Friday, May 12, 2017

Defining Truth

Fake news thrives in a world that longs for certainty apart from a deep trust in God. The fundamental question of truth will never be answered in a culture shaped by spin and talking points. The danger of our day is the temptation to root identity and truth in political ideologies of the left or right rather than in a moment-by-moment relationship with God.

This temptation finds in roots in the opening chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 3, we encounter the narrative of Eve, Adam, and the Serpent. Genesis 3 opens with the Serpent asking a probing question: “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Bonhoeffer described this exchange as the “first conversation about God.”[1] In other words, the loss of truth emerges at the moment when humanity makes God an object of reflection and conversation rather than the principal subject of relational connection. 

In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam quickly succumb to the serpent’s words and eat the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them from consuming. This changes the future for all humanity and marks the entrance of sin and death into the world (Rom 5:12–21). Once relationship is broken alternative truths become engaging. At the heart of the Genesis 3 story is a question that we must answer: Do I trust that a loving God has my best interests at heart as well as the interests of those whom I love deeply?

For Adam and Eve, they ultimately answered “No.” The rest was history. Yet Adam and Eve’s story is also a tale of our lives. It explains the origins of sin, but it also serves as a warning to us. When trust with the Creator is broken, we are left to find alternative pathways to certainty. This often leads us to trust our instincts, ideologies, and interests apart from a moment-by-moment relationship with the LORD. 

In the Old Testament, truth is anchored in the LORD (Deut 32:6, Isa 25:1, Ps 119:30). The Hebrew word is ’emunah. This word may be translated as “true”, “truth”, “reliable”, or “faithful.” What does it mean to be “true” or to be “truth”? It means that one is reliable, dependable, and faithful. Truth is found in the character of the LORD. Thus, it is relational because truth is defined in relationship with the LORD who is faithful and true. The LORD does and acts rightly, at the right time, every time. The LORD is dependable. The LORD is trustworthy. The LORD embodies faithfulness and stands over all human claims to truth. 

Scripture testifies to this truth from Genesis to Revelation. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus lived out the truth and invites us to walk in its light. The way forward for us today is a moment by moment relationship with God.

Ask yourself: Do I trust that a loving God has my best interests at heart as well as those of the people whom I love deeply? When we can say “yes,” we have embraced the truth that truly makes us free.

This essay appeared originally in the Spring 2017 issue of the Asbury Herald.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3. (Translated by Douglas Stephen Bax. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 3. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004), 111.

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