In an incisive comment following my last blog article, “God is the God of All Truth: Revised Article,” one dear, old friend of mine asked the perennial question, “What is truth?” It is, of course, the same question asked by Pilate to Jesus, “quid est veritas?” (John 18.38)
Down through the ages, many answers have been offered, yet none have completely satisfied. However, years ago it occurred to me that, for the Christian at least, Truth (with a capital “T”) is not primarily conceptual, as the philosophers and many theologians would have it.
Why do I say this? Jesus the Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14.6a, NRSV) This is an important claim that I fully believe has not been deeply and seriously explored and considered enough epistemologically by Christian philosophers and theologians. The implications, I believe, are quite astounding.
However, one must first ask if Jesus was only relating this claim to the second part of his statement, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, he may have been circumscribing his claim to salvation/justification only, essentially saying, “I am the only true way to the Father, which, of course, is the only means to authentic life.”
I do not believe so for at least two reasons: 1) Jesus uses the definite article “the” (η αληθεια), which is distinguished from the other two very definite claims of being the way and the life, 2) God is not only the God of truth; God is truth. Scripture testifies, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (I John 1.5b, NRSV) Therefore, his claim to being “the Truth” would seem to extend beyond salvific considerations.
And what does this mean? While I am certainly not an erudite intellectual, still less philosopher or theologian, I venture to say that this means Truth is not primarily conceptual; rather Truth is the Person of Jesus the Christ. Consequently, then, Truth is personal, and being personal, then Truth is also relational and communal. This may seem subjective, and perhaps it is, but it is not an anomaly in world history.
If I am wrong, anyone is at liberty to correct me, but for most of the history of our world ~ especially focusing on the Ancient Near East ~ peoples were very “narrative.” They were story-tellers, and they did not approach truth, first and foremost at least, conceptually (or scientifically, one might say). And so far as history was concerned, it was not so much an academic discipline as it was an art.
This does not mean that for millennia upon millennia peoples lied about their history and heritage, their beliefs and understandings of life and the world. It was simply (but importantly for our consideration) an altogether different world. The idea of truth (or Truth) being conceptual would have to wait for the advent of the great Greek philosophers and their mostly Western successors.
Mind you, I am not arguing that truth is not conceptual; that would be an absurdity. That would be saying that truth is not related to or based upon mental ideas and/or notions (according to the basic definition of conceptual). What I am saying is simply that the answer to the question, “quid est veritas?” is first of all an imperative correction, at least for the Christian, in rephrasing the query, as such: “Truth is not so much ‘what,’ but ‘who.’ And the answer to this is the Person of Jesus the Christ, or more expansively, the living, dynamically personal, relational, communal God.”
This being the case, then, Truth in toto is living and dynamic, relational and directly or indirectly communal; yet this without being self-contradictory. If the Eternal One had gifted me with greater intellectual ability I might be better able to explain this idea/perspective; however, this all is foundational in understanding how it is that I have no problem not only accepting truth wherever truth is found, but also deeply appreciating and benefiting therefrom, because whatever truth in consideration is only one truth that is an almost organic part of the whole living, breathing, dynamically personal Truth, who is God, who is Truth.
Really, I can only close by repeating an insinuated appeal made earlier, to wit: Christian philosophers and theologians ought to “tackle” this subject more seriously, passionately, and deeply. (Perhaps some have, but not to my admittedly limited knowledge.) My own reply here is, perhaps, paltry, but important and sincerely my best effort. God bless all who read, and have mercy on this imperfect thinker and writer.
My only friend is darkness.
All through the day I call on You, the Everlasting;
I stretch my hands to heaven, weeping and fasting.
Imprisoned in the darkness in the deepest abyss,
No friendly soul, no sound to relieve my loneliness.
What have I done, my God, to incite your anger?
Whom have I hurt to place my soul in such danger?
Yet You have cast me down into the lowest grave;
Will You not now hear me, my very life to save?
Why do You cast me off and reject me, my Lord?
In terror You unsheathe Your double-edged sword.
Your wrath sweeps over me like the terrible flood
As I plead the mercy of Your beloved Son’s blood.
But my only friend is darkness.
(Note: Inspired by the 88th Psalm)
One River of Life, twisting and turning and every flowing,
And never changing, despite the winds of change blowing;…
Quickly here, slowly there, brackish some and also clear,
Translucent and wholesome yet sinister and most austere.
Some fight upstream in hopeless effort to reach the source,
Only to tire and weary, to be swept along the River’s course;
While others swim and play and leap, hopping and popping
In the ever flowing current with ne’er an idea of stopping.
Not all swim; they are just carried along, ever quite content,
But all reach the same end no matter how the trip was spent;
For there each is engulfed in the Ocean deeper than deeps,
Vast and endless and peaceful, where the sun never sleeps.
Ah! Have I been deceived? Yes, but by my own weakness falling prey to another, the Enchanter, the god of grand vision and illusory promises.
But this other god now frightens me;
This other god is old and cold,
But not the Ancient of Days,
No! Now I know!
Love and mercy are not his ways.
The other god is stiff and barren,
And he makes me cringe,
Pushing me off to the outer fringe.
Ah! But that god is not You,
No! Now I know!
Which is why my faith can begin again.
Protected by Your right strong arm,
Kept safe from all harm.
I can rest myself against Your breast,
And say, ‘I love You,’
And hear the beat of Your heart,
And the whisper, ‘I love you, too.’
I know I have posted this poem elsewhere on my blog, but I did so without any explanation … assuming, of course, that the intelligent read would understand. And I do not doubt for a moment that most people have understood; nevertheless, I feel compelled to re-submit this as an actual blog “article” with the explicit explanation that in the ultimate scheme of life in this time, in this world, no one is really “better” than anyone else … an unadulterated truth taught by the greatest of faith/religious leaders down though the ages. More specifically, my “target” audience are those who, like myself, adhere to the Christian faith. All too often, I have found it to be tragically the case that “Christians” look down their long noses, so to speak, at “those people,” without realizing that in truth ~ in reality, in this time, in this world ~ they are no better whatsoever. And that is what this poem is all about…
I am the pusher, the user, the drunkard laid upon the floor;
I am the whore, the prostitute, the refuse knockin’ at your door;
I am the working man, poor man, the child starving in the night;
I am the sick, the diseased, the dying from an unknown plight…
I am the albatross around your neck,
The nightmare that will never go away;
I am the life of promise become a wreck,
The horror of creation, ever here to stay.
I am the rapist, heartless killer, the thief in the dark;
I am the demon, the beast, stamped with the mark;
I am the singer, the binger, the beloved movie star;
I am the doctor, lawyer, the friendless man at the bar;
I am your brightest dream that faded away,
All of your hopes and prayers for a better day;
I am the inescapable truth of life in this world,
The vilest evil, what makes the blood run cold.
And what will you do with me, saddled as you are ~
Such a troublesome burden, and creation’s scar?
Will you throw me away and simply let me be,
When you realize that I am you and you are me?
Now I might only add the scriptural truth that “there is no one righteous; no, not even one… For all have fallen short of the glory of God: therefore, judge not that you be not judged.” Right?