What is Truth?

You’ve probably heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant. I used a picture book version called Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young to talk about Truth recently. This is a lesson that can be as simple or deep as your audience can handle.

In the story, seven blind mice investigate a strange SOMETHING that is by the pond. Each of them has a different experience with the Thing and each draws a different conclusion about what it is. “A snake!” “A rope!” “A fan!” They argue. (If you’re familiar with the book, I skipped the seventh mouse, and I’ll tell you why in a moment).

The final page is a big reveal. We see the full picture for the first time. It’s an elephant. The mouse who touched the trunk thought it was a snake. The mouse who touched the tail thought it was a rope, etc. But the reader can see the truth: it is an elephant.

I explained that this story is mostly used in two ways. First,  people may use it to say it shows how everyone is right. They’re just having different experiences, but it’s all really pointing to the same Truth.

So, I tested that theory. I played a little game of “true/not true” with the children. I would name a part, and they would tell me if what I said was true or not.

“This is a snake” (pointing to the trunk). Not True!
“This is an elephant’s trunk.” True!

With that simple game, we can easily see that people’s different experiences can lead them to conclusions that are not true. Not everyone can be right if truth claims are not in agreement.

But the second way people use the story is one we must grapple with. The claim is that we humans are all like those blind mice. We lack the perspective needed to understand Truth. Truth is ultimately unknowable and if you claim you know it, you’re arrogant and fooling yourself.

This is why I skipped the seventh mouse in the story. The seventh mouse runs around the whole elephant and perceives the truth that it’s an elephant. But what if what she thought was an elephant is really just an elephant-shaped mole on a giant’s face? The seventh blind mouse is no more equipped to perceive Truth than any of the others.

But the conclusion that noone can know Truth leaves out an important element: Revelation. The one who can see can know the truth. And that is exactly the claim of Christianity. We would be like blind mice, except God has REVEALED Truth to us.

Revelation

God’s revelation comes in several forms. One is nature:

  • nature is powerful beyond anything humans can create
  • life is only able to exist because of a balance in the universe that is not possible to explain statistically
  • the details in nature seem to come from a mind, like DNA strands, which look like computer code
  • gravity and procreation are two (among several) things referred to as universal ‘laws,’ which leads to the question ‘who is the law giver?’

God also reveals Himself through our conscience. We all have a sense of right and wrong. We cannot deny that we believe there is a way people should and should not act, even if we don’t agree on what those rules are supposed to be. Who is the rule maker?

God also has revealed Himself by intervening in history. People wrote it down and the writings were preserved. That’s the Bible. Skeptics may doubt the supernatural claims in the Bible, but archeological findings keep verifying the historical claims. It’s difficult to explain the Bible’s profound impact on culture if it is a mere human invention. And the prophesies that have been fulfilled are compellingly specific. Those who study the Bible deeply begin to see the entire account points to one thing: Jesus.

Jesus is the full Revelation of God to us. Listen to what He said about Himself when He was having a discussion with a religious leader:

 "I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony." John 3:11

And later He says this to the crowds who were following Him:

"I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

And He said this to one of His close disciples:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Jesus is the One who sees and knows Truth; He gives us revelation. As the light of the world, He is able and willing to make us able to perceive Truth as well. Any understanding of God must come through Jesus and will not contradict Jesus.

Accusations of arrogance

This is not popular teaching in our culture. Claims to know Truth are viewed as arrogant. But Christians don’t need to feel apologetic about it because we aren’t pridefully claiming that we figured it out on our own (like the seventh mouse in the story). We’re simply sharing what has been revealed to us through Jesus. And that knowledge is available to everyone who is willing to receive it.

But receiving Truth means receiving ALL of it. You can’t keep the elephant’s trunk and get rid of the foot because you don’t like it. Jesus designed all of creation:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16

The big issue of our day is biological design – does it reveal something True about a person, or is it merely something that can and should be manipulated at will? Christians who understand the revelation of Jesus know His design is part of Truth. Knowing Jesus as the Author of creation leads to honoring His design, no matter how we feel about it.

That may sound harsh, but listen to what else Jesus reveals to us:

"God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him." (John 3:16-18a)

God cares about us. He is not harsh. He is generous and desires relationship with us. He doesn’t want us to die.

But we cannot ignore the consequences of rejecting Truth:

"But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” (John 3:18b-21)

Anyone with eyes to see should read this and understand.

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