“What is truth?”
This is the question Jesus posed to Pilate at his trial, nearly 2000 years ago.
Today, I still don’t know if I’ve heard an answer that completely satisfies me. Yes, I know Jesus made the proclamation “I am the way, the truth and the life” but what does that mean? Beyond the clichés, beyond the Sunday school answers and the platitudes, what is truth?
Pop culture looks for it constantly. I’m haunted by the lyrics of songwriter Jim Adkins: “If you always knew the truth / then the world would spin around you / are you dizzy yet?” And I’m sure there’s a few readers who will reference the famous Christopher McCandless quote (with apologies to Thoreau), stating: “rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness…give me truth.”
There have been two significant times in my walk as a Christian when I was close to, what many evangelicals will refer to as “losing my faith”. One time I actually did. But, by the grace of God, my fling with atheism was the intellectual equivalency of a drunken one-night stand; I quickly slipped out the door with a look of shame, wondering how I got there. While both of these times in my life were very different, in retrospect I see one common thread: both of my doubts in the faith were fueled by my search for truth.
And so I make this proposition: I’d like to suggest that while God is truth, truth is not necessarily God. A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. So truth, as we’ve come to know it in our subjective psyches, does not equate to God.
If we seek God, we will find truth. But if we seek truth we may not necessarily find God. Whether this is due to finding a skewed or misrepresented version of truth or because truth itself is an elusive characteristic of God is not the point of this discussion, nor am I the judge of it. What I know is a simple fact: many people have embarked on the search for truth, and found themselves on a road other than that of the Truth. Myself being one of them.
And the reason for such mishaps? Simply put, God is so far outside the parameters of truth, of logic, that it takes a leap of faith to reach Him. Today that leap of faith requires a leap of abandonment to the labels, lenses and predispositions of our own notion and will. Nothing else will cut it. Until we take that leap our journey and exploration for truth will lead us short of God, to the point where faith is required. If, however, truth is not the means to an end but and end in itself, then that leap of faith will be illogical.
Picture a large canyon, on one side is truth, and on the other God, with a huge chasm in between. That chasm represents the leap of faith we all must take in order to truly believe God is who He claims He is. If we come searching for truth, we will find ourselves on one side of the chasm, staring down into the abyss, contemplating how illogical any movement (let alone jumping) would be. Why risk it? We came searching for truth, and found it, so why attempt to leap across to the other side for a God that wasn’t our aim in the first place? If we find ourselves searching for truth, and short of God, we may very well look to other sources for that truth, and dispel the notion of God completely.
So where does this leave us? Well it leaves us in a very precarious position on that requires reflection. We are a nation of searching cynics. And what do we claim to look for in our wanderlust of intellect? Truth, facts, theories and understanding. Within this it is easy for truth to become an idol. After all, truth is by no means evil. In fact it is pure; it is an attribute of God. But let us remember that an idol is rarely evil in and of itself, it is the desire of our hearts that places it upon the throne and makes it an idol. Truth is good, it is noble, and as Christians we should seek it. But what we should seek above all else is God.
If God is our God, then the idea of truth being secondary in our desire shouldn’t make us queasy. But if we place God below the throne of our hearts and proclaim “yes, I will take you, as long as you line up with what I find to be truth” then we have entered the most dangerous of spiritual realms. We are all held on the tight rope of faith, by grace, from taking an intellectual dive into what is not only not true but more importantly not God.
Therefore, let us seek God. Let God be on the throne of our heart, and our search for truth merely as a means to the end of knowing and loving God more completely. I don’t ever want to be known as someone who sought truth, but someone who sought God and by His grace stumbled upon infinite truth, of which God has always been the source.