What is Truth?
What is Truth?
“One April morning early in the first century, a Roman procurator said three words that have echoed through the ages. As the Man Christ Jesus stood before him, Pontius Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ Sir Francis Bacon notwithstanding, the words were far from a jest. No one faced with Pilate’s responsibility of passing judgment upon the Man who had just looked him in the eye and said, ‘To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth’, could be in a laughing mood. Sophisticated, certainly; skeptical, undoubtedly; but not joking. There was nothing original about the procurator’s question; for centuries the sages and philosophers had been asking it. Nor was there anything final about it; ever since that day in Jerusalem it has, in one form or another been in the minds and on the lips of philosophers, scientists, artists, poets, teachers and thoughtful men of every sort. It is the age-old query, the perennial question of the human spirit” (The Pattern of God’s Truth, Frank Gaebelein, pp. 3-4).
The Integrating Factor
For centuries man has attempted to find one “over-all-logic” or the “integrating factor” that brings everything together, connects all real knowledge, organizes it all and makes sense of everything.
We Have That Integrating Factor: 1 Timothy 3:15
- The Bible is not a book of human opinion. It is not a collection of truths that man discovered or worked out in his head. Rather, Scripture is the product of Divine revelation, it is a revealed faith, not a human invention.
- “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).
- “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good deed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus and Truth
In addition, to all the above passages, Jesus made it clear that what He taught was an enduring message. A message that would stand the test of time, unlike human theories, a message that would outlast the creation itself (Matthew 24:35), and in essence be the only viable message still remaining at the final judgment (John 12:48). “He also identified truth with the Scriptures (John 17:17). This was no theoretical statement. On the contrary, our Lord’s habitual use of Scripture leaves no doubt of the fact that for Him the written Word was truth indeed” (Gaebelein, p. 20).
A Castle with a Moat?
One of the big mistakes made by mankind, even at times by believers is that we start thinking that the truth revealed in the Bible is somehow disconnected from all other fields of study. That the truth in the Bible is like a castle that dots the English countryside with a moat around it. “Beautiful and venerable, adding to the aura of by-gone splendor to the scene, yet cut off from everyday life” (Gaebelein, p. 48). In fact, when unbelievers complain about “the Bible being brought into” various debates, like the abortion debate. What they are saying is that the information in the Bible should be keep isolated from all other fields of study. Yet, such would be a tragic mistake.
All Truth is God’s Truth
You see, God’s truth in the Bible is not just a collection of unrelated teachings, and unrelated to the rest of reality. Christianity includes all of life. “Every realm of knowledge, every aspect of life and every fact of the universe find their place and their answer within Christianity” (Gabebelein, p. 18). I believe this premise is correct, that is, to rightly learn and properly see how any subject on this earth fits into reality, a relationship with God and a right understanding of the Scriptures is essential. As proof of this claim consider the following points:
Solomon argued that the path to wisdom or knowing how to live (which includes far more in Proverbs than just memorizing Bible verses) started with a healthy respect for God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). And the knowledge under consideration is the knowledge of everything around us. Equally consider Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
In Romans chapter 1, the Holy Spirit revealed that early on mankind made the conscious decision to ignore God, His existence and the truth about His nature (Romans 1:21). As a result: (1) They embraced a lot of inaccurate information (1:21 “futile speculations”). (2) Came up with a lot of false theories (1:22). (3) Went off track concerning what was important in life (1:24-25). (4) Became thoroughly confused about their own sexuality (1:26-27). (5) Did a great job of messing up all their relationships (1:29-31). (6) Passed on all this inaccurate information to the next generation (1:32).
Long ago Justin Martyr argued, “All that has been well said belongs to us Christians” (Second Apology). What he was saying is something I have often discovered myself, is that whatever good points or accurate observations have been made in the works of literature or in other religious texts, have already been made in Scripture. That all truth is really God’s truth.
In Modern Times
“Harvard was founded in 1636 for training Gospel ministers; its charter of 1650 said that the university had been established ‘to educate the English and Indian youth in knowledge and godliness’, and it had for its motto Christo et Ecclesiae (for Christ and church). Sixty-five years later, Yale was founded by those who feared Harvard was becoming unorthodox. The purpose of Columbia, begun in 1754, was ‘to engage the children to know God in Jesus Christ’. But the roll could be called of William and Mary, Princeton, Dartmouth, Rutgers, along with other of our older colleges. So also with…the women’s colleges like Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, and Mt. Holyoke” (Gaebelein, p. 12). All of these colleges were founded on the same basic premise, that the one principle that can give learning a frame of reference spacious enough to comprehend all knowledge and dynamic enough to develop moral and spiritual character is the concept that all truth is God’s truth, or that God is the only reliable basis for the existence of any truth. And that actual truth in any realm will not contradict what is found in the Bible.
The Bible and Science
Not only does the Bible contain a lot of good science, it states things as fact long before the scientists discovered it, including the earth being a circle (Isaiah 40:22), the earth being suspended in space (Job 26:7), the ocean currents (Psalm 8:8), or the truth that matter is not eternal and the universe had a definite beginning (Hebrews 1:10-12). While many human theories are in conflict with the Scriptures, the Bible and the facts of the universe have always been in agreement.
- “No man teaches out of a philosophical vacuum” (Gaebelein, p. 37).
As scientists do their research, they are operating on two assumptions, both of which tie back to the existence of a Creator who planned and governs the universe. First, that the laws of the universe do not change – and will not change. Second, that the laws and principles that govern the universe are both logical and can be discovered and understood by the human brain (Genesis 1:26). Such erves as the fundamental basis for confidence in our ability to know anything for sure.
The Bible and Math
“Each note on the musical scale has its exact number of vibrations per minute. The discovery by Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. that the musical intervals depend on ‘certain arithmetical ratios of lengths of strings at the same tension powerfully contributed to the idea that ‘all things are numbers’” (Gaebelein, p. 61). Galileo said that “nature’s great book is written in mathematical language”. Sir James Jeans observed that the Great Architect of the universe now begins to appear as a Great Mathematician. Pascal, one of the greatest mathematical minds saw that geometry, despite its precise definitions of self-evident truths, can never of itself verify these truths for the simple reason that it is based upon things that are at bottom unverifiable. In other words, even when it comes to something like math, an element of trust and faith is needed. The fact that a Great Mathematician designed the universe is a reminder that the rules which govern the universe will remain the same and be the same tomorrow or a second from now. When dealing with numbers so big I cannot wrap my brain around them, I trust that when I do equation as prescribe that such is the right answer. Yet all of that is rooted in the premise that this is God’ universe, He designed it with precise rules (Colossians 1:17), and I, being made in His image, can to a certain point understand how it operates (Genesis 1:28).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017