New Thought Editorials > What Is Truth?


Spring 2004

What Is Truth?

"Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice," stated Jesus, at his trial before Pilate. "What is truth?" was Pilate’s ironic response (John 18:37-38). Pilate did not expect an answer to his rhetorical question, but the nature of truth is as important today as it was then.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated truth means "reality as opposed to mere appearance or false pretense" (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible). Philosophers refine this by describing truth as the property of a statement, meaning how closely the statement corresponds to that to which it refers. To us in New Thought, it is easy to think of a body of truth in close approximation to the Ultimate Reality, God for short, conveyed to us by the Christ Mind. But for the sake of uniting religion and science, let us stay with philosophy for a moment, for it is the bridge uniting the two.

Philosopher Mortimer Adler, in his book Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth, draws a distinction between truth and taste. "Wherever reasonable men can reasonably disagree," he states, "as they can about questions of political expediency or about economic options, their decision in favor of one or another alternative is a preference that closely resembles preferences in what are more obviously matters of taste." Here pluralism is entirely desirable. But in matters of truth, not taste, there needs to be unity: "Anything that is transcultural is clearly in the sphere of truth. Anything that is not—and should not be—transcultural is in the sphere of taste." Adler goes on to explain that mathematics, science, and technology are transcultural. Cuisine, style of dress, and social manners are not. What about philosophy and religion? That depends on whether one regards them as involving truth or taste.

Let’s go back to the notion of truth as the property of an accurate statement. Some statements can be proved—shown to correspond to what they describe—and some cannot, which doesn’t mean they aren’t true, just that we can’t prove it. Statements in mathematics and science can be proved, and so we have a body of truth, a unity of truth there. If a statement in religion or philosophy contradicts that body of truth, it is obviously not true. So a statement may or may not be true, but if it contradicts known truth, we can be sure that it is false. Similarly, we may have two statements from religion or philosophy that we cannot prove to be true, but if they contradict each other, they cannot both be true; one of them has to be false.

Furthermore, truth changes as reality changes: what is true at one time may not be true at another time. This can be bad or good; and as New Thoughters, we are interested in the times when a change in truth, or in reality, is good. For example, it may have been true up until now to make a statement that we were sick. However, our thoughts influence the future because it hasn’t happened yet. So present reality does not have to continue to be reality. In each moment that we turn our minds to thoughts of wellness, we are building up the pattern of the past to make it easier to be well in the future. Each little moment of wellness thoughts adds up, until one day it is no longer true that we are sick; that is no longer the reality to which a true statement corresponds.

The famous poem by Hannah More Kohaus ends, "God and love and truth are here." The truth that is always here is that we have free will to choose what thoughts to dwell on, to entertain thoughts of wellness rather than illness. Those choices pile up, moment by moment, producing ever more positive results as we make positive choices.