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What is Truth?

Do you remember when Pontius Pilot asks Christ, the savior of the world, "What is truth?" and then he just walks away? This seems to be quite a pervasive problem in the world today. Maybe people don't do exactly what Pilot did, but they more or less do the same thing with their words and actions.

Relative truth seems to be at an all-time high here in the United States--at least in the Western world. What is true to these people is relative to the context, or to language, or to time, and on and on it goes. But the reality is that if truth is not objective, then we can't know anything. I say this because if truth is not objective, then it depends on something else. And if we don't know what truth is dependent on, then we can't know whether something is true or not. But objectively, there is no amount of conjuring we can do to make a circle a square. But that does not stop people from thinking that this can be done if we just look at it from the right angle. No, I am afraid that 2+2=4 is true in an objective sense whether or not you want it to be true. It does not matter if some cultures deny this. It does not matter if in 1,000 years people no longer believe this. It is a reality whether people like it or not.

But let me step back for a moment because there are competing views on what it means for something to be true that I want to talk about. there are three main views. The views in consideration are coherence, pragmatism, and correspondence.

The coherence view of truth is simply that if something is internally logically consistent then it is true. Why this view is wrong is because a lot of people invent stories and we don't consider those stories objectively true. The Lord of the Rings is a fascinating story and carries with it a lot of fundamental truths about reality. And it is logically consistent. But it is not objectively true. It is a story made up in the mind of a person and put in a book. However brilliant a person is in describing things relating to it being internally consistent, this does not mean in any way that it is objectively true. For example, I could be right about things 99% and I could be 100% consistent. But that 1% of things is always going to be incorrect.

The pragmatic view of truth states that truth is what is demonstrated to be true for all time. If something just so happens to be able to withstand the test of time, then it is true. But something can check all the boxes and dot all the i's and cross all the t's of time and it could still not be true outside of human perception. I think of Dr. Jordan Peterson this way. If you were to ask him why the Bible is true, I'm guessing his answer would not be because the Bible is true in a transcendent or objective way, but only because it is true in a foundational way for the West. So he will say that the Bible is true. But he will not say that the Bible is objectively true because to him, truth is not objective in the common sense way we understand it. For example, he believes that the Bible has many contradictions in it. But this does not stop him from saying it is true. How can this be? Because, according to him, things do not need to fulfill the coherence view of truth to be true. They only need to stand the test of time. So, to Peterson, the Bible is foundational to truth because it just so happens that Western society is built around the premises of the Bible and that is what makes it true.

So when you view things in a coherent view of truth or a pragmatic view of truth, truth is no longer a transcendent thing. It is not true outside of what people think about things with these views. It is, to a large extent, based exactly on the way humans conceptualize things. But I think that view is wrong. For example, if humans did not exist, then according to these other views of truth, there would be no truth. But we know that cannot be the case because logically, if humans did not exist, then there very well may still be stars and galaxies and planets and all that goes with that. But without humans as truth-makers, then there can be no truth. And if you are like me and you think what is true is what is reality, meaning they are synonymous, this poses a problem for the alternate views of truth (which, thankfully, I think most people in our society today still hold to the common-sense view I am describing now). It should be much simpler to say and seems to make more intuitive sense, that truths exist in isolation from other things such as imagination, conception, or time. The view of truth that I am talking about right now is the correspondence view of truth. I'm trying to talk about both what the correspondence view is not and what it is so you have a better idea of what I am talking about. This view is the view that whatever is true is what simply is the case. In other words, in the correspondence view of truth, the truth does not depend on anything, it simply is. Truth is reality ipso facto.

This sets up an interesting discussion of theology and the idea of God. I watched a debate some time ago between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. James White and Dr. Craig holds a Molinist view of God while Dr. White holds a Reformed view of God. You see, according to Dr. Craig, truth is ultimately transcendent, meaning, that truth does not depend on anything, including God. Whereas to Dr. White, God is what truth is dependent on. It's a subtle but very significant difference in their correspondence views of truth. According to Dr. Craig, there does not need to be a "truth-maker" for something to be true, and according to Dr. White, God literally is what truth is based on. Both men agree that God is omnipotent. Both men agree that God is omniscient. But they disagree as to the nature of the transcendent reality of what it means for something to be true. At the time I viewed this debate, I thought Dr. Craig's view was, quite frankly, bizarre. "How could something be true outside of God?" I asked myself. Now that I have learned more about these three different views of truth, Craig's view makes more sense to me. I still think that I have to agree with Dr. White on this particular point though as I firmly believe that God is what is truth. And as it is said in the Bible, "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," (John 1:17). Christ even said he is the truth (John 14:6). Now, I don't agree with the Reformed about everything. But I do think it is a mistake to say certain truths in the form of counterfactuals (as Dr. Craig talks about things in Molinism) are just floating around in the ether.

And that leads me to my own personal view of truth. I think what is true is what is in the most axiomatic sense. In other words, the only thing that exists is what is true. You can tell a lie, but that lie is not an actual thing. In the same way, a sin is not something that actually exists but is instead a privation or perversion of what does exist. So much of our theology (in the West at this time least) is based on this idea that objective truth exists as a transcendent reality. Think of original sin, for example. Doesn't this theology mean that apart from God, what we do is inherently flawed? This whole idea is part of a bigger story of my theology in general. See my articles "A Radical Look at Sin" and "A Radical Look at Holiness" to see this. The idea behind my view of truth is that only what is true exists in reality and only what is reality is true. In other words, truth is only a one-way path of reality, meaning that whatever happens can only go in one direction and can only be one way. This just seems to make sense on an intuitive level. We cannot actually time travel. We cannot actually go back in time and see what happened thousands of years ago. So though what happened at the dawn of creation and how all that works is lost in the sands of time, we still have good reason to believe that events in the past are just as real as the present (and the future) because we can see evidence of what happened in the past in the present. And I know someone out there would probably criticize my view saying that things exist that are not purely good or true. And I would completely agree with that! There are things that exist that are not purely good or true. But I mention in the same way in my article, "A God Outside of Time" that, "God operates on a 'higher resolution' than time does." This is my way of saying, the only thing that actually exists in the most real sense is God. God is the monolith and everything flows from him. There are things that exist outside of God, but they are simply a lesser reality of what actually is. I think there have been many theologians and philosophers who have thought the same thing throughout time.

To conclude, what exists is what is. And what is, in the most fundamental sense, is God. This idea flies in the face of different ideas of how to conceptualize truth. So, no, Dr. Peterson, I do not make any apologies for saying I believe God exists.

"For from him and through him

and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever. Amen."

(Romans 11:36)

That's all for this one.

God bless you! Until next time!

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