What is Truth (I)
Roy E. Cogdill
Nothing is more important than truth. Only the truth can make men free. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Error will only further enslave, but truth makes men free! The wise man said, "Buy the truth and sell it not" (Prov. 23:23). Truth is supreme in its value. We can afford to pay whatever it costs and when once we possess it, we cannot afford to take any price for it. The importance and necessity of it should be always exalted in our hearts.
There is no substitute for truth. It can be replaced only with error. Nothing else is "just as good as truth." Yet even in spiritual matters that concern the soul, we are often told that we should accept a substitute for the truth, for something else is just as good.
Truth is always consistent. It is never out of harmony with truth. There is no contradiction in truth. Whenever an apparent contradiction seems to exist, it is because we do not know the whole truth. There are not two correct answers to the same problem or question. When there is a variance, both cannot be right.
Truth is always narrow. Every kind of truth is narrow. Mathematical truth is narrow. Two and two make exactly four-no more, no less, and whoever says they make anything else is wrong. There are thousands of numbers that two and two do not make (error is broad) and only one that they do make-truth is narrow.
Scientific truth is narrow. Under ordinary conditions at sea level, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, just that, no more, no less. There are thousands of temperatures at which water does not freeze. Suppose a man should say: "I am very broad in my scientific beliefs. I am not one of your scientific bigots who insist that water freezes at just 32 degrees, and that all who think differently are wrong. No, I admit that water freezes at 20,' 25, 30, 32, 38 and 40 degrees, and at any other temperature. Just so a man is sincerer, it does not matter at what temperature he believes water freezes. I am broad in my science." What would we think of such a man?
Historical truth is narrow. A given event took place in one particular way. There are thousands of ways in which it did not take place. It is the business of a jury to so consider the testimonies of the witnesses, each giving his impression, that they can determine just how the event did take place. So the historian is to use the date to determine just how the events he describes did take place. Suppose a professed historian should say: "I have very broad views of history. I abominate the narrow bigotry which says that a given event took place in only one particular way and that whoever says differently is wrong. I believe the event took place in a hundred ways, and just so a man is sincere, it does not matter how he believes it took place."
Geographical truth is narrow. There is but one right direction to London from where the reader sits, while there are thousands of wrong directions. If you point toward London, you must point in one definite direction. If you point in either of a thousand other directions, you are not pointing toward London. Suppose a man should say: "I am not one of your geographical bigots, who say that there is only one right direction toward London, from where he stands, while all who point in any other direction are wrong. No, indeed, I am broad in my views of geography, and any way a man chooses to start, is the right way to London, if only he be honest; and whichever way he starts, he will get to London just the same." What would intelligent people think of such an attitude?
How does it come to pass that what is recognized as the most arrogant nonsense in all other realms, is greedily swallowed when it comes to the realm of religion, where truth is most important? Whether a man be right or wrong in mathematics, in science, in history, in geography, etc., is of comparatively small importance, but his character and his eternal destiny depend upon his being right in religion. Only the truth has the power to make men free from spiritual bondage.
While truth is narrow, it does not follow that anything is truth because it is narrow. One would be just as narrow if he affirmed that two and two make five and nothing else, as to say two and two make four. We may be narrow and still be wrong. Narrowness alone does not establish the truth. But if we are broad in what we believe to be the truth, we are certain to be wrong. Truth is narrow, and hence belief of the truth must be narrow.
Truth Magazine XIX: 30, pp. 469-470