Let me suggest to you that when the Bible speaks of truth, it is not primarily concerned with truths of fact, but with truth as faithfulness. It is not that the Bible does not contain facts, but those facts are in the service of expressing and encouraging faithfulness, which provides them with the meaning that they have; on their own, as mere facts, they are insignificant. That there was, roughly five millennia ago, a bush burning in the dessert but not being consumed may be a curious event considered on its own, but we affirm it not as a mere fact, but as an expression of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people. A first century, Palestinian Jew turning water into wine might, on its own, be something that would impress even David Blaine, but we affirm it not as a magic trick, but as an expression of Jesus’s gift to us of abundant life. Even the resurrection, startling if considered as a stand alone historical fact, is only really significant to us because we are permitted to be participants in this resurrection, in this expression of the victory of life over death. The Bible contains truths of fact, but the truth with which it is occupied, that it is concerned to express and teach, is the truth of faithfulness.
One of the key indications of this is that Jesus is perpetually turning our attention to what he refers to as the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, the Kingdom of God is presented by Jesus in contrast to the kingdoms of this world. Over against “what is,” over against the reality of war and oppression and poverty and illness and slavery, Jesus invites us into a vision of the way that the world “should be, but is not.” The world should be the Kingdom of God, but rather is dominated by what Paul calls “powers and principalities” that operate contrary to the will of God. Over against “what is the case,” Jesus focusses on “what is not the case,” and calls us to participate with him, not in acquiescing in the facts, but in imagining what the world could be, should be, and, we trust, one day will be. Indeed, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:28, tells us that God uses the things that are not, a literal translation of the Greek ta me onta, to confound the things that are.
Moreover, the truth of the Kingdom, what is not, is for Jesus and his followers more true than the truth of facts. The fact is that we live in a world that is at war; the truth is that we are called to peace. The fact is that the world is filled with inequality and oppression; the truth is love and forgiveness. The fact is that we are hopelessly divided against each other; the truth is that in the Kingdom there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, conservative nor liberal. In the Kingdom discourses of Jesus and his followers “what is not” is the judge of “what is”; the truth is not measured by “what is” the case, but by “what is not” the case. We pray with our whole selves, “thy Kingdom come,” as an expression of our faithfulness, not to “what is,” but to “what is not but could be, should be, and, we trust, will be” the case, that fine day when, indeed, the Kingdom comes.
Along these lines, allow me to call your attention to the famous passage from Hebrews 11:1, in which we read: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Here faith, or faithfulness, or what might be called “being true to … ,” is not oriented towards “what is,” but toward a future that “is not yet.” Hope is future oriented; I do not hope for what is, but for what might be. The reference here to that which is not seen does not refer to something that is real but just invisible to us; it is not seen because it is not yet; it is still in the future, still to come. We see “what is”; we envision “what is not,” what we cannot yet see. In Jesus’s references to the Kingdom of God we are pointed not to the way that things “are,” but to the way that things “should be.” This orientation toward the Kingdom, toward God’s faithfulness in his promise of the Kingdom, and our faithfulness in participating in its coming, is what the Bible means by truth.
Praise for Post-Truth?
“Jeffrey Dudiak has written a potent book that is a timely invitation to reconsider truth. He does so with eyes wide open to contemporary challenges. … Dudiak is pointing a way forward, not pining for a past. Our post-truth malaise is the outcome of diminished understanding of truth that settled for facts. He points to a richer and more radical understanding of truth as faithfulness. The result is a manifesto for the renewal of the university.”
—James K. A. Smith, author of You Are What You Love
“Dudiak delivers wisdom that startlingly overtakes us … and kindness, the depth of which in many respects is the very vehicle that carries it so compellingly. … Our author has tossed our world, drowning as we are in the deep end of the pool of late and postmodernity, a life vest that, should we dare to put it on, will not simply keep us from dying. It will teach us to live.”
—Curt Thompson, author of Anatomy of the Soul
“Jeffrey Dudiak has written a wonderful, concise treatise on how to approach truth in a post-truth age. … Writing with the depth of Dallas Willard and the clarity of C. S. Lewis, Dudiak offers both an analysis and a remedy that is sufficient in its overview and compelling in its response. I am delighted by the clarity and guidance it provides”
—Gayle D. Beebe, President, Westmont College
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Dudiak is Professor of Philosophy at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta, where he has taught since 1999. He is also an adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta, and is cross-appointed to The Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.