The ‘Virtuous’ Lie That Says ‘The Truth Is Beyond Our Knowing’
There’s a problem there, though. A big one. Maybe you don’t see it, but I’ll bet someone close to you does. It’s big enough to scare a lot of believers into complete cowardice over knowing the truth, much less loving it.
The trouble lies in that pesky little word “the,” which makes it sound like there’s one truth, one single truth, and all the other truths aren’t worth as much. Say that out loud, and someone’s going to call you an arrogant jerk for it:
“What’s wrong with you, thinking you know the truth? What gives you your own special handle on it? What makes you think anyone could know the one and only truth?”
It makes it sound wrong to do what Scripture says, and it’s even kind of convincing, in a way. So we need to clear a path here. We won’t get anywhere on loving the truth if we think there’s something wrong with knowing the truth.
The challenge comes in two major flavors. First, “No human could possibly know the truth about God.” And second, “There’s no such thing as ‘the truth,’ rather, there are many equal truths.”
“No Human Could Know the Truth About God”
You hear it all the time. It sounds so … wise. So humble. So terribly virtuous, it must be the truth. Cue the mystical reverb on the voice, and read:
“The universe is too vast for us. The idea of an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God is too far beyond human reckoning. No one should ever claim to have even the smallest grasp on such infinite truth.”
Sure — except what if God has some say in it? Is that any different from this?
“God’s wisdom and power and holiness are so great, He can’t figure out how to tell His creatures anything about Himself.”
You want arrogance? What better example than thinking God is too small to explain Himself to us if we’re not big enough figure Him out without His help?
“You Can’t Mean ‘The’ Truth, Can You?”
Christians believe God has revealed Himself, and that His revelation is the truth. It’s not that there is no truth outside Christianity. You can find truths in other beliefs and worldviews, but they are partial truths, and partial truths in religion are more deceptive than complete lies. You can find truths in other religions, but only Christianity reveals the truth.
This is not the place to review the many, many reasons we can be confident in that conviction. And I’m not saying there is anyone knows and understands this Christian truth all the way, first to last, start to finish. God’s self-revelation includes mysteries and complications, and being human, we can only now a tiny fraction of His true nature. What we can know, by His grace, however, we really can know.
So if God has revealed Himself, it’s not arrogant to believe He has revealed Himself! And since the He has revealed is the truth about Himself, it’s perfectly good and right to recognize it as the truth.
Whose Fightin’ Words?
That’s Christianity’s claim. It’s a strong one. Fightin’ words, actually. Un-American, even. Here’s what we’re really supposed to believe these days:
“All truths are equally valid. We all have a right to our own truths. We have no right to claim ours is better than anyone else’s.”
And I say, “Really? All truths are equal? No one has a better grip on truth than anyone else?” A lot of people say that, but I don’t think anyone believes it.
Imagine you’re waiting at the grocery checkout counter. There’s a 16-year-old girl in line ahead of you. All truths are equally valid, everyone’s truth is equally valid, so therefore you must conclude, “I don’t know this person, but it doesn’t matter. There is no one in the whole world with a wiser or better truth than hers.” Then you turn and look at the gray-haired man behind you, and you say, “I don’t know him either, but I do know there is no person on earth with a wiser or better truth than his.”
Then you look at the person between them — yourself — and you can only conclude, “No one in all history has ever had a better grip on truth than I have right now.” I don’t know how you avoid that conclusion. So much for Christians being the arrogant ones!
“Equal Truth” Bites the Dust
And I wouldn’t call that a strong, heroic, or even halfway positive conclusion. I’d call it dark, grim, and hopeless instead. It means your “truth” right now is as good right now as it can ever get. You can’t grow. You’re at the finish line already, tied in a dead heat with everyone else, your future self included.
Maybe you’ll say this only proves it’s not true that every individual has equal truth. All the religions still do, don’t they? “Different paths up the same mountain,” and all that? Sorry, but if you believe that you’ve been conned. Go visit Saudi Arabia or Iraq and ask a Muslim if they think all truths have an equal grasp on truth. Ask a Buddhist in Tibet, or a Hindu in India. You’ll find “equal truth” is a modern Western heresy distorting all these beliefs. They don’t think it’s true, not at the source. So what you really have here is liberal Westerners claiming they have a better truth for all religions. That’s not terribly “equal,” is it?
And besides, I’m a little behind the times with this whole line of reasoning, anyway. Calling all truths “equal”” used to be a lot more fashionable, ten or maybe twenty years ago. You might still hear people saying it, but they’ve long since quit believing it. Just try telling a trans person he’s still the sex he was born. Those are the real fighting words. Their “truth” is “the truth,” period. Your beliefs are so inferior, you can’t even speak them out loud. Or so they say.
So Does This Mean Christians Hold “The Truth”?
You might think this means Christians can say we hold the truth. Be careful: You can only hold what’s small enough to fit in your hands. That might work in its way for people who think they can craft their own personal “truth,” but it doesn’t work for followers of Jesus Christ.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We don’t hold the truth, the Truth holds us. We don’t manage this truth, we don’t design it, we don’t build it to suit. We submit to it instead. We bow in worship to Jesus Christ, who Himself is the Truth.
We Can’t “Hold” It, But We Can Know It
So yes, we can know the truth. You need not back down on that. Just remember whose truth it is, and remember it’s not by our wisdom or goodness that has He given it to us, but by His free gift of love. To love the truth is to love the Giver of truth.
If you’ve ever thought there was something wrong with thinking Christianity has the truth, you can relax on that score. Don’t let your God-gifted knowledge of the truth march you into false arrogance, but don’t let it shrink you into false humility, either.
If God wants to reveal His truth, He can do that. He has done that. Humility is not denying He has done it. Humility is recognizing the truth of He has revealed, accepting it, thanking Him for it, and following Him in it.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.