In the first part of this article, we looked at how lies and non-truths are pervasive around us, as well as our challenge to seek out the truth. In this second part, let’s consider how can we find truth among the mess?
Trying to tell the difference between truth and falsehood is not a new challenge. While it may be trendy to suggest that truth can vary from person to person, a political leader expressed a similar question to Jesus in the first century:
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 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 guilt in Him.
John 18:37-38 NASB
In a world of contradictory claims and an overwhelming onslaught of oratory, it’s tempting to just hide out and let all of the noise go by without trying to sort it out. While that’s probably ok for 95% of the “information” that pops up on our screens or comes up in conversation, there are some things that need to be determined as true or false, because they have a serious impact on our lives:
- Is this vehicle safe to get into? (This decision may also be impacted by the competency of the driver, captain, or pilot.)
- Should I get these symptoms evaluated by a doctor?
- What is the right choice for my life in this situation, in order to reach my goals?
- What impact will my decisions have on myself and others, both during my life, and after I die?
Here, the answer to a given question may vary by situation, person, and circumstance. However, the truth – the right answer in each case – exists in each case. Either a vehicle is going to crash on its next run, or it won’t. Either our health is OK, or needs treatment for us to stay alive. Either the opportunity in front of us will help us, or it will harm us. Either what we are pursuing is a waste of time, or it is a good investment.
Unfortunately, this sort of truth isn’t always easy to find. We can’t reliably predict the weather a month away, and the stock market appears to have no correlation to reality. Limited as we are by the human experience, we don’t have all of the answers. So, while there is actual truth in each case, we might not be able to find it on our own.
But, just because we can’t always identify truth – whether in a conversation, online, or in our decision-making – doesn’t mean we don’t often find solid answers. For instance, there are some life choices (like deciding to become a thief, habitually lying, or letting ourselves be controlled by chemicals) that will almost certainly lead to ruin. If a pre-teen asks me whether or not he should take up smoking, I may not know the exact effect that this decision will have on his life, but I can provide him with pretty clear – and statistically-significant – guidance on which choice is going to be better for him.
Other life choices aren’t as clear. Even common sense doesn’t necessarily tell us whether it would be faster to take the bridge home, or if an accident (not yet known to our GPS) will pop-up and make the tunnel a faster route today. Knowing whether or not we can trust a stranger to watch our luggage at the airport (while we run to the restroom) is a best guess on our part.
When we find ourselves limited in what we can know to be true, the first step is to admit that we don’t have all of the data to make a decision with 100% certainty. For insight beyond what the human condition can perceive, we must – by definition – seek answers from a point of view outside of ourselves.
For simpler problems, we may seek help from experts, draw on personal experience, or just play the odds and hope for the best. However, if we want to understand things that are greater than humankind can figure out on our own, we can’t – by definition – look to humanity. As exciting as many human discoveries have been, they are still confined to what we can measure, observe, or deduce. Let’s be honest – that still covers a fairly small slice of the universe.
To be clear, I believe that we – as smart people – should absolutely invest in archaeology, astronomy, geology, physics, psychology, and the other sciences that study the world around us and learn things. (In fact, that search for answers and solutions is related to the work that I do for a living.) My only claim is that all of this – even after pursued by experts for centuries – will only get us so far. Science continues to not only tell us more about how things work, but it also tells us what we are unable to know or do. We cannot look into more detail than Heisenberg’s constant allows. We cannot reverse the the arrow of time. We cannot peer farther into the universe than the speed of light allows (regardless of the idiosyncrasies of that speed, under Einstein’s model).
As great as it is to study new findings and new observations, when we become aware of our limitations, our best option is to look outside of ourselves. This isn’t giving up in our quest for knowledge. On the contrary, it is expanding our search parameters, by looking for as many sources as possible.
Consider the wisdom of consulting with an omniscient God, who transcends time and space. Imagine the knowledge of learning from the Source of the universe itself. No longer would we be constrained by what we can pack into our brains as we walk out the door on a given day, but we would have insight into what choices of ours would have the best long-term impact – using information that no mere human can give us.
And, if we find an all-knowing God to be a loving God, then we can do no better than seeking guidance from One who not only wants the very best for us (and His other children), but also knows how to help us get there.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 NLT
In reality, God’s allocation of free will to each of us means that we can accept the opportunity to let Him take over, or we can let the chance pass, leaving ourselves to our own devices. However, in this universe of ours, living for ourselves confines us to a relatively small sphere.
I hope that you will reach higher than “relative truth” (which is typically an opinion), or the limited scope of facts that mankind can offer. Search diligently for the truth that exceeds yourself.