Idiom Idiocy: That’s Your Truth

one waySuppose a lawyer asks the accused a question in the court of law and that man responds, “That’s your truth.” Would the judge allow it? Is truth relative?

Today it appears everywhere, the idea that truth can be particularly yours or uniquely my own. That how we see things differently, through personal perspectives, transcend any ultimate factuality. It’s as though our culture believes pleading the fifth can be done by opening their mouths but being immune to self-incrimination.  Telling all while negating all the responsibility at the same time. Nonsense!

While differing perspectives do give nuances to a particular event, these vantage points do not record what actually happened. Evidence might corroborate, which then gives the best defense that a particular event did happen. Even then we might never know the whole story to any given event but can infer from the data what most likely transpired. But let us go one step further to say that an event happened, as it happened, and the truth of that event is intrinsic. Meaning, that while no one may ever be 100% certain of how an event happened, something happened, and the unknowable facts of that event remain true though no one may ever know them. Common sense, right? Apparently not.

What transpires seems to be in the eye of the beholder, or in the actions of the doer. Truth has been sold out to the highest bidder–news outlets reporting as fact what is hearsay. People justifying their actions on behalf of autonomy, freedom from external control or influence. How can we do this? How can someone claim facts about themselves that are not true to the event or their own person? Easy, just say, “That’s your truth.” Anyone with commonsense cannot abide with this sentiment, because it’s just that, a sentiment–an intent to do no harm or to break the law does not mean that you are innocent of breaking the law. The law or relationship is broken, because such an event has occurred to break it–intentionally or not.

Truth is not relative. It is frustrating to even need to clarify what is meant here. Here’s what I mean. When we have to add the adjective, “absolute” to the noun, “truth,” it concedes that “truth” cannot stand on its own. That for some reason we need to clarify what kind of truth “truth” is. Truth by its nature is intrinsically absolute, or as I will argue, particular. However, a plurality of particular truths do not exist. This does not mean that the truth of my being a husband, father, and pastor are somehow canceling out, or that only one of these vocations can be true for me. That’s evidently untrue. It does not mean that I’m more of one of these three vocations, so one is mostly true and therefore “my truth.” What I mean by “a plurality of particular truths do not exist” is to look to the examples given. It is particularly true that I’m a husband–it’s impossible that when I was married, I was also unmarried. It is particularly true that I’m a father–it’s impossible that at conception I was a father and also not a father. It’s particularly true that I’m a pastor–it’s impossible that when I was ordained, I was also not ordained. Particular truths can, in time and are tragically evidently breakable; couples divorce, parents lose children, and pastors are defrocked. But these particular truths are self-evident too, they exist and cannot at the same time be the opposite of what they are: divorced but married to the same person, childless but having a living child, defrocked but a pastor. Any assertion that there is no great or absolute truth is merely circular reasoning. To assert that something is or is not is to appeal to an authoritarian truth.

Nota Bene:
Lutherans can appreciate particular truths, our doctrine under the redemption of Christ is that we are 100% Sinner and 100% Saint. This is neither a contradiction of particular truths or a support for a compacted plurality of particular truths. The two are both exclusively, particularly true. Above the examples showed that we cannot be both married and unmarried. How is it that we can be both sinner and saint, completely, 100%? Sinner is our fallen nature, so we are by our flesh 100% sinner. Christ’s redemption and our sanctification is a gift to us by God, so while we remain particularly a sinner, like being a father or pastor in addition to being married, we are also particually a saint by the grace of God.

This philosophical treatment of truth perhaps conjures questions from the Church. Questions even about the examples given. To anticipate and briefly address one, I agree, that we the Church will give a nuanced treatment of those who are divorced and yet retain a one flesh union under God. These are not two conflicting particular truths in the sense that one or the other must only exist. It may be true that a divorce has occurred but is also true that under God a one flesh union still exists. These are both true, not to the exclusion of the other or contradicting as would be if a person were particularly married and particularly divorced to the same person at the same time. “I now pronounce you married and unmarried,” said no officiant ever. Even the argument that we are not all married to each other does not hold up. Yes, it is true that when I married my wife, I also did not marry your wife. This is not a conflict, again when I talk about the impossibility of a plurality of a particular truth, I mean just that, each event is its own. The only conflict here is in the sense that the Christian does not desire for both marriage and a one flesh union, and for divorce.

Words have their definitions, and seemingly various meanings at that, which I could perceive as a possible argument here for how a plurality of a particular truth could exist. Here’s why it cannot. Words are nuanced but cannot be anything we want them to be. An orange cannot also be a man. Now, we might call someone with a spray on tan, an orange, but they are not literally an orange fruit. And while the same person might be the color orange, as a man, the two are particularly and exclusively true. Even the noun orange, here is acting as an adjective describing the noun, man. Words can have various definitions attributed to them, and then context is how we come to understand them. Context lends itself to a particular truth, not a free for all, undefined, plurality.

When we treat words as conspiracy, meaning that we can make them go any way we want regardless of the straight forward or contextual definition, they cease to be words and become a code. A code deciphered through relativity, and subject to the whims of personal preference despite the obvious or contextual corroborating of facts. This is why the saying, “That’s your truth,” is an idiom idiocy.

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