Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who sent Jesus to the Cross, has received much bad press, writes Rev Sandy Horsburgh (St Nicholas Bucchleuch Church, Dalkeith).
But the Bible records him asking a profound question, one which we need to revisit urgently – “What is truth?”
A year ago, England and Wales voted to take the UK out of the EU, following a campaign riddled with falsehoods. Five months later, Donald Trump was elected to the US presidency despite telling so many easily proven lies. We are told we live in a post-truth society, in which what is merely believable overthrows what is true, no matter how false and preposterous.
One answer to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” must now be – we often cannot be sure. Facts are ignored, experts denigrated, people who have thought deeply dismissed as being out of touch elites. The result is profoundly dangerous. This has not come about by accident.
The undermining of objective truth is being done by people who want power for their own purposes, who use the creation of division and distrust, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘natives’ and ‘foreigners’, ‘elites’ and ‘ordinary people’, as a means to their own ends. As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
Christianity stands against this way of working. It proclaims the truth that there are no ‘us’ and ‘them’, for all are created equal; there are no ‘natives’ and ‘foreigners’ because Christ breaks down every border humanity erects; there are no ‘ordinary people’ because everyone is uniquely and wonderfully made by God and given a unique set of talents and abilities to be used for the benefit of the whole of humanity.
The Bible condemns those who divide who spread falsehoods. It recognises that truth has always been fragile, that often it is difficult and challenging, that truth is constantly under assault from what is more convenient and more alluring.
What is truth? It is the foundation of justice, the prerequisite of progress, and the core of healthy human relationships. Quite simply, truth is the most precious thing imaginable. Don’t let any liar tell you otherwise.