Truth and Consequences – by Jeff Olson
Some time back I was visiting with a close friend of mine and the subject of truth came up in the conversation. My friend commented that he’s found life to be essentially a journey in search for Truth. Well, I agreed with his statement but I replied that his journey of discovery is very doable and doesn’t necessarily require all that much time. My friend looked perplexed. The questions I then presented to him were these: How will you know when you find Truth? How will you recognize it? What will it look like? What will it sound like? What will be your standard of reference when evaluating Truth? No reply.
I have noticed three major views on the subject of truth. One: there is no such thing as a one, real truth; therefore each person just has to discover their own truth. Two: there is such a thing as real truth, but there is no way we can know it in this life. Three: there is a real truth and it is personified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, whom we can know in this life.
The impression that I received of my friend’s journey was one of an open-ended nature; a permanent quest. For him the discovery of truth is incidental, secondary to the journey itself. Perhaps this journey of search serves as somewhat of a license to follow various avenues of thought, creeds, religions and other experimental opportunities of error and discovery. While I do not believe my friend to be morally corrupt nor without character, I do believe that his journey is not so much a search for Truth as it is for a man-made and (at least a somewhat) self-serving belief system among many in the vast market place of ideas and ideologies. My friend will not fail because there are a sufficient number of them floating around so that finding something to suit one’s own personal tastes, lifestyle, and agendas will be an easy task. Some people will even find something which resembles Truth very closely. It will include a palatable embellishment of Truth, just enough to be seductively misleading. Even in the name of Christianity, some will adopt a pick and choose theology (Gnosticism) which adapts well to their own life’s experiences. What my friend, and so many others, fails to understand is that Truth is not defined by or knowable first through our experiences. Rather, life’s experience should be guided and measured against the timeless and infallible fundamentals of Truth itself. Man making himself as the ultimate arbiter of Truth and validating it within only his finite capacities merely demonstrates that we’ve become our own god. Another consideration, and perhaps the most important of all, is the implications and consequences resulting from a counterfeit or, at best, an empty discovery.
When truth is reduced to little more than a consumer choice and conceptualized within the realm of human subjectivity then it ceases to be discoverable because it ceases to be a reality. Truth, without any foundation, absolutes, or transcendency beyond the limited scope and fallibility of humanity is nothing more than a glorified opinion. Truth has become such a versatile and misused word today that it has lost not only its meaning but also its impact for good.
Today we are in a crisis of truth. My friend is essentially a microcosm of modern American culture, a culture consisting of a smorgasbord of religions, many possessing the common thread of moral relativism. This lead Christian author and apologist Francis Schaeffer to coin the phrase, “True Truth” to separate the real from the counterfeit. While many search for truth, many are also afraid they might find it because it could turn out to be much too inconvenient. It could even be one which may hold them to some overarching standard of right and wrong and perhaps even to some degree of accountability. In today’s era of post-modernism, this is generally seen as something taboo and, at best, old fashioned and out-of-style. Often, the real search boils down to one for unlimited personal autonomy and a “truth” which will support and justify an inflated sense of self-worth.
My friend is indeed in a dilemma whether he knows it or not. He is searching for a truth which is tangible, something to hang his hat on and say, “Here it is. This legitimizes what I’ve been saying all along. This validates who I am, and justifies what I choose to do.” He, not truth, has become the center of his search. What I hope he comes to realize is that Truth is larger than he, larger than life, too large to be reduced to only a trivial, mundane or abstract set of facts about life or any part thereof. The great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis once said that he believed in Christ as he believed that the sun is risen, not because he saw it clearly, but because by it he saw everything else.” In other words, Christ was the lens through which he saw all of life, the avenue whereby he received all perspective. In essence, he understood that all Truth is God’s truth.
In John 18:38, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” and he did so with the ultimate Truth looking straight at him. Jesus told us in John 8:31 that, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” In Romans 2:8-9, the Apostle Paul states, “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil…” Today, so many are asking that same question as did Pilate, but is it being asked cynically, rhetorically, or sincerely? And, do those asking have a living example of truth staring them in the face? When the lost world looks at you and at I, are they seeing truth? Are our lives an example of truth, truth in character, truth in words, truth in action, truth grounded in the inerrancy of the Word of God in Jesus Christ? The world is not needing a truth of perfection, but a truth of love; a truth that doesn’t reform but transforms, a truth that renews, a truth that creates in us the gift to learn and see life as it is designed to be. Through Jesus Christ we can know truth and live an abundant life with the consequences of His eternal presence and love.
Many in our society need to recapture or discover True truth, a truth which has been lost in a quagmire of moral relativism and situational ethics. God’s truth has always shown that it can survive heresy, persecution, and any fad that the human mind can dream up. Again, C.S. Lewis had it right when he said, “Christ promises the forgiveness of sins, but what is that to those who, since they do not know the Law of Nature, do not know they have sinned? Who will take the medicine unless he knows he is in the grip of disease? Moral relativity is the enemy we have to overcome before we tackle atheism.” It is indeed the enemy of Truth and the seed of consequences too terrible to imagine but so real that it leaves each of us with life’s most important decision.