Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Death of Truth

"Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?' And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, 'I find no fault in Him at all.'" John 18:38
Several blog posts recently highlighted the all pervasive notion that there is no "Truth" that anyone can ever hope to grasp, and reminded me that for most people today, "my truth" is just as good as "your truth." One consequence of this philosophy is that its corollary is often assumed to be just as acceptable. When "your truth" is just as good as "my truth", I become subject to following whatever proposition I cannot totally reject out of hand. The error of Pilate, which was to initially find no fault in Jesus but to later accept the crowd's finding of fault as sufficient justification for legal condemnation, might also be explained by this philosophy. While we see some of this same error playing out in legal cases today (the accuracy of eye-witness testimony to the truth is increasingly called into question), the larger problem occurs in the public arena before issues become cases for the courts. For example, our society gets tangled up in all kinds of problems and issues such as same sex marriage in part because people try to pull moral judgments out of the vacuum of moral relativism in which we live. The consequence of that for many bloggers is as Bill Muehlenberg points out,
"If there are no objective moral absolutes, then to make a moral judgment is seen as the height of intolerance and bigotry."
The problem runs deeper than the periodic moral dilemma of the day. It strikes at the core of our belief in God, in Jesus, and in the Apostolic witness. How can modern Christians proclaim the truth of the Gospel to a world that is hostile to the idea of "Absolute Truth"? To the world, "Gospel Truth" = "Intolerance and bigotry," and as such, the deeper meaning of truth must be eliminated from the minds of men.

Turn next to the philosophers who have been doing their best in the war on truth. The following was posted by Kendall Harmon on March 3, 2014 at T19,
If you study any philosophical treatise of our present era you will with almost absolute certainty not encounter the concept, and much less the expression, “the truth of all things.” This is no mere accident. The generally prevailing philosophical thinking of our time has no room at all for this concept; it is, as it were, “not provided for.” It makes sense to speak of truth with regard to thoughts, ideas, statements, opinions—but not with regard to things. Our judgments regarding reality may be true (or false); but to label as “true” reality itself, the “things,” appears to be rather meaningless, mere nonsense. Things are real, not “true”!  
Looking at the historical development of this situation, we find that there is much more to it than the simple fact of a certain concept or expression not being used; we find not merely the “neutral” absence, as it were, of a certain way of thinking. No, the nonuse and absence of the concept, “the truth of all things,” is rather the result of a long process of biased discrimination and suppression or, to use a less aggressive term: of elimination.
--Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989 E.T. of the 1981 original), pp. 95-96
I posted the following comment at T19,
"I guess any meaning one might give to Philippians 4:8 has been 'eliminated'.
'Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.'
C.S. Lewis would probably classify the elimination of the concept of "the truth of all things" under what he called 'the death of words.'"
If there is no truth, nothing pure, then nothing is praiseworthy, and there is nothing upon which to meditate.

Let me expand on that comment by quoting Lewis,
"But the most important sense of a word is not always the most useful. What is the good of deepening a word's connotation if you deprive the word of all practicable denotation? Words, as well as women, can be 'killed with kindness'. And when, however reverently, you have killed a word you have also, as far as in you lay, blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten to say."

C.S. Lewis, "The Death of Words" From (C.S. Lewis On Stories, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, p. 107)
And all of this may lead to why mankind appears to not spend much time thinking about this,
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." John 14:6


  1. Subjective ignorance is filling the vacuum provided by the departure of truth.

  2. Subjective ignorance is the new foundation. Not exactly a rock, but in my infinitely wishy washy ignorance I could be wrong. Then again, I could be wrong Charlie Brown.

  3. This reminds me of the often repeated sayings that the sign up for Obamacare would not be extended beyond March 31st. Everyone knew that it would be extended. Now it is not being called an extension. It is being called an "accommodation". It is not just the death of truth. It is also the death of trust.