The truth. It is sometimes hard to discover and even harder to accept. As much as we may like to think that we are smart people who have got life all figured out, we actually get off base in our thinking or our feelings in many ways. As we have already seen (chapter three), we may have a distorted image of God. But it goes beyond that. We may also have false convictions about ourselves, about others, and about life in general. These false convictions can contribute in a major way to our sin problem.
We might say that wrongdoing starts with wrong thinking. Step two in the process of breaking a sinful habit, therefore, is to revise your false beliefs. We need to start believing what is true. Being mistaken is not necessarily a sin itself (we might have just had an honest misunderstanding), but it can lead to sin. That’s why having convictions based on truth is so important.
But someone may jump in here to ask, “Can we really know what is ‘true’? I mean, is your truth necessarily the same as my truth?” Let’s consider that.
How True Is Truth?
If we had written Soul Prescription fifty years ago, we would not have needed to defend the concept of truth. Back then, if anyone had been asked, “Do you believe there is such a thing as absolute truth?” he or she would almost certainly have replied, “Well, sure there is.”
Today that is not the case. It is far more common nowadays for people to think of truth as an unstable quality, varying from situation to situation and from person to person. Ideas about truth develop differently within different cultures, relativists insist, and therefore what anyone believes to be true is just that person’s opinion. Truth is a human “construct,” not an objective reality.
Is this perspective—dare we say it—true?
First let’s make some admissions. To some extent, one’s upbringing and culture do color how one looks at the world. Also, there are areas where the issue can be one of preference rather than rightness. Sometimes people are too dogmatic, close-mindedly promoting a certain viewpoint even though what they are talking about lies in a genuine gray area. We do not know all the facts, and in any case, facts always require interpretation. Even when we know the truth for certain, our attitude in defending it can turn others off because it contains none of the love and respect that we ought to have for those who disagree with us.
Nevertheless, we have to accept that there is such a thing as absolute truth, or what the twentieth-century theologian Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” This is truth that is true for all people at all times and in all places. As a matter of fact, we cannot go forward in addressing our sin problems unless we believe in this kind of truth. And we have good reason for such a belief.
When relativists declare, “There is no absolute truth,” they are making an absolute statement. Theirs is a self-refuting claim. If everything is relative, then the idea that everything is relative is itself relative.
Furthermore, no one can consistently live according to the belief that truth is relative. Law, society, and relationships are impossible to sustain in an environment of thorough relativism. We cannot invent reality for ourselves at every turn.
The way it usually works is that people trot out relativism when they want the freedom to do something that deep down they know is morally wrong. In fact, there is a close connection between a relativism of truth and a relativism of morality—this is a valuable warning for those of us who want the wickedness rooted out of our lives.
There really is such a thing as absolute truth. If there were no God, then perhaps human beings would have to make up their own “reality.” But since there is a God, He is the determiner of truth and reality. Truth is rooted in His unchanging nature. “I am … the truth,” said Jesus (John 14:6). It is no wonder, then, that “the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Furthermore, because God’s nature is truthful, people who have entered into a relationship with Him through His Son can know truth. “Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, ‘You are truly My disciples if you keep obeying My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ ” (John 8:31-32, emphasis added). Faith enables us to have convictions based on truth.
More specifically, we believers have God’s personal guidance in knowing what is true. Before departing this world, Jesus said that He would send the Counselor, or the Holy Spirit, to dwell in the hearts of His followers. Jesus added, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).¹
The primary way the Holy Spirit guides us into truth is by opening our minds and hearts to the truth that God has inscribed in His Word, the Bible.