What is Truth?

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

As our nation reels from the violent assault on the women and men of Congress and the Capitol Building last week, church boards need to direct their feet. They need to walk toward conversations about shared truth and walk away from the language of false equivalencies.

“I have my truth and you have yours.”

“People on both sides are very fine people.”

“Well, that may be bad, but it’s no worse than….”

“Christian faith takes many forms …. it may not be my way, but people have a right to their opinions about what is most important about being Christian.”

“We need to make sure we don’t make attempts at unity worse by judging others.”

 To the extent that these statements – and so many others like them – are aired but not directly discussed, in congregations and on church boards, they will at best paralyze and at worst destroy any attempt by faith communities to be relevant to healing our communities and to follow Jesus.

This is challenging work, and “the work” is not equal among our faith communities.  For some, the painful experience of having to hear false equivalencies in the face of injustice is tragically familiar.  For many other churches, though, this will require new attention in ways that will disrupt and de-center some polite accommodations that have lasted far too long.

Below we suggest a few resources to help you get started in walking toward conversations about truth with your church board. If you have found other ways into these conversations with your church board and would like to share them with us, we would love to hear from you.

The History Teacher by Billy Collins

Trying to protect his students’ innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

 And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call the matador’s hat?”

 The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.

 The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

 while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.


  • Why does the teacher make up funny stories for his students?


  • What does the teacher assume about his students? Is he right?


  • What do we assume about one another in avoiding telling the truth?


Frederick Buechner focuses on the nature of truth in his book, Wishful Thinking:

 When Jesus says that he has come to bear witness to the truth, Pilate asks, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Contrary to the traditional view that his question is cynical, it is possible that he asks it with a lump in his throat. Instead of truth, Pilate has only expedience. His decision to throw Jesus to the wolves is expedient. Pilate views humankind as alone in the universe with nothing but its own courage and ingenuity to see it through. That is enough to choke up anybody.


Pilate asks “What is truth?” and for years there have been politicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, and so on to tell him. The sound they make is like the sound of crickets chirping.

 Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate’s question. He just stands there. Stands, and stands there.


  • What do you make of Jesus’ action before Pilate in John 18?


  • What are the values we see in Jesus – his life, his ministry, his crucifixion, his resurrection – that we need to name out loud as our guide as we confront those who want to make truth negotiable?  Using the lens of Jesus Christ, what is truth?
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