What is Truth?

One of my favorite scenes in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was when Pilate was confronting Jesus. Pilate started by addressing Jesus in Aramaic, but Jesus answers him in Latin. But Pilate ends the discussion with the famous question from John 18:38 – “Veritas, quid verum?” Pilate then, literally, walked away from the Truth.

The subject of truth has an unusual reaction in our time. Whereas in the modern age, the truth was discovered through scientific exploration and experimentation. The post-modern era disbanded the idea of objective truth and put truth onto the individual. More recently, the whole concept of truth seems to be based on emotional reactions than intellectual inquiry. Whereas in days past, if you asked someone, “What is truth” they might answer, “I don’t know.” I suspect that answer has now changed to “I don’t care.”

This puts the Christian apologist in an awkward position. Jesus claimed to be “the truth” (John 14:6), and the centrality of the Christian faith lies in the truth claim of His resurrection. As Montgomery states:

“The case for biblical truth, then, connects with the nature of Christianity as ‘historical religion’: it is in principle falsifiable — and, in this case, verifiable — thereby removing Christianity from the analytical philosophers’ category of a meaningless metaphysical claim and placing it in the realm of the empirical and the synthetic, along with historical events in general.”[1]

What is important is that when engaging the culture – one that is increasingly hostile to objective truth – the apologist needs to start with the truth that is relevant to the individual. Starting with abstracts will not work. Schaeffer noticed this form of nihilism (the view that all of life is without objective meaning and purpose) and remarked that it ultimately led to despair, meaninglessness, and chaos.[2] The apologist has an opportunity when this despair sets in. Relevant to the individual, the truth can then be explained as real and in the person of Jesus. Truth can be a balm to the questions of life that stare individuals in the face. When the despair of modern nihilism engages the person, the truth of Jesus can resurrect that person’s life.

[1] John Warwick Montgomery, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, ed Khaldoun A Sweis and Chad V. Meister (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Press, 2012), Kindle Edition, 22.

[2] Francis Shaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2020, originally published 1968), Kindle Edition, 72.

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