“Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth.’”
(John 18:38 (ESV))
What is truth? Sometimes we really don’t want to know. “Tell me the truth, honey…” A guy hears that and he knows he’s in trouble. We don’t like the truth that the mirror tells us every morning. We don’t like to hear the truth when the doctor comes in to give us bad news. We look for truth in reporting and advertising and in government accounting and always come up shy. “Truth is all a matter of perspective.” Or as Obi-Wan said, “What I told you was the truth, from a particular point of view.”
And so we’ve become so jaded and burned by the lack of truthfulness in the world. “Truth” has become a suspect word. Those who say that know the truth are ridiculed as either simpletons who couldn’t possibly understand the complexity of truth in any given situation, or arrogant know-it-alls who want to impose their way of thinking on everyone else. “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” so we say, and truth becomes a subjective thing that we define from our own experience.
This carries over into all aspects of our faith and life. The Westminster Confession is famous for its often abused principle of the Freedom of Conscience. The famous quote, “God alone is Lord of the conscience” is heralded by every progressive movement within the church today. The way it’s used goes something like this, “Only God can tell me what’s right and wrong. No church council, no pastor or committee, no cultural ethos. If I am convinced that it is right, I will do it.” So from the Westminster Standard, “God alone is Lord of the Conscience,” we have deteriorated into the most anarchic of thoughts, “I am Lord of my conscience, I will do what I think is right.” In this way of thinking, there is no real truth, it’s all open to interpretation. There is no authority, everything is subject to my understanding, even the very Word of God.
This abuse of the Standard is a result of the neglect (intentional or otherwise) of the rest of the statement. To quote in full:
“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.”
God is the Lord of the conscience. We are not the lord of our own minds. Rather, our minds, our consciences, are subject to the authority of God’s Word. The very last phrase, “in matters of faith and worship” some would say are just the matters that pertain to the church. In reality, faith and worship, what we believe and what we do with our lives as living sacrifices in spiritual worship (Rom 12), entail every aspect of our being. Everything that we are – the food we eat, the games we play, the way we dress, and what we say – is subject to, bound by, the Word of God.
The Word of God is authoritative because its author is God. With God as the giver of the Word, the Word of God is without error, and it will effectively bring about the purpose and will of God. The wisdom and glory of God are contained and revealed throughout His creation, but never more clearly than in His revealed Word. To know Him, we turn to the Word. To know ourselves, we turn to the Word. The Word of God is the source of all truth.
As the world continues to ask Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” the church stands ready to show the one who was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). We make Christ known, and in Him we find the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the maddening crowd clamors for something to believe in, some solid ground on which to stand, holding to the Authority of Scripture gives us a firm foundation.
There is truth, it is knowable. We do not define the truth, it defines us. The truth of God is not subject to our interpretation, it is not relative to our point of view, it is objectively true, unchanging, and powerful. May you know the truth, and may that truth set you free.