The very idea of truth seems almost to have disappeared. We live in a time of facts and “alternative facts.” We too often focus on favorable information rather than verifiable data.
If you don’t like what you hear on the news, simply dismiss it by labeling it “fake news.” We don’t affirm truth, it seems, but truthiness (“the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true,” according to dictionary.com). The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was post-truth (“denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”).
We have demoted truth from something knowable, absolute, and immutable to a circumstantial feeling, a matter for personal or public preference. All of this ultimately leads many people down a path of skepticism.
The Restoration Movement is frequently described as a “truth movement”—one committed to the study, affirmation, and propagation of God’s truth revealed in Scripture. However, these days we find ourselves ministering and serving in a world that offers only truthiness. In fact, many people consider “there is no truth” to be the only true statement there is. In such a world, God’s truth as revealed through Scripture is an inconvenient reminder that their “alternative truth” is the real counterfeit. In our “gray” world, God’s revelation reminds people that he has established firm boundaries and that some things are written in black and white.
Truth of the Tabloids
Wherever we go, tabloids and TV screens scream all flavors of nonreligious and anti-religious noise and gossip at us. “Documentaries” attempt to un-tell the story of the Bible and creation by interviewing scholars who focus on what we cannot know and why not to believe. Large numbers of people continue to be drawn to matters of faith and the biblical story, but in such a cultural climate, they do not know what to make of it. It’s too good to be true, isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong. We all have questions, we all must endure challenges, and we all face issues . . . but this should spur us on to finding faithful answers. We cannot endure a perpetual holding pattern.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the apostle wrote, “but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Three verses later he added, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19).
Luke did not base his account of the good news on myth, but on the testimony of “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:2). Paul cautioned his protégé Timothy that one day people would “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4).
Through the centuries, Scripture has been an inconvenient reminder of God’s truth in the midst of the world’s myths. When the Old and New Testaments speak of truth, conformity to fact—as opposed to embracing falsehood and error—is one common feature. (See 1 Kings 10:6; Psalm 15:2; Proverbs 8:7; Isaiah 43:9; Jeremiah 9:5; Daniel 8:26; 10:1; 11:2; Zechariah 8:16; John 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; Acts 12:9; Romans 3:4; Philemon 1:18; 1 John 3:18; and Revelation 6:10.)
While the world characterizes the Bible as myth, the Bible presents itself as the anti-myth . . . the response to falsehood—that is, the truth!
Answers from Scripture
How do we ensure that truth takes root in our lives and that the spirit of our age does not uproot it? Once again, Scripture provides some answers that allow us to insulate our lives with the truth and push back against myths.
First, we need to know the truth of Scripture. Jesus critiqued some of his opponents by saying, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Similarly, Paul admonished Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Before we can live by it or stand up for it, we must know the truth of Scripture.
Second, we affirm the truth of Scripture. Jesus challenged some of his opponents by saying,
Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honor their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition (Matthew 15:3-6, author’s emphasis).
Have you ever caught yourself replacing the voice of Scripture with your own? Or perhaps with the voice of your friends? Your family? A book? Even your church tradition? Anything but Scripture?
Scripture connects truth to the faithfulness of believers and ultimately to the divine. What good is knowing and believing the Word, only to lay it aside when it disagrees with you? People don’t often lay aside the Bible because they disagree with it, but because it disagrees with them. (See Nehemiah 9:33; Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 61:8; Zechariah 8:6, 8; John 1:9; 6:32, 55; 15:1; and Hebrews 8:2; 9:24.)
Finally, we act on the truth of Scripture. If you really want to test the truth of Scripture, live it. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Make truth tangible! Don’t just hear it, study it, memorize it, interpret it, translate it . . . do it. Hear, believe, study—and do!