While most people learn through their experience, the basis of truth is not our experience. Truth is truth whether or not anyone experiences it. It does not mystically become truth through our experience. While it is important for us to experience truth in order to know it personally, the validity of truth does not depend on our experience.
In John 14: 6, in response to a question from one of His followers about heaven, Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is making an objective statement about the nature of truth: He is the truth. The validity of this statement does not depend on whether people actually experience Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life whether anyone follows Him or not. Yet if people are to know truth, they must know and experience Jesus personally. People do not get to heaven by simply acknowledging the fact that Jesus is the way to get there. That would be as absurd as saying an alcoholic could be delivered from his addiction by simply acknowledging that he or she has a problem.
In order to understand this fallacy, we must separate “the nature of truth” from “how we know truth.” The “nature of truth” is objective and propositional. Yet “how we know truth” is both objective and subjective. While the nature of God is objective and propositional, knowing God has both objective and subjective experiential elements.
Jesus explains this principle in His response to the many Jews who had begun to follow Him. He says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31– 32 NIV). In order to be true disciples of Jesus, we must know the truth personally, a task that demands a personal, experiential response of holding to Jesus’ teaching. The result of this deep, heart-motivated response of obedience to Jesus is true freedom. While the basis of truth is objective, knowing truth demands a response that is both objective (He tells us clearly what to do) and subjective (we must do it experientially). Yet the fact that we must experience truth in order to know it does not mean our experience is the basis of truth.
In order to understand the dynamics of heart-deep teaching, we must affirm the value of both objective, propositional truth and the experiential way we come to know truth. Heart-deep teaching depends on both.
This was written by Gary Newton in his book called, Heart-Deep Teaching: Engaging Students for Transformed Lives. This book is published by B&H Publishing Group.