What is Truth?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

The Sophists, teachers of ancient Greece, asked the question.  It also seems to be accepted as a legitimate query among modern-day thinkers, and those who would like to give the impression that they are thinkers.  “What is truth?”  It sounds so profound.

Anyone ever having heard of Socrates going about the marketplace in ancient Athens asking apparently innocent questions of strangers, receiving obvious answers, and then contradicting them with deep philosophical insight, would probably not dare give a straightforward answer to this question.  Seemingly being wiser now than the people of ancient Athens were, we just naturally assume that if someone asks us something as easy as, What is truth? he must have a deeper understanding of philosophical matters than we do; so we tend to nod our heads wisely and say something like, “Yes, indeed, what is truth?”

My Webster doesn’t mess around with it though.  It says that truth is, “… the state of being the case–fact.”  And, “… the body of real things, events, and facts.”  That’s simple enough, isn’t it?

I think the question usually comes up because confused people, who have a bent for thinking but are determined to leave God out of the picture, decide that it would be nice if each individual could make up his own reality.

Without the great unifying factor of the all-encompassing mind of Almighty God, perhaps one mind would have as much right as another in proclaiming what was reality and what wasn’t.  If we didn’t all agree–well, what was truth to you might be falsehood to me, so you could live in your real world and I could live in mine.

This multiple-reality scenario could seem to make philosophical sense up to a point, but only if it could also include the belief that all reality is subjective.  In other words, the idea would seem to work (up to a point) if these many differing realities existed only in the minds of the individuals who had created them, and there was no outer, objective reality in existence at all–no proverbial objective tree, uprooted by an objective storm, falling unseen and unheard in an objective forest.  There can be no objective reality in the multiple-reality philosophy, for if there were it would imply an overall unifying reality to which the individual minds would have to be subject.  Just as they have already given up believing in God, these “What is truth?” philosophers should realize that they must also give up the idea of a materialistic objective reality.

I have never heard of an atheist who does not believe in an objective reality.  They have to accept one or the other–God or an objective reality–in order to try to account for the existence of the universe.  If they refuse to believe that God created it, they need to replace designed creation with gases floating around randomly in space, eventually coming together to form solid matter, maybe a big bang with resulting galaxies, and so on–but all without God, and all entirely objective, since there could have been no one around to see or in any way experience any of this, since life had not yet evolved.

Anyone who believes that truth is a relative matter, and that there can be as many realities as there are individuals, is, according to logic, automatically cut off from being allowed to believe in an Almighty, all-enclosing, all-knowing, Creator-God; and he is likewise logically cut off from believing in an objective universe.  Both concepts–God, and a Godless, objective universe–entail the idea of an absolute reality to which the individual minds need to relate, thus providing them with a single reality against which truth can be checked.

At first glance the only alternative for an atheist trying desperately to cling to the concept of truth being relative, would seem to be some sort of subjective evolution, rather than an objective one, in order to explain the existence of the universe.  He would have to believe that conscious minds, apart from any objective universe, had evolved and multiplied.  And unless he takes the illogical stand that something came out of nothing, he would have to admit to the existence of an eternal consciousness–an eternal mind with no beginning, out of which all other minds had sprung.  But he would not want to do that because that concept sounds too much like God.  In fact, it would not turn out to be an alternative after all, even if he did accept the concept and decided to call it something other than God; because if there was an eternal mind out of which all other minds evolved in this totally subjective version of the universe, that eternal mind of the infinite past would become the hub to which all the other mind-spokes would be connected, automatically establishing an historical, chronological, unified reality.  Once again, this renders impossible the concept of relative truth.

Such is the sad case, whether he knows it or not, of the person who claims he does not know the meaning of the word, truth.  Well, then, if the whole thing is so ridiculous, why even talk about it, or write about it?  Because before long a conversation in your living room or at the office, is going to swing around to religion or politics.  Then, just after someone has bared his heart in stating that he believes something or other to be the truth, someone else in the room may take on a look of sagacity and, after a moment of apparently deep contemplation, ask, “What is truth?”  I want you to be able to look that person straight in the eye and surprise him by telling him that truth is the opposite to falsehood, and that what’s true for one person is true for everyone else as well.  If it turns out that he wants to play Socrates with you, let him.  This will give you an opportunity, as a follower of Christ, to help him out of his confusion, if he wants to be helped.

It is possible to ask the question about what truth is with a sincere desire to find a deep, meaningful and truthful answer, and when it is asked in this way the true answer will certainly be granted to that sincere inquirer.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7 (NIV).  But usually when people ask, “What is truth?” they are trying to escape some issue at hand by suggesting that truth is relative, that there is no basic truth that can be known.  Those who ask the question will also say things like, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me,” and “Everyone has a right to believe whatever he wants to,” and “It doesn’t matter what a person believes, so long as he respects the rights of others to have their own beliefs.”  These statements express a desire to escape confrontation with actual truth.

As a follower of Christ I have learned that the unifying concept that makes absolute truth the reality it is, is the infinite, all-knowing mind of Almighty God.  He is the designer, creator, and controller of all existence.  For God there is no objective universe; he surrounds and upholds all things, and when he says that something is, it is; and when he says that something is not, it is not.  And it is foolishness for anyone to try to make up his own reality to compete with God’s.

It is in their desire to escape from submitting to God and his truth that some have foolishly taken to asking the question that suggests truth is relative–the question Pontius Pilate asked when he stood trembling before Truth embodied in human form.

How ironic it was when he asked, “What is truth?” John 18:38 (NIV).



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