Distinguishing Truth

By Ian Hodge

Fake news is all the rage these days – who do you get your news from, and how do you know it’s reliable? It often seems that what is fake news or not is determined mostly by the agenda of a complaining talking head.

Believe it or not, I find help in sorting through the rubbish from the Good Friday and Easter story, especially by the words of Pontius Pilate in John 18:38, “What is truth?” 

Jesus is on trial, essentially accused of treason by his opponents. He finds himself before Rome in the person of the Roman Prefect, Pilate. Pilate seeks to verify the charges against Jesus, who responds rather cryptically, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into this world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And here Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?”

We must answer Pilate’s question. Some will answer; “fact.” But Western rationalism and the modern myth of progress received a fatal wound in the mid-20th century when it became clear that the acquisition of knowledge, which modernism might define as truth, didn’t guarantee a progressively better world. Science can produce antibiotics; it can also produce atomic bombs. Bare truth in this sense is inadequate.

As a result, many have said that truth is purely subjective, that we discover our own truth, especially through “following our heart.” The problem here, of course, is that our hearts are often unreliable. We don’t always want things that are good for us, or good for our world.

Although Christians are often perceived as people who care little for truth, the Gospel of John is deeply concerned with it. John represents Jesus as the unique messenger of truth (1:18, 14:6), God the Father as the source of truth (15:26, 17:17), and you and I as the ones who must respond positively to the truth (15:1-17), agreeing with it in our intellect, our affections, and our actions. In this way, “truth” is compellingly based in the nature of the one eternal, unchangeable person; God is not one fact among many, but is the source of all truth. And truth is not locked away in heaven where we can’t get to it, for truth has descended to our plane of existence, personified in a human being, Jesus the Christ. As a person he is accessible to us, and while we may never know everything about him, we can still meaningfully claim to know him, and thus to know truth in a surprisingly meaningful way. 

So, returning to the problem of fake news, we now have a lie detector. We can ask what relation the news we hear has to Jesus Christ, the ultimate messenger of truth. For example, does the message look like the message Jesus Christ gave? Does the character of the speaker conform to the character of Jesus Christ? What do Christlike people say about the message? When these questions (among others) are answered positively, we can have a high degree of confidence that what we are hearing is true.

Ian Hodge is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lemon Cove. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249.

Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church. 

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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