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Whose Truth?

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Posted by George Crowder, 22 Mar 2021

George Crowder considers the nature of the truth we want and the truth we need.

We want the facts to be out in the open, the agendas to be exposed, the details to be divulged and the plans to be published.  We demand the truth is revealed.  But whose truth?
More than ever, we may crave a clear, objective truth in which we can have confidence.  Yet never has truth been so privatised.  So empowering is the pursuit of individual freedom, we feel compelled to crown our personal convictions with ultimate credibility. 

We want our perceptions to be recognised, our perspectives to be legitimised, our feelings to be affirmed and our worth to be acknowledged.  But then we find we speak into a cacophony of competing voices, as so many different, even opposite, inner truths are verbalised.

Inner truth matters to us because, definitively, it is just that - what matters to us.  Our deepest needs, our most treasured possessions, our most painful wounds, our sincerest hopes and our inherited values magnetise a ‘true north’ for our moral compass.  It is a powerful but far from uniting or saving truth.  We are all following a path according to a needle pointed in on ourselves.
At the same time, we are acutely alert to the damage done by lies and uncertainty.  People tell lies to exercise control, to preserve themselves, to promote themselves, to subjugate others or to oppress others.  Lies destroy trust, desecrate justice, enslave the weak and ruin lives.  Uncertainty digs a hole which is quickly filled with worthlessness, hopelessness, worry, anxiety and fear.  Lies and uncertainty put freedom in chains and love in a tomb. 

Truth is the only weapon against these enemies, but is our ‘inner truth’ of any benefit?  I suggest not.  I would go as far as to say that it is quite the opposite.  Dangerous lies grasp power by stamping on the silently confused.  Collective acceptance of objective truth is our salvation, but whose truth?

Jesus addresses his believing countrymen along these lines in John 8:32.  He says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  In the argument that follows he traces lies back to their source in the devil and calls them to be children of God.  “If God were your Father, you would love me,” he says in verse 42.  But if they love him, they will listen to him, verse 47.  Jesus pointedly offers freedom and love through believing his truth.

Jesus embodied objective truth: truth about God, truth about justice and truth about love.  Then he willingly subjected himself to the lies spoken against him, even to death, in order to proclaim and seal his life-giving truth.  Love took his body to the cross and it was buried in a tomb.  When he rose from the dead, therefore, he defeated lies and uncertainty comprehensively. 
Jesus’ resurrection firmly establishes universal truth.  It establishes the truth about love.  Love is sacrificial and self-giving, not immoderate and self-centred.  It establishes the truth about freedom.  Freedom is freedom from sin and death, not freedom to follow our sinful desires onto death.

Jesus gives us certain hope in his resurrection, which defeats all the uncertainty that would haunt us.  Jesus revealed objective truth to the world, which defeats all the lies that pretend power over us.
But what of ‘inner truth’?  What of the things that matter to us?  For Christians, Jesus’ revealed truth becomes our inner truth.  We hear the good news of Jesus, but it doesn’t stay hovering in the air around our heads, it pierces our hearts and fires our passions.  Then, when Jesus becomes our ‘inner truth’, we find his revealed truth is sweeter than the honey of self-assurance and more precious than the gold of worldly security.

This article was originally published in the Church of England newspaper.

George Crowder is Regional Director of Church Society for the north of England and vicar of St John's, Over.

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