TRUTH OR OPINION?
Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through Bob Dylan – ‘When He Returns’ – SLOW TRAIN
This chapter is a bit complicated! My aim is to show that the Bible presents absolute truth – especially with reference to moral behaviour and Who God is. Complicated? Because modern ideas about truth have made the whole discussion a matter of opinion!
Opinion, my point of view, how I see things, is the common way of thinking. Sometimes opinion is equated with belief. A Christian is seen as someone with a set of personal opinions rather than belief based on the Bible. The fact is that a Christian has accepted the truth of God as revealed in the Bible. Personal preferences are no longer the guide to morality or truth but, instead, what God has said. The Lord Jesus Christ, did not answer Satan with, I think but with, “It is written!”
Matthew 4:3-4 NIV The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (4) Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” [read the whole passage Matthew 4:1-11]
A favourite song at funerals is “My Way”! The melody is lovely, but the sentiment is ugly. Faith in God has become the same as believing that exercise is good for you. It’s up to you. For some, believing in the existence of God is no different than believing in the Loch Ness Monster! If the Loch Ness Monster is ever proved to be real it will make no difference to the way we live, or to our moral condition. Ignoring God does make a difference and has eternal consequences.
G.K.Chesterton, the poet and writer of the ‘Father Brown’ stories wrote this:
“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in everything.”
Atheists do not believe in God, instead, they believe that there is no God. So, they need to construct beliefs about how the universe came into being, why humans seem ‘broken’ and morally weak, the problem of pain and why many people have a life-changing faith and hope in God.
Personal beliefs can be supported by half-understood science or limited experience, but this does not make them true. Someone might claim, there is no God because of some unhappy experience. Personal experience does not prove or disprove the existence of God. Behind the unhappy experience, I might be saying, “I don’t like God because He does not do things my way!”
In drawing your attention to the existence of Truth, I am not trying to prove that God exists. He does not need my help to prove anything. I am attempting to point out that our thought processes, the stories in our heads, are not ‘the truth’. They are just ideas and opinions. The Bible offers absolute truth that provides a foundation and stability for every aspect of our lives.
John 8:32 NIV Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus entered a debate about truth with the religious leaders of His day. He explained that he taught the truth. He invited His hearers to adopt His truth as their own. This would mean giving up their own way of thinking and submitting to the things that Jesus was teaching. This would bring them freedom from false religion and false ideas. Jesus added to this that He was able to give them the freedom to be free! Freedom is found through choosing to follow Christ and obey Him!
Romans 6:22 NIV But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
I saw this on an internet site: ‘Your truth and my truth may not be the same’. Can that be true? When Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” did he want an answer? Perhaps, he believed that truth was no more than personal belief or preference. An atheist believes that there is no God; a Christian believes there is a God. Both would claim to be believing something based on truth. However, what they believe makes no difference to whether God exists or not. God does not need me to believe in Him in order to exist. His being is independent of human belief or unbelief.
Isaiah 45:18 NIV For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.
You cannot taste truth. You cannot smell it. It is appreciated on an abstract level that is hard to describe. In fact there are intellectuals who spend a lot of time discussing the question, “What is Truth?” For the Christian there are other concepts like faith, joy, and hope, that we can experience and recognise. They are not so easy to describe or explain. A Christian can end up in a tangle and seem to be saying, “You need faith to understand faith!” Rather, we need to explain that the Bible will reveal the meaning of these concepts. The Bible explains itself.
Concepts have definitions in a dictionary, but the Bible gives us a living understanding. This is obvious in the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Law of Moses there is instruction about washing people and objects. Everything, in order to be clean, had to be washed under running (living) water. A dictionary is like a basin of water it gets mixed with dirt and murky even as it tries to make something clear. The Bible is like running water and provides a living understanding of Truth. An artist might write a book explaining how to paint a portrait. A few hours of practical demonstration will provide a deeper understanding. Jesus did not spend time explaining the meaning of truth, He demonstrated it.
John 14:6 NIV Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Let me expand this Bible verse. Jesus said that He is the living example about what a morally perfect life is like. His teaching is the living example of the truth. His life is the living example of what is acceptable with God.
You could spend hours reading up on the meaning of truth. Or you could accept that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of absolute truth. Knowing about the truth will not help you recognise the truth. It will not stop you telling or believing a lie. You could achieve a doctorate in the philosophy of truth and investigate the question, “Does truth truly exist!” The time will come when you need to decide what you believe. You might decide that the thoughts in your head are truth, or you might decide to trust the truth as it is in Jesus and the Bible.
Ephesians 4:21-24 NIV Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. (22) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
I began this chapter referring to a discussion between Jesus and some religious leaders. Jesus linked truth with freedom. He warned His hearers about false beliefs and lies. The religious leaders became angry with Jesus. He had challenged their traditions and their way of understanding God’s Laws. They had lost sight of the truth. Their incomprehension brought out this response from Jesus:
John 8:43 NIV Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
Endless words, argument and discussion rarely change anyone’s mind. We are protective of our thoughts even when they are faulty or false. We hold on to our personal opinions as though they are precious and inviolate! Truth exists only in the shape of my personal opinion so there is no absolute truth. We all, of course, share belief in some truths that are self-evident. Fire will hurt you, rain will make you wet, the air we breathe keeps us alive. God calls us to reason with Him and receive understanding of His Truth.
Isaiah 1:18 NIV “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 55:6-9 NIV Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. (7) Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (8) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (9) “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God is telling us that His Truth is absolute Truth. His Truth exists outside of human ideas and limitations. He wants us to believe His Truth, evident in the words of Bible and in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. His truth involves faith and morality and the need for a transformed life. His truth involves spiritual and eternal things.
A few hundred years ago, it was believed that the earth was flat, like a big plate. This has been shown to be false by science and exploration. Such ideas that are formed from inadequate facts are theories rather than truths. There are facts that are obvious and reassuring about our physical world. They do not demand faith or trust. For example, 1+1=2, an elephant is heavier 9has greater mass) than a mouse, an apple falls to earth from a tree. Such facts might be called, ‘true’. There are other facts, or rules, that affect our moral lives, like, ‘it is wrong to steal’ and, ‘it is wrong to lie and deceive’. Some of these moral truths have come under the microscope of modern thinking and have been challenged.
Many of our moral laws were taken from the Bible and incorporated into our laws. Our laws still maintain that it is wrong to murder or to steal. However, other moral standards from the Bible are no longer part of our laws. For example, it has become a matter of opinion whether adultery, or sexual activity outside of marriage are wrong. Taking this further, it used to be a punishable offence to speak against God, or the Lord Jesus in words of contempt or disrespect. This is called blasphemy. It was not until 2008 that these laws (and the punishments) were abolished in Britain.
God’s truth goes way beyond moral issues of crime and punishment. We are told to love our neighbour as ourselves, to be unselfish, to be disciplined in our minds. The truth behind these ‘rules’ is that they bring freedom and peace. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, brought new light on the Law of Moses. Merely to think about murder, to have hateful attitudes, is condemned.
Matthew 5:21-22 NIV “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ (22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Jesus also emphasised that true blessedness (happiness, contentment) comes from attitudes of humility, mercy and peace. For example:
Matthew 5:7 NIV Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Bible Truth goes beyond mere facts and invites us into a life in God’s Kingdom. This begins in our minds and hearts. A life in the light of truth. A life that costs self-will and calls for self-sacrifice.
One Bible truth that can be difficult to accept is the fact of Sin. Opinion will deny human sin, even though it is obvious that human nature is faulty we all tend to do wrong.