What is truth?

Students of the Bible will recognise this question as part of the record of Jesus’ last hours. Under arrest Jesus was questioned by different authorities about who he was and what he was doing. Finally he came before Pilate the Roman governor. To Pilate, as to many other people then and now, Jesus was an enigma. Jesus didn’t cower in the face of other people’s hostility; he had an inner strength and peace that no amount of betrayal or accusation could shatter. Under Pilate’s questioning Jesus said that he’d come to bear witness to the truth. It’s then that Pilate asked, “What is truth?”

I’m not sure that Pilate wanted a philosophical conversation with Jesus. Many Bible interpreters have posited ideas of what Pilate was actually doing. But this question of what truth is remains valid.

Over hundreds of years many cultures have flourished on the basis of commonly held objective truth. In 21st century the question of truth is much more slippery. Each person has their own truth; there is no objective or abstract truth with which all people agree.

I found this quote: truth= reality + meaning. This seems to reflect the way truth is generally seen today.

Take the issue of asylum seekers or boat people. For those on the boats their truth is that they’re fleeing a life of terror in the hope of reaching Australia, land of promise. For many in Australia these same people on their leaky boats are a threat to our way of life. The same reality: people arriving in boats. But two different truths because each group, those on the boat and those living in Australia, have attached different meanings to this reality.

So what do we do when our truths collide? When your truth and my truth do not agree? No longer is there an abstract objective truth that all of our society attests to and lives by. On TV last night one character said: “There is no morality, only personal choice.” 50 years ago such a statement would have been unthinkable.

So what do we do when our truths collide? How do we live together when your truth and my truth seem to be at odds with each other? Is it just personal choice and we hope that our different choices are not going to adversely impact each other’s lives?

Pilate asked: What is truth? In 21st century Australia truth is different depending on where you sit. For Jesus and Pilate their truths were different. Pilate saw Jesus as a trouble-maker who it was expedient to remove. Jesus saw himself as something completely different and so was not fazed by Pilate’s bullying threat and could go to his death calmly knowing that there was more going on than the execution of a seeming rebel.

Perhaps like Jesus’ we can know our truth, live by our truth, bear witness to our truth and not be overly worried if others do not agree.