The Season of Advent is an appropriate time to contemplate the matter of truth. What is truth?
This question has loomed before us in this 2016 presidential election cycle in a way that we have not seen before. Do facts constitute truth? When a statement is made, we wait for the response of the fact checkers to tell us the degree of veracity in the statement. In this season of politics and real life experiences, one is forced to ponder what can be believed. Can we believe the media, or politicians, or preachers, or teachers?
Some scholars define truth as “the state of being the case;” in other words, truth is fact. Truth, then, can be a body of facts.
Some dictionaries define fact as “something that actually exists.” Fact defined in this way equates with reality and truth. A fact, then, is something that is known through actual observation or experience. We see that there is a direct correlation between truth and fact.
A brief examination of truth and fact pushes one to consider the definition of belief. Belief, of course, can be defined in a variety of ways. Belief has to do with a tenet or body of tenets held by a group, such as a religious group. Belief is also about the conviction of the truth of some statement or fact or reality. A common synonym for belief is faith or credence. Some antonyms are disbelief, doubt and nonbelief.
In a recent blog (Blog posted by Seth Godin; December 1, 2016), Seth Godin posed the question “What kind of truth?” He suggests that often there is confusion between fact and belief. On the one hand, “there are facts that don’t change if the observer doesn’t believe: The age of the Eiffel Tower. The temperature in Death Valley. The number of people in the elevator.”
On the other hand, “there are outcomes that vary quite a bit if we believe: The results of the next sales call. Our response to medical treatment. The enjoyment of music.” To be sure, there is some degree of confusion as one attempts to discern between fact and belief in search of truth.
Recently, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its international word of the year (2016). This decision has emerged in the era of President-elect Donald Trump and Brexit. The dictionary defines post-truth as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” There has been a significant uptick in the use of this concept in 2016. The editors contend that this increase in usage is unfolding “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.” (“The Guardian,” November 15, 2016)
What are some implications for Christians in this conversation? Let me suggest that Christians are by definition committed to truth. From a biblical perspective, we are reminded that Jesus said, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) Furthermore, John’s Gospel declares that “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Regarding truth from a Cristian perspective, we are reminded of this scripture passage: “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’.” (John 8: 31-32)
Humans have a way of disregarding what is true when it is convenient. As a child, I was taught to tell the truth in all circumstances. Why not tell the truth? Why do some people tell the untruth? The untruth never prevails in the long term.
Einstein had this to say about truth: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
William Cullen Bryant made this statement about truth in his poem, “The Battle-Field:”
“Truth, crushed to the earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.”
In this Advent Season, we are making preparation to receive Jesus, who comes among us as one full of grace and truth. Yes, “He rules the world with truth and grace.”
Think About It!