Where Is the Truth?
The truth will set you free, but where can you find it?
WHEN Jesus Christ was on trial before Roman governor Pontius Pilate, his answer to the false charges that had been laid against him was summed up in his statement, “For this I have been born, . . . that I should bear witness to the truth.” The governor replied with a question: “What is truth?”
Pilate was appointed to govern an area that for centuries had been the center of Jewish worship. And now the chief priests of the Jews had him under severe pressure to put to death a man of whose innocence Pilate was evidently convinced. He had reason to ask, “What is truth?”
But there is nothing to indicate that Pilate really pursued a search for the truth. He turned Jesus over for execution and washed his hands of the affair. He was no doubt disturbed, but not disturbed enough.—John 18:37, 38; 19:12-16.
There are many persons like Pilate: confused and disturbed about this matter of truth. When the subject of truth comes up one may think of one’s own church, one’s own religion. But lately so many things have been happening in religious circles that people are genuinely perplexed. Reports of what is happening in the churches create serious doubts in the minds of many sincere people as to whether their church really does have the truth or not. They still believe in God, but is God in their church? Was he ever in their church? Have thoughts like these crossed your mind?
RECOGNIZING THE TRUTH TODAY
But is truth really so hard to recognize? Perhaps you have heard someone use the expression that some statement or belief has the “ring of truth.” Just what does that mean? Well, it means that something sounds right. Truth is “conformity with the facts.” And when you hear of some new thought that you know to be in harmony with other ideas based on facts, you at once want to say, “That’s right.” It sounds reasonable. You have no difficulty in accepting it.
It could also be that the source of the information has some influence on your acceptance of it. If it originates from a source that you have always known to be reliable, unbiased and well-informed, you have little difficulty in hearing the ring of truth in what is said.
Now, would you say that the things you hear and read in connection with your own church give you this kind of confidence? Do you find the things you are being taught easy to harmonize with facts? Do they sound reasonable to you? Are you convinced that your religious leaders are sincere? Do they themselves live in harmony with what they teach? More and more people are having difficulty in answering Yes to questions like these.
A BOOK OF TRUTH
But does this mean that there is no truth to be found anywhere? Not at all. You are probably a member of your church because you have always felt that it belonged to God and taught his Word the Bible. It could be that you are now just beginning to read the Bible for yourself and are having difficulty in harmonizing what you read with what your clergyman has been teaching.
Perhaps you have thought of your religion as the right one because it is so old. But the Bible is older, and all it says still conforms with the facts. What it teaches is still reasonable. Its writers have lost nothing of that peerless sincerity that stamps them as being honest. It has never been successfully contradicted, and the truthfulness of its prophecies is proved as each day goes by. It was the Holy Scriptures that Jesus spoke of when he said in prayer to God, “Your word is truth.” And it was this same Word that he recommended to his hearers when he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 17:17; 8:32.
Who were the people to whom Jesus spoke those words? They were people who thought they were free and that they knew the truth. They thought they were still following the worship of their forefather Abraham and that because their religion was so “old” it had to be right. But in fact their leaders had departed far from what Abraham believed; they had amassed traditions and philosophies that had the people in bondage. Just how deeply into error they had gone was shown by Jesus when he rebuked them: “But now you are seeking to kill me, a man that has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.”—John 8:40.
MEN OF TRUTH
But not all of those who listened to Jesus speak the truth opposed him. Maybe you are like the men who became his disciples. They, too, belonged to an old traditional religion that had its roots in past centuries. But they were able to discern that their religious leaders had departed from the Scriptures and were not acting honestly. They could see their commercial greed, their ambitions, their meddling in politics, their disposition toward violence.
Much has been said about the intellectual capacity of these disciples of Jesus. The Jewish rulers spoke of them as “unlettered and ordinary” men, and yet this was on an occasion when the simplicity and boldness with which they spoke caused these rulers to wonder. They began to “recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.” Why? No doubt because the things these men said and the straightforward way in which they reasoned had the same “ring” as Jesus’ speech.—Acts 4:13.
It is interesting to note that some religious leaders of today still reason like the Jewish rulers and priests. In his book, Whereon to Stand: What Catholics Believe and Why, Roman Catholic writer John Gilland Brunini speaks of Jesus’ apostles and says: “Before Christ’s death, Peter and his brethren were guided far more by faith than by knowledge and understanding. However much Jesus instructed them, they stumbled over lessons with which Christian school children today have little difficulty.” But just how accurate is this appraisal of the situation?
The writer immediately goes on to illustrate his point by saying: “The idea that they were associated with a Man who was unique and was truly Man and truly God came through to them with slowness.” In other words, their backwardness was demonstrated in that they did not appear to believe in a trinity. According to the writer they got over this backwardness when ‘the Holy Spirit later supplied them with grace.’ Is this in harmony with the facts? Read through their inspired writings after they received the holy spirit from God and see if you can find the slightest trace of evidence that they now accepted the Trinity teaching: You can find none.
How about you? Do you believe in a mysterious God made up of three persons, all of them coequal? Just how does this fit with reason and facts? More important, is it in harmony with the Bible? Peter identified Jesus, not as God, but as “the Son of the living God.” The beloved apostle John speaks of him as being God’s “only-begotten Son,” and “the beginning of the creation by God.” The apostle Paul shows that Jesus’ relative position is that of “mediator between God and men.” All of this has the ring of truth. It is reasonable. Above all, it agrees with what Jesus himself taught. There is nothing hard to grasp about his plain statement, “The Father is greater than I am.”—Matt. 16:16; John 3:16; Rev. 3:14; 1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:28.
QUALITIES AKIN TO TRUTH
Did you notice too in the dispute between Jesus and those Jews who thought they had the truth that those men were disposed to violence? Their anger at Jesus for speaking ‘the truth he heard from God’ made them want to kill him. For that reason he told them they were sons of the original liar and manslayer, Satan. The Bible teaches that those who have the real truth from God would be peaceable. “The wisdom from above is . . . peaceable,” says the disciple James. (Jas. 3:17) Now, is your church promoting peace? If you are a Catholic, how do you feel when you read reports from Brazil, considered to be the largest Catholic country in the world, that tell of the arrest of priests, monks and seminarians because of alleged subversive activities? Does it make you wonder when one of that nation’s security chiefs states that he has “conclusive proof” that at least three of the arrested religious leaders have strong ties with Brazil’s communist terrorist organization? (El Universo, Guayaquil, Ecuador, November 9, 1969) But with regard to Christendom’s religions in general, have not people of the same religion killed one another in wartime? Yet Jesus indicated that his true followers would be noted for their love and peaceableness.—John 13:35; Matt. 5:9.
James also said that the wisdom from above “is first of all chaste.” (Jas 3:17) Now, unchastity is rampant everywhere. The causes are many, but not least of them is ignorance of what the Bible teaches on morals. And those who should have been teaching this kind of truth have to shoulder their share of the responsibility. An Outline-History of Latin America, speaking of religious life in that part of the world, says:
“The practice of religion in the Spanish colonies and in Brazil was often superficial, . . . The clergy were frequently illiterate, . . . and often immoral as well. Hence they sometimes set a bad example for the people, who in some cases lost all respect for the clergy . . . In every community the populace was appealed to by the Church through the use of religious festivals, processions and celebrations of all descriptions. Especially in Indian towns, the ceremonies of the Church appeared inseparable from the old pagan forms of idol worship. It may be safely said that in many communities in the colonies the Roman Catholic religion had broken down and had become devoid of much of its European significance by grafting upon it many non-Christian practices.”
This was in the days of the Spanish colonies, but things are not much different today. The same religious processions, with the participants masquerading as demons, angels and animals while at the same time using images and other artifacts of the modern church, are still a regular spectacle throughout the Indian population of South America. The festivals are still characterized by drunken, immoral orgies that frequently end in bloodshed, and the Catholic priests still officiate at them through the mass. Many sincere Catholics who see these things for the first time are disturbed to know about such practices in “their” religion. They have reason to be.
You see, all of these things we have discussed go together. Truthfulness, reasonableness, peace, chastity; they belong with one another. If one is missing, we doubt the others. And if they are missing in your church, you have reason to look elsewhere. But where can one look?
SATISFYING THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
Well, Jesus said that the kind of people that God is looking for are those who would worship him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) If there are such people—and there are—they will teach reasonable, Scriptural doctrines. They will be at peace with one another and you will find them living in a way that recommends them as Christians. We would like to invite you to look more closely at Jehovah’s witnesses. You may know at least one of them, since you are reading this magazine. Perhaps this person is known to you personally, or you may know of others of Jehovah’s witnesses in your neighborhood. Have you not noticed that they are usually the kind of people we have described?
Of course, we do not expect you to accept without personal investigation what we say. You may have your religion and you may still feel it is the best one. If you are sincere, you should. But you should also want to be right and have the truth. As has been said, “It is one thing to want the truth to be on our side, but another very different thing sincerely to want to be on the side of the truth.”
You see, the truth is not popular. It was not in Jesus’ day. The Jews wanted to kill him because he was speaking the truth. It angered them because it was different from what they taught. That is why Jehovah’s witnesses are not usually very popular. What they teach is different, because the truth is different. You do not find them taking part in politics. But you will find that they do pay their taxes, live by the moral standards of the Bible and do not fight with their neighbors.
Of course, this is not all there is to the matter of having the truth in your life. When one knows what truth is, he should not be afraid to tell it to others even though it may be different. That is why you also find Jehovah’s witnesses at your door so often.
Perhaps the one who left you this magazine will be back to see you, because Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in talking with people who have investigating minds. Why not invite him in and discuss the matter further. Remember that the important thing is to establish the truth. And there is only one truth. If you have it, then please use it to help others become free from falsehood. But if your mind is tangling with a religion that you cannot reconcile with reasonableness, chastity and peace, then you have reason to be disturbed. Do not wash your hands of the affair as Pilate did. Pursue your search for the answer to the question, “What is truth?”