I know it’s been asked before, but what is truth? I’ve been thinking about truth this week after reading about a conference held last week, organized by the Vatican. I read about it last weekend at my friend’s blog. Here is one of the links he provided, to a National Catholic Reporter article on the conference.
One can hear a variety of opinions about truth these days. Some hold firmly to the idea that truth is an absolute that exists outside or beyond ourselves. Others understand truth to be relative, something that circumstances can shape. Some would claim truth as knowable, others believe it is unknowable.
How do we recognize truth?
- Is it verifiable?
- If so what is adequate proof?
- Is truth found via revelation?
- Are there different kinds of truth?
- Is the truth of science different than the truth of religion?
- Or do science and religion look at different small parts of a larger truth?
When we speak to each other about truth, are we talking about the same thing? Is a lawyers search for truth the same as an artists, or a historians?
Is your head spinning yet?
I think that part of the difficulty in speaking about truth is that the word “truth” can be used in a variety of similar, but not equal ways. When we ask someone to tell the truth, we mean don’t lie. We’re concerned with honesty.
Often truth has to do with accuracy in the material or physical world. When we talk about scientific truth, we are concerned with the accurate description of natural or physical phenomenon. Historians strive for accuracy about the past. Sometimes the truth is about facts.
For lawyers, truth has to do with accuracy but the idea of justice also shapes their concept of truth. Artists and musicians will speak about the truth found in a work of art or music. Sometimes truth is about something other than facts.
My sense is that when we’re thinking about religious truth we’re talking about something different. Facts, yes, but also more than facts. I think of it as a move from truth to Truth. But this is not a move from concrete to abstract. As my friend Bill pointed out in his blog, for Christians truth is a person.
I have spent some time thinking about truth this week and I have more questions than answers. I’d like to know what do you think?