Pilate – Asking The Question for the 21st Century


Pilate“What is truth?” is the question that Pilate asked Jesus at the conclusion of his interview. Was this question asked in an effort to push aside what must have been a very uncomfortable meeting? Or, was this a real question, coming from one who had seen and been wounded by the collision of world views and cultures?

In our society, it feels awkward to be asking this question. In many circles it is common knowledge that truth is what can be observed and measured. If we can’t see it or measure it, then it doesn’t exist. Using this definition, God or anything supernatural cannot exist.

Yet, there are so many aspects of our existence that don’t neatly fit into this “reality” box. Where does the sense of right and wrong come from? Is is just a biochemical thingy happening in our brains so that we are conditioned to respond positively or negatively? Is our biochemistry like the OS that controls the hardware? Or, is there something else there that the biochemistry cannot explain?

I remember a co-worker once had a bumper sticker that said, “If you don’t pray in my school, I won’t think in your Church.” She thought this was hilarious and poignant. It is only funny if you believe the underlying assumption that to believe in anything other than what can be observed and measured, is fantasy and illogical.

Where has this assumption gotten us? I am not a fan of labels because often the label means different things to different people, but the label that comes to mind is postmodernism. I am not trained in philosophy, but I take postmodernism to mean a way of thinking that has rejected the notion that man can fix anything (Modernism). Modernism was  a rejection of the idea that God can fix anything. Therefore we now believe that nobody can fix anything or perhaps it is not even broken.

Where in the past, philosophers struggled with questions of virtue and truth, it seems to me that Postmodernism denies that there are any virtues (with the one exception of tolerance of anything but Christianity), and questions whether there is any truth.

Call me an optimist, but I see good news in all this. For all the people decrying organized religion and boldly proclaiming that there are no moral absolutes, I have yet to meet one who lived that way. In every argument beginning from the sandbox, one or both of the combatants are likely to say “that’s not fair.” There is an inherent sense of fairness, or of right and wrong.

Where does this come from if not from God? I’m sure that the atheists will come up with some explanation, they would have to because this moral sensibility is observed in all humanity. Do you think that those who claim there are no moral absolutes would refrain from calling the police after their house has been robbed? Taken to its logical conclusion, a belief in no absolutes would lead to totalitarianism or anarchy.

As the various sources of truth are debunked and debated, there stands Jesus. In John 14:6, he claimed to be “the truth.” You can believe the claim or disbelieve the claim but to deny that he made it isn’t an option. You have to make a choice.