From John’s Gospel:
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – John 8:31-32 – September 3, 2012)
Look at the Compass Rose emblem of the worldwide Anglican Communion and you will find these words, “The truth will make you free,” emblazoned on it in Greek. As an Anglican, I think that’s great. But there are times when Pilate’s question to Christ, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) makes a lot of sense! What is truth? What is this truth that will set us free?
It seems like a very simple question, but it isn’t simple at all. Many people confuse truth with facticity. The dictionary offers answers such as “conformity with fact or reality” and “actuality or actual existence”. But these definitions are unsatisfactory; they merely beg the question, encouraging us to ask, “What is fact? What is reality? What is actuality?” And then there is the issue of objectivity versus subjectivity How does individual perception affect “the truth”? Answers beget questions and more answers beget more questions. For the philosophically or religiously inclined, “truth” is just not that easy to nail down.
Philosophers have many theories of what the nature of truth is; they go by titles such as “the correspondence theory,” “the coherence theory,” or “the redundancy theory.” They apply argumentative techniques such as pragmatism, recurcivism, realism, deflationism, minimalism. Philosophical discussions of truth and last for hours and go nowhere. They’re fun, but in my opinion are ultimately fruitless. The question, “What is truth?” remains.
For the Christian, truth is not a concept, or an idea, or a philosophical theory. For the Christian, truth is a Person. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” said Jesus. (John 14:6) Philosophers and skeptics will dismiss Jesus’ claim, but for the Christian, it answers Pilate’s question.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote of Jesus: “We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form.”
I can’t do better than that. What is this truth that will set us free? Jesus. Jesus is Truth.
Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.