Friday, April 14, 2017

What is truth?



John 18: 33-40
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

I found this commentary:

Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” has reverberated down through history. Was it a melancholy desire to know what no one else could tell him, a cynical insult, or perhaps an irritated, indifferent reply to Jesus’ words? 

In a postmodern world that denies that truth can be known, the question is more important than ever to answer. What is truth?

A Proposed Definition of Truth

In defining truth, it is first helpful to note what truth is not: 

   • Truth is not simply whatever works. This is the philosophy of pragmatism – an ends-vs.-means-type approach. In reality, lies can appear to “work,” but they are still lies and not the truth. 
   • Truth is not simply what is coherent or understandable. A group of people can get together and form a conspiracy based on a set of falsehoods where they all agree to tell the same false story, but it does not make their presentation true. 
   • Truth is not what makes people feel good. Unfortunately, bad news can be true. 
   • Truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty-one percent of a group can reach a wrong conclusion. 
   • Truth is not what is comprehensive. A lengthy, detailed presentation can still result in a false conclusion. 
   • Truth is not defined by what is intended. Good intentions can still be wrong. 
   • Truth is not how we know; truth is what we know. 
   • Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie. 
   • Truth is not what is publicly proved. A truth can be privately known (for example, the location of buried treasure).

The Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing.” It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for “truth” is emeth, which means “firmness,” “constancy” and “duration.” Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:

   1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
   2. Truth is that which matches its object.
   3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.

First, truth corresponds to reality or “what is.” It is real. Truth is also correspondent in nature. In other words, it matches its object and is known by its referent. For example, a teacher facing a class may say, “Now the only exit to this room is on the right.” For the class that may be facing the teacher, the exit door may be on their left, but it’s absolutely true that the door, for the professor, is on the right. 

Truth also matches its object. It may be absolutely true that a certain person may need so many milligrams of a certain medication, but another person may need more or less of the same medication to produce the desired effect. This is not relative truth, but just an example of how truth must match its object. It would be wrong (and potentially dangerous) for a patient to request that their doctor give them an inappropriate amount of a particular medication, or to say that any medicine for their specific ailment will do. 

In short, truth is simply telling it like it is; it is the way things really are, and any other viewpoint is wrong.

Truth. We don't want to hear it. It's often too hard to hear. Pilate may have been searching for truth but he couldn't, or wouldn't, see it even when it was right in front of him. Jesus was innocent of their accusations and yet Pilate chose to ignore the truth.
Matthew: 27:24
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
The truth is that he could wash his hands and say he was innocent and that did not make it true. All through history we remember and know it was Pilate who sent Jesus to die. Is this guilt what made Pilate later take his own life or did he ultimately embrace the truth and was killed for his belief? We don't know.

Truth hurts. Truth can change us for the better if we let it or it can cause us to deny the truth and that can lead to disaster. 

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