What is Truth? (Part 3)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • Matthew 5:17-18 ESV 
  • Ephesians 5:6 ESV 
  • Acts 17:10-14 ESV 
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV 

Relative truth

So talking about absolute truth, having absolute truth claims about the world helps keep us sane. We literally couldn’t function if we didn’t make the assumption that the rules of the universe are the same.  But on the other hand, humans are limited and we don’t know everything. 

On the one hand, we can feel the air in the room and know it is there. But we can’t fully describe with just our senses. Just feeling the wind pass by doesn’t tell you everything about the air in the room. If you stop breathing it quickly becomes apparent that the air has more to it than just the breeze. The hard thing is to describe the air you can’t directly observe, instead, you need to do some indirect things to figure more about it. This comes back to the box example I gave last time. If you have that box, you can only get so close to figuring out what is inside. So the question is if we can’t know for sure about something, can we really make any claims? 

This is where relative truth comes in handy. Let’s say you were trying to use a ruler to measure something. How do you use a ruler? You look and see several tick marks indicating different lengths. But that line is not infinitely small, it has some thickness to it. So do you line up the object to the edge of the mark, to the middle of the line or at the end? Because there is some thickness to the line there is some subjectiveness as to what the real length of the object is. So can we never know for sure? Well, you might think, just make the markers thinner. If you do that then eventually your eyes won’t be able to see the lines.

On the other hand, what if the lines were perfect, well what happens if something falls between the lines? In this case, you can’t say absolutely what it is. You do know some absolute measurement “it is more than 3, less than 4.” But you can’t absolutely know how long it is for sure. This becomes an issue, we are human’s don’t know everything about everything in the universe. So how can we make any claim if we don’t know everything? 

It turns out you don’t need to know everything to make a claim. You only need enough information to make a conclusion. This is where relative truth comes in. It is not that relative truth is correct, instead, it helps give you an understanding of what is absolutely true. With the ruler, you absolutely know it is more than 3 and less than 4. These are facts so you can exclude all other possibilities of how long this object is. The question now comes, “is this good enough to determine truth?”

Obviously we don’t know the real length of this object, but does that matter? Depends on the situation. If you are measuring a plank of wood, being an inch off might not be good if you are trying to build a house. If you are lucky it wouldn’t ruin anything and instead only make things look back. If you were measuring the size of the earth, you probably wouldn’t notice that 1 inch. If you measured the orbit of an electric to be 1 inch, you are almost certainly wrong. 

What you need to ask, if what I know enough to the question I am trying to ask. When turning on a light switch, you don’t need to know everything about physics to know if the light switch will turn on. All you need to know is where the light switch is on or off. If that doesn’t work, is the light bulb working, is the bill paid. Any other problems and you would quickly need a professional to check on things. But in our everyday lives we only need enough knowledge to make a conclusion not to know every possibility.  

When asking the question does God exist, it can seem impossible because God appears outside of our reality. We don’t directly see him every waking moment of our lives. But you can start to ask other questions to narrow it down. Can you believe that God doesn’t exist? Can you find things that would point to his existence? You don’t need to know everything but only enough to guide you to one conclusion or the other. Like if you ask if there is a radio tower nearby, turn on the radio, if you get a signal that it is close enough in range. You can conclude that it exists but you can’t conclude where it is. From there you might say where this radio station. Once you do that all you need to do is find ways of limiting where it is not until you are led to an area where it must exist within. The amount of understanding you need to make a conclusion depends on how much you need to exclude all other possibilities until you are left with what must be true. 

Biblical examination

When it comes to Christianity, this discovery of the truth is a large part of its core. We often say, do you take the Bible literally or figuratively (which will come later). But that is not the issue, the issue is do we take it seriously. Jesus talks about how important this examination is. In the famous sermon on the mount, he makes a remark that is very important:

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Mat 5:17-18 KJV

When looking at this, how important is it that we take the word of God? Jesus is claiming that every single letter of the text is important. How serious should we take it? We often look at this as something a scholar is supposed to do. Someone who is extremely educated is supposed to understand these complicated concepts of the Bible and interpret it for us. But that is not a Biblical view. The Bible is personal and each of us is supposed to use it to encounter God on an individual level.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.

Acts 17:10-14 ESV

When you look at this passage in Acts, it should make you think. Here is Paul, this extremely educated man in the faith. Someone who writes so much about what Christianity is one of the biggest authorities after Jesus. Yet the people of Berea are questioning his claims. Not an attacking why but in a healthy skeptical way. They understand what Paul says but they still search the Bible for themselves and try to see if we can be convinced of the same conclusion that Paul comes to. Similarly, we are supposed to do the same. You can find this in other passages as well. 

13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:13 ESV

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

In this, we always need to remember that not everyone understands everything. The first-century church had a lot of issues with people trying to claim things about Christy that are not true. We should always be looking to make sure that what we learn is truly what God claims is true.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:6 ESV

4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Matthew 24:4-5 ESV

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