Speaking and Using the Truth
One of the greatest weapons we have at our disposal is often not even used. We allow lies and falsehoods to go unchecked, which in turn enslave people, destroy nations, and dehumanise societies. Indeed, the history of the twentieth century is largely one of lies allowed to go unchecked and out of control. Millions have perished as a result.
But consider how the use of truth can turn things around. Gulag prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn knew full well the lies of godless communism. For years he suffered greatly at the hands of his evil oppressors. Yet he managed to pen the magisterial Gulag Archipelago (1973-1978).
That three-volume set did as much as anything to break the spell and dispel the lies. When the West finally started to learn about what Soviet communism was really like, with the bloodshed, torture, and murder of millions, the tide began to turn.
Thus speaking truth was a major part of the defeat of communism. Sure, a strong West, especially aided by Reagan and Thatcher, and the placement of cruise missiles in Europe, also helped to bring down the godless empire. But without the world learning about the true nature of this barbaric tyranny, the Cold War may well have lasted even longer.
In 1970 Solzhenitsyn gave his Nobel Prize Lecture in Literature. In it he said this: “We shall be told: what can literature possibly do against the ruthless onslaught of open violence? But let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Between them lies the most intimate, the deepest of natural bonds. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his METHOD must inexorably choose falsehood as his PRINCIPLE. At its birth violence acts openly and even with pride. But no sooner does it become strong, firmly established, than it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and it cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. It does not always, not necessarily, openly throttle the throat, more often it demands from its subjects only an oath of allegiance to falsehood, only complicity in falsehood.
“And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions! Let THAT enter the world, let it even reign in the world – but not with my help. But writers and artists can achieve more: they can CONQUER FALSEHOOD! In the struggle with falsehood art always did win and it always does win! Openly, irrefutably for everyone! Falsehood can hold out against much in this world, but not against art. And no sooner will falsehood be dispersed than the nakedness of violence will be revealed in all its ugliness – and violence, decrepit, will fall. That is why, my friends, I believe that we are able to help the world in its white-hot hour. Not by making the excuse of possessing no weapons, and not by giving ourselves over to a frivolous life – but by going to war!”
Yes Solzhenitsyn got it right. The use of truth as a weapon can do great things. It can change the course of history. And Christians of all people should know this. The importance of truth is throughout Scripture attested to. Jesus put it this way: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
Jesus made it clear that truth is both propositional as well as personal. In John 18:37 he speaks to the former: “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And the latter is stressed in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
To know truth we need to know Jesus. But truth is also about propositions, facts, and evidence. Yet all this has been trodden underfoot in our secular postmodern culture. But the really lamentable thing is that far too many Christians live in exactly the same way.
They have naively bought into the baloney that truth is relative, that logic is unimportant, and that facts and evidence are divisive and intolerant. Simply consider any hot potato topic going around today. Many believers will simply not engage on the truth level, but on the emotion level.
They are impatient with evidence and logic, and will so often offer kneejerk reactions and emotive responses. In other words, they are not loving God with their minds, and they are not embracing truth. They live much like worldlings, with no belief in absolute truth and the importance of a faith grounded in evidence.
Thus anything goes. Indeed, just today I came across a short news item which nicely illustrates what I am saying here. It states:
“Chaplain John Figdor has a divinity degree from Harvard. He counsels those in need and visits the sick. And he works with Stanford students under the Office of Religious Life. So Figdor is the last guy you’d tag with the ‘A’ word. But, yes. The chaplain is an atheist. ‘People are shocked when I tell them,’ Figdor said. ‘But atheist, agnostic and humanist students suffer the same problems as religious students – deaths or illnesses in the family, questions about the meaning of life, etc. – and would like a sympathetic nontheist to talk to.’ Figdor, 28, is one of a growing number of faith-free chaplains at universities, in the military and in the community who believe that nonbelievers can benefit from just about everything religion offers except God.”
Wow – talk about a bad case of truth decay. Um no, sorry John. Atheism may be able to offer much the same as religion, but not what Christianity offers. For a starter, Christianity is based on truth. And it is based on a God who is there who is a perfect moral being, who created us in his image in a moral world.
Only by being in sync with our creator can we be right with ourselves, with each other, with our world, and of course right with God. Atheism does none of that and of course cannot do that. But in a culture where truth is a scarce commodity, people can actually get away with this utter foolishness.
Christians are told in Ephesians 6:14 to “stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist”. Yet sadly many believers no longer even believe in truth, let alone actually use it. How then are we supposed to pull down strongholds and rescue those trapped in falsehoods and deceit?
It is the truth of God which will change the world, and soften the hardened hearts of men and women. Yet so very few believers today will use this weapon. Solzhenitsyn knew better. I above quoted the end of his Nobel lecture. But the final lines I did not present. I do so now:
“Proverbs about truth are well-loved in Russian. They give steady and sometimes striking expression to the not inconsiderable harsh national experience: ONE WORD OF TRUTH SHALL OUTWEIGH THE WHOLE WORLD.”
3 Replies to “Speaking and Using the Truth”
Thanks Bill. Much appreciated.
Thanks for your article “Speaking and Using the Truth”. This morning I was reading Acts 14:8-20: how Paul and Barnabas were wrongly exalted by the Iconium locals, for being gods in the form of men, after they healed a man through Jesus’s power. When Paul and Barnabas outrightly denied this lie, exposing the truth about themselves being mere men and God being our Creator, who requires that we turn from idolatry, the reaction was violence, as they viciously stoned Paul, trying to kill him. I am greatly encouraged through your article to speak the truth more, especially with every day cliches.
Thanks Terry and Stephanie
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch