“What is truth?”

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

John 18:33-38a

The ongoing reality that truth is under attack seems especially prominent in our thinking today in the United States. And it doesn’t matter which political side you might be on, or your political thinking in general, it does seem indeed that “truth is on the scaffold.”

I for one accept truth gathered from science as part of God’s general revelation to us, hopefully that, not sloppy thinking. Always a work in progress, but not to be disregarded as a result. Most all of the advances we’ve gained in medicine and technology are due to science. And there is truth in the sense of integrity in people trying to pool knowledge as to what is good and right and helpful for humans individually and in community. That I would take as a part of what theologians call “common grace,” God’s gift to all humanity.

The truth Jesus was getting at is different in that it goes beyond what humans can actually measure and tell, even if there’s a sense that something like this exists. There is a certain knowing that goes beyond what humans can test and verify in any scientific way. We might well be learning more and more about what the universe consists of, mysteries in that, and its origin. But can we really venture an answer scientifically as to why this is so? I don’t think so. I remember a few decades back there seemed to be a movement to try to figure out that puzzle scientifically, maybe in a modernist optimism. But it seems to me that has long since been abandoned perhaps influenced by a postmodern realization that the good found in modernism has its limits.

Jesus comes and gives us the sense that there is something found in his mission, even in him which gets us to the reality of what truth is at its center, and heart, without disregarding the truth humans come up with, however so limited. In this case there is no limit, but its our own blindness and limitation due to our finiteness as humans, and brokenness which keeps us from seeing it, indeed, even taking it seriously. Maybe we can see that in Pilate who seems to me to be skeptical of it.

All I can say for myself is that I try to see everything in the light of what I would call this ultimate truth found in Jesus, who himself said elsewhere:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

That is where I rest, and what I am assured of. But given by God, not something we humans can come up with ourselves. Yet something we have to be open to receive by faith. In and through Jesus.

belief in God

When one considers the world, both a skepticism from a cynicism can set in. Yes, there is much good we can find everywhere in the form of beauty and what seems noble and right. But no matter where we turn we also find trouble, and brokenness, oftentimes right in the midst of the great good we find, so that the good can seem spoiled, or at least in danger of being undermined or lost.

Many do come to faith in God usually connected to personal matters I would guess, but also in response to something of the beauty found in creation and in the message of the gospel. But some have abandoned faith in God. The randomness of evil or misfortune in the world, the great suffering often accompanying that, along with what is not good oftentimes threatening what otherwise is, all of this can make people doubt the existence of a good God who is like a Father and love. So that a person can become either an agnostic, or even an atheist, the latter usually to some degree agnostic, but with the belief that it’s impossible to really know, and maybe beside the point.

There are some reasons which might move me toward faith in God. The wonder of creation, or one could say, nature, is one of them. What we do find good in societies, in spite of all the evil might be another. Art in the form of music and other work helps us appreciate beauty and might suggest to us a Creator behind the creativity we find within humankind and ourselves.

But the only thing that really keeps me from descending into something like the writer of Ecclesiastes had (one of my favorite books of the Bible, by the way, which shows where I might naturally go apart from the gospel) is the gospel: the good news in Jesus. This good news addresses both the brokenness we see all around us, including when we look in the mirror. And helps us see that both for the present, as well as for the future, there is redemption and salvation in terms of reconciliation, justification, and regeneration. The old creation, good, but broken down in so many ways to be made new, the new creation in Christ to ultimately take over everything and make it turn out more than okay, for the life of the world, and in our lives as well.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas in God becoming flesh, completely human in the Person of the Son, Jesus. God not only with us, but becoming one of us. And fulfilling all God set in motion for humankind in God’s call to Abraham and what followed, in spite of all the brokenness we find in that story. Addressing that by becoming broken himself on the cross, experiencing death in order that we might have the life which followed, swallowing up that death, and ultimately all death.

The good news in Jesus. Our one hope, and what keeps my faith in God intact from my own perspective, the Spirit from God at work in all of this now, in and through Jesus.

the skeptic in me

I used to be, and maybe to some extent still am a skeptic by nature. Just because something is supposed to be true, and nearly everyone I know accepts it, doesn’t make it so to me. I want to ask questions. I want to know why others dissent. I want to be open.

This has got me into heaps of trouble in the past, when I’ve openly expressed views at loggerheads with established views. Be they political, or perhaps even faith related. I realize now that oftentimes it is not worth the grief, it’s not necessarily my calling, and the more I know, the more I realize there is to know.

I still am a bit skeptical by nature I suppose. I want to examine something for myself, part of that investigation finding out what others say, especially those really knowledgeable, weighing everything, and coming to some sort of position. Often a lean one way or another, with varying degrees of certainty.

I think the skeptic in me has given way to a significant extent to the realization by faith that God knows. God knowing does not mean God wants us to dispense the responsibility we have of making judgments in regard to truth claims. It does mean that we can be confident that God can guide us now, in spite of our inevitable mistakes, and that in the end, God is sovereign so that everything will be taken care of for good, in and through Jesus.

Therefore, I won’t lose sleep over who wins the next presidential election of the United States (where I live and am a citizen of), figuratively speaking, though I may be up later that election night to see how it’s going. I won’t worry about those who sharply disagree with me on matters of politics or faith. I want to listen, be respectful, even when I completely disagree. Knowing that sometimes I’ll learn something new, which at least will help me better understand the position that is held.

The bottom line for me always ends up being Jesus. Simply Jesus. God’s grace and kingdom come in him. That is the bedrock and foundation on which I stand. Informed on that by scripture. Living that out in the context of community, through the Trinity, and Christ’s body. Knowing that all that is good, right and true is somehow related to and fulfilled in Jesus.

And so we follow. To whom else shall we go? Jesus indeed has the words of eternal life. A life as big as every issue under the sun and then some, as big as all of creation. Yes, even in the darkness we in Jesus go on, following him together and for the world.

come to the manger

Jesus was born in a room where cattle was kept, and then placed in a manger, a feeding trough. Of course Mary and Joseph were there, and soon after some shepherds appeared to witness what the angelic host in the sky had proclaimed to them. There was likely no doubt to everyone present that this was indeed a most special birth.

And yet a part of the human condition, especially for some of us, is to doubt. Think of the shepherds that night. What a wonderful experience for them! But what might it have meant for each of them years later? We don’t know. I would surmise that at least a number of them came to a faith in Jesus, as well as a number of their progeny along with those to whom they shared what they had witnessed that night.

We live in an age of skepticism and doubt. Whether from modernism or postmodernism, or a confluence of them both, most all of us have felt and have surely been impacted by the influence of this age. Such influence would undermine, diminish and eventually dismantle faith. In all sorts of ways, mostly with assumptions which rule out the Christian faith.

There is only one answer, really. And for us who live in such an atmosphere. Come to the manger!

Go again and again to the accounts about Jesus in the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As well as what else is said in the New Testament. And then seeing all of that within the framework of the entire Bible, as indeed the Story of God.

The faith hinges on Jesus and nothing else! As son of God he was the Messiah, but in time it became evident to his followers that son of God in his case was unique in an ontological sense, meaning a sense of being. Jesus was indeed son of God even from eternity, the one and only Son whom God in his love sent for the world (John 3:16).

Of course the resurrection of Jesus becomes key. Paul says that if that did not happen, then our Christian faith is null and void. The eyewitness accounts at the end of each of the gospels ring with authenticity. And what has continued on over centuries has continuity with that early witness, as well as the early church in the account given in Acts.

But again we must keep coming back time and again to the one on whom our faith rests. God verifies himself and his word in Jesus. The one who came for us in love to fulfill Israel’s calling. So that all who believe in him might be taken up into God’s Story, to be a part of that witness of God’s love in Jesus for the world.