Why Search for Truth?
MANY religious organizations claim to have the truth, and they offer it eagerly to others. However, between them they offer a dizzying profusion of “truths.” Is this just another evidence that all truths are relative, that there are no absolute truths? No.
In his book The Art of Thinking, Professor V. R. Ruggiero expresses his surprise that even intelligent people sometimes say that truth is relative. He reasons: “If everyone makes his own truth, then no person’s idea can be better than another’s. All must be equal. And if all ideas are equal, what is the point in researching any subject? Why dig in the ground for answers to archeological questions? Why probe the causes of tension in the Middle East? Why search for a cancer cure? Why explore the galaxy? These activities make sense only if some answers are better than others, if truth is something separate from, and unaffected by, individual perspectives.”
In fact, no one really believes that there is no truth. When it comes to physical realities, such as medicine, mathematics, or the laws of physics, even the staunchest relativist will believe that some things are true. Who of us would dare to ride in an airplane if we did not think that the laws of aerodynamics were absolute truths? Verifiable truths do exist; they surround us, and we stake our lives on them.
The Price of Relativism
It is in the moral realm, though, where the errors of relativism are most apparent, for it is here that such thinking has done the most harm. The Encyclopedia Americana makes this point: “It has been seriously doubted whether knowledge, or known truth, is humanly attainable . . . It is certain, however, that whenever the twin ideals of truth and knowledge are rejected as visionary or harmful, human society decays.”
Perhaps you have noticed such decay. For example, the Bible’s moral teachings, which say clearly that sexual immorality is wrong, are only rarely held as truths anymore. Situation ethics—“decide what is right for you”—is the order of the day. Could anyone claim that social decay has not resulted from this relativistic outlook? Surely the worldwide epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes, and teenage pregnancies speak for themselves.
What Is the Truth?
So let us leave the murky waters of relativism and examine briefly what the Bible describes as the pure waters of truth. (John 4:14; Revelation 22:17) In the Bible, “truth” is not at all like the abstract, intangible concept over which philosophers debate.
When Jesus said that his whole purpose in life was to talk about the truth, he was speaking of something that faithful Jews had valued for centuries. In their sacred writings, the Jews had long read of “truth” as something concrete, not theoretical. In the Bible, “truth” translates the Hebrew word “ʼemethʹ,” which signifies that which is firm, solid, and, perhaps most of all, reliable.
The Jews had good reason for viewing truth in that way. They called their God, Jehovah, “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) This was because everything Jehovah said he would do, he did. When he made promises, he kept them. When he inspired prophecies, they were fulfilled. When he uttered final judgments, they were carried out. Millions of Israelites had been eyewitnesses of these realities. The inspired penmen of the Bible recorded them as indisputable facts of history. Unlike other books viewed as sacred, the Bible is not set against a backdrop of myth or legend. It is firmly grounded in verifiable facts—historical, archaeological, scientific, and sociological realities. No wonder the psalmist says of Jehovah: “Your law is truth. . . . All your commandments are truth. . . . The substance of your word is truth”!—Psalm 119:142, 151, 160.
Jesus Christ echoed the words of that psalm when he said in prayer to Jehovah: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Jesus knew that everything his Father spoke was absolutely firm and reliable. Likewise, Jesus was “full of . . . truth.” (John 1:14) His followers learned as eyewitnesses, and recorded for all posterity, that everything he said was rock solid, the truth.*
However, when Jesus told Pilate that he had come to earth to speak the truth, he had a specific truth in mind. Jesus made that statement in response to Pilate’s question: “Are you a king?” (John 18:37) God’s Kingdom, and Jesus’ own role as its King, were the very theme, the core, of Jesus’ teaching while he was on earth. (Luke 4:43) That this Kingdom will sanctify Jehovah’s name, vindicate his sovereignty, and restore faithful mankind to eternal and happy life is the “truth” in which all genuine Christians hope. Since Jesus’ role in the fulfillment of all of God’s promises is so pivotal, and since all of God’s prophecies become “Amen,” or true, because of him, Jesus could well say: “I am the way and the truth and the life.”—John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 3:14.
Recognizing this truth as completely reliable means a great deal to Christians today. It means that their faith in God and their hope in his promises are based on facts, on realities.
Truth in Action
Not surprisingly, the Bible links truth with action. (1 Samuel 12:24; 1 John 3:18) To God-fearing Jews, truth was not a subject for philosophizing; it was a way of life. The Hebrew word for “truth” could also mean “faithfulness” and was used to describe one who could be trusted to act on his word. Jesus taught his followers to view truth in the same light. He passionately decried the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the wide gulf between their self-righteous words and their unrighteous deeds. And he set the example in living by the truths he taught.
So it should be for all of Christ’s followers. To them, the truth of God’s Word, the exhilarating good news of God’s Kingdom under the rulership of Jesus Christ, is more, far more, than mere information. That truth moves them to action, compels them to live by it and share it with others. (Compare Jeremiah 20:9.) To the first-century Christian congregation, the way of life they adopted as followers of Christ was sometimes known simply as “the truth” or “the way of the truth.”—2 John 4; 3 John 4, 8; 2 Peter 2:2.
A Treasure Worth Any Price
Granted, accepting the truths of God’s Word exacts a price. First, just learning the truth can be a shattering experience. The Encyclopedia Americana observes: “The truth is often disagreeable, because it fails to support prejudice or myth.” Seeing our beliefs exposed as untrue can be disillusioning, especially if we were taught by trusted religious leaders. Some might liken the experience to finding out that trusted parents were, in fact, secret criminals. But is not finding out religious truth better than living under a delusion? Is it not better to know the facts than to be manipulated by lies?*—Compare John 8:32; Romans 3:4.
Second, living by religious truth may cost us the acceptance of some who were formerly our friends. In a world where so many have “exchanged the truth of God for the lie,” those who hold firm to the truth of God’s Word seem peculiar and are sometimes shunned and misunderstood.—Romans 1:25; 1 Peter 4:4.
But the truth is worth this twofold price. Knowing the truth sets us free from lies, delusions, and superstitions. And when we live by it, the truth strengthens us to endure hardships. God’s truth is so reliable and well-founded, and it so inspires us with hope, that it enables us to stand up under any test. No wonder the apostle Paul likened truth to the wide, sturdy leather belt, or girdle, that soldiers wore into battle!—Ephesians 6:13, 14.
The Bible proverb says: “Buy truth itself and do not sell it—wisdom and discipline and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23) To dismiss truth as relative or nonexistent is to miss out on the most thrilling and fulfilling quest that life offers. To find it is to find hope; to know and love it is to know and love the Creator of the universe and his only-begotten Son; to live by it is to live with purpose and peace of mind, now and forever.—Proverbs 2:1-5; Zechariah 8:19; John 17:3.
There are over 70 places in the Gospel accounts where Jesus is recorded as using a unique expression to emphasize the truthfulness of his words. He would often say “Amen” (“Truly,” NW) to introduce a sentence. The corresponding Hebrew word meant “certain, true.” Notes The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: “By introducing his words with amen Jesus labelled them as certain and reliable. He stood by them and made them binding on himself and his hearers. They are an expression of his majesty and authority.”
The Greek word for “truth,” a·leʹthei·a, derives from a word meaning “not concealed,” so the truth often involves the revealing of that which was formerly hidden.—Compare Luke 12:2.
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Does the Truth Ever Change?
THAT question was raised by V. R. Ruggiero in his book The Art of Thinking. His answer is no. He elaborates: “It may sometimes seem to, but on closer inspection it will be found not to.”
“Consider,” he says, “the case of the authorship of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. For centuries Christians and Jews alike believed that the book had a single author. In time this view was challenged, and eventually replaced by the belief that as many as five authors contributed to Genesis. Then, in 1981, the results of a 5-year linguistic analysis of Genesis were published, stating that there is an 82 percent probability of single authorship, as originally thought.
“Has the truth about the authorship of Genesis changed? No. Only our belief has changed. . . . The truth will not be changed by our knowledge or by our ignorance.”
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Reverence for Truth
“REVERENCE for truth is not simply the pseudo-cynicism of our own age which tries to ‘unmask’ everything, in the belief that no one and nothing can genuinely lay claim to truth. It is the attitude which combines joyful confidence that truth can indeed be found, with a humble submission to truth whenever and wherever it emerges. Such openness to truth is required of those who worship the God of truth; whilst a due reverence for truth ensures honesty in a man’s dealings with his neighbour, both in word and deed. This is the attitude, we have seen, to which both the O[ld] T[estament] and the N[ew] T[estament] bear witness.”—The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 3, page 901.
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Scientific progress is based on the uncovering of scientific truths
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The truth embraces the Kingdom and its blessings