June 10, 2005, 9:54 a.m.

Veritatis Splendor

"What is truth? (John 18.38)"; as asked 2000 years ago by Pilate to Jesus, this question is the most thought-provoking. However the gospel passage did not record any philosophical answer from our Lord. It seems that it's a rhetorical question. Pilate didn't realize the person in front of him was Truth personalized, truth itself. Christ said in John 14.6 that he's "the way, and the truth, and the life"; no one goes to the Father, but by him. Furthermore, our Lord uttered, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you'll know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8.31-32)." This passage (truth will make you free) is always quoted by various people with different agenda, whether legitimate of otherwise, claiming its secondary meaning, which points to truth in general. But the context is that truth here points to Jesus Christ. So if you rephrase it, the verse may be rendered: "Jesus Christ will make you free." We cannot precisely say "God is true", or "God is truthful"; more appropriately, "God is truth."

The foregoing refers to the first connotation of truth; what we call absolute truth, referring to the truths on God, what we believe in; and truths on science or philosophy, what we determined in these disciplines. The second connotation of truth (what follows) refers to those "truths" that are obvious in day to day living. "I ate a pizza this morning" is such example of this truth, or "I slept at 12 last night", obvious truths (assuming I actually ate pizza and slept at that particular time). This second connotation becomes important in situations where the law is broken, or perhaps when a witness is called in any court of law or any investigative body.

In hotly contested court battles (or similar venues), both sides claim that they have the truth on their side. Here it becomes silly very fast; truth becomes abused. People swear by anything just to show they are on the right side. But what does scripture say here? In any kind of speech, the gospel in Matthew 5.37 mentioned that all we have to do is simply say Yes or No, and anything more than this comes from evil. Simply put, just tell the truth, directly, with a pure heart, without any motives underneath.

Jesus actually gave some pointers about people who are called to be witnesses. John 3.11 says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen..." Say only what you are sure of, what you have seen or heard, not what you think or imagine happened. Words are so powerful that they can make or break a person's reputation. No wonder God made lying a very grievous sin that making false witness made it to the ten commandments.

The point of this short article? Tell the truth always, saying yes when we mean yes, and no when we mean no. One unfortunate corollary to this is that we are not sure whether people are lying or not. The threat of getting God's wrath if we lie is not effective.

Let's bring back the veritatis splendor (splendor of truth)!