What is Truth? Part 3: The Incarnation

This is part three of a three part series. Part one can be found here, part two can be found here.

This is where we return to our original question, how can a person, Jesus, claim to be the truth? To answer this question, we need to outline the Christian narrative in broad strokes, beginning in Genesis when God speaks the world into being:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said “Let there be light” and there was light.”

The rest of the creation narrative echoes the phrase “and God said,” followed by “and God saw that it was good” The first chapter of John adds more details:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God and the logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of man. The light shines in the darkness has not overcome it.

This passage from John says that God is the Logos, and that everything was made through the Logos. The Logos is the Greek word for Reason, the rational principle behind creation. Creation is made good, by imposing order through the Logos. This order in creation, this proper way of being, this harmony between God, humanity and the earth is a key theme in the biblical narrative. When humanity rebels against the created order, or indeed, the Logos, this harmony, this union between heaven and earth is torn apart. Humanity is expelled from the garden, the place where there is unity, harmony and perfection. Humanity is estranged from God, in strife with creation and humanity. Evil and Sin (going against the will of God) enters the world and the good creation, the good order of creation, is violated. This is where we come to the giving of the Law to Moses. God wants to come to dwell with his people the Israelites, to unite heaven and earth. He gives them the Law, a system of rituals, sacrifices and commands, to which they must submit. This is an attempt to restore Logos, to have the people of Israel live with God and in accordance with the Logos. It’s interesting to note here the Jewish view of truth. The Jews emphasized that the law was “firm” and could be trusted. Truth was more of a matter of staying faithful to the law, then correspondence to reality. Staying true, being in the truth instead of abstract reasoning. However, the Israelites don’t stay faithful to the law, they constantly rebel against God and find themselves with internal strife, attacked by foreign enemies, estranged from their land and worshiping false gods. Again, the pattern of the fall, man, God and creation are out of harmony. Finally, we arrive at Jesus:

…And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father, full of grace and truth.

The Logos becomes flesh. The good order of creation is embodied. Or, to think of it in another way, the unity of Objective and Subjective truth. Think about it, God has the “God’s-eye-view” of the world, the monarchical vision, he knows all the full truth, he knows “what is.” We on the other hand, are bound by subjectivity, we can only know “what is” to a limited extent. When seeking the truth, we try to abstract ourselves and have a “God’s-eye-view” of the problem. In this way, we are emulating God, albeit, in a limited fashion. Similarly, when trying to live in the truth, when trying to live in the Logos, we also fall short. We are hypocritical, we fail and we forget. Jesus does manage to live, perfectly in the truth, as only God could. Jesus, in the incarnation, is the unity of God and man, heaven and earth, subjective and objective. God from above meets existence and embodies the Logos. Jesus is not just God and not just man. He is a unity of the two, God and his creation, heaven and earth together, both, fully. Fully God and fully man. This is a roadmap for us in our divided age. The unity of man and woman, romanticism and rationalism, God and man, earth and humanity. The end goal is the consummation of all things, as Paul says in Ephesians, “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth in Christ.”

So what significance does Christ, his incarnation, life, death, resurrection have for our question of truth? We have already pointed at the incarnation as the unity of subjective and objective truth. Jesus, through his life, exemplifies the properly ordered existence. The life lived in accordance with the Logos. This is precisely what we cannot do in our fallen state, we are incapable of ordering our existence to the Will of God. This is what the cosmos cannot do in her fallen state, she is filled with evil, suffering and ugliness. There is some beauty and goodness in existence pointing to the goodness of the Creation, but evil and corruption suffuses it. This is where the death of Christ comes in. Somehow, the death of Christ, atones for, and defeats the evil of the Cosmos. CS Lewis puts it succinctly:

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed away our sins, and that by dying he disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity.

Belief in the forgiveness of Christ sets us right with God and through the Holy Spirit empowers us to live according to the Logos. Christ, in his life, is our orientation, the Holy Spirit is the power, God is the destination. As Jesus put it “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” We are now in the position to understand Jesus’s claim to be the truth and how it relates to the question I have been trying to answer in this piece. Pilate asks the question:

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are the king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Truth is the proper relationship with what is. Relating to Jesus, following after him, and being empowered by the Spirit, puts us into proper relationship with what is. We are oriented towards the truth, oriented towards fulfilling the goal of our existence. In Christ, our being is in the process of being conformed to His. We are living in the truth. Having properly ordered lives points us more clearly and directly towards the good, the true and the beautiful. Living in the truth, and being oriented towards the truth, makes it easier for us to find the truth. I will leave Kierkegaard with the last word:

For knowing the truth is something which follows as a matter of course from being in the truth, not the other way around. Nobody knows more of the truth, than he who is of the truth. To properly know the truth is to be in the truth; is to have the truth for one’s life. This always costs a struggle. Any other kind of knowledge is a falsification. The Gospel says that this is eternal life, to know the only true God and the one whom he sent, the truth. That is, I only know the truth when it becomes a life in me.

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