Question 2: What is Truth?
[One reminder – we are trying to stick with short, succinct responses to the questions. I understand that this one was a bit more difficult than “What is the gospel?”, but the goal is to be able to give answers that are no longer than 3-5 sentences]
I honestly wasn’t too sure what I would get with this question – apparently just by the number of comments, it seems to be a bit harder to nail down for some people than “what is the gospel?” I’m wondering how your answers would have been different if the question had been “What is truth” or “What is the Truth?” I actually was expecting to get lots of John 14.6 citations as comments: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Or simply “Jesus” answers.
I am reading Christianity For the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass (great book!) and ran across this great quote:
“Truth is not some absolute and unchanging philosophical, moral, or political position. Rather, truth is a ‘living reality’ that everything exists in communion with God” (96-97).
I was interested by many of the comments. I thought the idea of Truth as something that comes through consensus very interesting. I wonder if that might play into the idea that many emergent folk are reflecting on, the idea of local theology, and of local communities being active in forming local theologies, and how together as a community we might come to Truth through the process of consensus. However, it’s clear that there have been many times in history that groups have agreed on something they believed to be “true” – and it was far from it (I’m thinking Kool-Aid, I’m thinking Hitler, I’m thinking South Africa).
It was interesting to see how many people wanted to parse Truth into a variety of categories: Scientifically proven Truth / Truth By Consensus, Eternal Truth / Temporal Truth and Our Truth / God’s Truth. I’m encouraged by this move – it seems to be a move backed by humility.
However, David hints that Truth is often used as propaganda perhaps, “Truth is what people claim when they don’t have facts.” Surely, not by this blogger though. I think this statement is problematic in that its assumption is that Truth necessitates facts. Does it? Does something need to have facts to be considered Truth? I’m hoping that’s not the case – otherwise, we would have to re-examine many of the things that we believe to be True as people of faith. Many (if not most) spiritual things don’t have “facts” that will “prove” either their existence or importance.
Nathan wrote, “Two conflicting ideas cannot simultaneously be true unless those ideas refer to something well outside the consistent reality we experience on a daily basis.” I guess he would say the things of God are things are well outside the consistent reality we experience on a daily basis? Because otherwise, we would have get rid of many of the claims of God and scripture that are contradictory. A professor of mine from college absolutely loved those paradoxes in scripture – he would call them Truth tensions. So it seems that there may in fact be things that are considered Truth that may be contradictory.
While (unless I read Nathan’s comment incorrectly) I disagree with his above statement, I do appreciate the thrust of his final statement: “Which raises the real question – how do we know that what we think is true is actually true, ie, that it actually corresponds to reality, to God? That I don’t know.” In the end, how are we to know? How are we to know if the things we believe, the things that we hold to be true, actually are true?
Let me state that I am no philosopher, no master of epistemologies. I trudged through my Intro to Philosophy course in undergrad, not really enjoying it much at the time. However, I think the question, “What is Truth” is still an important one. A few years ago, I would have thought it to be a pretty simple question with an even simpler answer: Jesus. I would have quoted John 14.6 – “Obviously, Jesus said ‘I am the way, THE TRUTH and the life…’ – so Jesus is Truth.” Yet, that does seem to be a somewhat easy way out.
Does that mean that Jesus ISN’T Truth? Not at all – the reality that God & Truth were incarnated into bodily flesh is at the core of the Christian faith. Does that mean that Truth is bigger perhaps, than even Jesus? I don’t know. I think that many things could be considered Truth: love, beauty, grace, justice – but no one of them encapsulates the full potential of meaning for Truth.
What is Truth? Truth is that which brings one closer to an encounter with the Divine One. Truth is beyond human comprehension, though we see shadows and glimpses of it in the world, in Others and uniquely in the Triune God.