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You Can’t Handle the Truth

The “truth” is the truth whether we accept it or not.

A world with no truth is a fictional one. Truth is the foundation for everything we do and believe. If there is no foundation, then there is no support for whatever is built. Thus, we live in a world of “alternative facts,”[1] where your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. But no one ever stops to ask: if there is no such thing as absolute truth, then how can we be certain of anything?[2]


Knowledge Must Have a Foundation


Foundationalism is built upon the idea that knowledge must have a starting point from which we develop subsequent understandings. These concepts can be retraced to their foundational truth to substantiate their veracity. “The goal to be obtained through the identification of indubitable foundations,” says John R. Franke, “is a universal knowledge that transcends time and context.”[3] If, however, the foundation for our beliefs is based on our thoughts and feelings and not universally proven truths, then we have no foundation at all.


The ramifications of this are far reaching. For example, science becomes irrelevant because all truth is now subject to the thoughts and opinions of the individual or specific group. But irrespective of people’s subjective opinions, the person who walks off a ten-story building will soon discover that gravity is not subjective; it is objective—i.e., foundational.


The truth is that humanity rejects truth because it points us to God, the Creator of the universe and Source of all life. Once we acknowledge God as our Creator, we are obligated to subject ourselves to Him and His regulations because He is the foundation for all life. He established the physics of our universe; He determined the topography of our planet; and He legislated the moral and ethical laws by which we must govern our lives. It is this latter point that has led to the rejection of ultimate truth or foundationalism because humanity does not want to be subject to God.


Three Truths about “Truth”


The apostle Paul provides us with a biblical epistemology that explains humanity’s response to God’s truth since our earliest days. He says that humans “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is evident among them, for God made it clear to them. For from the creation of the world, his invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18–20 LEB).


In these three verses, Paul teaches us three truths about the truth.


1. Humanity knows God’s truth. God’s initial introduction of Himself is through His creation. Whether we open our eyes or the Holy Scriptures, we discover the truth about our Creator. The birds, bees, flowers, and trees are evidence of an Intelligent Designer who is responsible for all that exists. After looking at the cosmos, if we remain confused about who is responsible for our creation, then we can read Genesis 1:1 which informs us that our Creator is God. Thus, His power and deity are made visible to us through the vast complexities of the science and physics of life that are still being discovered. Knowing the truth, however, is not the same as embracing the truth.


2. Humanity suppresses God’s truth. Despite the evidence that is evident to humanity, God’s prized creation has chosen to ignore what it knows to be true by suppressing what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. That is, all that God has gifted us to experience of His good creation for our enjoyment tells us what is true about His existence. Yet, humanity chooses to suppress this truth by denying His existence, failing to ascribe Him the glory He is due, and violating His moral code. Rather than embrace the divine revelation that daily reminds us of His greatness, we ignore, deny, or question what we know to be true. Yet, suppressing the truth does not absolve us of our accountability to the truth.


3. Humanity is accountable to God’s truth. While God has given humanity free will, He has not given us free reign. Along with our freedom comes the consequences of our choices. By virtue of our own existence, none of us can argue his or her ignorance of God’s existence—i.e., René Descartes’s “I think, therefore I exist,” which logically concludes that I am a created being. As Everett F. Harrison rightly observes, “Suppression of the truth implies knowledge of the truth.”[4] Suppressing the truth does not exempt us from the truth any more than running a red light exempts us from police enforcement. Actions have consequences, and Paul says the consequence of suppressing the truth is inexcusability. That is, we cannot plead ignorance. Therefore, we become accountable to God for the truth He reveals about Himself, whether we accept it or reject it.


Handling the Truth


In the movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessup told Lieutenant Kaffee that he couldn’t “handle the truth” about what really takes place for Americans to maintain the liberties they enjoy. As long as they can feign ignorance, they won’t feel guilty or be morally accountable for the atrocities that secure their privileges.


Humanity takes the same posture with God. It tries to close its eyes and plug its ears as if it is unaware of what God has made known through His creation and the Bible—but we do know. We may argue that truth has no foundation, that it is local and contextual, or that there is no such thing as truth. But one thing is certain: the more we seek to suppress it, the more we admit that we can’t handle the truth.


Rev. Isaac Hayes is an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] David Mack, “Kellyanne Conway Says Trump's Press Secretary Wasn't Lying — He Just Gave ‘Alternative Facts,’” BuzzFeed, January 22, 2017, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/davidmack/alternative-facts. [2] B. Keith Putt, “De/con/structive Evangelicalism,” in Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism, ed. Millard J. Erickson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 129. [3] John R. Franke, “Christian Faith and Postmodern Theory: Theology and the Nonfoundationalist Turn,” in Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views, ed. Myron B. Penner (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005), 109. [4] Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 23.

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