by ProfDave, ©2021
(Jan. 28, 2021) — What is truth? For a generation our great universities have been teaching us that there is no such thing as “truth.” So why are Democrats accusing Trump of lying and Trump accusing the press of lying if there is no such thing as truth? There is only “your truth” and “my truth?” So whenever one party speaks their truth they are necessarily lying according to the other party’s truth, right? So nobody is telling the truth, right? There’s no such thing.
But we sure do miss it. We were crying out for the truth during the Kavanaugh hearings – and in every other court case. To be accused is to be guilty according to the prosecutor’s truth and innocent according to the defense’s truth. Does it depend on the judge’s truth or street demonstrations? But we really wish we knew whether the crime happened or not. It would be nice to know whether 9-11 really happened or not, or that 2 + 2 really equals 4 or who constitutionally won the election. But without truth, nothing is real. It would be really great to know the truth about right and wrong, too. Maybe it is just fine to rape and kill according to someone else’s truth?
Without truth, the only way to resolve questions is with power. Do we really want to live in a world like that? Or should we have another look at truth?
What is truth? I think I know what a liar is: someone who knowingly and seriously communicates an untruth with the intent to deceive, right? No, I’m not a liar just because I say things you disagree with, or if I am ignorant or mistaken. I am not a liar if I make a sweeping exaggeration (“this is the biggest hamburger ever!”) or promise things I fail to deliver (baloney). That takes care of a lot of accusations in the news. But how can you say an untruth if there is no truth? Lying becomes impossible!
The truth is reality, what actually is – actual, factual – not just what we want it to be or what we will it to be. Admittedly, facts are a narrower set. One wise teacher claimed that there are no such things as bare facts, but only interpra-facts. Maybe not always, but usually our minds interpret the facts before us to make them meaningful. This could be where “my truth” and “your truth” come from. The same data can be manipulated to come up with opposite conclusions. Then we turn around and use our conclusions as data and accuse each other of lying. But somewhere underneath it all is real reality, real truth. The problem is not with the existence of truth, but with our knowing and accepting it.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.