The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…
It’s kind of essential that we get to the truth when addressing the topics here on Wisdomhub. It’s no good speculating or theorising when it comes to the large existential questions such as who God is and what becomes of us on the other side of death. The consequences of getting it wrong are too dire. Still, I’m not expecting you to make the immediate leap from unbelief to a full acceptance of God without reasoning (and neither does God, by the way). The argument here is that the truth is knowable, absolute and it’s discovery is not limited to some special elite group. Ever since I have a conscious recollection, I’ve had a driving desire to discover the truth because I can’t bear the thought of a whole life spent pursuing ideas or beliefs that simply aren’t true. Moreover, no matter how sincere a certain conviction may be, if it is found to be false it poses a great danger not only to the individual holding it but also to all those that fall under that individual’s sphere of influence. To reference two terribly overused examples, Communism and Nazism should give some perspective to just how severe those consequences can be.
I’d like to deal with the subject of discovering truth in a sequence that addresses the doubts and objections that most people have. To make this rather meaty topic more easily “digestible” and I’m going to do it in a questions and answers fashion:
- Is there such a thing as absolute truth? It’s absolutely a relatively big problem
- Why must/will/should a search for truth always be connected to God? My truth, your truth, who’s got the truth?
- Is there really a need for God? The answer to the meaning of life is not 42
- If we need God, how do we find him? God lives in a galaxy near, near away
- How can we know who God really is? God, by his own definition
Let’s look at these points one by one.
1.It’s absolutely a relatively big problem
Truth is a hot topic these days. “So was the man in the papers this morning lying or was it his accuser that was lying? I want to know the truth.” Something deep inside us yearns for this kind of clarity, particularly when it touches our sense of injustice (or political views!). The issue that prevents us from finding this clarity is that for some decades now we’ve been subject to the idea that truth is relative (or alternative facts, as some might say). Opinions start to define truth and these opinions will (obviously) wildly and passionately contradict each other because truth (apparently) is relative to the individual’s vantage point i.e. “I’ll believe what I want to believe and if it works for me, I’m happy with that”. When we choose to believe that the truth is relative, it conveniently arranges itself around the centre of the universe – which is, of course, the holy trinity of me, myself and I (at this point I must apologise for my facetious streak. Sense of humour does remain a relative thing and I fear mine can be, well, different).
Back to my point: there is a small problem with this relativist reasoning: If the truth is relative then – by definition – it can no longer be the truth. Let’s use a mathematical analogy to elaborate: as long as zero is zero i.e. a fixed point slap-bang in the middle of our famed number line, everything works out great. You can pay your taxes, fill up your car and feed the family. However, if your zero is my one and Johnny’s minus two – and we all passionately believe we have the right answer – we’re all screwed (excuse my French, but that’s a fact). Let’s not get too airy-fairy about the truth unless we are prepared to accept the consequences of applying this relative measure to every other absolute that exists in this world. There are, of course, always special exceptions, such as when you are a “gifted” accountant that can magically bend those GAAP rules and still call it the truth (relative to what might be an outright lie). To put it another way, some things in life are indeed relative, such as how long a piece of string is (it’s relative to where you cut it), or the special theory of relativity (time is relative to the speed you are moving at). On the other hand, there are things that simply are not relative, like zero and the truth and every other physical constant upon which life and science depends. It’s important to put these concepts in the right bucket.
Truth, by definition, must be absolute or it loses any meaning.
2. My truth, your truth, who’s got the truth?
It’s one thing to agree that truth is absolute, but how do we determine who actually has the truth? There was a time – when I was younger and more naive – that I believed that one day we’d evolve to a point where we’d collectively finally stop fighting and start loving and work harmoniously together to fix all the world’s problems to achieve nirvana on earth. But then I grew up and read my history books again and recalled those times when people tried to create a truly utopian, humanistic society. As mentioned earlier already, the clearest manifestations of these attempts were communism and fascism and the results were two world wars, mass genocide, humanitarian disasters, environmental destruction and economic devastation (very dramatically put, I know, but sadly it’s also very true).
Unfortunately, it seems that we have not learnt from this at all and today we are seeing a similar thing happening in the Western world, except this time it’s driven by the American dream to get more than thy neighbour. Nations that in times past built on Christian values have proudly secularised themselves and adopted an “anything is permissible as long as it doesn’t harm me” attitude. We are only beginning to reap the consequences: failing economies; collapsing social systems; uncontrollable debt; spiralling crime; a delinquent youth and an egocentric, consumer-driven society.
The problem in either case has little to do with whether we are socialists or capitalists, but it has everything to do with our human nature, which is inherently selfish. As long as each of us is committed to “#1” the thought of coming to a collective agreement on anything, let alone truth, is just plain unrealistic. Like the number zero is the anchor for our number line, the truth also needs an anchor, a fixed reference point, and that point cannot be human in nature. As much as I can’t trust you to always be truthful all of the time, you shouldn’t trust in my ability to do the same either. This isn’t even down to our desire to be truthful (which may well be sincere, even if only on occasion!) but it’s down to the fallibility and limitations of our very nature. We’re only human after all. I would like to venture that the only reasonable anchor for truth is a truly wise, righteous, unbiased, objective, “external” judge and again, by definition, their is only one being that can fulfil all these criteria perfectly and that is a single, sovereign, creator God. Without God, the truth becomes like an unanchored battleship in a strong wind. It may well appear strong and stable in and of itself, but it is in constant peril of running aground and sinking.
We cannot separate the truth from God.
3. The answer to the meaning of life is not 42.
Ask someone who has studied psychology and they will likely tell you that all people – regardless of their background – will wrestle with certain fundamental issues or needs (“Maslow’s hierachy of needs” in “Motivation and Personality”, Abraham H. Maslow; Addison-Wesley Pub Co; 3rd edition; 1987). Once you progress beyond the “basic” human needs – which most people in the First World have no problem meeting and which most in the Developing World spend their days desperately trying to meet – all humans have certain “deeper” needs:
- Purpose – to know that your life has meaning and purpose
- Value – to know your value to yourself and to the world
- Acceptance – to know that you are loved
Once we’ve addressed our basic needs, we begin to wonder about and seek fulfilment of the higher needs. We go about devising comprehensive social and financial safety nets to make us feel secure and we lean on cultural and family traditions to make us feel accepted and valued. But still it’s not enough.
People have gone to war, lied, deceived, hoarded, stolen, lusted, murdered and coveted in vain attempts to climb higher up the needs pyramid only to be disappointed that their lives are not perfectly fulfilled even once they either achieve so-called self-actualisation or very nearly possess all the world (ask your neighbourhood billionaire for his view on this, don’t take my word for it). Others just get married and have kids and hope that this will somehow “fix” things. From what I have stated earlier, trying to exclude God and then collectively “fixing” our own problems hasn’t worked very well historically. Why should we assume it will work any better if we try the same by trying to fix ourselves on an individual basis? The reason is simply because Maslow’s hierarchy is missing an essential piece of the puzzle at its very core, which transcends all 5 layers of the hierarchy and which I’ll call the “God piece”. It runs like a thread from top to bottom, tying everything together.
I would like to submit that without knowing the Designer – the One who fashioned us and who wrote our “owner’s manual”, we will not get to the truth that liberates us and brings us to a place of lasting inner peace and true (agape) love and acceptance – regardless of which of our other needs have been met (or are still unfulfilled). Without an owner’s manual, any meaningful and lasting progress is impossible because even if we could figure out what the missing piece was, we don’t have the means to fill that gap with something earthly – it’s deeply internal to us (in our soul) and not external or even existential. Trying to fix it “on our own” is like trying to do open heart surgery without a medical qualification and no theatre. It’s likely to become a true drama.
Since it is God who created us, He alone knows how to fill the spiritual vacuum in every human heart and gives us true purpose, value and acceptance.
4.God lives in a galaxy near, near away
I hope that so far you have enough reason to acknowledge the possibility that there are many things we cannot attain without outside intervention (or rather God’s inside intervention). Sadly, some of us only come to this revelation when the commercial enterprise has gone bust, the wife and kids have left and the last bottle of Vodka has been emptied. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You may, like me, be sitting with the question: “If there is a God and he is indeed so important to the existence of mankind, who is he and how can I know the truth about who he really is?” In order to progress beyond this point, I am going to have to assume that you have at least left yourself open to the fact that you don’t know everything there is to know about everything and that maybe – just maybe – there is a God out there somewhere (some people are absolutely closed to the fact that there could be anything – and I mean anything at all – beyond the natural universe that we engage with our five senses, which I find remarkable because of how little science enables us to know about our world, let alone what lies beyond it). Let’s assume that you and I are at least open to the possibility that there is a God, but perhaps you are not all that certain about who He is and how He wants to relate to you. The best I can offer is to take you back to the owner’s manual.
Now, if you are a male, I know you don’t read manuals much. Unless something has broken, at which point we start cussing and looking for the $%*£%& manual. If you are a female, then you might ask a more sensible question: “How do I know who wrote the manual and whether it’s genuine?” Good question, and while we don’t have the space to cover this here, it is dealt with in detail elsewhere on this site. But first, I need to convince the men that reading the manual before something breaks is actually a good idea. As I’m sure you know, there are many self-appointed gurus, life coaches, mullahs, pastors and priests out there who claim to have a hotline to God and have thus managed to monopolise the truth (and this often reflects well in the bank balance, as all monopolies tend to do – please forgive my cynicism). Now the good news is that you don’t need someone else to read the manual to you (or worse, someone who pretends to read the manual and then tells you what they think it should say).
As we continue here, you may be surprised to find out what this manual actually looks like. You probably have an idea forming in your mind already. Let me guess: A big black book with some gold emblazoned text on the cover? Yes and no. The manual originally came in a four dimensional living form, but because we don’t have any good 4D printers (yet?) to make copies of it to spread the message, we got given a 2D black and white version. Still, both versions carry the same message. Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that in the first instance I’m referring to a someone rather than a something. It was someone who demonstrated that he was both fully God and fully Man and also that he had power to resolve our human condition. He came to reveal the Truth to us in person, in fact he is the Truth, by definition, because he is wise, righteous, just and truly objective. You may be surprised that God has never been hiding from us and the fact that he came to us in human guise as Jesus Christ is evidence to this fact. How else could we have comprehended and discovered him? Science can barely get us off this planet, let alone through the n-dimensions of the universe to the high heavens where God abides (actually the universe abides in God, but let’s not get too technical for now). If you have only vaguely heard of this Jesus Christ, this whole site exists just to introduce you to him. Through Jesus, God fully reveals Himself to us and connects with us on a level that we can actually fathom. As the Son of God, Jesus uniquely has the power and authority to take us on the return trip from earth to heaven, yet because of His humanity, He alone is able to act as a mediator between God and man, opening the communication lines between us and heaven.
People often put the brakes on here and say, “But how do you know that what you are saying about Jesus is true?” As mentioned, I cover the historical and scientific evidence elsewhere on this site, but for now know that we have the same fundamental testimony by hundreds of millions of true believers through the ages (not to be mistaken with those who filled in “Christian” on the last census form under the “Religious affiliation” section). I am referring to those whose lives have been radically impacted and changed by the grace, love and power of Jesus Christ and who have lived (or died) to tell the story. The basis for their faith is the eternal and unchanging Word of God. In other words, people did not invent what it means to be a Christian – this is what God has revealed to us. Even though Jesus came to us in 4D some 2000 years ago, today we still have His words and actions recorded in the Bible (that’s the 2D manual) so that anyone can open it up and discover the truth about God.
How do we know that the Bible is a genuine OEM part? For the answer to that, please visit the page on this site which deals with the authenticity of the scriptures. I don’t have time to cover those points here again, because we need to finish the story:
God is and has always been near to us and He has given us the means to find him.
5. God, by his own definition
There is so much controversy today surrounding who God is – people accuse and blame Him for all kinds of things, but are they just in doing so? Here is an excellent (free) audio series that addresses this far more eloquently and completely than I could. Remember that Jesus is one with God the Father and He came to show us who the Father really is – specifically to put an end to the controversy about what Good is “like”. We need to understand what God has revealed about His nature and character. I’d like you to read the Bible for yourself, but since you are probably interested right now in getting a nutshell overview, here’s an attempt at doing the near-impossible – summarising an 800,000 word book into a few points:
- God is motivated by his love in his actions toward mankind: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage”(Deuteronomy 7:7)
- God is light and He cannot do evil: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
- God desires to heal us from sickness and disease (and, by extension, is not the author of sickness and disease, or he’d be working against himself): “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23)
- God is righteous and just and true and therefore completely trustworthy: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
- God is merciful, but He will not let the wicked go unpunished: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, [but] by no means clearing the guilty.” (Exodus 34:6)
- The accuracy of God’s judgement exceeds the highest human standard: “How then can I answer Him, and choose my words to reason with Him? For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him; I would beg mercy of my Judge…Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (Job 4:17 & Job 9:10)
- God makes a way of escape for us from his just judgement because he knows we have no hope (for all the reasons already given) of fixing this problem ourselves: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)
- Jesus is the final authority in heaven and on earth and therefore any appeal by man to God must be made through Him: Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Mankind has chosen to reject God throughout history and chosen instead to serve diabolical, unjust or neuter gods. Today people serve the gods of Money, Success and Self. We do not need to go into a temple to worship – we naturally direct our time, effort and money towards those things which we love most and that is the essence of worship. The character of the god(s) that we serve will be reflected in our words, actions and heart’s desires. It is convenient to ignore the existence of the Almighty and to serve ambivalent gods because then we do not feel threatened by the thought that we will be held accountable for our actions one day. The God of the Bible is not only infinite love, but also infinite justice and He will fully exercise His rights over His creation, of which we are mere stewards. That is both a humbling and terrifying thought. It is just as overwhelming to realise that because of His love, God took on human form and died on a cross for us so that we don’t have to pay the price for our own sins – that is the only way that our guilt can be cleared on judgement day. It was Jesus who bore the punishment for our rebellion against God and opened the way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to God – a ransom given for many. It is his gift of grace that we can have our sins completely forgiven and come into relationship with such a loving and gracious God – and at the same time we ignore this at our own peril.
I would like to challenge you to pick up any and every religious text in the world and try and find a God whose nature and attributes are comparable to the God of the Bible. I have gone on this same search before and stopped at many ports of call. I initially found the Buddhist worldview compatible with my thinking and spent many years investigating meditation, martial arts and various types of philosophy to try and understand the spiritual aspects of life. However, despite all the “enlightenment” that I achieved, I never found peace in my soul nor did I ever have an assurance that my relationship with God was in order and that the guilt of my sins was cleared. I was still left felling empty and frustrated even after I had scaled the mountain and reached its peak. It was only after Jesus Christ revealed His salvation to me that the peace, love and grace of God became a reality in my life. Today I know and understand that this scripture is true:
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no saviour.
I have declared and saved,
I have proclaimed,
And there was no foreign god among you;
Therefore you are My witnesses,”
Says the Lord, “that I am God.
Indeed before the day was, I am He;
And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand;
I work, and who will reverse it?” ( Isaiah 43:10-13)