Secular Uses for the Biblical Truth “The Truth Shall Set You Free”

Jesus’ words in John 8 have been oft quoted and applied by the secular world around us. Pick a Sit-Com, and inevitably you will find that at some point in the series there was an episode about deceit, struggling to keep a secret, or a mystery, and it is almost required that someone utter the phrase “The truth shall set you free.”

Here are some other secular uses you might find interesting:

  • “And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free” is carved in stone in the OHB (Original Headquarters Building) of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • There is a website called whose motto is “Dedicated to liberating Americans through education!” From what I could tell it was advocating limited government and delved into some conspiracy theories including the existence of extraterrestrial life.
  • President James Garfield once said, “”The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

It’s a phrase we come across all the time in our culture today, but never with the meaning that Jesus intended.

When our culture uses the phrase it usually entails the feeling of relief that is felt when the truth is discovered—either because we solved the mystery, or because we no longer have to keep a secret, or because we can deal with our guilt out in the open.

In fact, I think if you were to take a poll (even including Christians) and ask people what “The truth shall set you free” means, I would think the majority would give an answer related to guilt and relief, secrecy and honesty.

We also use the phrase to encourage the pursuit of knowledge. The CIA nuances this usage by suggesting that their pursuit of information is vital to the freedoms we enjoy in

What Jesus Meant:

Jesus’ point was much different. The “truth” Jesus was referring to was the Truth of His Word.

To be “set free” is to be released from the bondage of sin and to be empowered to live a life according to the Truth, namely Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The freedom is the freedom to experience the blessing that living a godly life brings while avoiding the oppressiveness of sinful living.


Karl Barth’s Most Profound Truth

“For those of you who have never heard of Karl Barth, he was the most prolific theologian of this century. He is the Wayne Gretzky, the Babe Ruth, of 20th century Christian theology. Karl Barth’s theology was as complex as it was profound. When Barth visited the University of Chicago, students and scholars crowded around him. At a press conference, someone asked, ‘Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your studies?’. Without hesitation he replied, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. Karl Barth, perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, was impacted most, not be reading theological treatises, but by the simple truth, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. Surely this demonstrates to us that we need not wait until we are Bible scholars before we begin obeying the command: “preach the Word “…”


Noel Coward's infamous prank

Remember the late Noel Coward’s infamous prank. The English playwright sent an identical note to twenty of the most famous men in London. The anonymous note read simply: ‘Everybody has found out what you are doing. If I were you I would get out of town.’ Supposedly, all twenty men actually left town!

What if you opened your mail one day and found such a note? What would race through your mind?

Do we all have something to repent, some guilt that is hidden, some true confessions to make?