Absolute Truth - It Trumps Tradition and Trickery

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

For the first two years of my college education, I studied criminal justice at a fantastic community college that employed faculty who were either still in the field or had recently retired from it. One such man was a former detective and known polygraph expert. He taught me not only in a criminal evidence class, but also when he was a special guest one time in my “Psychology of Speech” class. I remember two things that this professor specifically said that are relevant to our topic for this week. The very first thing he shared during the evidence class was that “the criminal trial is a game, and the name of the game is to win”. I’ll never forget those words. He was making sure that his new students didn’t have any grandiose views of the world in which both sides would always work to find the truth. The truth, we learned, didn’t matter. What mattered was which side could find a way to win, using all means necessary including deception, manipulation, and trickery.

The second thing I remember learning from him, when he came to the speech class to talk to us about how to tell when people are lying, was that people who use emphasizing words that are unnecessary in a situation often do so because they aren’t speaking the truth. An example he used was former president Bill Clinton, who initially said he “absolutely” did not engage in the sexual misconduct of which he was accused, only to later admit that he did. My professor said that when a criminal claims he is “100% innocent”, he is likely lying. His point was that when someone knows they are truly innocent, that’s all they need to say. Emphasis is not needed because they don’t really need to convince anyone. Obviously, this method is not always accurate, but it was interesting to consider.

You may be wondering, then, why it is necessary for believers to talk about “absolute truth”. I mean, if the truth is really TRUE, we can just let it speak for itself, right? The answer is “yes”! Because there is such a thing as absolute truth, we don’t have to go around saying, “I believe this and it’s absolutely true”. We can simply guide people to the One who IS absolute truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, THE truth, and the life” (John 14:6 [caps mine]). This means that when there is a question of what is true, we need to seek him. Look at all the places in the Bible where God actually spoke truth to someone. I can’t think of even one place where God needed to defend his statement by over-emphasizing his words.

I can think of two places where God had to rebuke the same man and did so very directly without the need for emphasizing his point. This man happened to be one of the central figures of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. I’m talking about the Apostle Peter. Peter, like many Jewish converts to Christianity and even new converts in our society today, struggled with truth as it related to his long-held traditions. In Matthew 16, Peter becomes the first disciple to declare that Jesus is the promised Messiah (v. 16). However, he allows his tradition to block him from seeing the truth and finds himself rebuking, then being rebuked, by Jesus just a few verses later. Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer, be killed, and be raised from the dead three days later (v. 21). At this point, we need to understand that Peter’s tradition has taught him that the Messiah would be a conqueror and deliverer of Israel from the power of their enemies. So, when he hears Jesus speaking this nonsense (to him), he literally pulls Jesus aside to rebuke him and tell him it will never happen (v. 22). Here’s a tip: Don’t be that guy who rebukes God himself! Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (v. 23).

Many years later, a much more mature Peter finds himself again standing at the crossroads where truth and his traditions meet. Read the whole story in Acts 10 about how God prepares Peter’s heart so he will offer the salvation message to a Gentile named Cornelius. Gentiles were seen as “unclean” by Jews, and Peter evidently still viewed them this way despite his boldness for Jesus and his acceptance of the message of hope. So in order to set him up to be changed, the Holy Spirit allows Peter to fall into a trance in which he sees a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals that would have been considered unclean by a Jew. Peter is very hungry and the voice tells him to eat, but Peter says, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (v. 14). The direct response from the Spirit is, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (v. 15). In both those situations, God spoke truth to Peter and did not need emphasis. It was the voice of God. You may say that Jesus calling Peter “Satan” was a bit overkill, but the name of Satan literally means “adversary”. So even that statement was a matter of truth because Peter was opposing God’s plan at that time! In each situation, God’s absolute truth trumped Peter’s traditions.

At the beginning of this post, I shared that the goal even in our court system is not to find the absolute truth but to win the case. I actually experienced this just yesterday in my job as a child abuse investigator. I spoke to the attorney for a man who has been accused of abusing a child. The attorney told me he has advised his client not to speak to me. He went on to say, “I don’t know whether he did it or not and I don’t even want to know, I just have to do my job”. While this didn’t surprise me in the least because it is common practice for defense attorneys to not ask their clients whether or not they are guilty, I took notice because of his very matter-of-fact attitude about it. Once again, truth didn’t matter. All that mattered was the attorney doing, or not doing, whatever was necessary to give his side the best chance to win the case.

The Spirit brought some verses to my mind after that phone call and they are verses I often lean on when justice doesn’t appear to be done. In Luke 12:2-3, Jesus says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs”. For me, this is the essence of knowing there is an ABSOLUTE truth that is in and also beyond this world. If you define “absolute” as that which is proven and obvious to everyone, then you will have a hard time finding absolute truth. But God doesn’t need to prove himself. His evidence is all over creation. It’s up to each individual to think about the traditions that he has believed over God’s truth. We may have been taught that certain things are true through traditions just as Peter was, but absolute truth from God trumps all of them. And that truth can’t be tricked either, because it will expose all that has been hidden.