“What is Truth?”
November 11, 2015 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
For the unsuspecting person it’s fairly easy to be hoodwinked by a con-artist peddling something purported to be real but is actually fake. Sometimes it’s easy to spot. However, if a fraudster is proficient enough in his craft he can be very successful even to those who should probably know better. You may not even ask yourself, “Is this the real deal?” The smoothness of the sales approach and the enticement of a “good buy” can overcome a person’s discrimination, discernment and intuition. That defensive inner voice that whispers a danger warning becomes mute.
In art shows and galleries throughout the U.S. and around the world, and over our beloved EBAY, a multitude of limited edition prints by master artists started going up for sale as early as the summer of 1999 and continued into 2008. Prints by notables as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro and other notable artists were signed, numbered and widely sold. And they came complete with certificates of authenticity. There was only one problem. They were all counterfeits; i.e., fakes. Artists’ signatures were forgeries, their certificates fabricated, and the prices were pumped up by what’s known as shill bids on EBAY and other marketing deceptions. They sold through even unsuspecting dealers. It triggered a joint investigation code-named “Operation Dealer no Deal” by the FBI’s Art Crime Team and the U.S. Postal Investigative Service into the counterfeit art rings in the U.S. and internationally. Seven people were charged and the scheme’s cost to the unsuspecting victims was more than $5 million!
The theological principle of discriminating between what is honest or deceitful, authentic or counterfeit, actual or unreal, genuine or fraudulent, boils down to discriminating between truth or falsehood. In the end, we negotiate through life between truths and falsehoods all the time. There’s 24-hour news cycles, endless streams of data on the internet and a plethora of personal opinions whirling around us in the tools of social media. You can choose what to believe. So it is that we must walk a precarious line between truth and falsehood or unsuspectingly buy a fake while believing it to be authentic. The same question always encircles us doesn’t it? And what is it?
As our good friend Pontius Pilate put it, “What is truth?” It was of course a rhetorical question, and a sarcastic retort to what Jesus had just revealed about himself: “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37) Of course, Pilate’s question merely reveals his worldview. Whatever truth is, if it doesn’t enhance self-promotion what good is it?
Fast forward from Jesus’ politically and religiously expedient trial to our own time. There are still those, sadly, who profess Christ as the object of their faith, who basically echo Mr. Pilate’s ethos of expediency. We’re seeing an ever-increasing eruption for personal preference and so-called autonomy. It’s self-promotive thinking that adopts the mantra that truth is relative. It’s the person who insists that “truth is what I think it is; there’s no absolute truth.” Further, in the thrall of this fuzziness is the proposition that truth is what the majority says it is. Or, even what a minority says it is! Now, that’s relative truth brought to its most pluralistic, confusing and contradictory level.
So what is truth? For the Christian, there is only one source of truth and it’s absolute—the triune God of the Bible. Whatever is authentic, real—actual—is what God says it is. And that goes for all categories of human activity—cultural, economic, political, educational, medicine, art, sexuality and morality. This is a question that Christianity answers in the grand narrative of redemptive history, through the pages of Scripture and in the gospel of Jesus Christ—in and through Jesus himself. (John 14:6) If anything is consistent with the character of God, as He has revealed himself, it is truth. That is the doctrine of truth for the Christian.
Consequently, any discussion about truth has no content apart from the God of the Bible. If God is the Creator of everything that exists then He is the measuring rod for any activity or opinion about the question, “What is truth?” And that’s for any given subject.
The problem with buying into the notion that truth is relative is that it’s self-refuting. For the person who says that truth is relative, they are irrationally tangled up in their own words because they are inescapably making an absolute statement. They’re contradicting themselves without thinking things through. Such happens when the triune God of Scripture is brushed aside and a person attempts to define truth for themselves. One politician of our time has put the tenor of the conversation about truth the same way Mr. Pilate did with different wording, “What difference does it make?”
For the Christian it makes all the difference in the world and for eternity. Scripture is your certificate of authenticity to truth. It’s the means by which to avoid being scammed by the marketeers of falsehoods, while they speak the lingo of Christianity, but are merely selling you fake goods as the real things. They sign the Author’s signature without His authorization. As the famous artist and printmaker Georges Braque once said, “Truth exists; only lies are invented.”
Truth is what actually exists. And what is actual is what God has revealed it to be in the pages of Scripture.
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Isaiah 45:19 (NLT)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.