Clergy Blogs

Periodic contributions from Revd. Giles King-Smith, Vicar of the three coastal parishes. We also continue to show contributions from the late Associate Minister Revd. Linda Walters
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3 minutes reading time (528 words)

What is truth? (This is my truth tell me yours)

I've been thinking quite a bit about truth - mainly because I found myself talking about it to a group of Year 11 students at Ilfracombe Academy. Obviously, truthfulness, or the lack of it, has been an inescapable theme of the news for a while now. Whatever transpires in the next few weeks or months, trust in the honesty of those who represent us has been undermined/tarnished/destroyed (choose your own verb here). Can we any longer expect our leaders, and other public figures, to be truthful? 

But I was thinking more about truth itself, and how we define it. Famously, when interrogating Jesus, and hearing him say that he had come to bear witness to the truth, Pontius Pilate asked (with a shrug, we imagine), "What is truth?" - so becoming the godfather of the post-modern view that nothing is absolutely true, everything is relative. And yet, clearly some things are demonstrably true and some are demonstrably false: in my study I have a ruler that says "On the Straight and Narrow" (no idea why), but I do not have a shock of jet-black hair. You can come and check both if you want.

But, beyond the checklist of things that are verifiably true or false, there is a great big grey area where truth, for each of us, depends on how we see things. If you were to record a church service, some things could be classified as objectively true: the length of the sermon and the exact words used, the hymns we sang, the number of people in attendance, and so on. But a lot of other stuff wouldn't show up on the recording: the prayers said silently, the train of thought of each person, the emotions aroused by the service. And all of these would also be true - and often more true, more real to us, than the bare facts of what could be seen and heard on the recording.

And the truth of my experience of that service will not be the same as yours. There's an album by Manic Street Preachers with the brilliant title, "This is my truth tell me yours" (notice, no comma, all said in one breath). On one level, this sounds like an acceptance that there is no one truth - enter manic street preachers, furiously insisting that Jesus is the truth. But, reading it more carefully, this little phrase acknowledges that we all see things differently, and encourages us both to speak our truth boldly, and to respectfully hear others as they speak their truth.

Of course, there are lies to be resisted, especially where they lead to injustice. In this sense, we know that truth is what remains when people stop lying, and we recognise it and need to insist on it. But, in our God-given freedom, we are also able to bear witness to the truth as we perceive it, and to allow others to do the same. Provided we are not afraid of it, this multi-faceted truth is cause for celebration; and as we explore it, we may find a closeness to one another that transcends our different versions of the truth.

 

 

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