“you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
What is ultimate truth, and how do we know it?
This is a question that deserves our full attention. Relevant because you and I are (willing or not) participants in a cosmic clash between truth and lies. The mind of man is the fiercest battleground on earth because ideas and beliefs shape our values and are the foundation for all that is said and done.
The first and greatest lie is that there is no objective truth and/or that it cannot be known. Because as long as truth is purely subjective, we can be master over it and create a reality of our own.
The sobering truth is that we get to believe whatever we want and choose to believe. The options are not offered to us with irrefutable proofs – thus maximizing human freedom by minimizing coercion. God’s way is the way of faith: believe first, then see (2 Corinthians 4:4). The only thing I am forced to accept is the consequences of my thoughts and actions.
Given the importance of what we believe, how can we recognize and separate the truth from the lies? All effective lies contain an element of truth – otherwise we would recognize them immediately.
So how can I know that a particular belief I have is true? Since there is objective truth, there must be objective measures for its veracity.
Allow me to offer 3 tests.
1. Why do I believe a certain “truth”? If there is a shred of fear, pride, greed, anger, hatred, desire for power, fame, or even self preservation in my motive, this “truth” is tainted, if not outright false. We each have our own sense of proprieties – the way we think the world should be, and our wishful thinking is a powerful force. There are formidable deceptions that cater to this and to our own selfish motives.
2. Does this supposed truth require my humility and subjection to it, or is my arrogance allowed, even supported? “What you think about your life is more real to your brain than the actual facts about your life. In other words, your imagination creates your reality.”(1) This is indeed true, but it is more true that there is objective Reality: Reality that is other than and outside of our imagination – that is true whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not. We have control over our imagination and a degree of control over our personal reality, but not so with Reality: the Objective Real. Our personal reality must submit to and be shaped and guided by the greater Truth. And this is a root cause of the rejection of objective reality: we want things to be our way, and to have control over our lives and circumstances. We are offended by claims to authority over us, especially when they directly affect our lives.
3. What is the long-term fruit? The fruit can be just as deceptive as the lie itself: a lie will sometimes result in a short-term sense of peace or well-being, but Bait and Switch is the oldest trick in the book. Does it lead to love, Agape Love (God’s kind of love)? This is not mushy sentimentalism or kind affection, but the fierce battle for the long-term best for the beloved. C.S. Lewis was correct in saying that “Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.” Real love often requires and is proven by self-sacrifice.
Much of what has been done in the name of Christianity over the centuries has been anything but representative of what Christ taught and showed us. Attempts to enforce the letter of the law are rarely done in love, often violating the spirit of the law and ignoring the Spirit of truth. And this problem did not end with the Crusades – it (this religious spirit) is still alive and active in the world. Christians should be the ambassadors of Truth to the world, and as such should be known by our love (“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ) but have historically been characterized more by judgment and hatred. God alone is Judge, and His judgment is always against the enemies of love.
Will we allow our belief system to be tested? We often refuse to consider things that do not agree with what we already “know” – our convictions of what is true and right. While this can be a good quality, rather than use opposition to strengthen our own position, we should allow our belief framework to be tested by the objectionable and questionable things we hear. Godly faith requires holding our convictions lightly – we must know what is right and fight for it, all the while remaining correctable.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
(1)Encountering God, by Rhonda Calhoun
Living on the edge, rooted in the rock. Is this not an illustration of what it means to live in the Truth? Snowing lightly at Canyonlands National Park, Utah.