I was intrigued by what Insanitybytes22 brought up about the difference between facts and truth here in the comments of the last post. She mentioned that the truth is a Person. I’ve talked about this myself in “Jesus Christ IS the Truth.” I would like to explore this further here. First, let’s clarify the difference between facts and truth.
Facts are technically accurate statements. A fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning.
Here’s what Social Psychologist, Dr. Matt Moody, PhD says about the difference between facts and the truth. I’ve highlighted the salient points:
“Facts are technically accurate statements made by the mouth or penned by the hand. Truth is a larger statement, a holistic statement. Truth is not just factually accurate, but also utterly honest Truth is the whole statement of one’s total being: a unified expression of word, deed, motive, and emotion—all of which are true.”
“When a clear distinction is made between facts and truth, we realize that words can be factual yet untrue at the same time; a person’s words may be technically correct but when inward intent is not true . . . then only fact-speaking can occur—as opposed to Truth-telling. The distinguishing element is this: When the motive behind the message is false, then superficially accurate words are false from their foundations—this is the very meaning of empty rhetoric: words expressed without wholeness of heart.”
Here’s a philosophical analogy:
“Facts are notes and lyrics on sheet music. Truth is what the singer gives to the listener when she’s brave enough to open up and sing from her heart.” (Quote found here)
While facts are objective, truth requires the right perspective. Again, the truth gives meaning to the facts.
This is why theologian Walter Wink opened his book, The Bible in Human Transformation, with this provocative line: “Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt.”
He went on further to say:
“Biblical criticism is not bankrupt because it has run out of things to say or new ground to explore. It is bankrupt solely because it is incapable of achieving what most of its practitioners considered its purpose to be: so to interpret the Scriptures that the past becomes alive and illumines our present with new possibilities for personal and social transformation.”
Unlike facts, truth is transformative. This is why simply analyzing the facts about the Bible does not tell us what the Bible is really about. Understanding requires truth.
Ontologically speaking, the truth is found in a Person—Jesus Christ. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28; cf. Col.1:16-17)
How does Scripture describe Jesus as the truth (John 14:6)? I believe it does so in two main ways:
- Jesus is the truth about God.
- Jesus is the truth about us.
1:18 Until this moment God remained invisible to man; now the authentic begotten son, the blueprint of man’s design who represents the innermost being of God, the son who is in the bosom of the father, brings him into full view! He is the official authority qualified to announce God! He is our guide who accurately declares and interprets the invisible God within us. (John 1:18 MIRROR *)
You can read more about what I said about that here.
Jesus said that, through Him, we would find the truth and that this revelation would free us. And this truth is discovered in relationship. I like how the Message Bible puts this process:
“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32 MSG*)
This freedom has more to do with becoming who we really are rather than simply being released from captivity or punishment. As the New King James says, we are made free, which is what happens in the cooperative process with Jesus as we progressively experience more of this new creation reality (2 Cor.3:18; 5:17).
Why do I think this distinction between the facts and truth is important? Because if we only have the facts we still have not arrived at finding meaning and purpose. And, you, beloved of God, were created for a wonderful purpose.