The Authority of the Superhuman Truth

What is Truth?

It seems that a good way to begin answering the question of what an abstract is is to establish our reaction to it. What is my reaction to fear? It makes my knees shake and my adrenal glands pump. What then, is my reaction to Truth? To give her a place of authority greater than our own.

If two men are arguing over whether a fetus is a human being, and the truth of the matter is presented to them in the form of a DNA sample, we would expect them to admit the primacy of Truth. We would expect the both of them to succumb to her authority, for the argument to cease, desist, or at the very least to change course.

(Now for the man who doesn’t give a damn about any philosophy but that of common sense, this seems enough dirt to bury that high-school ideology known as Relativism, which holds that everyone has their own Truth, and that it varies from person to person. If that’s the truth about Truth, lolsauce, then our relationship to Truth — that of servant and master — is an oddity. Why would our natural response to Relative Truth be the feeling that not just I, but every man, should bow before its throne? And if we are simply mistaken in this experience, why do we have confidence in our experience of Relativism?)

Silliness aside, most of us could agree, in word or deed, with this zygote of a definition: Truth is an intangible Thing with authority over us. We could say, without fear of contradiction, that we treat Truth as superhuman, as both existing outside of humans (existing even if humans do not recognize it) and being greater than humans (having authority over us).

Now what often prevents Truth from having its day, as our dear Alfred would say, is the assumption that submission to her authority is a weakness — that it would be a loss and a failure to bow before Truth. (This is another quality of Truth worth adding to the definition, that when we do not have her, we fear her.)

Thus Internet Land is full of new and exciting methods of not bending the knee. My favorite Christian method is one I like to call the Jesus Appeal:

Person: As you can see, evolution negates the need for faith in Creation.

Christian: If you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and let Him into your heart, you’d see that it is not. But you won’t, so we cannot have a discussion.

Arguments will continue in this vein until we realize we’re all busy defending ourselves.

Now the following may seem paradoxical, but I believe we can all attest to this reality, that it is precisely when we admit our weakness before Truth that we are strong. What might be felt in the gut as a great failure, to stand before the crowd and say “I was wrong,” is actually the very act by which man becomes great. He has moved from a position of weakness — the defense of a lie — to a position of mighty strength, no matter how the world jeers. Admitting we were wrong is to put on the armor of Truth, having stood naked thinking we were clothed. Seen in this light, any feeling of failure is shown to be mere vanity and pride, for it is no weakness to obey the command of Truth — who, as we’ve established, has natural authority over us — any more than it is a weakness to leave an adulterer for your spouse.

Now my final point is this: our description of Truth treats Her as a Person. We “have Truth on our side.” To have Truth on our side does not simply indicate that we are right at a given instance, or even that we are always right. Having truth on our side implies having a relationship with Truth as one has a relationship with a person. She “fights for us”, and we for her. We speak of Truth acting independently of ourselves, of “winning,” “conquering,” and of “setting us free.” We speak of Truth as a person acted upon, as being ignored, slighted, or trusted. We speak of “seeking” and “pursuing” Truth, and in turn of Truth “finding” us. She is referred to as a “she” by the philosophers, and is forever finding herself represented as a beautiful woman in drama and fiction. Am I saying Truth is a person? Not quite. I’m simply pointing out that our natural response to Truth is anthropomorphize her — to treat her as such.

So to summarize: Truth is an intangible, superhuman Something that exerts authority over us, a Something towards which we are naturally predisposed to bow. It is Something that — when obtained — turns human weakness into strength, to the point that we may boast in our weakness, for by the very act of admitting it — our falsehood — we take on the authority and strength of this Something, so it is no longer we that live — or we that speak, if you will — but the Truth. It is Something that we fear to stand against, and feel safe to stand with. It is Something we consider good, beautiful and worthy of praise, and Something we naturally treat not as an inanimate abstract, but as a Person, a Person to have a relationship with.

So: What is Truth?

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  • Phillip J Jedlovec

    Well said. And a very good answer to the Pontius Pilates among us.

    • Montague

      Speaking of which, his question shows the difference between inquiry, rhetorical questions, and mere sophistry: a rhetorical question assumes an answer as probably, an honest question asks to find out the answer, but the sophist’s question is assumed to be UNANSWERABLE. If Pilate REALLY asked “what is truth” then he would have looked for the answer: he did not look, thus he is a sophist, a criminal of logic.

  • miles

    Thats some deep sauce… My favorite part was when you wrote “lolsauce”. While I detest relativism my friends and I are quite guilty of being quite relativistic when it come to the usage of the word ‘sauce’.

  • JAGreene86

    Human beings are not perfect, therefore, not Truth. One of the qualifications of True Power is the ability to form and execute Perfect Justice. To perfectly reward and punish according to people’s actions. For human beings, this is impossible, therefore, governments are only as good as the human laws create them to be and how well they’re executed. A government, even if it had perfect laws, if not properly executed, fails. If a government exectues it’s laws flawlessly, but does not have perfect laws, will fail. Every government is dependant on those who create the laws and those who execute the laws. We cannot create perfect laws, moreover, we cannot execute perfect laws. Perfect laws and perfect execution must come from something else…something greater than humanity.

    If there is right and wrong, and the philosophical evidence points to it, there lies True Power. This also means there is such a thing as Perfection, because Perfection, by the philosophical definition, is Ultimate Goodness that is Unlimited. This goes along the “idea” of what God is. He is Perfection: Ultimate Truth and Ultimate Justice, therefore, Ultimate Power. People’s reality may not be the Ultimate Reality. Truth is Ulitmate Reality.

    If people acknowledge that there is a God, and understand all of that intails, they cannot justify doing any evil without taking blame for it. Those people in power would submit their authority to God’s Ultimate Authority. If not, they know they can only blame themselves for their own demise. This is why people believe that there is no God. It is not because of philosophy, it is because they choose not to believe it. They know that if they do believe in God, and acknowledge it in their hearts, that they are now subject to Judgement.

    Judgement, however, keeps us in line and helps the world progress in the right direction. We make ourselves subject to Judgement so that we can better ourselves and the people around us.

    …for without Justice, Mercy is meaningless.

  • Austin Donttouchmy Legge

    truth is objective, absolute, and independent from the mind of the thinker.

  • Catherine

    “Why would our natural response to Relative Truth the feeling that not just I, but every man, should bow before its throne?”

    I’m having trouble making out this sentence. Is there a typo with the grammar?

    • Joe Cool

      He accidentally the world “be” out of the sentence

      • Sara

        He accidentally left the word “left” out of the sentence, and accidentally typed “world” instead of “word”. :)

        • MotherSetonsDaughter

          You a proofreader, Sara? Nice catch! I totally read Joe Cool’s post and it made perfect sense to me :-)

  • jimbutlr

    Well written and very thought provoking, thank you!

  • Jim

    Great insights, Marc. And let us not forget that in a sense Truth IS a person, the second person of the Trinity: “I am the way and the truth and the life”.

    • Agni Ashwin

      Actually, Truth is all Three Persons.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    Did I wander into the pagan section, or the Catholic?

    • Jacob Timothy Michael Hughes

      Out of curiosity, what about this post seems pagan?

    • MotherSetonsDaughter

      I think Marc is using a literary device similar to the author of the book of Esther. In it God is never mentioned, but He is implied in such a way as to be unavoidable and unmistakable. Nice job, Marc!

  • Jay E.

    He who says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not… speaks the truth. He who says of what is that it is not, and of what is not that it is… does not speak the truth. Simple answers to hard questions in only one syllable words…

  • Sara

    Interesting how few comments there are on this one…

    Abstract: Truth, partially defined, is knowledge that is difficult to obtain. I think this explains why hundreds of comments are not flooding in to discuss the topic of this post. Truth eludes us, or rather, we allow ourselves to elude Truth. If we stopped more often and considered what the Truth of the matter/situation/etc. might be, we might be faster to answer, and with a better definition.

    We’re too proud for a pause like that, though, so here we are, fumbling with words in our heads trying to be as correct and comprehensive as possible. Truth, then, is also in part the never-ending task of reaching a more functional, more rational, more accurate, and more appropriate definition that will afford us with meta-knowledge to make the experience of life less dysfunctional, irrational, false, and corrupt.

    This means that Truth is a tool, too. When we have the knowledge, which is difficult to obtain, of certain knowledge (knowledge of knowledge, following me?) that is worth working toward and worth having, then life is improved.

    How’s that non-answer for an answer? Did I get it right? Somewhat?

    Concrete: Truth is found with God. God is Truth itself. God is the only ‘thing’ capable of completely fulfilling the definition of Truth, and the only ‘person’ with whom a reasonable person works to have a relationship.

  • Mark

    The ultimate authority is truth. The ultimate truth is God. Falling away from truth, in any direction, means falling into falsehood. Falsehood is enslavement. The ultimate falsehood is atheism. Today’s secular atheists claim truth does not exist, that it is, at best, relative; that truth making men free is a dream. And then, after childishly calling names, they calmly turn around and tell us that their falsehood is a freer thought, a more virtuous morality, and a more liberating theology.

  • Maypo

    If you have never thought about it Marc you should look into the Dominican Order.

  • Memory Lane

    Pontius avoided the Truth when it was inconvenient to his relation with the Herrod of the time. He used a convention of washing his hands to show some sort of power over the Truth when he felt like it. In other words, what was morally relevant and pleasing to him was the real truth, and hence why he said: “What is truth?”; What is it to him.

  • Reluctant Liberal

    Truth is a person because we tend to anthropomorphize it? Wouldn’t that mean “public opinion” was a person too?

  • Lynn

    Nice article, except according to scripture, Truth is a person and it is Jesus Christ…other than that, great great article.

    • Sam Shackelford

      Calm please. We see also Wisdom spoken of in the OT as a woman, yet we know that Jesus is Wisdom incarnate as well.
      Marc said specifically he is coming at Truth from a philosophical angle. In this light, he does not in any way negate Jesus as the Truth. He simply comes from another perspective.

  • heloise

    John 14:6, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Funny how Pilate asked the question and walked away without Jesus needing to respond. Sometimes the answer is staring us in the face…

  • NC

    Hey, Marc! Love your blog and have been working my way through the archives all summer. I relate to so many of your posts and they are supremely helpful. If you get bored with no other topic to post about, would you consider doing a post on forgiving others? I’m having trouble with that in regards to a friend who didn’t act at all like a friend last year. She hasn’t apologized or anything (probably not realizing how much she hurt me and how shaken my trust in her is) and I’ve tried to forgive her, but I still feel resentment and I have such a hard time fighting the anger. I know I should forgive her and I try, but it is always just superficial and I end up angry at her again. How do I really truly forgive and forget?

    • MotherSetonsDaughter

      Yes, please. Living every day with someone who has hurt you deeply and destroyed your trust is way too hard for me to do in a Christlike manner. Marc, can you help? Thanks. Love your posts and your humor!

  • D

    “…new and exciting methods of not bending the knee…”
    Of course not, if it involves turning off my brain.
    “Truth is an intangible, superhuman Something…”
    You silly xtian. There is NO superhuman, NO super;natural.
    This is your one chance at existence. Make the most of it.
    Grow up.