“If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around to hear it, did it make a sound?” This silly question of a metaphysical conundrum has plagued the pretentious philosophers for years, yet at the heart is the idea of reality and truth.
Both the difficulty of the question, and the answer itself lies in how a person elects to define “sound.” Is sound the reception of waves upon the tympanic membranes of the receivers? Or, is sound better understood to be the transmission, the production of those sound-waves from the point of origin? Simply, is sound defined from the point of occurrence, or the point of recognition?
Let’s add to our original “equation,” if a man is standing in the midst of this hypothetical forest next to the fallen tree and yet he is deaf, would that negate the fact that a sound had emanated?
Third scenario. Standing next to our deaf friend is a man who is not hearing-impaired, and the sound is clearly received by him. So, was there sound for one and not the other?
The rational answer is clearly – the sound did take place. It was projected. That is the undeniable absolute truth. It simply was not perceived “typanically” by the deaf individual. This did not mean that the sound waves did not pulsate his body nor that other parts of his body were not enveloped in the ensuing effects of that energy, i.e. wind or perhaps movement of the ground-vibrations.
Yet in our culture we see people clearly defining “Truth” in this very same way, in light of their own “experience.” I would contend that there is truth which transcends the individual regardless of personal experience. To “relativize” truth to a mere experience or belief is to negate the whole idea of truth. Wikipedia says that truth is “being in accord with fact or reality.” That implies that there is a corpus of truth which is not tied to one’s personal subjective experiential realm.
I don’t know if it happened during the Great Enlightenment or what, but somewhere along the way while the integrity slept, the idea of “truth” has morphed into nothing more than subjectively held tenets of understanding or desire.
Truth is not a color which fades through different shades of grey. Truth is absolute. Now, I am not saying that our margins of demarcation regarding truth are not at times amorphous, but the absence of those clear lines are depictive of our limitations, not a sogginess about truth itself.
Yet modernity promotes, “Hey, if it works for you then cool, but I don’t believe that.” In other words, “I give you permission to live in your delusion, as long as you allow me to live in mine.”
Extending this question of truth to the spiritual realm would be, “Is there a God?” Or, “If God exists yet no one is acknowledging that he exists, does he fail to exist?” It seems the growing attitude is, “Look everybody has a right to believe what they want.” But again, belief is not the same as truth, and truth has consequences. The truth points to somewhere. Bottom line is that it points to responsibility to do something, or behave a certain way. So that responsibility is the reason people seek to discount truth!
Isaiah 5:18, 20-21 says, “Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, And sin as if with cart ropes; Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!”
The “woe” spoken of is separation from God. Failure to obey truth, attempts to qualify it, or even relativize it will not absolve any individual from accountability. Redefining truth, or refusing to acknowledge that it exists altogether does not pardon a person from its consequences. The “woe” carries some very serious repercussions. In fact, in a world of true integrity those actions, refusing to identify truth, are called delusion, not “enlightenment.” Someday those airs of enlightenment will slap us across the face with a fresh dose of reality.
And this understanding of truth is not limited to intelligence. It is purported that Albert Einstein, who struggled with the truth of God asked, “Does the moon exist even when someone is not looking at it?” Come on Al! The response is in no way philosophical. The response is “yes!” And God too is very real, even when no one is willing to face him. The consequences of denying him are very real as well.
The best one can do is seek, discover, accept and abide in the truth. It is only then that we can be set free from that which seeks to destroy us.
John 8:32 reveals “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” That means that separation from God as a result of sin is no more. Sin as a master no longer has ownership of us. It is only the work of Christ that brings to us that reality of freedom.
The tree is lying on the ground next to you. It made a sound.
We have to choose to serve God’s truth, or man’s delusion.
And, by the way, not making a choice is a choice in and of itself.