Clergy Corner: The difference between ‘the truth’ and ‘the whole truth’

File Photo of Susan Beckett
Susan Beckett, Dwelling Place Church.

■ Susan Beckett / Contributed

How many remember the classic game show, “To Tell the Truth?” Just in case you are way too young for such trivia (it ran in the ‘50s and ‘60s) here’s how the game was played: A person with an unusual occupation or experience, plus two impostors, tried to stump a panel of four celebrities. The goal of the game was to try to fool the celebrities into voting for one of the impostors. The impostors were allowed to lie but the “real” person had sworn “to tell the truth.”
In today’s world, I sometimes feel like we are all living in a larger version of that game show. Does anyone tell the truth anymore? Jesus tells us in John 8:32: “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I would add to that, “The truth will set you free only if you know the truth is true!”
Strange words to be sure, but these days, the truth isn’t always true. I hopped on my computer recently and typed in, “What is truth?” I was blown away by all the ridiculous stuff I found on that topic – crazy stuff. Basically these days, truth is just about anything you say it is.
And the amazing thing about truth is that it’s become controversial. The common view among philosophers (our “smart” thinkers) is that there’s no such thing as absolute truth. According to their thinking, my truth and your truth may be different, even contradict each other, but both views have equal claim on being true. As I said, there’s some crazy stuff out there.
So, if someone wants to believe that Buddha is a way to heaven and can give you eternal life, that’s “true.” On the other hand, being a Christian, if I say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father and to heaven (since he alone paid the price for our salvation) that’s true as well, even though they severely conflict with each other. Houston – we’ve got a problem!
In Romans 1:21-22 the writer is speaking on basic God-truths and stands against other half-baked truths with these profound words: “…they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.”
But getting the truth out of people is not always as easy as it may appear. For instance, when a person takes the witness stand in a court of law they pledge to tell, “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
I used to wonder why just telling the truth wasn’t good enough. Why do we also have to swear to tell the whole truth? I heard it explained this way: Joe invites Mark to meet him for lunch on Saturday. Joe waits two hours but Mark is a no-show. Joe is mad at Mark and the next time they run into each other, Joe admonishes Mark for blowing him off. Mark is apologetic as he tells Joe that his mother fell of the porch and broke her wrist – he spent the entire day with her in the ER. Now Joe feels terrible for being mad at Mark because Mark had an emergency. Or did he? Nope! Turns out that although Mark’s mother did fall off the porch and he did indeed spend time with her in the ER, the event didn’t happen on Saturday, it happened the previous Tuesday. It was the truth – but not the whole truth. As the saying goes, half the truth is a lie!
A major church leader was once severely criticized for standing up against abortion. He was told to “change with the times.” Really? Does truth change with the times? It’s almost like asking God to update the 10 Commandments to fit our current worldly trends in society. As someone once noted: “There is my truth, there is your truth, and there is their truth. The absolute truth is with God.”
And don’t think for a minute that God doesn’t care about truth. In Hosea 4:1, God tells the people that He has “a controversy with them because there is no truth, no mercy, no knowledge of God in the land.” Later, in verse 6, he goes on to say: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” And truth??
What is our responsibility as Christ-followers in relaying truth to people? Do we have any? Let’s say that at the edge of our valley there’s a raging river. Every day people fall into the river and drown. What should we do? Of course we will comfort the families of those who have drowned. But do we have any other obligation?
Well…we could put up a fence – that would help, but people have a choice – they can always climb over the barricade. I believe we have a larger obligation than a fence! Shouldn’t we be warning people about this imminent danger? Giving a heads-up to all who will listen and take heed?
So, in light of that, here is what I believe is the ultimate truth: Outside the cross of Jesus Christ there is no hope for mankind in this world. The cross and resurrection – the very core of our Gospel – is our only hope. Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be enough, only truth and faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Susan Beckett and her husband Bob pastor The Dwelling Place City Church in Hemet. The church is located at 27100 Girard Street, Hemet. Visit for information.

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