How Do We Know What is True?

Humans have a deep-seated desire to know what is true. Otherwise, why would we get upset and feel betrayed when someone lies to us? It’s easy for us to to rationalize and justify our thoughts, actions, speech, and attitudes and our natural tendency is to develop opinions based on what we hear, see, read, and experience. So how can we know what is really true?

FIRST, we should define truth. Starting with the actual meaning of words is important to mutual understanding. My personal favorite dictionary resource is Noah Webster’s 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. This momentous task took him 28 years and he learned 26 languages in the process [reference]. Wow! That level of determination and scholarship is not common in our culture today.

“Language is the expression of ideas; and if the people of one country cannot preserve an identity of ideas, they cannot retain an identity of language.”

from Noah Webster’s preface in his 1828 Dictionary

How thorough Webster was is evident in his definition of truth:

1. Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be. The truth of history constitutes its whole value. We rely on the truth of the scriptural prophecies. My mouth shall speak truth Proverbs 8:7. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth John 17:17.

2. True state of facts or things. The duty of a court of justice is to discover the truth. Witnesses are sworn to declare the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

3. Conformity of words to thoughts, which is called moral truth. Shall truth fail to keep her word?

4. Veracity; purity from falsehood; practice of speaking truth; habitual disposition to speak truth; as when we say, a man is a man of truth.

5. Correct opinion.

6. Fidelity; constancy. The thoughts of past pleasure and truth.

7. Honesty; virtue. It must appear that malice bears down truth.

8. Exactness; conformity to rule. Plows, to go true, depend much on the truth of the iron work. [Not in use.]

9. Real fact of just principle; real state of things. There are innumerable truths with which we are not acquainted.

10. Sincerity. God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth John 4:23.

11. The truth of God, is His veracity and faithfulness. Psalms 71:22. Or His revealed will. I have walked in thy truth Psalms 26:3.

12. Jesus Christ is called the truth John 14.

For a more recent definition of truth, the following is from dictionary.com

TRUTH:

  1. The true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
  2. Conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
  3. A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
  4. The state or character of being true.
  5. Actuality or actual existence.
  6. An obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

SECOND, we should recognize that truth and reality differ from perception and that all of us have preconceptions that affect the way we look at the world (our worldview). In recent years, some have adopted the philosophy that there is no absolute truth and that truth is an individual concept and different for different people. We all have our own perceptions, as evidenced by having been misunderstood or having misunderstood someone else. However, that is not the same as each person having their own truth, which has been termed “relativism”. Truth by its very nature is exclusive and different people cannot have their own truth if what one person holds to be true is opposite to that of someone else. This is evidenced by the “Law of Contradiction”, one of the rules of logic.

“Absolute truth” is defined by “All About Philosophy” as “inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. For example, it is a fixed, invariable, unalterable fact that there are absolutely no square circles and there are absolutely no round squares”. The whole article is helpful. Another helpful article is:

“Is there such a thing as absolute truth / universal truth?” – by “Got Questions”.

THIRD, where does the concept of absolute truth come from?:

It comes from God through His revealed Word, the Bible. Some will immediately reject and scoff at this because of preconceived opinions, but please consider that God did not have to reveal Himself to us and gives each of us the freedom to choose whether or not we accept the truth He gave us. However, like all choices, there are consequences and this choice carries with it eternal consequences – so deserves to be carefully considered.

“I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek Me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.”

Isaiah 45:19

Not only did God choose to speak into human lives and has preserved His Word through countless attacks over thousands of years, but God also loved us so much that He provided a rescue plan through the voluntary sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins – knowing that we can never be good enough before a holy God. How much more could He have done to show His love for us?

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Woe to the one who says to a father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to a mother, ‘What have you brought to birth’?’ This is what the LORD says – the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: ‘Concerning things to come, do you question Me about My children, or give Me orders about the work of My hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it’.”

Isaiah 45:9-12a

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: ‘Should you not fear Me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should you not tremble in My presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.’ But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest’. Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.”

Jeremiah 5:21-25

If we genuinely seek what is true, then also consider the words of Jesus:

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’.”

John 14:6

IN CONCLUSION, if we honestly want to know what is true, we must first seek God through His revealed Word and by humbly asking Him. When I cried out to God, He met me right there. How we respond to His absolute truth is also up to us, but when we align our opinions with God’s and submit to His guidance, it gives us access to His promises and the peace, strength, and joy that this world cannot provide. It only offers counterfeits. Our Creator patiently waits for us to figure out that His plan for our lives is better than anything we could come up with. However, this world is still broken – but through Christ, we have the hope of heaven after this difficult life is over, where there will be no evil, no pain, no sickness, & no tears.

“He only can be esteemed really and permanently happy, who enjoys peace of mind in the favor of God.”

Noah Webster

“The Bible must be considered as the great source of all the truth by which men are to be guided in government as well as in all social transactions.”

Noah Webster

“No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people… When I speak of the Christian religion as the basis of government… I mean the primitive Christianity in its simplicity as taught by Christ and His apostles, consisting of a belief in the being, perfections, and government of God; in the revelation of His will to men, as their supreme rule of action; in man’s… accountability to God for His conduct in this life; and in the indispensable obligation of all men to yield entire obedience to God’s commands in the moral law and the Gospel.”

Noah Webster

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

2 Chronicles 16:9

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