This week a hurricane came through the eastern part of North Carolina where my family was staying. As the storm raged around us, the house we were in lost power. Though the damage in our area was minimal, the power outage was deeply disturbing to my 6-year-old son. He didn’t understand that the power could soon come back on. Nor did he understand why some things continued to work (like our cars and cell phones), while other things did not (like our lights and plumbing). The wild guesses he took as he attempted to understand the situation were almost comical, but they reminded me a lot about our current situation in this time of plague.
Related to this, I’ve been thinking about the idea of truth a lot over the past several weeks. For different reasons, the pandemic has fueled the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation especially through social media. Particularly alarming to me was a recent article in The Atlantic about the QAnon conspiracy gaining significant traction among many evangelicals (about which, thankfully, Joe Carter has written a very helpful explainer for The Gospel Coalition).
Truth and plague
In a sense, it is understandable that the pandemic exacerbated this problem. Pandemics, by their nature, are frightening things. They not only threaten our well-being and the well-being of those we love, but they also upend our normal rhythms of life. None of us have been through an epidemic on this scale before. And unlike major events that have occurred in recent decades, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected each of us personally, from coast to coast. No one knows when it will end. And we can only guess about its long-term impact.
What we do know, however, is that the fear and uncertainty created by this moment has generated a lot of anxiety and confusion. And it doesn’t help at all that our collective response to the pandemic has become so politicized, as though the virus were somehow partisan or ideological. But partly because of the politicization, many people are reluctant to embrace information coming through government channels or major media outlets. This has opened up a considerable trust gap. And with the seeming absence of reliable information, it is no wonder that some have turned toward conspiracy theories or embraced false information that aligns with their thinking or suspicions.
Truth is a person
The subject of truth is something Christians should be deeply concerned about. If you open your Bible and turn to the New Testament, the first four books you encounter are the Gospels. They capture something of a theological biography of the life of Jesus. And meeting Jesus of Nazareth in those pages holds the kinds of discoveries that can change your life forever. There is more to absorb in the Bible’s witness of Christ than we could hope to take in across the course of multiple lifetimes.
But one of the most surprising things we learn about Jesus is that in addition to being the Son of God and promised Messiah who took on flesh to redeem humanity and turn back the curse of sin, he is also truth itself. In a famous passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This means that Jesus not only tells us what is true, but he is truth. Professor John Lennox of Oxford explained this idea with these words:
When it comes to truth, my Christian worldview raises perhaps the most startling claim of all that Jesus made. He said, “I am the truth.” He didn’t just say “I speak true things.” Although I believe that was true. He said, “I am the truth.” So ultimately ladies and gentlemen, for me there is of course truth beyond science because ultimately truth is a person who created the world in which science is done.
When we think we’ve lost sight of what is true, the first thing we must do is look to Jesus.
As Lennox suggests, all other truth is predicated upon Jesus. He is the truth because he makes visible what is ultimate and invisible. He is the fullest revelation of the living God who created, ordered, and rules the world. And in his words, his teaching, his life, his miracles, Jesus reveals to us what God is like and is the living embodiment of truth . This means that when we think we’ve lost sight of what is true, the first thing we must do is look to Jesus.
Looking for Truth
I know that in the confusing and difficult days we are living in there are rarely easy answers. But I am likewise convinced that too often Christians find themselves looking in a thousand different places for direction before they turn their eyes toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean that reading your Bible will reveal some kind of hidden code or answer key for the serious questions surrounding the pandemic or other important issues. But it does mean that if we look to Jesus, we will be the kind of people who see truth first and foremost in our Savior instead of in conspiracy theories floating around on social media.
In another famous passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is speaking to Pilate hours ahead of his crucifixion and says, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). A.W. Tozer said that truth “is not hard to find” because the truth is “seeking us.” And he was exactly right.
Jesus is the truth. He is the only source of knowledge that is absolutely reliable. And he is not only available, but he is seeking us out (Luke 19:10). Christians should remember that as we make our way through these uncertain times. Just like my 6-year-old, we don’t have all of the answers. But Jesus does. And we may not know when this will end or how long it may last, but we can look to Jesus and listen for his voice.