Monthly Article April 2013 – Truth walked upon the earth

By John Watterson

Truth himself once walked upon the earth. And the pragmatists crucified Him.


I am writing this article during the period that many Christians call “Holy Week”. I plan to have the final version ready for submission on Good Friday. On the original Good Friday, Jesus was arraigned before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea. And when Pilate questioned Jesus about the charges that were levelled against him, Jesus made an astonishing claim. “For this purpose,” he said, “I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate’s weary response is perhaps typical of the weary responses of many people nowadays. “What is truth?” he asked cynically; and with a shrug of his shoulders, he turned from Jesus to deal pragmatically with the urgent circumstances of the here-and-now. The religious authorities had him between a rock and a hard place, and as far as he was concerned, Jesus could go hang.

Does that describe you? Work, marriage, children, sport, politics, chronic illness, alcohol – these or other circumstances are like a cage around you. You are tired and you feel trapped, and you reckon that the best you can do is to try and deal with life as it is. No time for truth. “Please don’t bother me…”

And yet knowledge of the truth is incalculably important because…But let’s pause that thought for a moment.

Philosophers argue over how we know what we know. In the Western tradition, two thousand years of debate have only entrenched positions and clarified the arguments. On the one hand empiricists deny that we can really know anything. On the other hand rationalists claim that our minds really are up to the job of sifting truth from error. But this entire debate has been conducted outside Eden, and it’s a bitter irony that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (“Did God really say…?” asked the serpent) has robbed us of knowledge of the truth. How so? Because outside Eden we have been stripped of a living, experiential knowledge of God.

The fact is that it is a mistake to treat “truth” as an abstract concept, as passionless as a subatomic particle or as remote from daily life as a mathematical theorem. Truth is a Person, and knowing Him is a life-giving experience.

So when Jesus said, “I was born…to bear witness to the truth” – or more absolutely, “I am the truth” – he was claiming authority to undo the effect of eating the forbidden fruit. He was saying, “I have come to restore to you the knowledge of God which you lost in Eden.” And this is incalculably important because, as Jesus also said, knowledge of the true God is eternal life itself (John 17:3).

But what happened when Truth himself walked upon the earth? The rationalist religious authorities and the empiricist political powerbrokers combined to crucify Him.

What will you do with Him?