A few years ago it was the debate over what color the dress was, and now the debate is what sound is being made—Laurel or Yanny? It’s Laurel by the way 😊. Both these questions bring the discussion of what is real? What is truth? Is anything right? Are we responsible for knowing, believing, and doing the right thing? What does the nature of truth demand of my relationships?
Is there A Right Answer?
The postmodern idea that there is no right answer is a novel concept. The difficulty of finding the truth is highlighted by the questions over the color of the dress and the word being spoken. But we instinctively know that the dress was a color. We know that one sound was made.
We may disagree on the color. We may disagree on the sound that was made. Those disagreements do not invalidate the search for what the truth is. I want us to examine the nature of truth from some Scriptures. One of the first things we see from the Bible is an expectation of belief in right and wrong. There is debate among people about what is right and wrong, but everyone seems to know that something was right and everything else was wrong. This social understanding is important, but not as important as what we learn from the way God spoke of truth.
John 14 is one of our favorite passages because it contains the description of God’s great desire to be with mankind (John 14:3). This passage also teaches us a lot about truth. Thomas asked Jesus how he was supposed to get where he was going when he didn’t even know where he was going. These questions are important to our understanding of truth. First, they reveal that Jesus was going to a place. There weren’t many places to which Jesus may go and each one would be as good as another. There was one place to which Jesus was going—Heaven, to be with the Father.
Not everyone believes in this Biblical idea of Heaven. Many more do not believe in the Biblical idea of Hell. Rejecting the belief does not reject the reality of the situation. There is an eternity into which we will all one day step. Some would have us believe that we can believe in whatever afterlife we want to enjoy and it is ok. Jesus did not believe that. Jesus said he was going to a place. Jesu said we could go with him. Jesus said he wanted us to go with him. Jesus was exclusive in his understanding of eternal destinations.
Jesus also said that he was the only way to the place where God the Father is. John 14:6 is countercultural. There Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Notice the exclusive claim that Jesus made. There is only one way to God—Himself. To try to get to God in any other way (false religion, personal works, false “Christian teaching”) would lead to condemnation. Jesus said he is the only way. Jesus said he is the only truth. If we try to go a different way, we are rejecting Jesus.
Whatever God said is right answer. Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me. This is the way to unity among Christians with God—to yield to the Lord’s will. Now, we understand that there will still be many things which are up for further investigation because we can never comprehend the deep things of God. However, that inability is not an excuse to deny truth.
Jesus claimed to be the truth, the way, and the life. If we say what Jesus said, we will be right with Jesus. If we add to his word in any way, then we are wrong with Jesus. If we take away from his Word in any way, then we are equally wrong with Jesus. Be balanced. Be firm. Stand with Jesus.
Am I Responsible for Knowing and Doing Right?
Whether or not we are responsible for knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing is a question directly related to the nature of truth. Is it ok for us to know the right thing to do and do it not (James 4:17)? Of course, God expects us to act on our knowledge of the truth (John 3:36). But what about our responsibility to know the right thing? Is ignorance bliss? 2 Thessalonians 1:8 says that Jesus will “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Jesus is coming to pour the entirety of God’s wrath upon those who “do not know God.” That’s what the Bible says. This is what the Judge said. We need to know and do what is right.
What Does the Nature of Truth Demand of My Relationships?
Truth is vital to understanding life and living the life we understand. If there is no truth, how could we function in any way as individuals? We understand that truth will also affect our relationships. Would we not expect fellowship to be impossible among those who differ on foundational truth claims? Can a Muslim be married to a Christian without both parties violating the regulations of their religion? Of course not. These parties must be friendly—according to Christianity. These parties must be evangelistic—Matthew 28:19-20. These parties would also be expected to disagree on their mutually exclusive truth claims inherent in their very different religions.
This problem is evident among different groups which claim to be Christian. One group claims Jesus is an angel. Another group believes Jesus is eternally equal with the Father (John 1:1). Can these two coexist? Can we “fellowship” those who would so degrade the position of Jesus? Some groups believe that one can be saved without baptism. Others believe that baptism is the necessary point of salvation (Acts 2:41). Can these groups be in fellowship together? Some groups claim that those who use church money to build a place for the church to grow together in love will burn eternal Hell. Others believe that God has commanded his people to love one another and therefore are authorized to facilitate that development. Can these groups be in full fellowship with one another?
The Christian’s desire for exclusive truth and the equal desire for gracious unity will always be in tension with one another. How can we keep them in balance? We certainly pray for God’s grace over all people (1 Timothy 2:1). We recognize that we can be wrong (Proverbs 16:18). We value truth from whomever we find it because we recognize that all truth is God’s truth (Titus 1:12). We desire unity with all people (2 Peter 3:9). We are gracious toward all people (1 Corinthians 13:4). But we must also stand for truth (2 Timothy 4:1-4). We must recognize the fact that the Judge is coming (Matthew 24:36-51). We must say what the Judge of all the earth has said (1 Corinthians 1:21). We must recognize those who cause divisions among us (Romans 16:17-18). We must severe our fellowship with those living in sin (1 Corinthians 6). We must reunite with those who are repentant of sin (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
The battle for truth isn’t just a battle of ideas. The battle for truth is a battle for the nature of God. Since Jesus is the truth, if we abandon truth, then we abandon Jesus. If we deny there is truth, then we deny Jesus. If we reject the truth, we reject Jesus. If we choose our friends and family over truth, then we fall into the same prideful trap of Adam in the Garden and lose God. Finally, then “buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23).