I’ve been thinking more about John 14 lately, and I am still wrestling with Jesus’ claim to be the “truth.” In the past, I’ve written about how if are not careful we will mistake our assumed knowledge of truth for Jesus. An other way of saying this is that because we think we know what truth is we know who Jesus is. But that is the wrong way around, because we have an idea about truth that is not (for most of us) based on who Jesus is. Instead, we need to pursue Jesus and be open to what is true because of him, and not attempt to figure out who he is based on what we think is true.
And I’m not the only one who thinks like this.
Have you ever heard of the distinction between Big T- Truth and little t- truth? Here is a helpful (if somewhat academic) article about the distinctions between the two. To my point, we tend to think about truth as the easily verified, concrete, empirical reality of matter and logic. Mathematics and Newtonian physics are easy examples of truth. On the other hand, Truth tends to be representative of more qualitative matters; morality, ethics, and of course, beliefs. Many Christians have found these designations helpful, as the designations allow them to play by different rules when discussing morality versus mathematics.
But what we don’t realize is that these distinctions are the product of a set of assumptions about the nature of the world (philosophers call this “ontology”).
We assume that certain aspects of the human experience have different evaluative rules. But where this falls apart is when we consider the consequences our subjective Truths have for the objectivly true world. And to make this even more complicated, the process works in reverse; Big T-Truths are informed and formed by little t-truths as we experience them. I suspect that the distinctions exist only in our minds and imaginations. Of course, based on my own arguments about the construction of reality/ies, that which exists in our minds eventually exists in actuality. However, and to the point, how do we evaluate those realities which are the product of such imagination without succumbing to the feedback loop of T/t-truths informing each other and continuing to deceptively exist symbiotically?
This is the basis of my argument: there need be no such T/t distinction.
The entire framework is wrong. Especially if we take Jesus’ claim in John14 seriously. We cannot be foolish enough to project onto Jesus our own imaginative attempt at avoiding the struggle of reconciling our existence with what we want Jesus to be saying.
I have a different proposition.
This is why I have posted previously my hypothesis that it is helpful to think of truth as the positive relationship between an entity and reality, and of a lie as the negative relationship between an entity and reality. Sometimes the entity is a reality, or at least the perception of reality. Sometimes the entity is a person or idea. This semantic turn works to reconcile T/t distinction, and allows reality to be evaluated on the merits ascribed for it in the bible. Yet it also, and simultaneously, allows for us to understand a multivalent meaning in Jesus claim to be the truth; in Jesus resides the fullness of God and humanity. In him we have a picture of perfect relationship to God- he is the epitome of truth.
For us to participate in Jesus’ claim to be the truth we must get rid of our notion of T/t.
T/t is a lie because it creates a negative reality based on what we read in the bible. We cannot align ourselves with John 14 and still allow for a “truth” that exist’s beyond the scope of that claim, yet we cannot blame Jesus for evil, and so reality has to exist that is not “true” according to the language of John 14. We therefore, for our own sakes, need change the way we think about truth so as to live more faithfully into the reality of Jesus’ restoring the world to Godself.
There is of course an unresolved issue in this.
Can we allow for a reality that is not God? We have to, so the semantic turn requires qualification. Perhaps we can say that there are lying realities as well as truthful realities. I am inclined to this line of thinking because I doubt the ability of myself or any other human to be able to fully understand reality. It then becomes possible for us to allow for a congruent reality to exist beyond the scope of our perception of it.
I wish to clarify a possible point of confusion here: I am not suggesting a pantheism wherein God is every existing thing. I do think that God has left divine fingerprints on everything he has created, but I distinguish the creator from the creation.