A speech by Lee Bohannon:
'What is truth?' This question was asked two thousand years ago to a condemned man awaiting death by crucifixion. The questioner was Pilate, a Roman governor. The condemned man, as you already know, was Jesus of Nazareth. This question is important. There is no uncertainty regarding its importance. Interestingly, Jesus returned no answer to his accuser. He did not answer the question.
The question and its answer have occupied the minds of the ablest men for millennia. I am not going to try to definitively answer it here. I cannot. Not that there is no answer to the question, for truth can be defined, at least partly. I say 'partly,' because truth for us is not limited to a concept. It is fully realized in something more than an idea, in relationship. It is only in relationship that we come to truth, and that relationship is with the ineffable God, and that which is created by Him.
Some of you are nodding your heads at this point. For is it not a commonplace that God is truth? And did not Our Lord cry out that He is the way, the truth, and the life? Yet, so many reject the very idea of truth, even going so far as to deny the concept of reality outside our minds.' 'Reality,' they say, 'is our imposing an order on the chaos that is somewhere out there.' Others won't go so far, but will talk about physical laws and deny the lawgiver. They deny God. How presumptuous and how sad!
How is it that so many deny the reality of what is outside of us? They do, you know. You hear it all the time in the popular culture. This is the meaning of phrases like 'truth is what is true to me.' Indeed, what can such phrases mean except that I am the determiner of my fate, the maker of my own law? Another phrase popular among the politically correct concerns the imposition of personal reality,i.e., you cannot tell me that something that I want to do is wrong. You cannot impose your reality on me. You cannot judge. I suppose in a way that this is true. There is one judge, one lawgiver. And He said things like you shall not steal; you shall not covet another man's wife. For me to repeat His words is not to judge on my own behalf. It is to say, 'Thus saith the Lord.'
The surprise in my mind is not how so many can blithely break the moral law. We are all sinners and therefore imperfect. What surprises me is that so many deny the very foundation of law as it appears in nature. In his great epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says that what can be known about God is plain. He says that our denial of the existence and order of God is without excuse, because ever since the creation, God's invisible nature, that is, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly seen in the things that are made. Paul credits our blindness to repeated and unrepentant transgressions against the moral law.
'Natural law' is the phrase that describes the moral law as it can be discerned from nature. Natural law is what allows us to recognize what is good and to avoid what is evil. Underlying our entire system of jurisprudence and law is the sense of natural law. Historically, laws governing our society have been seen as based on the great, eternal law beyond law. This is no longer the case, and has not been since about the 60?s. The idea of natural law is now greeted with hostility, as was evidenced by the hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. Those of you who followed the process will remember that the confirmation of Justice Thomas hung by a thread. One of the things for which he was attacked was a belief in natural law. It was only by confusing the issue that he was able to surmount the attack and be confirmed.
The fact of natural law can be intuitively demonstrated by the reactions of children. Those of you who are parents will recognize that very early, your children demonstrate awareness of good and evil, far in excess of what you teach them. An early concept is fairness. What parent has not been told hundreds of times that this or that situation is not fair? Also, take something so seemingly controversial as abortion. Explain abortion to a seven-year-old in terms that he or she can understand, and what happens? The child becomes distressed and maybe physically sick. It is only later that something happens. Only later that a child will harden and lose his repugnance for this great offense against life.
So what can we do in a society that is increasingly atheistic and denies truth, that has forgotten its moral foundation, even to the point of killing its children? Clearly, a society is difficult to change. It carries an inertia that is not easily checked. What we must do is what we can. There is truth, and we can know it and participate in it. This involves thinking, which is hard work. So we must not be lazy. We must be socially aware, and vote only for those politicians who embrace our values, or at least who do not go out of their way to harm them. I say this because sometimes it is better to accept half a loaf than lose the entire loaf. Finally, and most importantly, we must find a better way to transmit our values to our children. Christ gave us the Great Commission. In Matthew chapter 28, He tells us to carry the good news to the entire world. Included in the entire world are our children. Remember that a little leaven leavens the entire loaf. The truism is true that our children are the future. We must raise them and teach them, so that they in turn can teach their children. In this way, the world will be changed.
Text of speech delivered 5/9/00 to Heights Toastmasters Club.