Commentary on "The Fruit of the Spirit is Truth"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, March 13, 2010
As we begin the lesson for this week, a serious digression must be taken before we actually address other issues presented during the week.
On the first day of this week, the author explains that the Greek word transliterated aletheia (truth) has both a subjective and objective element, and then states that “When both of these are real in our lives, we will manifest truth as a fruit of the Spirit.” He then goes on to explain that once the believer knows the objective truth “as it is found in Jesus” that then we can have “our lives changed by that truth.”
Since this quarter’s lessons are based on the list of the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians, it must first be pointed out that “truth” is never mentioned as a “fruit of the Spirit.” Let’s take a look at Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Secondly, we must take a look at the proposition that there are both objective and subjective elements of truth. To do this, we must first define the words “truth,” “objective” and “subjective.” Below are definitions of these words. These definitions are from the on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary found at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/. First, let’s define “truth.”
Truth: 2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c : the body of true statements and propositions 3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality b chiefly British : true 2 c : fidelity to an original or to a standard
The two primary points from this definition that are important are that truth is the “property of being in accord with fact or reality” and that truth has “fidelity to an original or to a standard.” The “original” or “standard” that this definition refers to, for the Christian, must the fidelity to the word of God, the Bible. To complete this definition of “truth” we must see what God has said. Jesus, in John 14:6 said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Later, in his prayer for us, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). And through the Apostle Paul the Lord tells us to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21.)
Here we come to the final definition of truth for the Christian. Jesus Christ is Truth. His word, the Bible, is truth. All reality must be measured against those standards, the embodied and the written Word of God. And because of the Christian commandment found in 1 Thessalonians, all claims to truth must also be tested against those standards as well. The Old Testament test, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Is. 8:20) is no longer the standard since Christ came. He is the standard, and the written word of God is only rightly understood through Jesus Christ.
Let’s now take a look at the definitions for objective and subjective.
Objective: 1 a : relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy b : of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind. 3 a : expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.
Here we see that something objective in nature is not influenced by individual thought and is independent of the mind. In our case, “truth” is something that has a reality that is not influenced by the observers of that truth. Now let’s compare this with the definition of “subjective.”
Subjective: 3 a : characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind : phenomenal — compare objective 1b b : relating to or being experience or knowledge as conditioned by personal mental characteristics or states 4 a (1) : peculiar to a particular individual : personal (2) : modified or affected by personal views, experience, or background b : arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs and not directly caused by external stimuli c : arising out of or identified by means of one's perception of one's own states and processes 5 : lacking in reality or substance : illusory
Here we can see that something that becomes subjective in nature takes on characteristics that become particular to an individual, that are not caused by external stimuli. If we were to attach a subjective element to truth, we find that the truth then becomes relative. Once truth becomes relative, it has lost that aspect of objectivity that must be inherent for truth to be truth in the Christian sense of the word.
It is this so-called subjective element of truth that has been the cause for many dangerous philosophies in the world’s history. We can look at many of the slaughters that have taken place in the name of a “pure” race. Not only from WWII Germany, but even in today’s world we see people being subjected to the oppression of leaders who demarcate the people in their countries on racial/ethnic lines, and then proceed to purge the population, or specific areas, of these “unclean” groups. Today’s popular philosophy that whatever may be true for you may not be true for me comes from the same basis: a subjective element of truth.
Now, just one note about the idea of “manifest[ing] truth as a fruit of the Spirit” (p. 137, Teacher’s Quarterly). The idea of manifesting truth is a common new-age idea that has been around for quite a long time. Found in several of the Gnostic religious traditions, it has been popularized today with such books as The Secret. The Secret teaches one how to visualize and “manifest” desires into reality.
Recall from the definition of truth provided above from Merriam-Webster, the phrase, “the property … of being in accord with fact or reality.” Truth is something that is already a fact; it is not something that we manifest. If truth is something we can manifest, it becomes subjective and, therefore, relative.
There is a critical passage of scripture regarding the manifesting of truth in our world. Hebrews 1:1-2 states:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
It is God who manifests truth in this world, not man. In the past God has used prophets, however in “these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” This manifestation of truth in our world was an act of God, by God for his good purposes.
Back to the Lesson
The lesson author ends the first day’s lesson with the example of Judas, and then says, “May we all take heed.” May we all take heed, indeed, that we never take ultimate, objective truth and attempt to make that truth subjective or relative. If we keep truth as an objective, factual reality in this world, we can more effectively present the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus to those desperately in need, including those whose lives have been destroyed by the subjective “truths” offered by the philosophies of this world.
GO TO DAY 2
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