The faith we adhere to contains black and white truths centered on a bloody cross. In our pluralistic, relativistic culture, we need to be prepared to gird ourselves with sound doctrine.
As he stood before Pontius Pilate, Jesus of Nazareth faced a question which has echoed throughout the centuries: “What is truth?” (John 18:38). That moment in history, recorded by John the Apostle under the direction of the Holy Spirit, was no isolated dialogue from the annals of history. It represented no mere debate between a pagan governor of an outlying Roman province and a Jewish rabbi. Rather, the exchange between Jesus and Pilate provided a window into the clash of worldviews that existed then, and continues to exist, between those who are followers of Jesus Christ (who is the very embodiment of “Truth” (John 14:6)) and those who reject Christ (i.e., those who suppress truth they already know about God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18)).
The Culture’s Discomfort with Truth
In our twenty-first century postmodern context, one can read the question Pilate posed to Jesus and hardly blink. The reason for this is that though it was asked in a premodern setting, Pilate’s question had a decidedly postmodern tone. The question fits with our times, our culture, and our mores as much as it fit with those of ancient Judea. Pilate’s question feeds into discussions that routinely take place in modern institutions of higher learning, where some version of this same question is regularly being asked by God-hating academics. Pilate’s question feeds into apostate denominations and so-called “ministers” who have given in to the fear of man by softening the otherwise hard-edged truths of Scripture and the Gospel. And Pilate’s question feeds into countless comments made on the airwaves, around water coolers, on soccer fields, at coffee shops, and around kitchen tables, along the lines of “well, that’s your truth” and “to me, God is . . .” and “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
In sum, the so-called “wise” of the world teach that there is no such thing as objective truth. But the purported “extinction of the idea that any particular thing can be known for sure” does not merely represent an unfortunate state of affairs. Rather, such misconceptions of the reality of truth have real-world and eternally-significant consequences. When truth is relative, undefinable, and ultimately lost, the result is that ideas that are not true can wrongly be categorized as “truth.” Wrong becomes right. Down becomes up. Black becomes white. Sin is no longer considered “sin.” Any notion of God, His holiness, His standards, His justice, and His wrath are washed out. And then, “when truth dies, all of its subspecies, such as ethics, perish with it. If truth can’t be known, then the concept of moral truth becomes incoherent. Ethics become relative, right and wrong matters of individual opinion.” It is only into this environment that the sins so widely embraced in our modern context – e.g., no-fault divorce, sexual promiscuity and immorality, pornography, acceptance and celebration of homosexual practices and lifestyle, abortion, euthanasia, to name just a few – even have the possibility of taking root and growing. This is the sad state of affairs in the world in which we live, and the age in which we live. It is akin to the period of the Judges in Israel, i.e., where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
So what are we, as Christians, to do in such a context? How are we, as people of the Book, as people of truth, to navigate a world that so wantonly embraces error? First and foremost, we must affirm that there is such a thing as objective truth, which necessarily is definable, limiting, and exclusive. Further, we must know the truth. “We must know the world and life the way God sees it, the way it really is. We must know it so clearly and strongly that even while we’re listening to these alluring lies we can brand them as lies and know that they are wrong.”
The Importance of Defining Truth
We now return to Pilate’s question to Jesus: “What is truth?” Generally speaking, “truth means that the facts conform to reality; truth identifies things as they are.” Moreover, as applied to God, truth is “that perfection of His being by virtue of which He fully answers to the idea of the Godhead, is perfectly reliable in His revelation, and sees things as they really are.”
If the world’s relativistic bent is wrong (which it is), and using the definitions provided above, what do we know to be right (and true)? What we can know objectively is that the God revealed in the Bible “is the true God, and . . . all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth.” That the God of the Bible is the true God is declared both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Indeed, this was directly affirmed by Jesus Himself, in His high priestly prayer, when He said “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). “We might ask what it means to be the true God as opposed to other beings who are not God. It must mean that God in his own being or character is the one who fully conforms to the idea of what God should be: namely, a being who is infinitely perfect in power, in wisdom, in goodness, in lordship over time and space.”