As Jesus stood trial in Jerusalem, He told Pilate, Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)
“What is truth?” (v. 38)
It’s not a new question—in fact for Pilate, it was not really a question at all because he wasn’t looking for an answer. He merely wanted a way out of a ticklish political situation. He was between a rock and a hard place (the Jewish community leaders and the Roman government) over the issue of Jesus. Pilate’s question about truth was absolutely central to his situation, yet he shrugged it off as irrelevant.
People continue to view Jesus’ claims to truth the same way. Often compelled by what is called a “post-modern” view of the world, they measure truth in terms of subjective experience rather than objective reality. To those who think they have a whole new world of understanding by simply attaching the prefix “post” to established concepts and categories, we can quote the words of Solomon: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Likewise, the “post-modern” view is nothing new.
Please don’t misunderstand. It is important to be conversant with the trends and thinking of people whom we are trying to reach. That does not mean we adopt those trends or allow them to undermine our commitment to God’s truth in Jesus Christ. If people are coming to false conclusions, it is helpful to know how they arrived there so that we don’t take the same route.
People often approach life’s issues seeking a “middle ground” or synthesis between their differences—i.e. someone makes a statement; the statement is challenged with an opposing statement and a new statement is made which reconciles the two (synthesis). This can be a helpful way of working out people’s differences of opinion with one another, but it is not useful in dealing with spiritual truths.
One of the biggest problems with theology today is that a good many people who think they are doing theology (study of God) are actually doing sociology (the study of human beliefs, values, relationships, etc.). The question, “What is true,” is either shrugged off or subjugated to underlying questions such as, “What appears most noble or egalitarian to me and to others?” or “What will work best for me and my community?”—which often means, “What will cause the least amount of discomfort or embarrassment?” Human nature’s “default setting” is to seek personal preference and comfort, often to the exclusion of truth. But then human nature does not readily admit that we can only have a relationship with God on His terms. If people make their friendship contingent on our denying God’s terms, then we are faced with a choice of friendship with God or with people.
When sharing the gospel, our Jews for Jesus missionaries don’t assume that the other person’s first priority is to know the truth. Many Jewish people respond to our claims with a barrage of questions. To test whether those questions are a means to discover the truth or a means to avoid it, we ask a question of our own. It goes something like this: “Before I answer your questions, I need to know something. If the Bible is true and Jesus really is the Messiah, would you be willing to know and follow Him regardless of the consequences?” This cuts to the heart of the matter. Some will admit that even if Jesus really is the Messiah they would not allow themselves to know it because the personal cost would be too much. That is sad, but at least we have challenged them to consider their own choice to not know the truth.
People want to be comfortable with spirituality these days. They want their religion domesticated, accessible and non-threatening. Jesus never allowed that option. He still doesn’t. Yet some within the church are attempting to refashion Jesus into a more “acceptable” and domesticated Lord, one in keeping with the “post-modern” discomfort over claims of absolute truth.
To that end, a supposed synthesis is developing between liberal and conservative Christianity. Just call it “post-liberal” and post-conservative” and voilà, certain “theologians” claim to have healed the schism between two previously irreconcilable viewpoints. But they have only papered over the differences by reducing opposing views to caricatures and dismissing the distinctions. In the end, they arrive at the same place as the liberal position on a whole host of issues—without the commitment or inconvenience of claiming they have The Truth. They only want to claim they have the best synthesis, a rather gratuitous dodge. This kind of “post-modern” thinking is a slippery slope. It leads to failure to recognize who Jesus is, what He claimed and what He commanded.
We face the same fuzzy thinking in Jewish missions. Some propose a “post-missionary” approach to the Jewish people, an approach that they believe will heal the schism between Judaism and Christianity. They contend that Christians need to stop claiming that we are right about who Jesus is, for this implies that the rabbis are wrong. Instead, (some say) Christians must acknowledge that Jesus is actually hidden within Judaism. Though He remains unseen, unacknowledged by the rabbis, He is still saving and sanctifying the Jewish people. We are told that if Christians would only embrace this new synthesis, we could heal the centuries-old conflict between Jews and Christians and have a much better relationship in the future.
There is only one problem: that pesky little word TRUTH! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) That same Jesus said, “…for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) What good is it for Christians to have a better relationship with unbelieving Jews, or Gentiles for that matter, if those unbelievers are still left without a better relationship or future with God? Jesus did not come to reconcile people of differing beliefs. He came to reconcile people to God.
Jesus does not save and sanctify Jews or Gentiles who refuse to receive Him as Savior and Lord. Those who refuse to recognize Jesus are ultimately rejecting Him. That is a painful truth, a sword that separates people who are reconciled to God from those who are not. While there have been other needless schisms created by people in the name of religion, truth does create a schism that cannot be avoided or healed by any new synthesis.
I thank God for Truth. It shines as a guiding light through the morass of uncertainty that is so prevalent in our world today. People may feel more comfortable with their vague beliefs and opinions but in the end they will want the truth. That old saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes” is accurate. In trying times the confidence we hold in the truth of God’s Word and the faith we have placed in God’s Messiah Jesus will carry the day. So when someone shrugs and says, “What is truth?” you might respond, “I’m glad you asked. Can we sit down and talk about it?”