37,38a).
There is a delicious irony in this phase of the trial of the Lord Jesus.
The Bible places Pontius Pilate as Roman governor of Judea at the crucifixion-resurrection climax of the narrative of the 4 Gospels. In this sequence of events, the Jewish elite were pressing Pilate to sanction and carry out the death sentence on Christ, even though Pilate had already publicly announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” (Luke 23:4).
But for decades, historians have scoffed at the historical accuracy of this entire rendering of Jesus’ trial, reducing the one who asked “what is truth” to merely a character of fiction.
After all, there was no concrete confirming evidence of his existence. Pilate, although mentioned in all 4 Gospels a total of 50 times, was cited nowhere else in “secular” history.
But that all changed in 1961 – in a sense, acknowledged history was corrected to reflect truth – when archaeologists uncovered a limestone block while excavating a staircase behind the stage of an ancient Roman theatre in Caesarea, the Roman administrative centre in first century Israel.
The 20-century-old slab, currently on display in a museum in Jerusalem reads, “Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea”
Consequently, the overwhelming majority position among historians – inflation adjusted for current knowledge – is this: Pilate was indeed the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea, serving under Emperor Tiberius from AD 26 to 36.
The New Testament narrative was of course always true, even though for decades this historical figured was denied by the historical experts.
Subsequently, to reflect “truth”, the history textbooks was forced into alignment with the biblical record.
That tells us something of the nature and definition of truth.
Truth is NOT what the majority of experts proclaim, or what the opinion polls say. Neither is it what everyone is doing, or how things appear to be. Truth is never simply a projection of how I feel, or the way I want things to be.
Truth always aligns with reality.
Therefore, truth is authentic; it is genuine. Truth is firm, solid, binding.
The nature of truth is exclusive. It is not both/and; it is either/or.
Therefore it is black and white; conclusive and unconditional; tangible, not fuzzy.
Eternal, objective truth is never self-contradictory. In matters of truth, right is always right; wrong is always wrong. Truth is unchanging, immutable.
Truth is the way things really are.
But isn’t that all pretty outdated? After all, isn’t the post-modern principle of relativism a refutation of absolute truth??
In fact, relativism – for all its hypothetical academic grandeur – is perched on a branch that it is in the process of being sawn off.
When one says, “there is no such thing as truth”, are we to understand that assertion as true (when truth does not exist!)? And if it purports to be a statement of truth, then it is emphatically a self-refuting statement!
Truth must be logically consistent, factual, and viable.
And here’s a diagnostic question about any truth-claim: can it be lived out coherently in the real world?
Can you imagine living out relativism as you cross the street in busy traffic? (I choose to believe that that bus is not there.)
When you are settling your month-end charge-card statement? (I don’t happen to think that I spent that much money, and so I’ll rather pay what I feel is more consistent with what I was expecting.)
When you write a major exam, obtaining a disappointing result? (The prof gave me a failing grade; that may be truth for her, but for me the truth is that I’ve passed and will so indicate to anyone who asks.)
But many people embrace relativism without even considering its intellectual inconsistency. Bible teacher John MacArthur observes: “A suffocating apathy about the whole concept of truth dominates much of today’s society…”.
Takeaway: Christ-followers are empowered by the Spirit of Truth to not only tell the truth, but to live out the truth in our words, actions, character, and attitude.
A biblical worldview founded firmly on the Word of God, recognizes that all truth meets at the top. Whether we are considering historical truth – or that of science, anthropology, art, or philosophy – all truth is God’s truth. All truth must align with reality, the way things really are.
Some final summations:
CS Lewis (British professor, writer, broadcaster; died 1963) – “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Francis Schaeffer (American philosopher, writer, theologian; d.1984) – “Christianity is not just a lot of bits and pieces—there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence”
Os Guiness (British writer, social critic, apologist) – “In the biblical view, truth is that which is ultimately, finally, and absolutely real or “the way it is”, and is utterly trustworthy and dependable, being grounded and anchored in God’s own reality and truthfulness…Belief in something doesn’t make it true; only truth makes a belief true. ”
Jesus of Nazareth “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
-graphic from Wikipedia.
~my thinking for this blog influenced by the following:
Stuart McAllister – “What is Truth and Reality” speech delivered in Oxford for RZIM.
Steven J. Lawson – The Moment of Truth, Reformation Trust, 2018.
John MacArthur – The Truth War, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2007.