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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Is Truth? Can We Know Ultimate Truth?

"Beyond a doubt, truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness." - Leonardo DaVinci

Pontius Pilate famously answered Jesus, "What is truth?" after Jesus said, "I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth listens to me." John 18:37

It's natural to question the nature of truth, but by the time we reach adulthood the issue should be settled. Pilate was morally stunted, as many of us are today. Powerful people face a blizzard of lies, from flatterers who want favors, to rivals trying to tear them down or wear them down. Fatigue leads to corruption of one's principles, and this is the price of power for most. Pilate was caught in a terrible trap, knowing he had become a tool of evil. His wife dreamt of Jesus, and prevailed upon her husband to, "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him." - Matthew 27:19

If the words of God were not spoken by Christ, why is He so visible everywhere? And why have His words been so enduring and successful? They're 2,000 years old, and over two-billion people, globally, say they are Christians; in spite of persecution. Many more believers read the Old and New Testaments even if they're not affiliated with any particular church. This author included. 

Liars crucified Jesus then, and they would crucify Him now, just as quickly. Pontius Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and intervened to stop the mob, but they demanded crucifixion and the Romans were afraid of a riot. Nobody could have stopped this fate. Jesus had to endure God's plan for the Resurrection.  

There are those who say, "There is no truth." But that itself would be a truth, so it is a false statement, a lie. If there is one truth, there can be a million. Natural laws such as gravity, inertia, time, and death are obvious truths that rule the world. And not just our world, but every other world we see with telescopes probing deep space. Natural laws hold the entire universe together, as astrophysicists and others attest. Who else but God could have created the laws of the universe?

Many in our modern world, including scientists, believe all Creation is an accident. "Where is the proof of God? He's invisible to us. Therefore, God is nonexistent", they say. But we reply that this makes no sense. God has very good reasons for wanting to remain invisible, though millions throughout history have testified to visions of angels and heaven. This author too. We don't see these things with eyes of flesh, but eyes of spirit, and faith. Those with no faith are likely to be stuck forever in a drab, dull, and colorless world which no man, woman, or child could tolerate for long. 

Earth is a school and a testing ground. We have free will to craft ourselves and our characters according to the desires of our heart and mind. How we act when we think we're not being watched is critical to our understanding of ourselves. If we're honest and kind when we think nobody is looking, it speaks volumes about who we really are. 

Isn't it clear that our belief in - or rejection of - truth is bound up with our notion of God? God is the only entity capable of pure truth, recording and judging everything that happens on earth. By any measure this requires divine intelligence beyond human understanding. And every serious religion teaches faith in the truth of Karma; that is, "You reap what you sow". The world would be transformed if we all had such faith and truth in us.

We know our modern world is flawed, and tolerates lies and dishonesty. Much commercial advertising distorts the truth even if it's not lying outright. We know when to take such things seriously and when not to. Who could live in a world of complete honesty, anyway? If a friend asks you, "Do I look fat?" Or, after spending hours on a project that comes out badly, asks, "Pretty good, eh? I did it all myself!" We know when to be kind with a 'white lie'.

There are hierarchies of truth. If a cop pulls you over and asks, "Do you know how fast you were going back there?", and you lie, saying, "No, sir. I don't think I was speeding", God will forgive you. 

But if we witness a mob brutally attacking an innocent person, and we fail to speak up, it will damage our character forever unless we make amends. Conscience will make us pay. What if we joined in with the mob, hurling lies at someone innocent, then beating and killing him, or her? This is an attack on the Holy Spirit, the dove of purity and innocence. It's the only unforgivable sin - if we're aware of it. But if we believe we're doing God's work, as St. Paul did before his Damascus road vision, we can repent and be saved. Paul grieved that he had a hand in hunting down and murdering Christians. By founding the early
church he did more than just make amends. His experience of the truth, his guilt, and his vision of Christ in heaven gave him fiery motivation. His evil was turned to good. 

Where do lies come from? Jesus was clear. The father of lies is Satan himself: "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44

Our ultimate test will come when speaking the truth will get us punished or killed. Millions face this daily, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others are being murdered in the thousands by Islamist fanatics. The long-prophesied Armageddon is upon us now. Be prepared. We can know the ultimate truth, the honor, power, glory and goodness of God, in eternal life to come.

"Truth is the highest thing that man may keep" - Geoffrey Chaucer


 

Excerpt from The Passion of the Christ, (2004). Jesus confronts Pontius Pilate. Spoken in Latin, with English subtitles.