With each passing day, the search for the truth concerning the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 grows larger and more complex with no clear answers in sight. All of the military and civilian efforts of 26 countries, using satellite, radar, aircraft, ocean going ships and the best technology available can still find no trace of a Boeing 777 that apparently flew undetected for over seven hours through the airspace of several countries in the region. Relatives and friends of the 239 people now missing for over two weeks are desperate for news concerning their loved ones. The media are covering the story relentlessly with many such as CNN providing wall to wall coverage. The story has gripped the world in an unprecedented way. At the risk of sounding trite, all are seeking “the plane truth”.
At times such as these, in the absence of clearly verified facts, conspiracy theories abound. This is not uncommon in very public events that have great impact on many people. John F. Kennedy was killed by the CIA, FBI or perhaps the Mob. The Apollo Moon landings were faked. 911 was an inside job plotted by Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush. The Egyptian pyramids were built by aliens. It seems that no theory is too wild or far-fetched to capture the human imagination. What is different about the Malaysia Airlines story is that the explosion of conspiracy theories is happening before our eyes in real time, fuelled by the ease at which they can be published and spread through the internet. A fascinating study of the human condition and our need to know.
The ultimate question that arises at such times is “What is truth?” In many ways, our entire lives are dependent on our answer. Is it true that the food I eat is healthy, safe to eat and not poisonous? Are the roads I am traveling on intact and safe for my vehicle? Have all of the passengers traveling with me on an airplane been properly screened and not carrying explosives in their liquids, aerosols and gels? Is that police officer really a police officer who is committed to uphold the law? When I deposit money into my bank account, will the bank ensure it is there for me to withdraw when I need it? Has the doctor who is about to cut me open really a surgeon who has graduated from medical school and certified by the appropriate authorities? The answers to questions such as these are critical to our survival. We routinely accept many as “truth” without thoroughly investigating the situations ourselves. While many would disagree, it could be said that we live our lives by faith in the answers to these (and similar questions) every day.
From time to time, I find myself in debates with atheists or humanists about the issues of truth and faith. Key concepts such as peer reviews, double blind studies, verifiable and repeatable evidence and documentation are debated at length. However, it seems they all boil down to a single core principle, established by the ancients, that is the foundation for establishing truth:
“A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Deut 19:15
The concept of scientific peer review is based on multiple scientists reviewing and confirming something. Verifying historical documents involves examining multiple sources to conclude that an event happened or a person existed. The premise of repeatable evidence means the same result can be repeated with the same input conditions. All of these are a form of “two or three witnesses”. However, what if the two or three sources are part of an elaborate lie or in other words – a conspiracy? Furthermore, what if this lie is propagated on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and multiple websites?
As people who have experienced this phenomena from multiple perspectives (i.e. we have been impacted by untruths told about us, assisted others in establishing truth within their lives and exposed lies that have impacted others), we can think of no greater question than the one asked by a famous ruler almost 2,000 years ago. After being presented with “facts” by far more than “two or three witnesses” in an elaborate conspiracy, Pontius Pilate was led to ask:
“What is truth?” John 18:38
After hearing the charges against the accused, Jesus of Nazareth, who stood before him, he was left questioning the truth of the matter. In fact, he concluded that he had no basis to find him guilty of the charges. The testimony of the many witnesses was not convincing. There was something about the accused that did not align with the testimony. Something Pilate’s wife warned him about following a troubling dream when she said “Have nothing to to do with this innocent man” Matt 27:19. There was just something about Jesus they couldn’t put their finger on. Pilate was in the presence of truth itself.
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” – John 14:6
“In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:37
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
It is interesting that in the presence of truth itself, a lie cannot survive indefinitely. One could argue that Jesus was eventually crucified based on a lie but note that the story did not end there. The truth ultimately triumphed and not only was demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus but ultimately by his kingdom outlasting the entire Roman empire and covering the whole earth. While in a fleeting moment it may appear that a lie is holding fast, eventually all things will be judged by the One who is truth itself. Sometimes in this life and sometimes in the next but the result is the same, the truth will prevail.
At this point, many readers will be saying that my case is being made based on the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed and that the Bible is historically accurate concerning his life, death and resurrection. How can we present Jesus as truth personified when none of this has been “scientifically proven”? The simple answer – in the same way you decide to put food in your mouth, get into your car, board an airplane or deposit money in your bank. We have decided that the evidence we have evaluated (too much to detail here) and our personal experience indicate that this is a wise choice that we willingly risk our future on. Regardless of the decision you make in this regard, you are also risking your future on your evaluation of the evidence before you. May you also have an encounter with Truth itself and experience the fullness of life that comes with it.