Laurel or Yanny: The Truth

Laurel or Yanny

There is an auditory phenomenon sweeping the internet right now. Similar to the dress photo from a couple of years ago that sent everyone into a frenzy. This year it is not an optical illusion but an auditory…illusion (for lack of a better word).

What do you hear when the word “laurel” is played audibly? Some hear the word “laurel” as you would expect; but others hear “yanny.” I have listened to the word “laurel” at varying frequencies and heard both words. But does that mean that both are true? My daughter and I debated this on the way to school the other day. Her conclusion was insightful when she said, “dad it doesn’t matter what you hear the word is laurel!”

While this is really fascinating to me; it makes me wonder about how we “hear” truth. Is what we perceive or experience more important than what we know as truth?

Our culture has taught us that you can have your truth and I can have mine. Is that really accurate? Does that work in the “real” world? Can you imagine trying that with the police officer the next time you get pulled over for speeding? Give it a try and see how far “your truth” will get you.

Think about this, we are often confronted with competing “truths” when it comes to spiritual things. So, should we trust our experience or perception? Or should we dig deeper past our emotions to discover the answer to the burning question: what is truth? Pontius Pilate famously asked Jesus this same question moments before condemning Jesus to the cross(John 18:38). It seems today that Pilate’s question remains a difficult one. Truth is defined as that which corresponds or is in accordance with reality. In other words, is the concept, idea or thing in question verifiable? Does truth exist or do we live in a post-truth world? We don’t live in a post-truth world. Oprah, at the Gold Globes, said that “your truth is the most powerful tool we all have” Uh, no! Oprah is wrong. There’s no such thing as your truth; just like there’s no such thing as my truth. Truth is absolute and is not affected by our thoughts, experiences, feelings, or anything else. Truth is unchanging. Truth is discovered not decided. Truth is the same today as it was thousands of years ago and will be thousands of years from now. The reality of the world we live in proves to us each day that our perception or experience, although powerful and often convincing, is not a clear indicator of the truthfulness of something. The equation 2+2=4 is a true expression. It will always be true even if I feel or think that it is not true; and even if I did think the equation was false I would be wrong not the equation.

Have you ever disagreed with someone? You can feel like you’re right but that doesn’t make you right. In Romans 1:19-20, Paul clearly writes that God’s existence is clearly seen in the world we live in yet many people disagree.

Think about it from another aspect. Many of my Mormon friends tell me about an experience they have had answering the challenge in Moroni 10:4 of praying and asking God for a sign the Book of Mormon is true. While their experience was certainly real; does it make the experience true? Just because we experience or perceive something to be true, does that make it true? So, we are left with the burning question:

What is truth?

Jesus identified that the Word of God is truth (John 17:7). How can we know if God’s Word really is truth? It goes back to our definition of truth: does it correspond with reality? Let’s consider this for a moment.

  • Scientific evidence points towards the universe coming from nothing – the Bible says God created ex nihlo (out of nothing)
  • History has confirmed the events recorded in Scripture.
  • Archeology has consistently confirmed the Bible.
  • Nearly 6,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts has allowed scholars to confirm all but 40 lines of the New Testament.
  • Fulfilled prophecy throughout the Bible shows the trustworthiness.
  • The list could go on but I think you get the point. While none of these points singularly make the case, the cumulative case is overwhelming – the Bible passes the test.

How can we use this latest hot topic to teach our children? Ask your children: “Is there an objective truth in the laurel/yanny debate?” How can we know which word it is? In this case it is quite simple; but what about the areas of life that really matter? What about God’s existence? What about the trustworthiness of the Bible? How can we determine what is truth? Use this to challenge your children to dig deeper to find the real, unchanging and absolute truth. I have found the unchanging Word of God to be truth, just as Jesus proclaimed; but don’t take my word for it – discover it for yourself.

Brady Blevins is the senior apologist at Watchman Fellowship and assistant dean of the Graduate Theology School at Arlington Baptist University. Follow him on Twitter: @bradyblevins