John 4:23-24 (What Is Truth?)

Relient K Truth

The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Read: Joshua 10:1 – 12:6

Relate: Jesus said that the Father is looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. I want to be one of those He is looking for so. That leads to one of the biggest questions asked in the history of mankind: “What is truth.” This is the question that Pilate asked Jesus the first and only time the two men came face to face and it still is of vital importance for us today. The “truth” of the matter is that there are a lot of crazy ideas about what truth really is. In the past hundred years, one theory that rose to the forefront is the pragmatic theory of truth. Guys like William James and John Dewey basically said truth is something that works. It is a concept that can be applied or verified. Post modern thought has grabbed hold of this concept, twisted it, and ran with it in the wrong direction. Statements like, “Whatever works for you” or, “That’s fine for you but for me I believe…” are twisted versions of the pragmatic theory. Truth has become whatever a particular individual is comfortable believing.

Another theory of truth that has come to the forefront in the past few decades is the consensus theory. This states that whatever is generally agreed upon must be true. You can see this theory at play in politics. Generally the republicans believe one thing and the democrats another (or the labor and conservative parties, or the nationalist and communist parties, or…) but if both (or all) parties tend to agree on a particular issue then that must be true.

Hegel and Marx both held to a theory of truth that is often still at use by historians today. They say that truth is actually an historical or social construct. We only see and know truth as such because we have been raised within a culture that has developed to understand reality through various historical or cultural lenses. Those raised in Asia Pacific would have a very different understanding of truth than someone living in North Africa or Western Europe. For the constructivist, truth varies based on a person’s culture or history.

There is also the coherence theory of truth but I would have a hard time in brief space distinguishing it from the pragmatic theory. To be honest, I really thing the pragmatists are no more than a variation of this theory.  The coherence theory says truth is what fits a logical set of principles.

I tend to be in agreement with Aquinas on the issue of truth. Reality is what it is and truth is the process of accurately conveying objective reality through our words or thoughts. All the other views state that reality is constructed in some way by the individual or collective intellect. The correspondence theory of truth flips that. Objective reality is what it is and our responsibility is to conform our understanding to that truth. Truth isn’t shaped. We are.

React: When Jesus says that we must worship in spirit and in truth it is this last idea that He is speaking about. The Greek word we see used is “Aletheia” isn’t referring to a spoken truth but rather a reality. It is a truth revealed. When we worship God, we cannot simply do so however we like. The phrase, “To me God is…” has no value here. It doesn’t matter what we want to believe about God. What matters is who God is. He has revealed Himself to us and it is our responsibility to conform our intellect, and our worship, to that revelation. We don’t have a choice in the matter. In truth lies worship. In convenience or preference lies only idolatry.

Respond: 

God, You are Truth. Help me to shape my mind and understanding around the reality of who You are. All too often I try to worship instead who I would like You to be. Forgive me for that. My mind is too small to truly grasp the greatness of who You are but help me to strive to understand. Help me to embrace the revelation found in Jesus through scripture. Help me to ever know better and understand more fully that I might worship You more fully. This is my highest calling. Help me to ever live towards it.

 

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13 thoughts on “John 4:23-24 (What Is Truth?)

  1. “truth is the process of accurately conveying objective reality through our words or thoughts” …brilliant quote. Glad you posted this. It is my passion to keep learning about the post modern relativist. It is the understanding of this post modern dilemma that will help us to convey the absolute truth that superceeds cultural and societal boundaries. How can we make them see that if each person carries their own version of truth, it is chaos. Looking at our society now and how it has evolved in the last 50 years. it is easy to see why we are slowly spiraling into an abyss. it is relative thought and inward idealism.

    Pray the godless will ask the question regarding what truth is. Hopefully after they run out of options they will re-focus their perspective outward from selfish inward.
    Rick

    • The thing is, post modernism isn’t really all that new. Protagoras, a contemporary of Plato could be considered a relativist. Some would also consider Heraclitus one but I think he just overemphasized the changing nature of things. (You never step in the same river twice) Also, Bertrand Russell laid down a scathing critique of the relativist nature of the coherence theory over a hundred years ago.

      I was talking with a friend on a very different topic about this same idea that each generation has to learn and understand truth for themselves rather than just inherit the ideas of our forefathers. That’s why the same heresies seem to keep popping up every couple hundred years. We need to know God for who He is, not just what our fathers have told us about Him.

      • I am not faniliar with early relativism. I have read Francis Schaeffer who writes the Post Modern ‘despair’ started showing up in 1920s America. But regardless, I belive you regarding the earlier relativists – it seems it is human tendacy to be deep thinkers and yet settle for short-sightedness. One reason people leave Christianity is disallusion because of not being offered the freedom to find God for themselves. I am at that poijnt with my children (teens). They have a basis, but it is for them to find God in their own person relationship. You said it well regarding each generation’s duty. Each must seek and find. We all end up with one absolute truth. God.

        Bless you and God’s peace

        Rick
        @emanatingjoy

    • I said: “One reason people leave Christianity is disallusion because of not being offered the freedom to find God for themselves” Sorry unclear as I read this response again 😦

      The ‘disillusion’ may be because there is never a personal bond with God. The true understanding comes in our personal seeking and finding the face if God (so to speak). This is also why it is impossible to convince an atheist that our personal experience with Jesus is enough. The Spirit is real and He does guide us.

      Thought I would try and clarify (or muddle up even more,,,) an unclear response.

      Rick

  2. As I read your article, I considered what Romans 12:1-2 says. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. My thoughts are no longer fleshly but godly. I see things as Jesus has laid them out. I am daily learning the truth of the gospel of salvation as seen in the Bible.

  3. As I read this blog, I was struck with the realization that as I have made the decision to learn throught the Bible who and what God is, it has become easier to discern the truth. I live through the principals taught in the bible, and it doesn’t matter where I hear, or see falsehood, my spirit seems to recognize it easier.
    So I am wondering if the command to live and worship him in truth, is not also a gift that we recieve by exercising obedience to this command…
    I would love to hear your thoughts about this.

    • I would agree. The Secret Service has set up a website to help people quickly spot counterfeit money. That site is called, “Know Your Money”. The best way for them to help you spot a fake is by teaching you more about the real thing. Jesus is the Word of God and scripture is the vehicle through which we learn that Word. The better we study scripture, the more we follow Christ, the easier it will be for us to spot counterfeit gods and teachings.

  4. The concept “seek YHWH” is in Scripture 284 times (and counting!) If we keep seeking His will in all things and desiring His correction, truth will be given to us. The danger lies when we say, “I am correct,” because it can lock out truth. Watch out, for His truth may come along and grind what we think is right into powder.

  5. I love this and “truth” has been a running theme for me this week in my walk with God. I have been reading John, about a chapter a week with my small group and love that your blog is currently focused on it! I have been going over 14,15 and now 16 for the past month and the word “truth” and “true” always seems to jump out at me…also just read a post that I think goes pretty well..

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/my-so-called-opinion/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=OP_MSO_20140407&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1388552400000&bicmet=1420088400000&_r=3&

    To me when Jesus says “I am the way the truth and the life”- He pretty much says, “you want to know Truth? Know me.” Pilot asks “what is truth?” as it’s staring him in the face. In some ways I think we DO know there is a certain absolute truth out there, but to know it- believe it is costly..so we choose to ignore it or simply not look. Happy are those who DO seek and find He who is truth : )
    Thanks for the post.

  6. Truth is one of the most important topics in the Bible for me, because for a long time I was in darkness and deception. Concerning spiritual warfare, the mind can be considered the strategic center for the battle, and we know that the devil is the father of lies. As you said, truth is very important, and I’d probably say my favorite Bible verse is John 18:37, with my second favorite verse being John 4:24.

    When I was in the darkness, I was something of a student of philosophy and human communication. I wrote on the subject at length once (http://johndonner.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/talking-about-thinking/) but a few salient points worth mentioning here are thus: (1) In communication, what really matters is the decoding process of the “listener,” as this is the process that structures reality for that person – if the listener is biased to only decode what they want to “hear” then it doesn’t matter what the speaker tries to encode. (2) Human communication is largely nonverbal. The original apostles had a far better chance at understanding Yeshua than we do, being that they got His message in His native tongue with His nonverbals – we’ve got layers of translations and the problems inherent to orthographies and decoding written documents (though this point is mitigated somewhat by the fact we have access to the Holy Spirit when it comes to interpreting scripture).

    Anyway, I’ll cut this ramble short, as I’m about to head out for breakfast. Thanks for the post.

  7. Pingback: What is Truth? | The Crusty Old Sailor Speaks

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