Truth is a Person—Not Simply An Idea

Truth matters. And in our moments of honesty, we all know this. Minimally, we all live as if truth matters. It’s unavoidable.

Truth matters in religious matters too. All religions (including atheism) claim to present a true depiction of reality. And this includes Christianity. But there is a key fact that makes Christianity distinct from other world religions—Christianity does not present truth merely as an abstract idea, but as a person who can be known.

truth is a person

When Pilate questioned Jesus about truth nearly twenty centuries ago, he failed to realize something profound: truth was standing right in his presence. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Pilate was not just discussing truth in his Jerusalem palace that day; he was literally looking at it with his own two eyes. Truth was standing before him, clothed in human flesh! Jesus Christ, “who came from the Father full of grace and truth,” is the very embodiment and essence of absolute moral and spiritual truth itself (John 1:14, NIV).

Truth is much more than a mere abstract fact or concept; it is inescapably relational. Even more than that, truth is a person and this person is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus transcended the concept of truth by identifying himself as the truth. We cannot separate the idea of truth from the person of truth—Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus told Peter, “Follow me” (John 21:19). Rather than telling Peter merely to follow certain rules, obey certain commands, or live out certain teachings, Jesus’ final instruction to Peter was: “Follow me.” Jesus knew that Peter could only fully understand what it meant to know truth if he was first willing to follow Jesus with all his heart.

In the Christian worldview, truth can be personally known as well. In John 16:13-14, Jesus says:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Truth is so relational that it dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. Having truth ultimately means knowing Christ personally through his Spirit.

People in our world today desperately need to understand truth. But more importantly, they need a relational encounter with the Person of Truth. Our task is not merely to proclaim the abstract truths of Christianity with clarity and force, as important as this is. Our ultimate job is to proclaim the unique offer Christianity makes about intimately encountering the God of Truth (John 17:3). Framing our apologetics this way is not only true, it is much more attractive.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


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20 replies
  1. John B. Moore says:

    Kind of confusing to use the word “truth” in this way when people ordinarily think of truth as opposed to falsehood. For example, if I say the Moon is airless, do you think that’s the truth? Maybe you’ll reply, “No, the truth is Jesus Christ, and the Moon being airless is not the same thing as Jesus Christ.” I’m just confused.

    Reply
    • Chris says:

      I may not be correct, but when Jesus said he is the truth, I think he meant it as in what is true about the way to God. Also I think this alludes to “In the beginning was the Word (logos).”

      Reply
    • toby says:

      This is the fall back of most mysticism and religion. Using, or even twisting, language in order to put the people being addressed on uneven footing so that they can stupefy them into conversion. “You have to unlearn what you have learned and only then you will feel the grace flow through you and know without knowing.” It’s deepities. Meant to confuse, rather than clarify. A great example of overuse of this is anything that falls out of the mouth of Deepak Chopra. From the Random Deepak Chopra quote generator (which produces fake quotes):
      “The mind imparts reality to the door of positivity.”
      “Innocence is at the heart of the expansion of actions.”
      “The ego explores new mortality.”
      “Infinity unfolds into the doorway to space time events.”

      Reply
      • Scott says:

        “This is the fall back of most mysticism and religion. Using, or even twisting, language in order to put the people being addressed on uneven footing so that they can stupefy them into conversion.”
        Except that what Jesus is saying is VERY clear. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) Comparing Jesus to Yoda or Deepak Chopra doesn’t change that, even if it makes you feel better about your decision to ignore Jesus.

        Funny thing about the truth: whether you disagree, refuse to see it or even fight against it, it is still the truth.

        Reply
        • toby says:

          Except that what Jesus is saying is VERY clear. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
          You consider that clear? That bible quote is an example of the Chopra-esque confusion I alluded to.

          You haven’t established anything as “truth”. You believe that quote is the truth. Why? Because it’s in your book. Why is in your book? Because it’s the truth. And on and on and on.

          Reply
          • Scott says:

            What is not clear about that verse? Again with your deception (Chopra-esque) but no actual answer. If you seriously think that it is like the fake quotes you have posted above, then you’re only deluding yourself.

            You can believe what you want. Except that you haven’t actually said what you believe. You are quick to ‘attack’ other people’s beliefs but not willing to put yours in the ring.

            I didn’t say that quote was truth. Jesus did. Then the disciples of Jesus actually wrote it down. Most Bible scholars put the book of John around 90-100 AD.

        • Ed Vaessen says:

          “Except that what Jesus is saying is VERY clear.”

          We have a problem here: what actually did a man named Jesus once say? There must at least have been three or more of them, or perhaps this Jesus changed his mind a few times.

          Reply
          • Scott says:

            Ed – And why would you question what is said in the Bible when all the manuscripts found show that it is remarkably similar (and all new editions show the minor inconsistencies in footnotes)?

            Do you have any evidence that there were ‘three or more of them’?

            Do you have any evidence that “Jesus changed his mind a few times”?

          • Ed Vaessen says:

            My personal favorite are the words that Jesus was assumed to have spoken, immediately before he died on the cross on that fateful Friday.

            Luke:
            And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost

            John:
            When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

            Marc:
            And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
            And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
            And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.
            And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

            It is a good example of writers that knew the outlines of a story and decided to make up the details according to their own taste.

    • Dick Leppky says:

      The point is, when Jesus said He was the truth, He was speaking with the authority of the Creator of the universe, not as a ‘relative’ person. Beyond Him,there is no ‘absolute’ truth.

      Reply
  2. Jeremy says:

    Toby its clear that you mean to muddy what is meant by a statement of truth, by saying ” Using, or even twisting, language in order to put the people being addressed on uneven footing so that they can stupefy them into conversion.” Jesus didnt twist the language at all it was very clear as to what he was saying, now it may be true that Jesus was lying but He was making a statement of truth that was meant to contradict every other ideology. To say He twisted language is dishonest because He affirmed over and over that the statements He was making were true and it was for us to decide whether or not they were valid as He can not make us believe said statements. Its clear that you want dont believe in those statements, so wouldnt it be better to: 1. say why they are unclear statements rather than just saying they are? 2. State what makes them untrue?

    Reply
    • toby says:

      Jesus didnt twist the language at all it was very clear as to what he was saying…
      Right . . . that’s why his disciples had to ask why he constantly spoke in befuddling parables. “He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'”
      How can I make it anymore clear that that is an unclear statement? What’s true about what jesus said in the quote above?

      Reply
      • Scott says:

        Jesus spoke in parables for people like you. People that could see if they wanted to, but really don’t want to. You are happy with the way of the world. Good for you.

        Now that you’ve made your choice, why are still on this website? What is your purpose?

        Reply
        • Ed Vaessen says:

          Why would he? The message that Jesus told (at least according to the Bible) is as clear as water descending unspoiled from a mountain spring:

          “I am God in essence and the Son/Logos in person, like the Father and the Holy Spirit are. One in essence, three in person. Believe this, do good to other people and you will live in eternal bliss.”

          You ever got another message? If so, you might want to share it with us?

          Reply
  3. Jeremy says:

    Toby

    “He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”

    So are you saying Jesus was stating that he deliberately made his parables incomprehensible to people to confuse them?

    Reply
    • toby says:

      I’m saying what I originally said. That a religious fall back is to speak in Chopra-isms to befuddle. That line “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’” is deliberately confusion. You’ll explain it here, I’m sure, but you’re simply offering an interpretation of it that is wholly subjective and opinion. Which is why there are 1000s of christian sects. The bible is so unclear and unspecific that anyone can make anything out of it. And usually do for monetary gain.

      Reply
      • Kalmaro says:

        I think you are misunderstanding the purpose of the parables.

        Jesus used a lot of symbols that the people then could understand but also spoke in a way that would be hard for everyone to figure out. If Jesus left it at that then you would have a point that he was just confusing and there was just no way to understand his meanings.

        However, he would usually explain his parables to his disciples and give them the meaning. We don’t have the full story of what happens later but I think we can safely assume that the disciples also helped explained the meanings to others.

        Now, the parables are a blessing in disguise because they make the message easier to remember.

        So if you ask me, the parables were told in a certain way so that the people would hear but only those who wanted to understand could get the message either through study.

        Reply
        • Ed Vaessen says:

          “So if you ask me, the parables were told in a certain way so that the people would hear but only those who wanted to understand could get the message either through study.”

          Wanting to understand does not mean one will understand.

          Reply

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