Any keen observer of the recent state of affairs in our nation will no doubt attest to the fact that all is not well. I wish to guide us through a cursory assessment of the events of the recent past in our national life. We all were witnesses to the near anarchy into which the nation was plunged through the incessant terror attacks unleashed by the devilish group, Boko Haram. The last federal administration grappled helplessly with containing the insurgency, facing terrible sabotage from the very security hierarchy in whose hands lay the responsibility of protecting the nation. Monies that were earmarked for the procurement of arms were diverted by the defence ministry and top military officials as was widely reported by both local and international media. The national economy which was said to be appreciating on the international scene was yet to be translated into improved standard of living for the masses. Then came the change mantra that swept across the nation. This was a welcome development, as we thought, so long as it was change for the better. As we speak to you however, we have cause to be worried, though we still have time to justify our worries or otherwise.
We wish to congratulate the federal government under the President, Mohammadu Buhari for what seems to be a remarkable progress in the war against Boko Haram. The incessant terror attacks in the North Eastern Nigeria seem to have receded considerably; though we still have pockets of attacks here and there. In spite of this however, we are greatly disturbed by the recent shift in dimension of terror attacks, this time being carried out by Fulani herdsmen in different communities. First, it was the sack of the whole community of Agatu, Benue State; then in Obiaruku, Delta state, 8 men were kidnapped by these purported herdsmen because four of their cows were said to have been killed; again most recently at Uzouwani, Enugu State, a whole community was sacked with more than 40 gruesomely murdered. The questions then are who are these Fulani herdsmen? Who equips them with sophisticated weapons? What is their true intention? It is strange and sad that some people are trying to politicize the matter by exonerating the perpetrators of these dastardly acts through ethnic chauvinism. We call on our local communities to be vigilant, and rise up to the occasion to defend themselves in the event of a reoccurrence of such callous blood-letting.
Even more worrisome is the grazing rights bill that is being debated on the floor of the National Assembly for the approval of acquisition of lands by Fulani nomads across the country for the purpose of rearing cattle; irrespective of whether or not the land owners are in agreement. We condemn in its entirety these current bizarre occurrences, and call on the Federal government and all well-meaning Nigerians to do the same.
It is our sincere opinion that the economic fortunes of the nation appear very bleak. The exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar has never been worse. There is general hardship and very austere standard of living. We call on the Federal government to give the populace cause to sustain the hope that was instilled across the land before last year's general election that saw the present government's emergence as winners.
The time has come when we have to hold our leaders accountable. Meanwhile the nation is waiting expectantly for the different levels of elected officers to make good their election promises. We need fuel at affordable price to ease the pains of transportation, and electricity to power small scale industries. This will provide employment opportunities and drive the economy. These basic needs are not too much for a people to ask of their government.
In many States across the Country salaries of workers are being owed in a backlog of arrears. Pensioners and retirees are being owed arrears of their pension, and gratuities are not paid. Many families that are dependants to these workers and Pensioners are in daily anguish. We declare without any hesitation that this is wickedness; this is especially so when we consider that many of our political leaders have stolen public funds running into billions of Dollars stashed away in foreign banks overseas. While commending the Federal government on its war against corruption, we call on the President to be more thorough in fishing out the culprits and bringing them to book. We also appeal that this war should not be perverted into witch-hunting of perceived political enemies. Let the guilty be punished after being convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Also worrisome is the widespread uprising of different ethnic nationality, calling for cessation. One wonders why there is this wide spread feeling of dissatisfactions. While calling on all agitating groups to calm down, we also call on the government to invite the aggrieved parties to a round table dialogue. Many well-meaning Nigerians are asking for the ratification and implementation of the report of the last National Conference. We also implore the Federal government to consider looking into the findings of that National Conference with a view to knowing if answers to the uprising of these ethnic nationalities are contained therein.
Above all, we call on all the faithful to pray fervently for the peace and progress of our beloved country.
THE SYNOD THEME
Reflecting on the theme of our last Synod, “Falsehood: A menace to the Church and Society”, we rose from the synod poised to put away deceit, pretences and vain glory and to speak the truth and pursue all that makes for righteousness.
In the affirmation of the essence of the truth, knowing the truth and practicing the truth which inevitably is the absolute freedom, we present the theme as a corollary “…. And the truth shall set you free: What is Truth” John 18:38.
“You are a King then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
With this he went out again to the Jews and said “I find no basis for a charge against him (John 18:37-38 NIV).
Our society have been plagued with so much falsehood that some people find it difficult to identify the truth in the midst of ravaging falsehood which seems to have eaten deep into the very fabric of our individual character formation and national identity.
The concept of truth has clearly fallen on hard times, and the consequences of rejecting it are ravaging human society. Falsehood is so appealingly packaged that without good knowledge of the truth one could be misled and ensnared, however, acquaintance with the truth would help identify the length and breath of falsehood, unmask and demystify its attendant effect.
In the midst of this cacophony therefore, the exact meaning, essence, and position of truth in life has remained a subject of discourse. Our theme is a contribution to this all important and indisputable position of truth in both the church and the society.
In an attempt to conceptualize “truth” it is necessary to note what truth is not:
Truth is not simply whatever works: this is the philosophy of pragmatism – an end
vs means – type approach. In a situation, lies can appear to “work”, but they are still lies and not the truth.
Truth is not simply what is coherent or understandable. A group of people can get
together and form a conspiracy based on a set of falsehoods where they all agree to tell the same false story, but it does not make their presentation true.
Truth is not what makes people feel good, unfortunately, bad news can be true.
Truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty one percent of a group can reach a
Truth is not what is comprehensive. A lengthy detailed presentation can still result in
a false conclusion.
Truth is not defined by what is intended. Good intentions can still be wrong.
Truth is not how we know; truth is what we know.
Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie.
Truth is not what is publicly proved. A truth can be privately known (for example, the
location of buried treasure).
The Greek word for “truth” is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing”. It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. Though in some situation, truth may be evaded, however it does not deny its presence.
The Hebrew word for “truth” is emeth, which means “firmness”, “constancy” and “durable”. Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.
From the philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth.
1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
2. Truth is that which matches its object.
3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.
First, truth corresponds to reality or ‘what is,’ it is real, ‘truth is also correspondent in nature. In other words, it matches its object and is known by its referent. For example, a teacher facing a class may say, “Now the only exit to this room is on the right”. For the class that may be facing the teacher, the exit door may be on their left, but its absolutely true that the door, for the professor, is on the right.
Truth also matches its object. It may be absolutely true that a certain person may need so many milligrams of a certain medication but another person may need more or less of the same medication to produce desired effect. This is not relative truth, but just an example of how truth must match its object. It would be wrong (and potentially dangerous) for a patient to request that their doctor give them an inappropriate amount of a particular medication, or to say that any medicine for their specific ailment will do.
In short, truth is simply telling it like it is; it is the way things really are, and any other view point is wrong. A foundational principle of philosophy is being able to discern between truth and error, or as Thomas Aquinas observed “it is the task of the philosopher to make distinctions”.
Almost two thousand years ago, Truth was put on trial and judged by people who were devoted to lies. In fact, Truth faced six trials in less than one full day, three of which were religious, and three, were legal. In the end, few people involved in those events could answer the question, “what is truth?”
After being arrested, the truth was first led to a man named Annas, a corrupt former high priest of the Jews. Annas broke numerous Jewish laws during the trial, including holding the trial in his house, trying to induce self-accusations against the defendant, and striking the defendant, who had been convicted of nothing at the time. After Annas, the truth was led to the reigning high priest Caiaphas, who happened to be Anna’s son-in-law. Before Caiaphas and the Jewish Sanhedrin, many false witnesses came forward to speak against the Truth, yet nothing could be proved and no evidence of wrongdoing could be found. Caiaphas broke no fewer than seven laws while trying to convict the Truth:
The trial was held in secret;
It was carried out at night;
It involved bribery;
The defendant had no one present to make a defense for him;
The requirement of 2-3 witnesses could not be met;
They used self incriminating testimony against the defendant;
They carried out the death penalty against the defendant the same day.
All these actions were prohibited by Jewish law. Regardless, Caiaphas declared the Truth guilty because the Truth claimed to be God in the flesh, something Caiaphas called blasphemy.
When morning came, the third trial of the Truth took place, with the result that the Jewish Sanhedrin pronounced the Truth should die. However, the Jewish Council had no legal right to carry out the death penalty, so they were forced to bring to the Roman Governor at the time, a man named Pontius Pilate. Pilate was appointed by Tiberius as the fifth prefect of Judea and served in that capacity AD 26-36. The Procurator had power of life and death and could reverse capital sentences passed by the Sanhedrin. As the Truth stood before Pilate, more lies were brought against Him. His enemies said, “we found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Lk 23:2). This was a lie, as the Truth had told everyone to pay taxes (Matt. 22:21) and never spoke of Himself as a challenge to Caesar.
After this, a very interesting conversation between the Truth and Pilate took place. “Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the Chief Priest delivered you to me, what have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom was of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my Kingdom is not of this realm’. Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘so you are a King?’ Jesus answered, you say correctly that I am a King; for this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice’. Pilate said to Him ‘what is Truth?’ (Jn 18:33-38).
Pilate’s question, ‘what is truth?’ has reverberated down through history. Was it a melancholy desire to know what no one else could tell him, a cynical insult, or perhaps an irritated, indifferent reply to Jesus’ words? In a Post Modern world that denies that truth can be known, the question is more important than ever to answer. What is truth?
CHALLENGES TO THE TRUTH
There are number of philosophies and world views that challenge the concept of truth, yet when each is critically examined, it turns out to be self-defeating in nature.
The philosophy of relativism says that truth is relative and that there is no such thing as absolute truth. But what one has to ask is the claim “all truth is relative”, a relative truth or an absolute truth? If it is a relative truth, then it really is meaningless; how do we know when and where it applies? If it is an absolute truth, then absolute truth exists. Moreover the relativist betrays his own position when he states that the position of the absolutist is wrong – why can’t those who say absolute truth exists be correct too? In essence, when the relativist says, “there is no truth,” he is asking you not to believe him, and the best thing to do is follow his advice.
Those who follow the philosophy of skepticism simply doubt all truth, but is the skeptic skeptical of skepticism; does he doubt his own truth claim? If so, then why pay attention to skepticism? If not, then we can be sure of at least one thing (in other words, absolute truth exists) – skepticism, which ironically, becomes absolute truth in that case.
The agnostic says you can’t know the truth, yet the mindset is self defeating because it claims to know at least one truth; that you can’t know the truth.
A popular world view is pluralism, which says that all truth claims are equally valid. Of course, this is impossible; can two claims – one that says a woman is now pregnant and another that says she is not now pregnant – both be true at the same time? Pluralism unravels at the feet of the law of non-contradiction, which says that something cannot be both “A” and “Non-A” at the same time and in the same sense.
As one philosopher quipped, anyone who believes that the law of non-contradiction is not true should be beaten and burned until they admit that to be beaten and burned is not the same thing as to not be beaten and burned. Also note that pluralism says that it is true and anything opposed to it is false, which is a claim that denies its own foundational tenet.
The spirit behind pluralism is an open-armed attitude of tolerance. However, pluralism confesses the idea of every one having equal value with every truth claim being equally valid. More simply, all people may be equal, but not all truth claims are. Pluralism fails to understand the difference between opinion and truth. For a distinction, Mortimer Adler notes, “pluralism is desirable and tolerable only in those areas that are matters of taste rather than matters of truth”.
The disciples of Postmodernism simply affirms no particular truth. The Patron Saint of Postmodernism – Fredrick Nietzche – described truth like this “what then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms, … truths are illusions ---coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal no longer as coins”. Ironically, although the Postmodernist holds coins in his hand that are now ‘mere metal,’ he affirms at least one absolute truth: the truth that no truth should be affirmed. Like the other world views, Postmodernism is self defeating and cannot stand up under its own claim.
TRUTH: THE UNCONSEALED ESSENCE
Winston Chuchill once stated “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. “Can anyone really know “the truth”? or is truth subject to human interpretation?
Many today think truth is relative to the circumstances – that what is true for one situation is not necessarily true for others. This means that truth for one person is not necessarily the same for everyone. The question Pontius Pilate asked centuries ago needs to be rephrased in order to be completely accurate. The Roman governor’s remark “what is truth?” overlooks the fact that many things can have the truth, but only one thing can actually be the Truth. Truth must originate from somewhere.
The stark reality is that Pilate was looking directly at the origin of all Truth on that early morning over two thousand years ago. Not long before being arrested and brought to the governor, Jesus had made the simple statement “I am the Truth” (John 14:6), which was a rather incredible statement, How could a mere man be the truth? He couldn’t be, unless, He was more than a man, which is actually what He claimed to be. The fact is, Jesus’ claim was validated when He rose from the dead (Romans 1:4).
Pilate evidently never came to knowledge of the truth. Eusebius, the historian and Bishop of Caesarea, records the fact that Pilate ultimately committed suicide sometime during the reign of the Emperor Caligula – a sad ending and a reminder for everyone that ignoring the truth always leads to undesired consequences.
As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie”. And no where is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.
WHAT IS TRUTH? JESUS’ DEFINITION
Jesus made it clear in various passages in the gospel that ‘He is the truth’. His father is the truth, He Himself is the truth and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Pilate should have known this in John 18:37, where He made clear that He came into the world “to bear witness to the truth”. “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice”.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus offered a heartfelt prayer to His father on behalf of His disciples – not only those of that day, but also those who would follow Him in the future, within the context of that prayer, He said, “sanctify (set part) them by your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Here Christ is saying, one should be able to examine the pages of God’s word – the Holy Bible – to learn the truth on any subject of major importance or significance. The Bible contains the answers to questions about why we were born, our purpose in life, whether God exists and the potential of mankind.
The entirety of God’s word is Truth (Psalm 119:160). Interestingly, the word ‘truth can be found more than 200 times in scripture.
JESUS SAID HE IS THE TRUTH
Jesus as Truth is the expression of His Father, the light came into the world and men preferred darkness to light. The Love of God came into the world in Jesus Christ, but human beings preferred hatred and wickedness to the love of God. He is the way because he is the Truth. He is life because he is the Truth. He is the passport to God’s Holy of Holies, or God’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Howbeit mankind prefers death to life eternal; instead of the way which is true, we follow the track that leads to eternal condemnation.
Paul said to the Ephesians, “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21), Christ, as God is the personification of truth. He embodies truth. Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Knowing the truth freed the disciples from deception, errors and heresies.
Moreover, Christ said that Satan, who is Lucifer had known the truth; did not abide in the truth. Rebuking the Pharisees who did not believe in Him, Jesus told them they were of their father the devil. He went on to say “he (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, and so does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Reflecting, the confusion that Satan has created, Otto Von Bismarck humorously stated, “when you want to fool the world, tell the truth”. Truth is revealed in the Bible as the character of Christ, His teachings and His promises. Anything that does not agree with the Bible is false, error, deception or heresy.
The former President of America, Ronald Reagan stated, “Americans yearn to explore life’s deepest truths”. He went on to say, “within the covers of that single book – the Bible, are all the answers to all problems that face us today, if we would only read and believe”
Science not the source of Truth
Many people believe that science can reveal truth, but Kathy Sykes, a British Physicist and Professor at the University of Bristol, explains “Science is not about truth, but is about trying to get closer to the truth. This is important, because, too often, people look to scientist as having the ‘truth’, what we have is wrapped in uncertainties, caveats and simplifications”.
Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end there it is”.
Notice the warning, Paul gave in the concluding comments of his first letter to Timothy, “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6: 20-21).
Furthermore, Paul reminded Timothy, to be diligent and accurate in explaining and expounding the word of God. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (correctly presenting) the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The “word of truth”, is the Bible. It is accurate, infallible and authoritative.
The challenge of God’s word and authority continues to assault us today. Best-selling authors tell us the biblical text isn’t reliable, that the biblical manuscripts we have in our possession are hopelessly contradictory, and that we know little or nothing about the real, historical Jesus. Other authors tell us that the Bible is no more than a collection of religious traditions and that God Himself is nothing more than a religious myth. Today theological rascalism and Biblical textual distortion which has given birth to sodomy has eaten deep into the social and spiritual fabric of the Western Church, it has crept into the Nigerian Church.
For the most part, though the challenge to the authority of the scriptures is subtler, and some of it flow out of the deification of man, which says, “The Bible must live up to my standards, I will judge the God of the Bible based on my morality rather than the God of the Bible judging me based on His morality”. In short, when the scriptures contradict our feelings and preferences rather than crucify our feelings and preferences and bow down before God and His word, we question God’s word.
My beloved brethren, the worship of God must be in truth and knowledge of “the truth”, is essential for worship. This knowledge comes through daily contact with the written truth – the word of God and personal identification with the living truth – Jesus Christ. Notice what Jesus said to a Samaritan woman He met by Jacob’s well “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).
On one occasion, even Christ’s enemies, the Pharisees, admitted to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth” (Matthew 22:16). Although they likely said this, tongue in cheek – for they were trying to trick Christ in this situation – their description of Him was true. God speaks of His Holy Spirit as a Spirit of truth that would eventually guide those who believed in Him into all truth (John 16:13). So the political class, the Nigerian society, the Church and most especially the entire Diocese of Mbaise is admonished to shun every form of pseudo – truth, embrace and act on the absolute truth – JESUS CHRIST. In Him we live, move and have our being. In Him lies solution to the heretic teachings bombarding the airwaves, even from some pulpits.
The economic and socio-political problem of our nation Nigeria is traceable to man’s efforts to silence and cover the truth, but how long can we do that? Today there is so much corruption, principally among the political class, armed robbery, violence and terrorism. The very centripetal forces holding this nation is gradually falling apart corroborating the prophetic line of Chinua Achebe in “things fall apart”. When you ignore the truth, frustrations, difficulties, violence, corruption and the likes become imminent as in our situation today. Truth brings restoration of personal and national values, freedom from sin, satanic darts, manipulations and domination.
Knowing the truth is wonderful, but is not enough! God expects us to act on the truth as He helps us learn it. More important than knowing the truth is living the truth – walking in truth, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. You can know the truth if you diligently and prayerfully seek for it. “Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge (truth) of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:3-6). This is the absolute truth!
JESUS is the Truth, knowing and accepting Him as Lord and Saviour will set us free.
“In your hearts enthrone Him,
There let Him subdue,
all that is not holy,
all that is not true,
crown Him as your captain
and let His will enfold you”.
Please rise and let us sing Abu 14
N’Aha nke Kraist Jisus
Ire dum kwuputa
O nato Nna uto
K’any kpo Y’Onye-nw’ayi,
Onye site na mbu
Me Ya Eze n’obi;
Kwe ka O chupu
Ihe dum nadigh nso,
Na ihe b’ugha;
Me Ya Onye-isi
N’ike na ihe.
Umu-nnem, Jisus a
Gabia kwa ozo,
N’otuto nke Nna-Ya,
Ha gabu nke-Ya;
Obi-ayi gakpo Ya
Eze nk’otuto. Amen.
May God help us to engraft and appropriate truth in our personal lives, in our national character and in our service to Him, through the Church.
Thank you for listening.
Your Brother, friend and Bishop