The Nature of Truth

March 4, 2014

Building Faith

I am convinced that the religious atmosphere in our society today has eroded the idea of truth. Religious organizations are not the only culprits, but they share the guilt. As a result, we have to start recognizing in religion what we face every day in the rest of our lives: the nature of truth. Here are some simple thoughts about the nature of truth we must agree to before we can agree upon anything.

 Tangible

First, we must recognize that truth is tangible. By that I mean that truth, even in religion, is something that is objective and real. If it is not objective and real, it is not truth! We recognize this principle every day. Take gravity, for example. Gravity is tangible in the sense that it is real; it can be tested and shown to exist. If someone claimed that gravity did not exist, that person would be wrong.

“No one invents truth, and those who try are what you would call liars…”

Part of being objective means that truth is discovered, not invented. No one invented gravity; they just recognized it as existing. No one invents truth, and those who try are what you would call liars, because truth is not an invention. Lies are always an invention.

Religious truth is no different than any other kind of truth. If it exists, it will have to be found, not invented. Proverbs 3:13 teaches this principle when Solomon proclaimed “Happy is the man who finds wisdom and gains understanding” (NKJ, emphasis mine). Solomon taught just what I have been saying—if there are any religious truths to be learned, they must be found, not invented.

 Rational

The Law of Rationality basically states that one must only form conclusions based upon sufficient evidence. If I give a piece of cheese to you and claim that this shows that the moon is made of cheese, it would not be rational to believe me because the evidence does not support that conclusion. Because of this important, recognized principle of learning, we can conclude that if we are rational, we will find truth. Irrational thought does not find truth and is based upon insubstantial or no evidence.

Religious truth is rational. Here is where many Christians fall into trouble. They have often based their beliefs on subjective emotional experiences and not on facts. As humans, we are free to believe anything we want to believe, but that does not mean that everything we believe is right! If religious truth is truth, it is subject to the Law of Rationality. If a belief has no evidence to support it, it cannot be truth.

“If a belief is not supported by the evidence, it is not truth.”

Religion as a whole has always had trouble with this. The reason is because reasonable people recognized that their beliefs did not always match up with the evidence they had. There could be many reasons for this. For one, they could be wrong. If a belief is not supported by the evidence, it is not truth. That sounds harsh in religious circles, and even pompous to some, but it is still true.

Another possible reason why some see a problem between evidence and their beliefs is that they have not taken the time to gather the necessary evidence to make an informed decision. And that is what truth seekers do. Instead of seeking evidence to support our wishes, we should be gathering the evidence and looking at it closely enough to see what it teaches us. Thankfully, there is evidence enough to prove religious truth, but we will have to dig for it. See Proverbs 2:2-5 for Solomon’s words about how to find spiritual understanding and wisdom.

Many people are surprised that the Bible calls on its followers to prove whether their beliefs are true or not. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament in the first century after Jesus, told the Christians in the city of Thessalonica, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJ). If this is commanded to Christians, it shows that God intends for us to prove the things we believe. Over the course of our studies, this will be an emphasis.

 Understandable

Truth is understandable. Now, this is not dealing with the ability of the person trying to understand it, but in the nature of the thing trying to be understood. I may never understand nuclear physics, but that does not mean that nuclear physics is not understandable or that nuclear physics is not dealing with truth.

Religious truth is not as difficult to understand as nuclear physics, for the most part, but it can be difficult. And the question changes a bit in this too. If there is a God who created us and wanted to communicate with us by writing a book using human authors, which is what the Bible claims, then He would be able to communicate with us in such a way that we could understand Him. So religious truth is not something so complicated that we cannot hope to understand it. That is important to remember.

Having said that we can understand religious truth, we should also remember that not everyone wants to understand it! When Jesus was on the earth, He performed great miracles. These were sufficient to convince any honest person that Jesus is who He claimed to be. But you will notice that He did not really convince most people enough to support Him when they sought to crucify Him.

There is a difference between proving and convincing. This is a very valuable nugget of truth. You must ask yourself, “What if I learn something that causes me pain?” “What if I find and prove truth and it causes me to suffer or it causes some other difficulties in my life?” Here is where we are all tested. Do we really WANT religious truth? Do we really WANT to know what God expects from us? Oh, we can find it, but we better be ready to accept it when we do. Jesus said this very thing Himself.

“There is a difference between proving and convincing.”

In His ministry many people believed in Him and many opposed Him. On one particular occasion He heard their discussions about Him. They centered on the authority Jesus had to teach the things He was teaching. Some believed He was teaching from God. Others did not. In response, Jesus indicted the unbelievers by saying, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17, ESV). Simply put, sometimes we do not learn the truth because we do not like the consequences of it. But if we want to do what God expects, no matter the consequences, that is a key to finding truth.

 Absolute

Part of the discussion of religious truth must take into consideration the fact that truth is universal and absolute. This is not usually contested in other parts of life. For example, is there any conceivable place or time in the universe where 1 + 1 does NOT equal 2? Truth is truth is truth. Time and space do not change it.

For some reason, in the religious world, this is ignored. We hear people say all the time, “That’s your belief, but not mine.” Well, there is nothing wrong with beliefs, but there is something wrong with thinking that two beliefs can contradict one another and still both be right! Truth does not contradict truth. It is absolute and unchanging. For example, Johnny believes that children are born evil. Jack believes children are born holy and pure. When considering this situation, there are only two alternatives.

  1. Johnny is right, which makes Jack wrong.
  2. Jack is right, which makes Johnny wrong.

We may debate over which of the two options is the case, but we cannot even rationally discuss the idea that they could both be correct without first changing the meanings of some of the words from their belief statements above. And since the two concepts are exact opposites, there is no way they can both be wrong. By the nature of the statements, there must be one (and only one) correct answer.

This is meant to bring awareness to something that many people believe, but often do not practice. They believe, or want to believe that there is religious truth. They want to be knowledgeable and make rational decisions as to what to believe. But many times their lives conflict with these ideas.

We should recognize the value of truth and not be afraid to do a little thinking to find it. It is there. And it is not hard to find, for the most part. The Bible is surprisingly simple once you get into it. You can learn and grow and have confidence in the things you know because those thoughts are based upon a solid foundation of truth.

The important thing to remember is that truth is worth finding. You will always have a relationship with God. It may not be a good one, but it is still one. Everyone has some kind of relationship with Him. If we want it to be a good one, we will need to continue to learn and apply religious truth to our lives.

About Jason Sparks

I am passionate about spreading the Gospel. God has blessed me with a wife and two children. I have been preaching full time since graduating Brown Trail School of Preaching in June, 1999 and also have an MA from University of Phoenix.

View all posts by Jason Sparks

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