Does What I Feel Determine What is Real?

We all have a favorite TV show.  Some of us like comedy, others suspense, and others drama.  One of my favorites is Shark Tank.  On an episode a few seasons back, one entrepreneur came on seeking an investment in a company that was doing abysmal by all standards.  They might as well have been selling bags of dog dookie for breakfast.  No shark—or investor—in their right mind would invest a penny into this company which would go the way of K-Mart and Sears in a short time. 

After learning all of the alarming things going on, Mr. Wonderful—Kevin O’Leary—chimes in and tells the entrepreneur how terrible the company is and that they need to get out before they lose all of their money and livelihood.  He was harsh, but he told the truth. 

In response, Robert Herjavec disagreed with Mr. Wonderful.  Kevin told the people, “Continue pursuing your passion and dream.  It’ll work out.”

Mr. Wonderful gets fired up and shoots back, “It won’t work out!  I’m the only one telling you the truth.  I’m the only one who cares about you!”

To finish it off, Robert looks at Kevin and asks, “What if they want to believe their truth?”

There you have it.  “The truth” going up against “my truth.”  What was more loving?  The truth or their truth?  The truth might sting a little, but it is nothing compared to the impending sword to their truth that will be lethal.

Is There Truth?

I hope that the above story sufficiently proves that there is such a thing as truth.  It does exist.  It may not always be a comfortable thing, as we all know the phrase, “The truth hurts.”  Just because the truth exists, it doesn’t give us the right to be a jerk.  Mr. Wonderful may have been telling the truth, but it was in a way that hurt.

We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Jesus was one who came “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, CSB).  Imagine a doctor speaking truth without compassion.  Say you are diagnosed with a terminal illness that will be incredibly painful.  Do you want the doctor to go on and on about how terrible your suffering will be and how much life is going to stink, or do you want him to be encouraging and graceful as he communicates the truth?  There is a reason doctors need a good bedside manner.

What is Truth?

If truth exists, what is it? 

Two thousand years ago, another man asked the same question.  On trial, Jesus stood before Pilate.  As Jesus said, “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37, CSB).  Pilate then responds with a pithy statement more than an inquisitive question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38, CSB).

If you put yourself in Pilates shoes, he may be a little confused.  One week before, there was a massive crowd of people laying their clothing and palm branches on the ground before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  These people were shouting “Hosanna” and worshiping him.  Now, seven days later, it seems that some of these same people are shouting, “Crucify him!”  Pilate is confused and wondering, “What is truth?”

In a world of fake news, changing realities, those who lie to us, we are also wondering, “What is truth?”

Let’s offer two definitions (or types) of truth:

  • Objective truth: things that are true for all people at all times in all places

Two plus two will always equal four.  LeBron James will always be taller than me.  Mt. Everest is taller than Pikes Peak.  These are objective truths.

  • Subjective truth: things that are true according to my opinion and feelings

Spicy foods are better than sweet foods.  The Popeye’s chicken sandwich is better than Chick-fil-a.  The mountains are better than the beach. Snow skiing is better than jet skiing.  These are all subjective truths.

Can I Know Truth?

We live in a world of fake news.  Sadly fake news spreads six times faster than real news.  In this culture, we may ask ourselves, is it possible to know truth?

Yes, we can know truth.  However, it may be a little different than a cultural presentation of truth.  One modern philosopher, Richard Henry, said that “Truth is made rather than found.”  In other words, truth is determined rather than discovered.  Essentially, subjective truth has become the only truth.

I would present the opposite.  Truth is discovered rather than determined

As an example, I don’t determine what effects a drug has on a human.  I discover what effects that drug has.

How Can I Know Truth?

We find truth through discovering it, not determining it.

The popular new philosophy is that there is no truth.  Relativism tells us that truth does not exist.  We live in a world of post-truth.  Oxford Dictionary even selected the word “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year, a word which they felt encapsulated the current cultural tide.

Other ways you may hear this expressed are:

  • “That’s true for you, but not for me.”
  • “Believe your truth.”
  • “No one believes the truth.”
  • “Follow your heart.”

Relativism is now seeping into the church.  Most often it goes undetected.  When in a Bible study, you may be asked the question, “What does this verse mean?”  If you are tempted to respond, “Well, to me it means _____,” then you have been influenced by this post-truth mindset.  Those two words, “to me,” make all the difference.  They can drastically redefine what we believe.

Relativism argues that there is no objective truth.  As the lead singer of Skillet, in his new book Awake & Alive to Truth, say, “We are living in a time that can best be described as a philosophical stew” (Cooper, 26).

Why is relativism dangerous?  When we gain a post-truth mindset, our feelings begin to become God.  At this point, we begin to interpret God according to our feelings rather than interpret our feelings according to God.  “My truth” begins to take place of “the truth.”  As John Cooper so wisely states, “In a relativistic society, an obvious question arises: who decides what is true for what period of time and in what culture” (Cooper, 27).

Is that True?

Is relativism true?  Consider these statements—out of Frank Turek’s Stealing From God—with the responses:

“There are absolutely no truths!”

  • Are you absolutely sure?  Isn’t that an absolute truth?

“All truth is relative!”

  • Is that a relative truth?

“It’s true for you but not for me!”

  • Is that true for everybody?

“You can’t know truth!”

  • Then how do you know that’s true?

“No one knows the truth!”

  • Then how do you know it’s true that no one knows the truth?

“You should doubt everything!”

  • Should I doubt that?

“All truth depends on your perspective!”

  • Does that truth depend on your perspective?

This post-truth mindset is akin to talking about a married bachelor or saying, “There is only one rule: there are no rules.”  Simply put, relativism is self-defeating as it contradicts itself.  You cannot use an objective truth claim to deny all objective truth claims!

The Dark Side of Relativism

What if we used this approach on a bank teller or a police officer or the IRS?  We know we only have $5 in the bank, and we approach the teller and ask to withdraw $5,000.  When they tell us our balance is only $5, what if we responded, “That depends on your perspective.”  Let’s say you get pulled over for speeding 35 mph over the speed limit.  As the officer tells you how fast he clocked you, can you really respond, “That may be true for you, but not for me.” 

Why Does it Matter?

Before we can answer why we need truth, we have to briefly answer why the post-truth culture even happened.  It is simple: The truth hurts.  People don’t like to hurt.  Therefore, people avoid the truth.

But, avoiding the truth can be even more harmful than facing it.  Imagine a doctor discovering stage one cancer in his patient but not telling them the truth because he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.  They will die a premature death that could have been prevented.  Why?  Because the truth was avoided, all because it may have been uncomfortable.

We demand truth from doctors, banks, courts, airlines, and so many more places.  Why?  Truth is essential.  “That’s true for you, but not for me” can be deadly in these professions.  Truth matters!

The Truth

It was as if Jesus knew this day was coming when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6, CSB).  Jesus is truth apart from our feeling, emotions, or experience. 

We live in a world with conspiracies, fake news, and where everything changes.  We simply don’t know what is true.  But Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, CSB). 

Knowing Truth or Embracing Truth

Knowing the truth is not the same thing as embracing it.  “Even the demons believe—and they shudder” (James 2:19, CSB).  The demons and Satan know truth, but they don’t embrace it.  Likewise, we don’t have an issue with knowing the truth as much as with embracing the truth.

A former Muslim, Abdu Murray, tells in his story, “Coming to embrace the truth about Jesus took me nine long years.  It did not take me nine years to find the truth.  It took me nine years to accept it.  The truth wasn’t hard to find, but it was hard to accept.” 

Will you embrace the truth?

If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?

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