Is Jesus Really THE Truth?

Posted in christian thought, theology by Nathan Creitz on June 18, 2009

The ThinkerI am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

That statement is one of the most controversial and hated statements that Jesus ever made. This quote, and other statements in the Bible lead followers of Jesus to conclude that He is the ONLY way to know God. His Truth is the ONLY Truth. His Life is the ONLY way to live.

In a day when many people believe that truth cannot even be known in the first place, how can followers of Jesus suggest that they are right and others are wrong? Can they really claim that the Bible contains the Truth that will lead to eternal life with God?

There are three criteria that philosophers use to determine the trustworthiness of a statement or proposition. Since Jesus’ words are recorded in the Bible, it’s important to apply these criteria generally to the book as a whole and then return specifically to the statement Jesus made.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

The Correspondence Theory of truth asks if a statement (or statements) corresponds to external reality. The Bible passes this first test. The Bible is externally consistent. In other words, there are no existing external realities that contradict any of the Bible’s claims – not one!

For example, for hundreds of years people couldn’t understand how Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldees in ancient times. Apparently, a town called Ur had been found that didn’t correspond to where the Bible seemed to indicate it should be. No problem, wait a couple of hundred years and someone dug up another town known as Ur of the Chaldees that was precisely where the Bible said it would be.

Or what about science. Sure, people got upset with the whole Galileo/Copernicus fiasco. Some had falsely interpreted the Bible and thought the earth was the center of the universe. Science seemed to be saying that the sun was at the center of our galaxy. How would you interpret, “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord shall be praised.”? Have you ever talked about the sun rising or setting? If you are living in the Dark Ages you might be tempted to think that the sun revolves around the earth, but when you know the truth you see that this verse is written from the author’s perspective and not from a scientific background. Today, we use the same language (does the sun really “set”?) but we know the sun isn’t the one rising or setting, we are the ones revolving around the sun.

The first example from archaeology shows how the Bible has proved accurate through the test of time and supposed inconsistencies have been explained by new discoveries. The second example from astronomy shows how science, archaeology, or history can make our interpretation of Scripture better, but doesn’t contradict anything that has been written. The author wasn’t teaching us a doctrine of geocentricity, he was talking about the worth and glory of God. Again, there is nothing in the Bible that does not correspond to external, tangible reality. Books have been written about the “discoveries” made by the Bible hundreds and thousands of years before geology or astronomy or archaeology got around to officially uncovering them.

The Coherence Theory of Truth

The Coherence Theory of truth asks if the statements being made are internally consistent.

The Bible is a collection of people’s glimpses of God through the ages. It is a compilation of 66 books written by about 40 authors who lived on 3 different continents over a span of about 1600 years using dozens of different literary forms. Somebody is bound to write something that contradicts someone else, right?

However, the Bible passes the coherence theory test. It is breathtakingly consistent internally. Outside of the Bible, I don’t know of TWO people writing in the SAME generation who display the same amount of internal consistency! For example, there’s no debate – by ANY scholar that I’m aware of – that the Old Testament predates the New Testament. Sometimes the books in the OT are over a thousand years older than the NT documents. Yet, the OT contains hundreds of prophecies. If just one of those prophecies proved to be untrue, the reliability of the entire document would be forfeit. Instead, we find that many of those prophecies have been fulfilled and all of them are precise in every way to actual events that happened hundreds of years later. On top of that, the overall theology of the Bible is internally consistent.

As we interpret the Bible, we sometimes disagree with others about various points of doctrine but that’s our fault not the Bible. We look at the Bible with cultural, social, and philosophical lenses that color what’s actually there. Again, our modern mistakes don’t disprove the Bible, it just drives us to be more careful with our interpretation and application of what we’ve been given. Which leads us to the final criteria for determining truth.

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth

Finally, there is the Pragmatic Theory of truth. This theory asks if a certain belief or set of beliefs really work. If you apply the truth to your life will it work for you? Again, the Bible passes the test. Incidentally, it could be argued that the world religions pass this test. People seem to be fulfilled in life when they pray to Mecca or help someone in need. Their religious deeds seem to make them happy.

Of course, followers of Jesus know from personal experience that the Bible passes the test because they are living it. We haven’t just taken it out for a test drive, we’ve invested our lives into owning it and driving it to work and to school and to social gatherings. The Bible is the only sacred writing that passes all three tests and it has been proven over and over again. The message of the Bible corresponds with external reality, it’s message is internally coherent and consistent, and it’s practical application brings contentment and joy to the one who trusts that message.

What about Jesus’ Words?

So that brings us back to what Jesus said. We can apply all three of these tests to the Bible generally but we can also apply it specifically to Jesus. Jesus’ path, message, and victory over death are all internally consistent with the broader theme of the Bible. His way, truth, and life all correspond with reality. Those of us who follow His way, heed His truth, and enjoy the abundant life He offers to everyone, recognize the practical implications of doing so: We now have a relationship with the God who caused the earth to revolve around the sun, who spoke to prophets hundreds of years in advance and told them His Son would be born in Bethlehem, and who has given us meaning and purpose and direction in life and has forgiven us for all the times we rejected Him, blasphemed Him, or ignored Him.

It’s ironic that some of the best news that could be heard is often misconstrued as bad news. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” to stick it in your eye. Instead, Jesus is telling us exactly how we can know God and glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. He came in the flesh to prove God’s love for His creation. Jesus isn’t blocking people from knowing God, He’s showing them how they can. He endured torture, shame, and death so that all who believe in Him could know God and enjoy Him forever.

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