“Jesus answered…I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” -John 18
In President Joe Biden’s acceptance speech (2021) he made this appeal:
“We must reject the culture where facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit.”
“And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Who could disagree with that? We all want truth. Yet, truth is so elusive. Today, in the so-called Information Age, we are further away from discerning the truth about any given event than ever before. Conspiracy theories abound. It seems if you can craft a narrative about anything that suits your worldview and connect a few dots, that there are people lining up to buy into it and spread it as truth. Confirmation bias is strong in our day.
President Biden’s appeal to truth in his speech advocating for unity is no doubt a reference to President Trump’s often unfounded claims and distortions of the truth. That would be called lying. At least that’s what I teach my kids.
But let’s be honest. Trump has no monopoly on twisting facts about events to his favor. It was that very phenomenon over the 8 years previous that got Trump elected in the first place. It even enabled him to capitalize on a phrase not original to him, that being “fake news.”
Fake News. What is fake news?
Is it an outright lie? Rarely. It’s usually a story or current event, press release or statement that has a narrative crafted around it. A narrative to fit an end. But hey, that’s politics. Whether Obama told tiny white lies with a smile on his face, and he was just so likeable, or Trump tells large hyperbolic lies in brash and rude ways, a lies a lie. At least that’s what I tell my kids.
The point is there is no shortage of lies, twisting of the truth, selective editing, demonization and to quote now President Joe Biden “lies told for power and for profit.” This is politics. I’m not excusing it, but I will keep any righteous indignation in check, as if this only happens on one side.
But, back to the question – What is Truth?
Well, apparently in politics it is determined by whomever is in charge of the media. Which media? Whichever you follow. But that is the problem. We can’t agree on even basic facts, let alone the big things. So, for a moment, rather than try to sift through individual lies that are told, let’s go to the Truth beneath the Truth, what Francis Schaeffer called “True Truth.”
True Truth is the idea that there is actual truth.
Not just truth in reporting or truth about facts, but a universal, absolute truth that undergirds and becomes the foundation for the truth we believe about living life. There is a creator. There is actual objective right and wrong. There is good and evil. There is design and order in the universe and in humanity. God providentially cares for his creation. True Truth is revealed in Scripture and in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. And it is his will that we walk in Truth (1,2,&3 John).
Jesus says – I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
In speaking with the Father, Christ says – Sanctify them in Truth, your Word is Truth. (John 17:17)
At his trial he says – Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:37)
I wonder if Christians actually get that. In other words, buying into lies and worse spreading lies actually says something about your relationship to Christ. That should shake us to our very core.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6)
If we want truth and not falsehood, we need to go to Jesus Christ, the very source of truth.
The Real Divide
In the 1970s, Francis Schaeffer taught that the real divide in our culture is not between liberals and conservatives (framed in today’s categories), but between those who root truth in humanity and those who root truth in Scripture. Since the Enlightenment, humans have increasingly believed that “man is the measure of all things.” To that end, man is the arbiter of what is true, rather than Scripture. We no longer talk about “secular humanism” but it is alive and well in 2021. Society is trying to determine what is true and should be allowed, medically, politically, technologically, and legally not based on the word of God but based sociology, i.e. what a group of people think, or rather feel, is best at this moment in history.
What do recent Executive Orders Say About Truth?
To his credit, newly elected President Biden has made good on his campaign promises and has signed a flurry of Executive Orders advancing his promised agenda. He told the truth. Many of those EOs are morally neutral. Some might be called good.
However, as part of those Executive Orders, natural born boys can now compete in women’s sports and use women’s bathrooms, taxpayer funding to groups that promote and provide abortion in other countries is now allowed, and there orders that have the potential to threaten the sincerely held beliefs of religious organizations and individuals. Only time will tell how far reaching each of these actually go.
So, I agree with Joe (no disrespect, it just rhymes). We need to “defend the truth and defeat the lies.” Absolutely. But for me this goes beyond the individual lies that are told in the crafting of a narrative to make a policy work or not work, a success or a failure. I go to the Truth under the truth. What is the basis for such claims?
First a Disclaimer: Please don’t misunderstand me in any of this. As Christians we respect the law of the land. And as Christians we show love to those we disagree with as fellow image-bearers of God. We don’t force our views on anyone. That isn’t the way of the Christian. But we must not be compelled to compromise our Biblical Convictions in our thoughts, or to be made to participate or promote things in our workplace, homes, or churches that we know are sin.
If a person, party, or president is making laws based on sociology rather than on Judeo-Christian principles, that is not Truth. What do I mean?
Scripture says God created humanity in his image as man and woman (Gen 1:27, Matt 19:4). And by the way, science confirms this binary except in extremely rare cases. So policies that compel the belief that transgenderism is normative or good are lies because they are based on lies. We must “defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Scripture says life is precious and to take innocent life is murder which is both crime and sin (Exodus 20:13, Deut 19:30). And by the way, science confirms what is life and when it begins. So laws that allow or promote taking innocent life whether in the womb or the hospital bed are lies because they are based on lies. “We must defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Scripture says that marriage is between one man and one woman (Matt , Eph 5:31). So, the Supreme Court may have determined that a United States marriage now includes same-sex unions, it however is a lie because it is based on a lie. “We must defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Scripture says that IT is the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17). So any policy that calls hate speech something that is taught in Scripture is a lie because it is based on lies. “We must defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
Scripture says that God made Male and Female and explains what they are (Genesis 1 &2). So any statement by a Supreme Court Justice that says they aren’t qualified to offer a definition for what a woman is a lie because it is based on lies. “We must defend the truth and defeat the lies.” (added 2022)
And while we still have the 1st Amendment Right that guarantees Freedom of Speech and Religion (from government and not the other way around), we obey the laws while making use of them. And we do tell people what Scripture says, both the Good news and the Bad news. Not to do so is to withhold living water and human flourishing from those who need it most. People in some of these categories need great compassion and help. Scratch that. We all need great compassion and help.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Tim 1:15)
And if we somehow lose the government protection to say truth is truth and lies are lies, we still hold to the truth, even if it costs us our freedom and our lives. And I teach that to my kids also.
Because, despite what the world says about what we believe, we who have been brought out of darkness and into the light by Christ, will too say with Peter –
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
Christ is our Power and Wisdom and we don’t trade that for the lies of the world. In closing, I’m reminded by this from 1 Corinthians 2:20-24
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Amen.