Prosaic truth


I thought it appropriate that my first post to stilltruth.com be on love of truth. tcblack wrote a superb post on Truth Matters. In it he dealt with truth in the person of Christ and the Bible. But truth is often simply prosaic: I think of the time my parents caught me in a web of lies. Though neither beating nor lambasting, somehow they managed to instill in me an austere and practical respect for the truth that has turned into inescapable hunger. And thanks be to God.
Pilate asked "What is truth" (John 18:38) before dismissing Jesus. A non-Christian friend commented to me that there are many truths, implying they were somehow co-existing. People can get even the basic concepts of truth wrong. So here are some of its characteristics:

  1. Truth is objective. It is facts. It is external and the same everywhere. It is invariant with respect to time, existing before all worlds and will continue to exist after this one is burned up. It is not dependent for its existence on observation. What we believe about it is irrelevant (in its shaping), and what we know of it is incomplete – like Job, we may have no idea what's going on.
    One example lies in the resurrection. Whether or not Christ was resurrected, one or the other of these is true whether we believe it or not. Truth does not need to be apprehended by us to still be truth.
  2. Truth is exclusive. There is only a singular truth. That may seem obvious, but it strikes me that some confuse indeterminiability (what you cannot conclusively determine) with indeterminacy (what is not determined at all). Other people may even be able to believe incompatible truths concurrently – such doublethink being inconsistent but certainly possible if one is willing to forego logic. Naturally, the underlying truth may once again not be known or even knowable, but there is only one complete truth.
    Consider the Christians versus the Muslims. Christians maintain that the only way to be saved is through faith in Christ. Muslims maintain (to the best of my understanding) that the only way to salvation is faith in Allah and the doing of good works. At best only one of these assertions may be correct because they are exclusive.
  3. Truth is concrete. It's not mere academic speculations, it's the warp and woof of every minute of the day. Truth or falsehood is there when you speak, when you send email, when you buy groceries, when you pay your taxes.
    It's not simply concrete in one's personal life. Truth or falsehood permeates government, theology, newspapers, advertisements, science and corporate behavior. That which we are told and that which we are sold are tied up in truth or its opposite.
    And there are long-term consequences to truth and falsehood. Truth or falsehood holds the key to your eternal salvation, or damnation, or annihilation because one or another of these will be your fate. The world is Christians and Muslims and Atheists and Hindus and Wiccans and at most one of them can have the truth. Anything false and you face an unfortunate eternity. You can't get more concrete.
  4. Truth is painful. It is rarely what you want. The political parties would love to sign him up, but the truth is that God is no Democrat and he is most certainly not a Republican. My great desire was once that Christ be a vegetarian, but that is not the truth. At such a point, one is confronted with the choice of believing truth or believing desire. And denying our desires is painful.
    Even for Christians, truth is painful. Think about God hardening Pharaoh's heart in Exodus – this story tells us (1) that what Pharaoh truly believed to be his own choice (the hardening of his heart) was actually imposed upon him by God, that (2) God destroyed this man and his armies to demonstrate his power, and (3) God seems arbitrary to us, destroying Pharaoh while (for example) saving Nebuchadnezzar. This lack of significant free will and the seemingly capricious nature of election can be a painful truth for Christians to digest.
  5. Finally, the truth is imperative. Christ is the truth. Satan is the father of lies. If we are going to be Christian then we must side with truth. There is plenty to guard against: The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8), and from our hearts come evil thoughts including false witness and slander (Matthew 15:19). The world is full of deceivers (2 John 7) and it is easy enough to deceive ourselves (James 1:26). We must cling to the truth single-mindedly.
If I say, "I will not mention him,
   or speak any more in his name,"
   there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
     shut up in my bones,
   and I am weary with holding it in,
     and I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

We are Christians. This is what the love of truth should be to us – consuming fire. The truth matters, it matters desparately, and we must not ignore it.