Lesson 6: Truth in a Theology of the Cross

The pursuit of truth is just a polite name for the intellectual's favorite pastime of substituting simple and therefore false abstractions for the living complexities of reality.When I graduated from seminary, the question was whether there was a place for religion in the new age of science. We thought we were entering a period when we could make all of our decisions based on facts, not superstition. Some of my friends were working on getting computers to speak with one another. They assured me it would not be long until we could manage incredible amounts of data, enabling everyone to agree on what is truth.

And here we are, now arguing about fake news and accusing our opponents of denying science. Political speeches begin with “Everyone knows this is true,” when half of the electorate totally disagrees with what follows. What happened?

As with anything in real life, we are dealing with complexity. However, it is pretty clear a major problem developed when corporations found they could use huge databases for profitmaking. As the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” reports, this involved manipulating the data people receive. Truth became a tool merchandisers and politicians could use to get their way, rather than a standard for evaluating their actions.

The Gospel of John identifies this as a major issue at the crucifixion. At this critical point in his ministry, Jesus engages in a conversation with the governor, Pilate. He denies he is a king who relies on the power of mighty armies. His followers gather around him to hear the words of truth. Pilate responds, probably with a smirk, ‘What is truth?’

It is pretty clear Pilate defined truth as whatever Rome says it is. It was a political tool used by the powerful, just as it is an economic tool used by the wealthy in our time. From the perspective of Jesus’ teaching, either of these calls evil good and good evil.

John presents a pretty straight forward simple picture of what Jesus means. In his first chapter, he defines truth as the logos or rational principle that Jesus reveals engrained in God’s creation. The Christ calls this “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that he identifies as loving one another as he loves us. This truth was so central to the message that the earliest Church was known as People of the Way.

If this at first seems an impractical way to perceive truth, consider how it contrasts with what is going on around us. A perception of truth that begins with love features cooperation, sharing, and serving rather than manipulating, using, and exploiting. It seems a far better way to work toward the goal of a common good than pursuing personal gain. The search for truth surely involves honesty and objectivity but both of these depend on the trust found in loving relationships.

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  1. John Myers says:

    We are witnessing the new industrial age for deception, made possible by technology. Just as the industrial age for production made possible unprecedented abundance of earthly goods and wealth, the equipment was not directly responsible as it was only the means – men were. So it goes today with deception in the world of information.

    The industrial age I’m referencing distorts truth at every turn. We are way beyond ‘fake news’. We are being used as pawns to the powerful and wealthy men behind the curtain who are at the controls of this machine, whose agendas are only known to them.

    Sadly, in this age of electronic communication, we must first assume we are being lied to. We have given ourselves over to it willingly as the absence human interaction makes it so easy. In this dark place, I find light and truth in Holy Scripture and I hold on to that and my faith. If I am to be salt and light to others who are lost in this world, I must be equipped with truth. I agree, this search for truth depends on trust found in loving relationships.

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