TRUTH #1: THE MOST CRUCIAL QUESTION IN EVERY TOPIC IS ALWAYS, WHAT IS THE TRUTH?

FINDING TRUTH #1: THE MOST CRUCIAL QUESTION IN EVERY TOPIC IS ALWAYS, WHAT IS THE TRUTH?

Jesus said,

“Truth will set you free.” John 8:32.

Whether you believe in Jesus or not, many wise thinkers from many cultures and all levels of society have said that truth is crucial for freedom and almost everything else good in life. If you are not a Christian, you don’t have to think of the references in this article as inspired. Just consider that they might have some wisdom in them, especially when corroborated by other sources, since in the Bible, academia and news, when several independent sources say the same thing, that’s very good evidence it is true. Many wise thinkers from many cultures and all levels of society have agreed that truth is extremely important. In ancient times, Plato said:

“Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both to Gods and men; and he who would be blessed and happy, should be from the first a partaker of the truth,..he is not to be trusted who loves voluntary falsehood, and he who loves involuntary falsehood is a fool….the excessive love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offences.” Laws by Plato, Book V  classics.mit.edu/Plato/laws.5.v.html

On the other side of the world, Confucius said:

“The object of the superior man is truth.” Confucius (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.) and
“The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty come upon him.” Confucius  (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)


In modern times, many of our best minds have also said that truth is crucial. Yale professor Sean Illing said,

“Truth is required to act freely… So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.”[1]

A famous agnostic scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson says,

“The less connected you are to what is objectively true, the less likely [it is that] you will be able to make decisions that will benefit your life, the life of your family and even civilization itself.”[2]


Julian Assange, a journalist who started wikileaks, a site where government whistleblowers can send information about corruption and crimes of governments and corporations, in order to try to reduce/stop them, says:

“You have to start with truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision making that is based on lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.” Julian Assange

You may not be Christian, but most can agree with Christian evangelist Ravi Zaccharias, a former Hindu and atheist, who says,

“The single most important question any human being can ask is the question, ‘What is truth?’. Truth is the most valuable thing in the world.”[3]

Many of the wisest and people who have made some of the most important contributions in history say that truth is the most importance knowledge on earth. Why is knowing truth so important specifically? Here are a few examples to illustrate why many wise people have said that truth is the most valuable thing to know in life.


1) HEALTH/ENVIRONMENT: Emperor Qin Shi Huang dreamed of living for ever (as well as ultimate power to rule the universe). So he dispatched a minister overseas to find the elixir of eternal life, but the minister never returned. 

He had heard of ancient kings and sages living 10,000 years or more by ingesting cinnabar (mercury sulfide). So because his doctors thought this was the true way to everlasting life…or at least a far longer one, he started drinking wine sweetened with honey and laced with mercury. But the consequence of this was that he not only did not achieve eternal life or a long life, he died decades younger than he could otherwise have lived.[4]

Why did he die so early? He had had very wrong beliefs about reality. His views were not based on and did not align with truth, he made very wrong decisions and it cost him his life. This illustrates something crucial. Truth matters, a lot. Making mistakes with or ignoring truth can be lethal at all levels of society.


But lest you think this was just some problem in Asia, when Lewis and Clark were traveling around America making their map, one of the most renowned doctors in America was Benjamin Rush (he had also been a US surgeon general for the government). He gave them the best medical instructions and pills he knew about for illnesses they would encounter on their journey. What medical advice did this brilliant doctor give?

“Chief among these instructions [of Dr. Benjamin Rush] was the technique of bloodletting, which…was the favorite medical treatment for numerous ailments. Lewis also purchased a large supply of Rush’s Pills, which consisted of a powerful combination of mercury, chlorine, calomel, and jalap[5] [up to 50% of these pills was mercury]

Medicine has progressed much since then. Scientists say it adds about 7 years to people’s lives. But still, more people die from medications and prescriptions from doctors in America than die from cocaine and other drugs every year. Johns Hopkins patient safety experts studied an 8 year period and found that medical errors are the third leading cause of death:

“Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S… translates to 9.5 percent of all deaths each year in the U.S.” [6]


If a virus threatens a nation, should its leader and medical establishment inform the public and shut down businesses and schools to keep people safe, let people continue living as usual, tell people there is no serious problem to avoid panicking or what? Should they follow principles from biblical science on combatting sicknesses, materialistic science, Koranic science or a combination?


Then there’s the environment. Should we let businesses chase profit without any concern for keeping the environment clean or place restrictions on them? At present, science says that pollution kills ~13 million people per year, the 3rd biggest killer on earth (the top killer is bad health habits which kill ~41 million people per year). And what about recycling, our diet and many other individual choices and their effects on the environment?

Making choices based on truth vs falsehoods in the health and environment areas literally mean life and death for tens of millions of people every year.


2) SAFETY IN DANGER: When a hurricane, tornado, or pandemic, threatens us, should we stay home, run to a shelter or flee? If a criminal threatens our lives or tries to abuse us, what is the best way to react? Knowing the truth in these situations can mean the difference between life and death. Many have died due to wrong decisions at these times.


3) EDUCATION: Is education supposed to be about getting skills for the best career, learning to distinguish between truth and deceptions clearly, learning about God and eternal life or claims of materialism, memorizing dry facts or learning by doing, learning subjects in isolation or integrating cross-curricular subjects, learning how to establish a good family, learning about capitalism and/or communism and how money works, learning to control and manipulate people, materialist ideas, supernatural ideas or what combination of these?  Do you agree or disagree with these thinkers? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

To save man from the morass of propaganda…is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically…We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda…A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically.”[7]


Catherine Liu, a professor at the University of California, speaks fairly bluntly about public education.

“The very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.”
www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/anti-intellectualism-and-the-dumbing-down-america


4) ECONOMICS: Will people live better if governments protect or ignore land rights, if they charge high or low taxes, if they give much money to the rich for no work done or to the poor (see 1 Kings 4:25, Ez. 47:21-3, Neh. 5, Prov. 22:16)? Is being wealthy the source of most happiness in life and marriage as some have believed, or is spending time making family relationships strong a better way to happiness AND financial security? Are you really free if you are in debt? If you have more money than you need, should you donate it to people who are poor, to religious aid organizations, to the government, to secular aid organizations, to education or what proportion of these?

Greed and economic injustice are factors in at least 18 million deaths every year. So truth matters and means the difference between life and death for millions in this topic as well.


5) JUSTICE: Are crime, racism, rape, abuse and slavery widespread problems that we should focus many resources on stopping or just minor incidentals that don’t do much harm?

How should courts decide custody rights when parents are in conflict? Should one parent who gives testimony and evidence of abuse and child endangerment by another parent be judged as just trying to alienate the other parent from the child and lose custody cases as has happened in some cases (https://stopabusecampaign.org/2019/12/24/what-judges-dont-know-hurts-children/)?

When riots happen, should we blame the rioters or blame the cruelties, crimes, and sometimes murders that motivated the riots or both? Was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. right when he said,

“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. [America] has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met…large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity…Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” https://time.com/3838515/baltimore-riots-language-unheard-quote/

When something is broken or destroyed or work is done badly, or someone is hurt or a crime is done, who should be blamed, whether it’s children or at work or school or in churches or in governments or court? When my brother managed a house, he found some damage in it. Should he blame the renter or the painting crew?  Blaming the wrong person or factor will be unfair, can damage relationships and can also enable many more problems or injustices in the future.

So getting the truth right is crucial for integrity and justice and thriving communities where people believe that life is basically fair, and thus they have a reason to work diligently.

6) WAR AND PEACE: Those who have started or promoted most wars have said that they were engaging in them for freedom, or at times to make their country great. But were those wars always fought for freedom, or was greed and desires for more power the real factors or bigger factors? Is a person or country really great when they can control others, or is being peaceful and pacifist a better way to greatness? And what is the best way to achieve peace long term? Is violence the best way, or pacifism, or some combination of those?

Truth matters a lot and involves life and death for hundreds of thousands of people and stability or damage to many more lives in this topic.

7) LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONAL TRUTH: What is the best way to have a happy marriage and raise successful, stable children that contribute to a thriving society? Are there emotional truths? Can intuition help us find truth? Truth matters enormously here as in all other fields.

Gary Chapman has written extensively about the discovery of ~5 major love languages (and many dialects within those languages). Most people have 2-3 love languages and don’t feel loved unless we speak in their specific language. So to have a happy marriage, we need to discover the truth about what love language makes them feel loved and emotionally satisfied.

What about intuition? Can emotions/intuition help us find certain truths? Do they involve logic at all? Harvard reports:

“In recent years, psychologists and behavioral economists have shown that our emotional decisions are neither irrational nor irresponsible. In fact, we now understand that our unconscious decisions follow a logic of their own. They are based on a deeply empirical mental processing system that is capable of effortlessly processing millions of bits of data without getting overwhelmed. Our conscious mind, on the other hand, has a strict bottleneck, because it can only process three or four new pieces of information at a time due to the limitations of our working memory.”

https://hbr.org/2015/01/when-to-sell-with-facts-and-figures-and-when-to-appeal-to-emotions

Something that people don’t always recognize as truth is our emotions. But they can be extremely important aspects of truth. Just ask a child or a spouse who has been abused.

Another emotional truth is that narcissism is a very severe kind of emotional abuse that does a lot of damage. Some psychologists say it is the most damaging form of abuse, because narcissists have no genuine concern for those they abuse. They only seek to use them as tools. This is one reason why the Bible and wise people throughout history have said controlling our emotions is really important. Emotions can be positive and inspire much good. But they can also be mistaken and do much harm. We have to test each one to see if it does good (1 Thess. 5:21).


8) ETERNAL LIFE: Is eternal life something we can really experience and will it really be a life of ultimate happiness, thrills and exploring the universe, or is this just a made up story? Does belief in eternal life have importance for how we live here on earth?

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[a] Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16:26


What other areas does knowing truth matter? I’m sure you can think of many more.

Whether it’s raising a child or growing a garden, the best strategies to win a computer game or sports game, resolving conflicts in relationships or among nations, decisions about giving government money to the rich or the poor and which will bring the best lives for many, wiring a house properly, how to act most effectively against injustice, truth is incredibly important. In a few cases it of smaller importance, as in which flavor of ice cream will taste best. In many cases it has long range effects on individual success. Many choices affect the rise and fall of nations, and they can also have live and death consequences for large numbers of people.

Many wise sources tell us that our choices every day matter a great deal, especially depending on whether they are based on truth or not. The Bible tells us that the choices we make have significant and sometimes critical effects on our own future as well as that of at least the next 3-4 generations and sometimes more, but that they can be reversed if we or others make different choices (Exodus 20:5; 34:6,7, Numbers 14:18, Ezekiel 18:20, Leviticus 26:40-42, 1 Chron. 7:14). Scientists studying epigenetics tells us that “everything we do—everything we eat or smoke—can affect our gene expression and that of future generations…Epigenetics tells us that little things in life can have an effect of great magnitude.” [8] A respected Christian writer, Ellen White tells us similarly “Every act of life, however small, has its bearing for good or for evil.” (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 158).

The most important kind of truth is wisdom, truths that have significant effects on lives at all levels, from individual to national to worldwide. This is why the Bible and most religions say things like this:

“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” Proverbs 23:23


In part 2, we’ll look at some objective foundational principles to start our search for truth.


[1] Illing. Sean. “How fascism works.” Dec 15, 2018.
https://www.vox.com/2018/9/19/17847110/how-fascism-works-donald-trump-jason-stanley

[2] Tyson, Neil deGrasse. “Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication.” Masterclass ad. Dec. 19, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPINNhHGNw.

[3] Zacharias, Ravi. “Is Correspondence & Coherence Reality Necessary Ravi.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CUOCVmkv2g.

[4] **adapted from http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170411-the-army-that-conquered-the-world

[5] **Encyclopedia of the Lewis and Clark Expedition p. 233, https://books.google.com/books?id=8vYA0zDFy_IC.

[6] **“Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.”
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us

[7] King, Martin Luther, Jr. “The Purpose of Education.” Maroon Tiger. 1947.  www.drmartinlutherkingjr.com/thepurposeofeducation.htm.

[8] Watters, Ethan. “DNA Is Not Destiny: The New Science of Epigenetics.” November 22, 2006,
http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover.

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