Truth, Again

By Sigrid Fowler

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

            According to Michael Glanzberg and Edward N. Zalta, respectively writer and editor of  “Truth,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018), “Truth is one of the central subjects in philosophy” (https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/truth/). Glanzberg adds, “Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for thousands of years.” We live in a truth-seeking climate, but the abundance of information we have isn’t matched by much assurance of accuracy, validity, completeness, or lack of bias. The figurative uses of language add another twist to our spoken and written communications. Depending upon point of view and purpose, words said rather than written can be redefined, sometimes as opposites, merely through tone of voice when the intent is sarcasm, irony, or mockery. Imagine Pilate’s tone of voice when he said to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18: 38).

            Given the complexity of the issue, the well-informed person will include biblical perspectives in his or her consideration of the truth topic—what it is, and where it is to be found. First, the Bible assumes truth instead of defining it as an abstract. Truth is relied on as a basis, not advanced as a quest. The Bible isn’t a book of philosophy. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (biblehub.com) notes a biblical preference for the concrete rather than the abstract when the subject of truth comes up: “In Proverbs where, if at all, we might look for the abstract [truth] idea, we find rather the practical apprehension of the true meaning and method of life (Prov 23:23, my emphasis). 

            This is the proverb: “Buy truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” In other words, truth has practical value, money value, as do wisdom, instruction, and understanding—so much value that they are worth keeping when acquired. We pay instructors, assume that what they teach has value, and feel cheated when their product turns out not to. The fact that the Bible has lasted and is the best-selling book of all times gives its references to truth both credibility and authority. Individual experience of the reliability of these things underwrites the position. There’s something else, and if you are an atheist, you will reject this: Truth as basis, truth as foundation—truth in concrete terms, in terms of what is real, reliable, enduring, and accurate—truth better written as Truth, is the God who reveals himself in the Bible. The point isn’t argued. You either side with Truth, the Bible implies, or you don’t. Paul writes the Christians of Thessalonica, “For this reason, we also thank God without ceasing because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of humans but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe” (1 Thess 2: 13).

            Truth as a basis and an assumption, truth as revelation is expressed in both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. The prophet Isaiah speaks to times much like our own: “Justice is turned back and righteousness stands afar off, for truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (Isa 59: 14-15). In another bad time, God tells Jeremiah to confront the people: “This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth” (Jer 7: 28). Jesus, who constantly dealt with adversaries questioning his origins, his purposes, and his authority, often began his communications, “Truly, truly I say to you” or “In truth, I’m telling you,” in our vernacular. He speaks of the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) and finally prays, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son also may glorify you, as you have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17: 1b-3).  

            These words come to us from a bedrock of permanence. In my book, and in the Book, that thing is truth.

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