What is truth?

By Andy Christian Castillo

Truth: what everyone’s after, but few seem to find. That word is thrown around these days like a dirty old rag.

So much so that it’s lost its effect, its charm, its potency.

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

As recorded in John’s good news account, the last question Pilate plied to Jesus before “delivering him to be crucified” was, “what is truth?”

What a loaded question to ask before you sentence someone to death. But it’s also an appropriate one (not that Pilate realized that at the time).

Lately, truth has been twisted, turned, tweeted, and saturated in lies by those we expect to be truthful, to the point that it’s tough to discern what’s right and what’s wrong.

It’s tough to discern because, in an abstract sense, truth to one person might not mean truth to another. Thus, it’s easy to dismiss so-called truth as personal bias; by perceiving truth as relative.

This is the stance that so many people take these days. A stance that says, “if it’s not convenient, then it’s not true.”

In light of this perception of culture, lately, I’ve been subconsciously asking Pilate’s question a lot –both from the perspective of journalist, and also as someone who’s deeply concerned about the state of modern-America, and of the Christian church.

“What is truth?”

The question particularly resounds with me because, as a journalist, it’s my job to document truth (as a note: Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it, I mess up, sometimes I report inaccurate information, but it’s not intentional).

President Donald Trump has also asked this question, but in a much different way and for a different purpose. He’s asked it through harsh criticism of American journalism — aggressively plied it to the purveyors of truth, journalists, which I perceive as the bedrock of democracy.

The difference between Trump’s question and mine, however, is that he’s searching for convenient truth. Instead of seeking what’s true, Trump is looking for a way to make truth relative to his own perspective.

Of course, scripture has a lot to say about this approach. It contains many thoughts on lying, and warnings about telling lies or even associating with those who intentionally deceive others, such as one in Proverbs that says, “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, And do not deceive with your lips.”

All these thoughts were tumbling around in my head when I stumbled onto Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. And I was struck forcefully by it.

Jesus makes the claim, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Wow, that’s a pretty loaded statement. And at first reading, I thought, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t it be, ‘everyone on the side of me (Jesus) listens to truth?’

Isn’t it the inverse, that Jesus’ followers are the one’s who’ve found truth, and who listen to truth? Elsewhere in John’s gospel, Jesus pray’s for his disciples saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”

To bring that question home: if followers of Jesus follow God’s word, which is truth, then don’t Christians follow truth?

It’s a nice idea; however, as history has proven time and time again, followers of Jesus often aren’t on the side of truth. For centuries, the word of truth, Truth itself, has been twisted, turned, tweeted, and saturated in lies for the evil purposes, by those who would claim to follow truth.

Inversely, however, genuine pursuit of truth inevitably leads to the source of truth: God manifested in human form, the creator of existence itself, Truth itself, Jesus.

That’s what Jesus meant.

I was talking to a newly inaugurated pastor the other day who said essentially the same thing, but in regards to a slightly different concept. In short, the pastor said doubt is the ultimate act of faith because it means you’re trusting God amidst the unknown. You see God in the fog in front of you, even when you can’t see anything at all. You’re not just trusting that Jesus is where you’ve come from.

Thus, the pursuit of truth is the pursuit God, and that pursuit might lead into uncertainty and fog. This is because at the end of every search for meaning and truth, in the thick fog, Jesus stands as the ultimate expression of both (whether or not the seeker acknowledges his or her findings as such is a question investigated another time).

In light of that perspective, Jesus’ claim to Pilate suddenly becomes huge, and Pilate’s response is just as big. Pilate’s seeking truth, and by way of that, God — even if he doesn’t realize it.

So what is truth? It’s what Jesus claimed it to be: He is Truth, and because of that, Jesus is also God.

And if that’s the truth, which I firmly believe it is, than seeking truth means seeking God, and seeking God means seeking truth. Elsewhere, Jesus shared a similar concept when he said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life.”

To take another step and tie it into today’s world, if Jesus’ claims are true then the role of journalism takes on a lot more significance in today’s chaotic existence. A significance that we should defend.

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