The Truth

I am the truth.
— John 14:6

Let us go from the region of facts that seem casual, to those facts that are invariable, which therefore involve what we call law. It will be seen at once that the truth or falsehood of a statement in this region is of more consequence. It is a small matter whether the water in my jug was frozen this morning; but it is a fact of great importance that at thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit water always freezes. Is it then a truth that water freezes at thirty-two degrees? The principle that lies at the root of it in the mind of God must be a truth, but to the human mind the fact is as yet only a fact. Call it a law if you will—a law of nature if you choose—that it always is so, but not a truth. It cannot be to us a truth until we discern the reason for its existence. Tell us why it must be so, and you state a truth. When we come to see that a law is such because it is the embodiment of a certain eternal thought, a fact of the being of God, the facts of which alone are truths, then indeed it will be to us, not a law merely, but an embodied truth. A law of God’s nature is a way he would have us think of him; it is a necessary truth of all being. When we say, I understand that law; I see why it ought to be; it is just like God; then it rises to a revelation of character, nature, and will in God. It is a picture of something in God, a word that tells a fact about God, and is therefore far nearer being called a truth than anything below it. As a simple illustration: What notion should we have of the unchanging and unchangeable, without the solidity of matter? If we had nothing solid about us, where would be our thinking about God and truth and law?

Commentary

Truth or Fact?

by Stephen Carney

MacDonald writes, “Tell us why it must be so, and you will state a truth.  When we come to see that a law is such because it is the embodiment of a certain eternal thought, a fact of the being of God, the facts of which alone are truths, then indeed it will be to us, not a law merely, but an embodied truth.”  Truth never was simply “the facts.”  It must be more, it must be the reason as to why the facts or laws exist at all.  Once the meaning behind all is revealed, then we come to the truth itself. 

For instance, Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden.  That was a law or rule, if you will, but the truth behind the law was “for the day you eat of that tree you will surely die.”  Satan deceived Eve, not with the law itself, but by causing her to disbelieve the truth that lay behind the law.  “You will surely not die,” he said and she believed the lie.   She ate of the tree and discovered that the truth that God spoke was the true reality that lay behind the law.  The subsequent events that followed the eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil left Adam and Eve separated from God, barred from the Garden of Eden, and learning to work by the sweat of their brow and the experience of pain, particularly in the birthing of children, left them both with a clear understanding that their circumstances had changed and death was at work within them.  The law to not eat of the tree had truth in it and behind it, though Adam and Eve did not fully grasp it at the time.

A law or a command may be given, but the recipient of the command may not see or understand the full truth behind the law being given.  Every parent has said to their children, “Don't play with fire or you will get burned.  The child may only hear, “don't play with fire,” and ignore the reason why--the truth behind the command, “or you will get burned.  So, the child will play with the fire and get burned, and then run to his parent shocked that the whole thing happened, learning for himself the truth about playing with fire.  Coming to the the truth behind the facts is what keeps us safe, free, and abiding in the eternal presence of God.  It keeps us sane and makes us whole.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” 

As we come to the truth within ourselves, a new solidity comes into our lives and we become, to use a current term, “the real thing,” or the “genuine article.”  A real person lives in truth, and one who does not is commonly termed a “fake.”  There may be solid things about us--the earth, a rock or a tree--and that they are solid may be a fact, but it is the truth behind the fact of their solidity that makes them real or substantial.  The question is not are they solid, but why are they solid?  Most would try to answer the question by explaining how they are solid.   But that doesn't answer the question, why are they solid at all?  Science often deals with the how, but not the whyHow deals with the observable facts, but why brings us to the truth.  A person may know how her life fell apart, but she needs to answer the question, why does my sin create such chaos in my life?  Why am I miserable?  Why am I here? 

The answer to these questions lie behind the observable facts and enters upon revelatory truth.  God reveals the truth behind the fact in his revelation to us about himself.  Truth is never a fact, but the revelation of God to man.  This revelation reveals who God is to man and who man is to God, and it is then we begin to embark upon the truth that sets us free.

Finally, it is the coming to truth that turns us into “the solid folk” in Lewis' The Great Divorce.  The ghosts, in Lewis' tale, are those who have not yet come to truth; there is nothing solid about them.  Lewis introduces MacDonald as one of the shinning, solid folk.  It is fitting then that Lewis has his beloved author explain how we become solid by coming to truth.  He must have taken this thought from MacDonald, and has him say these words in his book, ''Hell is a state of mind - ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind - is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakable remains."