In my previous post I looked at the Biblical principles of safety. In this post we’re going to look at another principle which is very relevant to the current situation: truth. I want to outline a few Biblical principles for truth, and then if there’s space at the end talk a little about how we’re doing with the current situation.
Biblical principles of truth
God’s existence is the basis of all truth
I’ve just been reading the Francis Schaeffer Trilogy. In the first book, “The God who is there”, Schaeffer basically says that the whole concept of truth depends on God’s existence. If God doesn’t exist, anything goes: we can’t trust our senses, we can’t trust our intellects – eliminating God ultimately undermines any basis we have for rationality. On the other hand, if God does exist, that is the God of the Bible, then truth exists: he created the universe in this way and not that way. He gave us minds and he wants us to use them. The ultimate foundation of all truth in the universe is God.
As a side note – I wrote a post on Understand the Bible last week: Why you should read Schaeffer – True Spirituality. If you’ve never read his writings, they’re well worth reading.
The whole scientific method ultimately depends on God’s existence. This is why science flourished in a Western, Christian society – and many of the early scientists were Christians. Science requires a belief that there is a world out there and that we can discover something true about it. Only God, the Christian God, can provide the foundation of that belief. (If you’d like to know more about that, check out Part One of the session I posted last week about Genesis and Science).
The fundamental, take-away point here is that (to borrow from the X-Files) the truth is out there. It’s never pointless to try to find out the truth. The truth is not political, or determined by those who have the most power. It’s out there, and we can discover it. And, what’s more, it is the truth whether or not people believe it or not. My daughters like to listen to an artist called Colin Buchanan, and his song Truth is still true says truth is still true even if you don’t believe it. This is fundamental to science.
God is truthful
God is not just the fount of truth, he is also truthful. That means he is truthful in what he says. You can see this many places in the Bible. For example, Titus 1:2 talks about God “who does not lie”. One of the conditions for testing whether a prophet was truly from God or not was whether what they prophesied came true or not (Deuteronomy 18:22). The Psalms often associate God with truth, e.g. his laws are true (Psalm 119:142).
Jesus himself said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Jesus claimed to be the truth (John 14:6), and that anyone who followed him would be living in the truth which brings freedom.
So God is not just the foundation stone of truth, but he speaks truth to us. When we listen to God, we listen to the truth. In particular, this means that the Bible is true and trustworthy: when we listen to the Bible, we are listening to God’s words – words which are true.
Satan is the father of lies and enemy of truth
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”John 8:44
If God is the foundation of truth and always truthful, by contrast Satan is the Father of lies. It is, in fact, his “native language”. You can see that from the beginning – when he deceived Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3).
God is truth, anything less than the truth does not come from him but from the evil one. I think it’s important to make the point that there are forces of evil out there who are seeking to lie and suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 says we human beings “suppress the truth” – we don’t want to know the truth about God, so we suppress it. We exchange the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25).
Whenever truth is honoured in a society, God is honoured, because God is truth. Jesus said “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). Whenever truth is not honoured in a society, it is not God who is honoured but Satan.
Christians should be concerned with the truth
Because God is truthful, Christians should also be concerned with the truth. I like to read a Psalm every day, and recently I’ve been struck by how many of them speak of our truthfulness. For example, Psalm 52:3 says of wicked people: “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” By contrast, Psalm 15 says that God loves someone of integrity, who “speaks the truth from their heart”.
When God rebukes the people of Israel through Jeremiah, he says “Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.” (Jeremiah 9:5). The people routinely lying to each other was evidence of how depraved they had become. The people of God are to be different – Ephesians 4:15 says we should speak the truth in love to one another.
The ninth commandment forbids us from bearing false witness against our neighbour. This is how the Heidelberg Catechism interprets it:
I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbour’s honour and reputation.
If you’re interested in learning more, you might enjoy the Understand the Bible session on Commandment #9 here.
Those who fear the Lord, who know that what he says is truth, should be concerned about truth – not just the Bible, but all truth. All truth is God’s truth. There is no sacred / secular divide when it comes to truth – if something is true, then it is God’s truth. We should stand up for and defend the truth wherever it is necessary.
Truth is sometimes difficult
The final point I want to make is that truth is not always welcome. As Jesus said in John 8:45, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Because truth is godly, there will always be ungodly people who want to lie or distort the truth. The truth can be hard for us to hear.
This is why Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” The path of wisdom is recognising that sometimes telling the truth wounds us – yet it is good for us. This is why we should trust and appreciate friends who love us enough to tell us the truth. People who want to manipulate us will never tell us the truth. They will only ever want to tell us what we want to hear. The people who love us enough to tell the truth should be prized.
This doesn’t mean we should seek to be offensive in telling the truth! It’s possible to tell the truth in a nasty way. The film The Invention of Lying is interesting about that – just because something is true doesn’t mean you have to just come out with it! If the truth is going to be offensive, we might as well try to make sure that it’s the truth causing the offence, not the way that we say it.
So, how are we doing with covid?
One of the interesting things about the covid-19 situation is the way that truth has become politicised in the extreme. I wrote a little about this in my previous post about political truth. Let me expand on that a little.
Whenever I post up something on Facebook which is from a more ‘lockdown sceptical’ perspective (the whole fact that there are sides to begin with is a bad sign), it usually gets jumped on. The thing is, most of the time people don’t respond to the actual scientific or logical points being made. Instead, people often focus on the people. (In football speak, the play the man – not the ball).
For example, a few weeks ago in a discussion someone pointed me to this piece on the Byline Times. It largely focusses on the politics of people who question the science of lockdowns. There are very few facts or logical arguments. So, for example, Carl Heneghan and the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine come under fire because it receives money from a close Trump supporter. Karol Sikora, who has been outspoken about the lockdowns, comes under fire not because of science but because he has campaigned for conservative political issues.
Social media “fact-checkers” have got in on the act. For example, Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson’s piece (they are both from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine) has been labelled as “false information”. Even though I don’t find any false information in it! And scientists who question the lockdown have received some horrendous abuse online, for example Sunetra Gupta (one of the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration).
It is as if truth no longer matters – the only thing that matters is agreeing with the establishment.
Why the truth matters
A recent editorial in the BMJ (the British Medical Journal – a prestigious medical journal) said: “When good science is suppressed by the medical-political complex, people die”. This is why the truth matters, especially with covid. The stakes are too high – it is literally people’s lives. But not just people who are dying from covid, but all the other factors e.g. the mental health cost of lockdown as well as the people who have died (or will die) due to not receiving the treatment the need. I talked about this in my post about the risk of lockdown.
The stakes are high for any course of action we take. Which is why it is so important that we base our decisions on the truth. The truth IS out there when it comes to covid. Christians especially have a duty to expose and live by the truth, even when it is swimming against the tide in our society.
Proclaiming Christ the truth must mean that we are concerned with truth everywhere – not just ‘gospel’ truth or Biblical truth but truth in the world as well. And, if we seek the truth, perhaps people will listen:
“the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”John 18:37
Postscript: Truth issues around covid
I didn’t want to go into too much detail in my post about issues around the truth and covid. It’s easy to get bogged down. My problem is that there is so little truth in this whole situation. Let me give a few pointers, you could just go on and on about this. I suggest Toby Young’s website Lockdown Sceptics for a starting point.
Why is so much of the government’s response reliant on PCR tests? We know there are problems with the tests – for example, there is a false positive rate. There are also problems with tests being run by people with very little training. See, for example, the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme about covid testing. In other words, when a test comes back positive, if the person in question has no symptoms, how do we know it’s a “case”? Dr John Lee wrote about this back in October. Here’s a good video from Dr Clare Craig talking about the problem with testing:
How can we be confident that the number of covid deaths is accurate? A covid death is currently defined as someone dying within 28 days of a positive test. Regardless of whether the cause of death was actually covid or not. I have personally heard of two stories from people I know (clergy) who have done funerals recently: one died of a heart attack, one of a road traffic accident. Both of these were listed as covid deaths – even though covid had nothing to do with the cause of death. From what I hear on social media, this kind of thing is happening enough to get noticed. Why are we not actually looking at people who are actually ill? The ZOE app from Kings College London, for example, tracks people with actual symptoms rather than just test results. That tells a somewhat different story.
Why are the official statistics unclear? Just this morning I read an interesting thread about excess non-covid deaths. Why are these not being picked up on? And why do the government rarely ever put deaths in context, e.g. comparing the number of actual deaths against the number we usually expect at this time of year?
Do lockdowns have any positive effect at all? There are lots of scientific studies on lockdowns now, and they show that lockdowns make little (if any) difference to mortality, and they have huge harmful effects. Ivor Cummins has a summary on his website. (Check out the rest of his YouTube channel for lots of analysis of the data).
You could carry on and on. So much of what most people seem to believe about covid is scientifically disputable, or at least, more complicated than what we are led to believe.
A final plea…
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not trying to say the very existence of all these opinions makes them right. However, as I said, the stakes here are too high. Why are these things not being discussed or addressed by the government? Why does the establishment narrative not get questioned with the rigor it deserves? As the BMJ said, when truth is suppressed, when it becomes political, then people die. I want to seek the truth wherever it lies, not whatever is politically convenient.