“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself but undoubting about the truth. This has been exactly reversed…We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)
“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'” (John 18:37-38)
Jesus is truth (John 14:6). This may seem like a simple point, but I believe it is an essential one that we must be reminded of over and over again. We live in an age when truth is not so much under attack (it is in certain circles), but the source of truth has moved. We once agreed on where truth could be found. It was in nature, science, mathematics, history, etc. Truth for many was found in Scripture. People would gather on Sunday mornings to hear a minister expound upon some aspect of truth found in the Bible. Fewer and fewer people are showing up for worship on Sunday mornings. Why? There are probably many reasons, but one of them is that people are finding truth elsewhere.
People have searched for truth in many different places over the years. Occasionally people have tried to pit one truth against another. A person would side with science over religion or vice versa. This is not as bad as it seems because all truth leads to God. Science points to God. Nature is God’s creation. God can be found in mathematics. Wherever there is truth, there is God. Nothing should come before God, but truth can get a person to God. The new source of truth is different because it does not point to God. This is because it really isn’t truth. It is a false truth, but it feels real. This is because it comes from within. The new source of truth is self. People are abandoning the established truths of the past so that they can become the source of truth.
At first, a claim like this may seem unbelievable, but a quick examination of our culture will prove it to be true. We see it in politics and not just on the right or the left. Both sides are guilty. The left has embraced the transgender movement.* According to the adherents of this movement, gender is no longer determined by a person’s anatomy. Biology is abandoned for what a person feels inside. Truth has moved from a trusted scientific field to self. A number of people on the right have embraced a presidential candidate who has a history of making things up on the spot. When this candidate is presented with the facts, he does not back down. He chooses to believe in himself rather than the truth. This would not be a big deal if it were just one random person, but this is a man running for the highest office in the land. People see what he is doing, and they allow him to get away with it. People do not object to a person establishing truth for themselves.
K. Chesterton foresaw a time in the future when we would trade confidence in truth for confidence in ourselves. Sadly, we have arrived at that point. There are many like Pilate who approach truth nonchalantly. It does not matter where it comes from. Each person is their own judge. Each person determines truth for himself or herself. What does a society with no agreed upon truths look like? How does the church flourish in a culture that has abandoned traditional sources of truth for determining truth for oneself? I do not want to be a pessimist, but I’m afraid if we continue down this road, the future will not be bright.
There are reasons why we have arrived at this point. Science has not always been correct. There have been some awful things done over the years in the name of religion. The places where people were supposed to find truth have not always lived up to what they should be. If you look hard enough, you can find holes in any field. It’s even easy to find warts and blemishes among the people who wear the name of Christ. The imperfections are there, but this is no reason to give up on proven sources of truth. A small error in the realm of science should not lead us to abandon science. Science has already given us many other truths. Just like a bad Christian is no reason to leave the church. There has been much more good done in the name of Christ over the years than bad. We should instead work to be a better church, one that more fully reflects the image of Jesus.
There are other truths that are without error, truths that are indisputable, truths like we find in Scripture. The difference between these truths and the truth we come up with on our own is that they call us to become a more complete human being through sacrifice. They sting (Heb. 4:12). They point out our imperfections. They remind us we are not perfect. They continually challenge us. It would be much easier to come up with our own truth, and I guess that is one reason why some people do just that. However, I do not want to live in a world where everyone determines truth for themselves, and I believe if you would take a few moments to consider what that world would look like, then you wouldn’t want to live in it either.
* As Christians, I believe it is important that we be compassionate towards people wrestling with gender-identity issues. It is a serious and complicated issue. However, I also believe we must reject the position that gender is chosen rather than assigned at birth.