Faith Column: What is truth?
We find ourselves living in an age of distrust and cynicism. Polls show that many of us have lost faith in institutions, in the media, and in our politicians. Technology has given us immediate access to an unlimited amount of information about virtually any subject, and we find ourselves struggling to wade through it all, trying to discern what is “true” and what is not. Fact checkers weigh in, not without their own biases, and we’re left with doubt and skepticism, retreating to echo chambers that reflect our own opinions and ideas. The proliferation of conspiracy theories from all sides is symptomatic of our vulnerability, borne of fear and doubt.
On a deeper level, our culture has lost its moorings to the concept of truth itself. In previous ages, it was assumed that there was something that might be called “objective truth,” even if our capacity to fully comprehend it was limited. There was the recognition that as a culture, we had to agree on certain presuppositions if we were to even have a conversation.
We have devolved, however, to a place where there is no longer any such thing as “Truth” – there are only personal “truths” that are determined by individual stories. I have “my” truth; you have yours. We change the meaning of words to fit our own “narrative.” Language itself loses any objective meaning. There is no longer any basis upon which to assign value. It’s no wonder we can hardly talk to each other.
Shortly before Jesus was handed over by Pontius Pilate to be crucified, John 18:37-38 records an interesting exchange between them:
Then Pilate said to him, “so you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
That question continues to reverberate over the centuries. In fact, it is the question. There’s no doubt that Pilate was being flippant, even sarcastic. He was not earnestly seeking for an answer, for in his cynicism, he didn’t believe there was one. What is ironic is the one standing before him is Himself the answer to the question. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is the embodiment of Truth itself, He is the source of all Truth and meaning. He is the Author of life.
As Christians, now more than ever, we need to remember that our faith and trust is not in systems, ideologies, or earthly leaders. Our trust is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth, and established His Truth as eternal and unchanging. His Truth has been revealed to the world in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the standard by which all other truth claims are measured. Ultimately, our faith is not a matter of belief in certain ideas or even doctrines – our faith is a relationship with a Person – the One in whom God has revealed Himself.
We find ourselves embarking on the season of Lent – that period of preparation to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ at Easter. We must remember that this season is not about checking boxes and following rules. Rather, it is fundamentally a time to re-engage with the Truth, with Christ Himself. The disciplines of Lent, prayer, fasting and alms-giving (compassionate giving), are intended to awaken in us the truth about ourselves, and our reliance on the grace of God in Christ Jesus. “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
Pilate actually misstated the question. The question each of us must continually ask is not, “What is truth?” The real question is, “Who is the Truth?”
Fr. David Henderson is priest at St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church, Craig. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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