by Arnfield P. Cudal

– The words of Pilate, “What is truth?” (cf. John 18:38) reverberate on today in various forms:  “That’s your truth, I have mine. Who are you to judge?” “Truth is what you believe it to be,” and again, “While that may be true for you, it’s not true for me.” Such notions carry serious implications into the Christian’s faith and practice. At stake is what to believe and how to act on that belief. Yet some are not sure what to believe or what they want to believe; they do not know the truth.

A Barna Group study on religious trends highlighted a reason…

American Christians are biblically illiterate… most of them contend that the Bible contains truth and is worth knowing, and most of them argue that they know all of the relevant truths and principles, [but] our research shows otherwise… people’s belief system is the product of the mass media.[1]

Another reason is the influence of modernism. Consider some of their claims:

A)    Gilles Deleuze (1925 – 1995), following in Immanuel Kant’s footsteps (1724 -1804), doubted the reliability of the senses, hence the ability to perceive truth. Understanding is based on “images of thought,” hence, much of it is relegated to “common sense.” Genuine thinking was a confrontation with reality because, ultimately, “truth is unknowable.” In addition, concepts of reality will vary from person to person. Accordingly, the mantra: “That is your truth, I have mine” rings true.

B)    Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) doubted language’s reliability. Truth was ‘ultimately’ unknowable since language was inherently deficient in its ability to fully convey truth. Since language was a factor to overall understanding, the “Truth is what you believe it to be” works.

C)    Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) postulates that truth is validated in ‘perfect’ mutual understanding. Since the mind and the will are in a perpetual state of flux, it is impossible and impractical to attain living proof. Thus, it may be said that, “While that may be true for you, it may not be true for me.”

Such convictions regarded as truth, are in fact, not true. Contained within each statement is a contradiction, an inherent emblem of falsity. Let’s reconsider the previous claims:

a)     The “truth is unknowable” concept in itself is a claim to truth. Yet if truth is unknowable, how do we know that this statement is really true? And if thought is a confrontation with reality, then what other basis is there for making a statement about reality?

 b)    If language is insufficient in conveying truth, how is it sufficient enough to make this conclusion: “Truth is unknowable?” (apparently through the use of language). In order to draw on the limits of language, shouldn’t one have to completely transcend those limits? Therefore, this argument is self-impeding.

 c)     Perhaps most obvious and self-contradicting is Friedrich Nietzsche’s locution: “There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.” Yet this is the catchphrase repository for all philosophies. Therefore, if eternal facts and objective truth cannot be obtained, how is this then a true statement?

Yet Jesus Christ’s words are in direct contradiction. Consider the following:

1)    “I am the truth…” (Jn 14:6) is an absolute statement about Himself. Because He is the embodiment of Truth, He knows truth and what truth is. Only Jesus Christ who is truth could therefore say, “I am the truth.”

2)    “And the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14) is tangible proof (cf. John 20:27) that Christ transcended the limits of language. Jesus Christ, the Author-Inventor of language (cf. Gn 11:9) becomes flesh for this reason which John describes:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…that eternal life…was manifested unto us (1 Jn 1:2).

3)    “I AM” (Jn 18:6) is an assertion, an exclamatory illocution, an objective statement by the One who is Truth, whose meaning is not contingent on mutual acceptance. “I AM” stands on its own. It is a statement of pre-existence and of self-stamping validity. “I AM” is the repository of absolute truth.

Indeed, the noetic effects of sin (cf. Gen 3:5) have clouded the mind’s capacity to conceive truth. For this reason, the Holy Spirit is given in order that the Word of God “may be a lamp unto my feet,” (Ps 119:105). Its truth is needed for “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tm 3:16).

The Word of God applies to all areas of Christian living: morality, ethics, charity, love, marriage, profession, business, music, and even areas often relegated to the realm of introspection and subjectivity, such as beauty.

For example, Scripture speaks of beauty in absolute terms…

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty” (Ps 50:2) speaks of beauty as being “complete”, “full”, “perfect”. Zion, that city on a mountain from which radiates glory and splendor from the One who is ruling from His throne in Jerusalem. The “perfection of beauty” is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Ps 29:2) speaks of “the vestment or cloak” of holiness. True worship of God is possible only through holiness and righteousness: requisites to the presence of Almighty God. Access is possible only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, by the One who became our Righteousness. Therefore, “those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24) are those who believe into Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, true worship, beautiful worship, is accomplished only by those who have put on the “cloak,” the “covering” of holiness. Our Lord Jesus Christ is that Cloak of Holiness.

The key to perceiving and understanding truth is in our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6), and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: His work, His ministry, His Person, is central to the Christian’s understanding of truth. In Christ is the treasury of all wisdom and knowledge, and to know Him is to unlock the secret of Life, for He said, “I am the Life” (Jn 14:6).

 

Adapted from the Editor’s Preface, “The Incomparable Lord Jesus Christ” by Richfield A. Cudal (HARK Publications, 2012).


[1] The Barna Group. “Barna Reviews Top Religion Trends of 2005.” Barna Group. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/166-barna-reviews-top-religious-trends-of-2005 (accessed August 12, 2012).