My father once did a colored sketch of a landscape with red grass that I recall seeing when I was four. The first thing that struck me was that the grass was not green like my experience told me it should be. The more I thought about that red grass, the more puzzled I became. Then I thought to myself, “How can I know that when I am seeing what I call red, someone else isn’t seeing what I call green?” I think that’s the moment I became a philosopher.
My problem was that I could never see through anyone else’s eyes to test my question. Even if I asked someone about the color and they agreed with me, I couldn’t be certain that they weren’t seeing blue by my frame of reference, but they had been taught that what I thought was blue was red. How could I learn what was true?
It turns out that this is an age-old question full of prominent examples like this one.
“Quid est veritas?” asked Pontius Pilate when Jesus stood trial before him. Pilate asked, “What is truth?”Now, I’m not a Latin scholar, but I have to admit some Latin phrases have a cool ring to them. There is another Latin phrase regarding truth that I’d like to share as a counterpoint to Pilate’s question: “vincit omnia veritas” or truth conquers all things.
Many times, this year I’ve heard people ask questions like, “how do we know who to listen to,” or “is what we are being told true?” In the contexts I’ve heard these questions they’ve been in reference to COVID-19 and/or politics. Decades ago, people stopped believing in objective truth preferring instead subjective truth which goes something like, “what’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me and vice versa.” Other subjective statements like “go find your own truth” and “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are happy” are colloquial expressions of this concept. Without going into a lengthy delineation of the chain of thought that produced these statements, let me say that a great deal of the mess we face these days is the result of our lack of confidence in the truth, or the questions whether there is any certain and verifiable truth to be known. And this is the problem—if there is no truth that is universal for all of us, then we are all desperately alone in our own unverifiable truth bubbles. This leads us to a place of isolation, anxiety, and despair and explains why we all so seriously crave having other people share the same opinion that we do.
The reason our disagreements turn so ugly is that we are flailing in a sea of subjectivism, fighting not to drown in solitary uncertainty. We grab onto another person like a drowning man and try to climb atop them to save ourselves. So, if they disagree with our version of the truth, we feel rejected and cast aside even though we simply don’t see things the same way. We want validation but without a truth that is the same for everyone, nothing can be valid.
This is the problem—we not only want our truth to be true, but we also want to feel meaning and purpose by having other people acknowledge our truth as valid but we live in a culture where nobody is wrong nobody is right and that means that everything is meaningless. This is a very dissatisfying outcome, so most people stop thinking and simply seek to feel good however they can. Since their version of truth is not rooted in universal truth, it can’t conquer anything, let alone everything.
So, what is truth? God is truth. Not God as I think of Him or God as you think of Him, but God as He really is regardless of what the whole world thinks. God is the cure for our existential loneliness, our combative need for validation, and only in God is meaningful, healthy, beneficial, and positively transformative community to be found. In other words, let’s stop fighting over our opinions, our conspiracy theories, our shaming of others, and our politics, and pour our energy into seeking the God who is truth. As John 14:6 (New Living Translation) states: “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’”
What is truth? Jesus is. What conquers all things? Jesus does. Where do we find meaning and purpose? In Christ. Who can we trust? Jesus. And how should we live? Like Jesus has taught us. The life of truth seeks to love others rather than enlist them into some argumentative battle for who is right and who is most wrong. Love rejoices in the truth and the truth of God makes itself known through holy love. This is the truth the world needs—share it!
God bless you!
Contact Pastor Lamb at firstname.lastname@example.org.