Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”(John 18:37-38)
What is Truth?
Pilate’s question to Jesus, “what is truth?” Is the quintessential question for our day and age. Each of us are faced with this question daily as our culture debates and argues over numerous moral and ethical controversies. Can a practicing homosexual be a Christian? Is abortion sinful? Is there systemic racism in our country? Is critical race theory beneficial to our ethical framework? Is the Bible inerrant? Is Christianity the only true religion? Is Jesus the only way to salvation? These and a plethora of other questions knock on our mental front doors on a regular basis. We can’t ignore them because, if for no other reason, our young children are curious, and they need answers.
Every generation has to wrestle with the question of what is true. Rewind a few hundred years ago and leaders in the modern era of the 18th and 19th centuries decided that truth was absolutely certain. They emphasized that reality could be rationally observed through the scientific method. Modernist scientist were elated that science had paved the way to certainty. However, the downside to this discovery was the demythologizing of a biblical worldview. Liberal theology, influenced by the modern era, decided that the supernatural elements of scripture couldn’t be true. Thus, Jesus was a good moral teacher but not the son of God; he was a master of ethics but not one who bore the sins of the world. Today the modern era is embodied by the most proactive atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. They, along with many others, proclaim the words of Nietzche, “God is dead.”
Postmodernism reacted to the arrogance they saw in the modernists. As often is the case, post modernists of the 20th century moved the pendulum to the opposite side of the table. If modernists prided themselves in absolute certainty, postmodernists prided themselves in ambiguity. Postmodernism says there is no absolute truth, which is ironically an absolute truth claim. Nevertheless, popular church leaders, eventually calling their movement “the emergent church,” took postmodernism and baptized it into their local churches. Leaders like Brian Mclaren and Rob Bell began popularizing the virtue of uncertainty. Truth became what one individual made it, and truth was ever evolving. In an interview, Brian Mclaren was asked about his stance on homosexuality. His answer: “ask me in five years.” That answer reveals the heart of post modernism. It denies any concrete truth.
Finally, we come to our current era, what some have called the “post truth” era. It says that there is objective truth but it is subordinated by our feelings and preferences. Post truth proponents see objective facts as less influential in shaping public opinion, than appeals to emotion and personal belief. This is clear by observing the sexual revolution happening in our culture today. For example, despite the overwhelming, and commonsensical, biological evidence of male and female, transgenderism says “I base my biological sex on how I feel and not what is obviously real.” Despite one’s biological makeup, maleness and femaleness is determined by subjective feelings. This by definition is preposterous.
The Answer to the Question
Let’s return to Pilate’s question, “what is truth?” How do we know what is true? Notice our text again—“everyone on the side of truth LISTENS TO ME.” According to Jesus He must become the final authority for what is moral, right, good, and true. Jesus must be the filter by which Christians govern their lives. Questions about sexuality, marriage, life, race, justice, righteousness, morality, Heaven, hell, good, bad. . . every aspect of our lives must be interpreted through a christological, gospel-centered, lens.
We also need to avoid what Jack Cottrell calls the Christological fallacy. This is the fallacy that says the red letters of our Bibles are more important than everything else in the Bible. In fact, there is a particular group that brands themselves “red letter Christians.” But when Jesus says to Pilate “everyone on the side of truth listens to me” he means truth as recorded and preserved in our sixty-six books of the Bible. Jesus said just a chapter earlier in John’s gospel that God’s “word is truth (John 17:17).” The Apostle Paul says “all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).” Jude says that we have the “faith once for all delivered to the Saints (Jude 3).”
Pilate’s question, “what is truth?” is heart breaking because he was looking into the eyes of truth himself. Similarly, the search for truth through the last 200 years is equally disappointing because God’s word is truth, and yet its pages are either completely ignored or twisted to such a degree truth is misrepresented. Wisdom and truth begin by seeking our creator and listening to what He has revealed. As the sage said many years ago: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).”