Facts about Truth, Truth about Facts (II)

Truth is a complicated matter.  When we are considering truth with respect to faith, we are confronted with a set of facts, and through an exercise of that faith, we must assemble and evaluate those facts to realize the greater truth.  Jesus proclaimed to his disciples that he was indeed “the way, the truth and the life.”  That he is the truth is the linchpin of all the Christian faith, for if he is not the truth, then his assertions that he is the way and the life are meaningless.  I believe that his claim is valid based on the evidence presented.  I accept that Jesus is indeed the truth.  And by knowing that truth, greater knowledge and deeper truths become evident.

John’s record says Jesus declared himself the truth, and that by knowing him, his followers would know God.  In I John, John reveals more of the nature of God.  Most notably, I John 1.5 tells us that God is light, in whom no darkness is found.  Then, I John 4.8 says that God is love.  These comments are stated as fact, on which the truth of the nature of God may be built.

Now, returning to John 14, Jesus said that by knowing him, his followers would know God.  By the symmetric property of equality (since Jesus said that he was in God and God was in him), if as John tells us God is love and God is light, then Jesus is the embodiment of that light and love, as well.  That conclusion is a truth built on the facts as presented in the writings of John.

Jesus promised that once he had departed, he would send his disciples “another helper”, a “comforter”, the “Spirit of truth”— the Holy Spirit, who would guide them to the knowledge they needed to succeed with the spread of the kingdom, and indeed with the continuation of their lives as followers.  In I John 4.6, John notes that converse to the Spirit of truth, there is also a “spirit of error” that urges onto people those things that are untrue; in that case, the untruth was the denial of the Incarnation.

While facts are by definition true, and truth is grounded in facts, truth may also be subjective in that truth may be accepted or rejected.  But when considered as Jesus presented it, that truth would bring liberty—freedom from sin, freedom from the restraints of the Law of Moses—why would anyone reject truth?  Maybe because being enslaved to something gets too comfortable.  Being enslaved to a law, whether the Mosaic Law or the laws we have interpolated and formulated for our religious communities of today, is comfortable because it takes the guesswork out of life.  But that assumes that everything we ever encounter will be laid out for us in black and white and fit the specific scenario foreseen by a law or regulation.  The problem with that is that life is rarely that simple.  But if we live in truth by the principles of love and light—the attributes of God as John tells us— we should be able to deal with any situation that may arise.

Indeed, we are responsible for living up to the truth that is available to us.  Paul says in Philippians 3.12-16 regarding the attainment of perfection:

“12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

For all his knowledge and abilities, even Paul had not attained all truth, for to have done so would be to have achieved perfection.  To posit that we have attained all truth is to say that we have achieved a mastery of all possible facts.  But that simply cannot be an accurate statement.  We continue to learn, to grow in knowledge.  New knowledge may lead to new truths being discovered.  Remaining open to that learning is essential to growth, and Paul said God would reveal things to us as we achieve greater maturity. Similarly, we must not discount the truth that is known in deference to a truth yet to be revealed.  But we must hold true to what we have attained, showing respect for the truth that is known.

It seems then, that even as Paul, we must not denigrate those who have apprehended less truth than we have.  But by the same spirit, we must also not be complacent with the truth that we have attained.  We must continue to search, grow, learn and know.  We must press onward, never content with incomplete knowledge, but always searching for more truth, because that leads us to greater understanding of Jesus.

After all, he is the truth.

And if you ask any believer, that’s a fact.

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