Generally, a personal goal for me is to not waste paper and ink by writing mere opinion (no matter how good an opinion I have of my own opinions). Instead, I try to keep my aim always that God will articulate His perfect truth through my life and this pen.
Truth, of course, is the summation of that which is absolute. In other words, truth is true because it is both REALLY and THOROUGHLY true. Conversely, if “truth” is not “true” because it is inconsistent with someone’s attitudes or because it doesn’t jive with cultural shifts, then it isn’t true at all: it is, in the final analysis, only opinion after all.
Furthermore, if something is true, it is true regardless of whether or not anyone is willing to acknowledge it as truth or is incapable of perceiving it as true. Truth is truth, even if I will not or cannot comprehend and admit it.
Maybe you’ve heard the one about the tree falling in the forest. If it falls in the forest, and no one is there to observe it, does it make a sound?
Since the word “sound” refers to the detection of a sonic vibration, perhaps it doesn’t make a sound if it falls and no one hears it. Nevertheless, if a tree falls in the forest … it still falls in the forest even if no one is there to witness the event. Seem like a silly topic?
Well, hold on. The falling tree in the forest thing has been used to “illustrate” that truth is actually relative to the individual. It is reasoned that the “truth” of a sound produced is true only because someone was there to hear it. The line of reasoning follows then that spiritual and ethical things are true only if we can perceive and are willing to acknowledge them. Ergo, one set of spiritual or moral principles may be true of you but another person can operate under an entirely different set of moral and spiritual principles. And so you’ll perhaps hear, “Your truth is different from my truth so you live by your truth and I will live by my truth.”
If a tree falls in the forest, it falls in the forest no matter my failure to recognize it. It is a fact and we may therefore make an absolute statement about it. Yes, it really fell in the forest. Moreover, when it fell, the energy released in its falling resulted in sonic vibrations: SOUND waves. We can split hairs and say that it didn’t make sounds because no one heard it, but it still produced those sound waves.
A similar thing is (dare I say it?) “true” in the realm of the spiritual. If spiritual principles or moral imperatives are true, they are true. In fact, they are true even if I disagree with them or refuse to acknowledge them. And if something is not true then it is simply not true. Perhaps it is a blatant lie; maybe it’s a mistake; or even a joke. But it’s still not true.
Most of us understand how this works in the matter of our taxes. A blatant lie in your year-end taxes could result in close encounters of the prison kind. Little mistakes or miscalculations can quickly turn into expensive penalties and fines. And, in case you’ve never noticed, the IRS doesn’t often appear to have much in the way of a sense of humor … unless, of course, they’re the ones making the jokes.
As far as they’re concerned, if you owe taxes, you owe taxes. Denial, rationalizations to the contrary, and even good-natured miscalculations cannot alter the fact that if you have to pay, then you have to pay … and you have to pay on their terms.
Of course, let us point out that it is important to get to the WHOLE truth (who wants to pay more taxes than is necessary?), but if you were to believe that taxes were relative to your interpretation of them, you’ll find yourself on a quick trip to some hard and humiliating times.
This is why, when writing about spiritual matters, I make absolute claims in regard to God, His Word, the identity and mission of His Son, and the fallen nature of humanity. It is natural, of course, when one uses absolute terms to come into direct conflict with contrary claims and ideas. I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me.
But it is quite interesting that Jesus Himself spoke in absolute terms. And because He spoke in the absolutes that the truth supplies us, He spoke with authority. Real authority has a foundation of absolutes that undergird it.
“… On the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:21-22 ESV). Why could He say that the things He taught “ARE” and not merely say that, “I THINK they are?” Because He knew them to be true.
Any faithful agnostic (a person who believes that the existence of God, as well as truth in general, is not provable) will correctly point out that a God as transcendent as the One we Christians claim to believe in is unknowable: our finite human brains, even with amazing technologies, cannot perceive or grasp such an infinite Being. But agnostics miss the point of the Christian understanding of God. We agree that we cannot know Him by any convention or means that we possess here on earth. But we don’t need to approach Him that way for He has chosen to reveal Himself in ways that we can understand. Small ways, perhaps, since we are beset with cognitive limitations and moral dementia, but reveal Himself He does.
He has given us His Bible, the written word that records perfectly His living Word, Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV).
So Jesus is not only an eyewitness to the way things REALLY are, but is also reality’s author. When He says in John 14:6, “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” He isn’t claiming to be the truth for some people but not others, He is claiming to BE truth… period.
Thus, when He shares with us a principle of the Kingdom of God (e.g., “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” in John 3:3) or a moral assessment (for example, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” from Matthew 5:28), He’s telling us “straight up” the way things really are. When He speaks, He tells us the truth.
Therefore, while we still can, let us seek to be open and receptive to His graceful administrations and permit His Spirit of Truth to “guide us into all truth” (from John 16:13).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.