A W Tozer once wrote that truth has many facets. By this he meant not that there is no absolute truth, but that truth in Christ is seen and known from any one of a multitude of perspectives, each of which can potentially add to the understanding of his truth. This is one reason why we can never own the truth of Christ, but must be continually challenged and changed by our engagement with it. It is too great for us to absorb completely or to observe from only our own perspective. The next revelation or experience may change our view radically.
This view of perspectives on truth is also important in understanding how we receive information and make judgments today. For instance, how I judge the possible guilt or otherwise of Oscar Pistorius will depend on a number of factors, including what coverage I read, hear or see of his trial. Am I swayed by his emotional condition, the aggression of the prosecutor and the brutality of his tactics, or the pain of the victim’s family? Is the commentator reporting ‘facts’, speculation or merely his opinion? As I hear his selection of the day’s events, how do I know which parts are reliable and what he has chosen to withhold?
I was struck by a recent radio report questioning who was telling the truth: the prime minister or the leader of the opposition. David Cameron had quoted official statistics on the economy’s performance which supported a positive view of the effect of government economic policies. Ed Milliband challenged those statistics and the conclusions drawn with some official statistics of his own. An expert was summoned to opine on whose conclusions were right. Both, came the answer. It depends on what measures you use over what period – it’s all in the perspective they used.
In truth, of course, the economy in its totality can only have performed in one way, but the choice of measurements used give rise to the science of spin; we lose the truth by trumping one perspective with another. We change the nature of the argument and promote perspective over substance. In order to justify ourselves and our position then and now, many resort to the trading of Truth for truths – yours and mine are both valid.
In that first Holy Week Jesus said to Pontius Pilate: “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
Pilate, the arch-politician, answered with a question: “What is truth?” For him, as for many of us, it is the expedient, the useful, the self-protecting; ultimately, that which wards off the truth presented in Christ himself.
We rarely have the complete picture and our view may indeed change as we learn more. The truth should be a mirror in which we really see ourselves and a lens through which we see everything else, as C S Lewis once observed.
The pursuit of truth is about more than information and facts to bolster our position. If we engage with it, the truth in all its varied facets will indeed challenge our perspectives, condition our judgments and add to our understanding, leading us to encounter Christ himself more fully.
Keith Hagon is executive director of CCI, the national membership association for Christian residential ministries