What is truth?


(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A.  Introduction

In 1993 when I was co-host of a talk-back radio show in Canberra, Australia, a caller was defending the right and value of sleeping around with anybody. As I began to present God’s absolutes as they apply to human relationships, she said something like, “That might have applied thousands of years ago, but it has no relevance whatsoever in today’s world. That’s out-of-date garbage.”

During October 1993, I advertised three times in The Canberra Times, personal column of the classifieds (Saturday edition): “There is a way out of homosexuality for gays who want to change. Ph Spencer (and I gave the phone number).”

I received about 25 phone calls, some of them abusive, but enough men wanted to begin my “Steps Out” group for those who want to be redeemed from homosexuality. One fellow who responded to the advertising, when I mentioned that this was a Christian-based group, shouted: “That’s your opinion; I know that homosexuality is right. I was born that way.” And then came a pile of swear words.

Sometimes I have shared my testimony of how Christ invaded our Bundaberg, Qld home through the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Brisbane (a land line crusade rally at the Bundaberg Show Grounds) and my parents trusted Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This led to the salvation of the three children in the family. I have thought: I’m sure a Hare Krishna could tell of a changed lifestyle. Mormons speak of a “burning in the bosom” that convinced them that the Book of Mormon was true and this changed their lives. If I base my witnessing on a personal testimony, what’s the difference from the Hare Krishna or the Mormon?

That great English defender of the faith and writer, the late C.S. Lewis, saw the battle lines. He contended that the final conflict between religions would involve Hinduism and Christianity, because these two would offer the only viable religions. Because Hinduism absorbs all religious systems, and Christianity excludes all others, maintaining the supremacy of the claims of Jesus Christ alone. [1]

These examples raise a critical issue when we consider Christianity: Are we dealing with an individual religious experience, a personal opinion, a personal choice, or is this truth? One of the core verses is:

B.  What does Jesus say? (John 14:6)

“Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (NASB).

We often think of Christ’s words as metaphors:

I am the door; I am the vine; I am the light of the world; and we can tend to see these words metaphorically: I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life.

In our world today, that bases truth on personal opinion, the majority vote, or the views of a prominent leader, Jesus is saying something remarkably radical. So revolutionary that it will change our view of the church and our world if we understand what Jesus is saying.

Jesus said:

1.    I am the truth

  • He is not stating that He is the Messiah or Son of God in this instance. Although he is Messiah, that is not His point here.
  • He is not saying this is truth about Me.
  • He is not saying I am one way to truth.

He is saying: I am the truth. It could not be clearer.

2. What is truth?

This was Pilate’s great question to Jesus Christ (John 18:38).

One dictionary definition is: Truth is “genuineness or veracity”; “that which is true; a fact; a reality; that which conforms to fact or reality; the real or true state of things.” [2] Another dictionary adds that truth is “that which is in accordance with what is, what has been, or must be.” [3]

This is confirmed by my Greek word studies of aletheia which state: “John uses aletheia regularly in the sense of reality in contrast to falsehood or mere appearance… The revealed reality of God.” [4] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of aletheia: “The word has an absolute force. . . not merely ethical truth, but truth in all its fulness and scope, as embodied in Him.” [5]

When we apply this to Jesus, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is saying, “I am ultimate reality. I am the root of what was, what is, what will come, I am the foundation of all that is genuine, factual and real in the world. Everything flows from Me.”

Jesus is the truth.

God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and they wanted to stone Jesus. No wonder. He was not claiming to be like God, or sent by God, but he was claiming to be Yahweh — the “I AM.”

When I speak out against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality; make a stand for justice for oppressed people; when I proclaim the atonement and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; when I practise biblical ethics on the job; when I write letters or articles for newspapers or magazines, my aim is never to promote my own opinion. My sole desire is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate reality of all that exists and has existed and will exist.

We do the greatest disservice to you, and especially our young people, when we ask them to experience Jesus without an understanding that we are talking about truth.

The world wants to separate faith from knowledge and reason. Christians don’t want to mix faith with reason. “Thou shalt not think” seems to be the 11th commandment. And yet, what did the apostle Paul do when he proclaimed the Gospel? I read through the Book of Acts and this is the kind of language I appears:

  • explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3)
  • “he was reasoning in the synagogue. . . trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). cf 17:2,4; 18:19; 19:8, 26
  • solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). cf 20:21, 23
  • “This man persuades men to worship God” (18:13).
  • “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (18:28).

What drove Paul to be such a defender of the faith?

Second Corinthians 5:10-11 gives us the key: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (NIV). Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (NASB).

Yes, Paul was a gifted apostle. Most of us do not have such a gift. But what drove Paul, must drive us: All Christians will appear before Christ’s magistrate’s court one day to be judged for our rewards. If you know what it is to fear the Lord, you must be involved in persuading people of the God who exists, who they are before Him, and how they can be set free from a life of sin and enter into eternal life by repenting of their sin and trusting Christ as Saviour and Lord — this will mean that your life must be as salt and light in this world.

This is quite in contrast with the scientific world where a Carl Sagan, of the Cosmos TV series, could so arrogantly say: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” [6] Western civilisation was built on the foundation that there is a God of truth who gives objective truth that is ultimate reality. This is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:

C.  It is crucial that we understand Christianity as truth.

Down through the centuries, people have tried to find answers to life through the biblical world view and hundreds of other philosophies. But we have reached utter despair in Australia today. I see it in kids who are high on all kinds of drugs, youth who are committing suicide as a phenomenal rate. When I was working for the international Christian-based drug rehabilitation and counselling agency, Teen Challenge, Canberra, we as staff were confronted with three attempted suicides referred to us in one week. There is a sense of hopelessness and disillusionment in Australia. Families that are busting apart. Crime on the increase. Approximately 100,000 unborn babies slaughtered in Australia every year through abortion. That’s about one every seven minutes.

This should not be surprising when our society is influenced by the Eastern mysticism and occult of the New Age Movement, or straight secularism — this life is all there is to live for and then you die you rot. So eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. In eastern mysticism you seek meaning within yourself. For secularism, it is this life — so rip into it and use and abuse people, yourself and your environment. Who cares? You only go round once.

As a result, the Australian culture and much of the world are morally exhausted. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the suicide rate, sexual promiscuity, divorce rate, premarital pregnancy rate, abortion and euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases (in 1988, there were 51 STDs. Now we are approaching 60 STDs, with a new one discovered about every 9 months. [7]  Australia and the Western world are morally destitute.

It is critical for Christians to understand that Christ is the truth, ultimate truth. This will alter your view of Christianity and the nature of the world. Your university studies, the environment for political and ethical decisions, your personal worth and significance, the whole of life, need to be measured by Him. If a personal God is not there, who is? When Charlie Chaplin heard that there was no life on Mars, he said, “I feel lonely.” [8] Ultimate questions are too horrid to contemplate if there is no meaning apart from me and the universe. Thank God we have this revelation:

Jesus Christ says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The beginning and the end flow from him. The past, present and future are His.

Colossians 1:15-17 says: “And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This Jesus, who said, “I am the truth; I am the beginning and the end” and “all things hold together through Him” is also the one who said, “Sanctify them by the truth; [the Father’s] word is truth” (John 17:17 NIV).


D.  God has spoken truth through the Scriptures.

His word is truth, true to reality. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”


This is not the place to develop a defence for the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God (see, ‘Can you Trust the Bible?).  But sufficient to say that the Bible will leave the writings of antiquity for dead when it comes to assessing the accuracy of a document. I recommend John Warwick Montgomery’s, History and Christianity, Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, and Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History?[9]

With the Bible, we are dealing with accurate, verifiable, objective truth that can be trusted. It matches up with the external world around us, and the uniqueness of human personality.

Do you understand the implications of this? When you want truth about morality: you shall not commit adultery and flee sexual immorality are the truth about relationships.

It means that there is no such person as an atheist. Fools, yes! But certainly not atheists. The truth of God’s word says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God” (Ps 14:1).

Why is this? Because of the objective truth of Romans 1:18-20!. So-called atheists are “suppressing the truth” of God’s evidence in creation, “by their wickedness.”

That’s why Ps 14:1 can be emphatic in giving the objective truth — a fool says there is no God.

I support the scientific enterprise. Christianity gave science its foundation with a personal God who created an orderly universe that could be investigated in a systematic way. But, I am amazed at all the philosophising about the origin of the universe, when the simple fact is: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The more modern cosmology develops, if scientists would bring God into the equation, the more one sees the enormity and complexity of the universe — and the might and mystery of Creator God.

Yet, as I was finalising my preparation for this message (preached in 1993), I picked up The Canberra Times (Nov 7, 1993, p. 19), in which there was an article, “The Eternal Question”. I was thrilled to see that a capital city newspaper was taking up the subject of life-after-death.

But I was shocked to read the statement by Rev. Neil Adcock of Canberra Baptist Church that “he does not believe that some souls will be eternally damned to Hell.”  He says that “judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.”

“‘All the stuff of fires and brimstone really comes out of the medieval idea of the earth being flat — Hell was underneath and Heaven was up there. We know that is not the case… I do not necessarily believe that the goal of a Christian life is to get to Heaven. “‘I think the goal of a Christian life is to grow in character like Jesus Christ… [The article’s statement: “He is honestly unknowing about the difference between an afterlife in Hell and one in Heaven” is incorrect, according to my personal phone call to Neil. He said he doesn’t know where the journalist got that from. When I asked him about judgment, he said he considers the Old Testament prophets inferior to Jesus and the New Testament.]

“‘Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.'”  That’s Rev Neil Adcock from Canberra Baptist Church.

Yet, the Jesus who said, “I am the truth,” will say to unbelievers at the judgment, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41), a place, Jesus says, where there “will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matt 24:51). And Neil Adcock doesn’t know what hell will be like?  Is this a statement about his view of Scripture?

He says, “Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.” The ultimate truth of God’s Word is much different. Romans 2:5 says: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed”. In the Book of Revelation 6:17, “For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?”

“More than one writer has drawn attention to the fact that there are more references in the Bible to the anger and wrath of God than there are to the love of God.” [10]

I phoned Neil Adcock five days after the publication of the article, and not one clergyman or anybody else in Canberra, had phoned to ask about the unorthodox theology in the article. Where are the defenders of the faith today?  However, Neil did tell me that members of his congregation had commended him for going public with his views.

Let’s look at:

E.  The modern world

Flower   If there is no ultimate truth, your school and university studies are only a process with no ultimate answers to be found. If there is no ultimate truth, you have no solid, unchanging standard to judge music, art, literature, business deals, the church, politics and government, or your personal life. There is no way to judge between the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the work of Mother Teresa. The difference between good and evil amounts to personal opinion, the majority vote, or the imposition of a dictator or a government elite.

The late Francis Schaeffer shared the speakers’ platform with a former American cabinet member and urban leader, John Gardner. Gardner spoke on the need to restore values to our culture. After he finished speaking, a Harvard University student asked him: “On what do you build your values?” Gardner, who is usually articulate and scholarly, paused, looked down, and said, “I do not know.” [11]

In our secular, relativistic culture, there is no basis for values. Absolute, unchanging values are so vital for politics and government, law and order in society. If we look to puny human values, we are doomed.

What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s Word is truth. Ultimate values are centred in

Flower  the God who was;

Flower the God who is;

Flower  the God who is to come.

Pilate said, “You are a king, then!” “Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me'” (John 18:37, NIV).

Christianity is not some psychological religious experience. This is not a feel-good religion. Contrary to Sigmund Freud, Christianity is not an illusion. It is not the opiate of the people, as Marx would say. Christianity is Christ, who is truth, ultimate truth. Christianity is true to reality. It can be verified and falsified.

Pontius Pilate symbolises modern people. Just turn on the TV to Donohue and Oprah, or here in Australia to Kerry O’Brien, Ray Martin, Mike Munro, and other current affairs’ hosts and imagine their asking questions like:

Flower  What is the meaning of life?

Flower  How does this affect our lives?

Flower   Is it right, moral or good?
Flower  What is true?
Flower  What is truth?

Francis Schaeffer: Courtesy Wikipedia


Francis Schaeffer was right, “Modern man has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” [12]

R.C. Sproul puts it another way: “Modern man is betting his life that this is it, and that there is no judgment and that there is no eternity.” [13]

Listen to the words of distinguished historian, Arthur Schlesinger: “It is this belief in absolutes … that is the great enemy today of the life of the mind…. The mystic prophets of the absolute cannot save us. Sustained by our history and traditions, we must save ourselves at whatever risk of heresy or blasphemy.” [14]

Australian philosopher/bioethicist formerly at the Human Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, and now at Princeton University, NJ, USA, Dr Peter Singer, wrote:


“Once the religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding the term ‘human’ has been stripped away, we may continue to see normal members of our species as possessing greater capacities of rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and so on, than members of any other species. . . If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or a pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant… Species membership alone, however, is not morally relevant.” [15]

If we follow this kind of ethic, I am convinced it will lead our culture into a shambles. I believe, this kind of ethic will help Australia to become a lawless moral mess.

But Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s “Word is truth” — real truth, objective truth that is ultimate reality.

F. The challenge

We are living in a decaying society and we cannot afford to be aloof in our comfortable churches.
Charles Colson says a ‘dark age’ is upon us;
Carl Henry writes of ‘the twilight of our culture’.
Malcolm Muggeridge predicted the end of Christendom.
Francis Schaeffer warned of the “spiritual collapse of the West.” [16]

Moral and spiritual clouds are looming. The crisis is not just some small shower, but a mighty thunder storm. The crisis may shake the very fabric of Australia. The boundaries that held back our vices and promoted our virtues are eroding.

What can the people of God do?

  1.    We, the church, must defend the truth, objective truth, ultimate reality.

Church leaders will need to equip their people to do apologetics in a post-Christian society. We must!

No wonder their is moral rot in Australia — sexual immorality and perversion, family breakdown, crime, drugs. Christian values are on the decline across the nation. Why?

Christians are generally illiterate when it comes to defending the faith. There has been a fierce attack on the Christian world view for at least 30 years. The mass media feed viewers with a regular dose of violence and sexual sensuality. And we Christians vegetate in front of the box while our Christian values are assaulted — and there’s hardly a murmur.

Church leaders undermine the word of God, like the Canberra Baptist pastor I mentioned, with hardly a whimper. This must change as we equip a new generation of believers to defend the objective truth of God’s Word.

John Wesley challenges us: “Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspreads our land as a flood is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of enemies.”

There is no other way out of this mess Australia is in, without the salt and light of the people of God. We are the only ones who can provide the answer and show a crumbling, sceptical culture the ultimate and only reality, Jesus Christ.

2.     We must have a renewed commitment to truth.

The evidence is compelling that the Scriptures are God-breathed, authoritative and trustworthy, without error in the original manuscripts in all that they affirm. We need to stand boldly for the inerrant Word of God.

3.    We must challenge our culture in its moral choices.

Mark 7:23 says, “… All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” This is an offence to modern people to say that evil actions come from within the person. Homosexuals tell me, “I was born that way.” Or as a woman told me the other day, “I had the demon of lust cast out of me.” Or, I was a victim of my upbringing, alcoholic parents, domestic violence. Or, my generational sin has caused this problem I have with the occult. When will we get back to the sinful nature within as the problem, and personal responsibility for overcoming it?

R.C. Sproul shocked me when I read: “If you think about it, we are all really more like Adolf Hitler than like Jesus Christ.” [17]

The atrocity is that we in the church have allowed our society to decay by not standing for truth, not confronting our culture, failing to promote an intelligent, consistent Christian world-view, and not consistently living the truth in our own lives.

Former Dutch Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper [lived 1837-1920] , would encounter some stiff opposition from the civil libertarians if he promoted this view today:

“[Our call] is this: that in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which the Bible and creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.” [18]

It is urgent: We need to equip ourselves to offer a reasoned, consistent defence of God’s absolute truth, the biblical world-view, in the marketplace of our cities and towns.

Proverbs 29:18 (New International Version) summarises it so well: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

This is where we are in the twenty-first century. The people are casting off restraint. We are in an age of chaos personally, in the family, in many nations and internationally. September 11, 2001 was a gross symptom of what is happening world-wide. Will you join me in defending the Christian faith now to all peoples and nations? Will you join me in living out the Christian life with authenticity in these crisis times?

Take a look at Norman Geisler’s view of the nature of truth.  He concludes that truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Check our what this apologist says in his defense of the nature of truth as applied to Christianity.  Douglas Groothuis answers the question, “What is truth?


1. In Walter Martin, The New Age Cult. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989, p. 13.
2. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged). Collins World, 1977.
3. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The Body: Being Light in Darkness. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1992, p. 158.
4. Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 3). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pp. 889, 891. 5. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, p. 159.
6. In Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Vol. 5). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982, p. 439).
7. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Myth of Safe Sex. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993, p. 53.
8. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 161.
9. John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity. Minneapolis Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers, 1965; Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972; Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987 (InterVarsity Press, USA); F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1960 (rev. ed.); Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History. Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986.
10. Eryl Davies, An Angry God? Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1991, p. 70.
11. In Colson, The Body, p.163.
12. Ibid.., 165
13. Ibid.
14. From Schlesinger’s speech at Brown University, in Brown Alumni Monthly, May 1989, pp. 18, 22, in Colson, The Body, pp. 170-171.
15. Pediatrics, July 1983, p. 138, in Franky Schaeffer, Bad News for Modern Man. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1984, p. 156.
16. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Against the Night. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p.10. [Servant Publications, USA]
17. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 191.
18.  In ibid., pp.196-97.

The Truth will set you free!


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 September 2016.