From “Christianity on the Offense” by Dan Story
We would do well to heed this warning from Gordon H. Clark about irrationalism. Anybody can claim anything, but claiming doesn’t make it true. Anybody can believe anything, but believing doesn’t make it true. One can sincerely believe in something and be sincerely wrong. There has to be some criteria for determining religious truth if religious truth is to be known at all.
There are such criteria, and we will spend considerable time examining them in the following chapters. But first there are two fundamental concepts that must be understood in order for this criteria to be meaningful. Together, they form the basis of all truth and knowledge.
Truth Corresponds to Reality
Truth is a fact that, by its very nature, is immutable—it cannot change. As James Sire put it, truth is “propositional: a statement is true if what it says is so is so, or if what it says is not so is not so.” This means that whatever is true must be in agreement with and conform to reality. What is reality? It’s what’s real—“the way things really are.” It is what exists independent of people’s personal opinions and beliefs. Let me illustrate this.
Let’s say I misplaced my dictionary. I think it’s on my desk (what I believe is truth), but actually it’s on the kitchen table (reality). So the truth of the situation is that the dictionary is on the table independent of my belief that it’s on the desk. Thus, truth (the location of my dictionary) corresponds to reality (where it actually is). It doesn’t matter what I believe; it’s a matter of what is true.
The “correspondence theory of truth” holds that what one thinks is true is true when it matches what is real. We possess true knowledge about something when what we think is true agrees with what exists outside our minds. If I think my dictionary is on my desk and it is on my desk, then what I hold to be true matches reality—my knowledge of the location of my dictionary corresponds to reality. Truth, then, must correspond to reality.
The alternative is that actual truth is non-existent. What people perceive as truth would depend upon their personal feelings or their particular worldview. In either case, whatever seems to be true relative to one’s particular beliefs or opinions becomes truth, and whatever does not fit with one’s beliefs is non-truth.
Obviously, if truth is bound to one’s private beliefs, it may differ from person to person or from culture to culture. This means that universal and unchanging truth is impossible to discover because it does not exist. This in turn means that statements of universal fact are also nonexistent and ultimate reality is unknowable. In short, all truth, if it exists, must correspond to reality. You may find comfort in knowing that most of science operates according to the correspondence theory of truth.
Truth Depends on First Principles
There is a second concept that needs to be understood before we examine criteria for determining truth. There exist universal “first principles” (or “universal givens,” or “fundamental laws of human belief”) which govern how all people in every culture throughout all of history reason. (Some religions and philosophies deny the existence of these universal principles, but they live and behave as if these principles do exist.)
Examples include such concepts as I exist, other people exist, what I see exists, the past existed, there is a real, material world outside my mind, what I hear are real sounds, and the laws of nature are real and will endure. Also included are the “laws of logic,” which we will look at more closely in a moment.
It is because of these first principles that we can determine that truth does correspond to reality and that it is universally applicable. These principles are foundational to all thought and knowledge. They need no confirmation because they are necessarily true—that is, they are undeniable and self-evident. They must exist. Their veracity rests on their own premises rather than on external evidences—although they are certainly confirmed by our everyday experiences. If they needed any proof, they would not be first principles. They stand alone.
Here is an analogy that may help you to see this clearly. Everything in the universe is contingent; it depends on something else for its existence. A tree depends on minerals, water, and sunshine. Canyons depend on erosion. Living things depend on other living things from which they are born. This implies that there must be a first cause— something from which all else springs.
(1) Christians claim that this first cause, on which the entire universe rests and has it being, is God. He is, if you will, the first principle. While everything has a cause for its existence, God is self-existing. He had no cause. He has no justification for His existence because He always existed and is the source of everything else.
(2) In like manner, universal first principles are necessarily self-existing and self-justifying. They are the “first cause” of all contingent thought and knowledge. Just as God is the ultimate source of the universe, so are self-evident first principles the foundation of all truth-claims. No truth can violate them because all truth depends upon them. If a truth-claim violates these first principles, by definition it is false.
Actually, if you think about it, I am not saying anything remarkable or anything you do not already know. We instinctively use these first principles all the time without realizing it. We just take them for granted. They are the necessary principles that govern all human reasoning and communication, and without them we would be unable not only to discern truth but also even to think.
The Laws of Logic
(3)The most fundamental of these first principles are the laws of logic, in particular the “law of non-contradiction.” It states that something cannot be two different things at the same time and in the same sense (“A” cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same relationship). For example, it can’t be both raining and sunny outside at the same time in the same spot. My dog can’t be both sleeping under a shrub and chewing a sprinkler head on the lawn at the same time. If it were possible for contradictions to mutually exist, there would be no difference between true and false, black and white, up or down, and so on. Truth would be impossible to discuss, and facts would forever elude us.
The law of non-contradiction is particularly important in determining religious truth. Simply put, it prevents two contradicting religions from both being true. I will illustrate this in just a moment.
Other foundational laws of logic include the “law of identity” (“A” is “A”—my dog is a dog), the law of excluded middle (either “A” or “non-A”—if I declare I’m petting my dog, I’m either doing it or not), and the law of rational inference (assuming my premises are correct, I can derive logical or true conclusions).
Besides these basic laws of logic, there are also self-evident propositions (statements of truth) that are equally foundational to all thought and knowledge. (These propositions are also first principles.) They include: (4)something can be known, (5)opposites cannot both be true, (6)everything cannot be false, (7)something exists, (8)nothing cannot produce something, (9)everything that comes to be is caused, as well as self-defining tautologies such as all husbands are married and all triangles have three sides.
Without these universal laws of logic, it would be impossible to make heads or tails out of the world, let alone discover truth. To deny them would be to sacrifice a rational world and to prevent any meaningful communication. Indeed, it is because of these universal laws of logic that people from different cultures and with different languages can communicate with one another and come to an agreement on what constitutes truth and reality—religious and otherwise.
Let’s look at the person who rejects the correspondence theory of truth and claims that reality is relative to one’s worldview.
Christian Scientists fall into this category. Their religious worldview teaches that sickness and pain are an illusion; they do not exist. But this belief is valid only by rejecting the fact that truth corresponds to reality. Is their belief borne out in practice? When Christian Scientists fall and break an arm, they feel pain. They may claim the pain is an illusion, but they go to a doctor anyway. Even if the broken arm is an illusion, the illusion itself is so real that it hurts. There is no difference between illusion or reality so far as the reactions to the broken arm are concerned.
If we live in a world where illusion is seen and treated as reality, what is the point in calling it an illusion? The claim that the broken arm is an illusion may be consistent with the Christian Scientists’ worldview, but it is not consistent with reality (what is real) as people universally live it out. That the arm is broken is more real than the illusion that it is not. Admitting pain and going to a doctor invalidates the Christian Scientists’ worldview because it is logically inconsistent with how they interface with reality. The reality of their pain and their reaction of going to the doctor corresponds to the truth that the broken arm is not an illusion.
You see, it is not a matter of what is real to me may not be real to you. It is a matter of what really is real. I may “sincerely believe” it’s not raining outside, but if I go outside and it is raining, I’ll get wet in spite of my beliefs.
As an example of how the laws of logic can be violated, let’s return to the subject of pluralism. Pluralism assumes that all religions reflect divine truth in spite of their obvious contradictions. Such a claim flies in the face of the operating laws of logic by which people live and think. It disputes the very means by which we are able to understand reality in all areas of human life. People who expect us to accept religious pluralism are asking us to reject the law of non-contradiction. They are asking us to believe the absurd.
For example, it is logically impossible for contradicting religions to all represent truth. The true nature of God is either monotheistic, pantheistic, or something else. God cannot be both monotheistic and pantheistic. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus. The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus rose from the grave. The Koran denies it. Both cannot be right.
Here is one more example. Many Eastern religions and their New Age clones tell us that to see the truth we must get “beyond” logic. This is utter nonsense. Whatever getting beyond logic entails, it would require logical thinking to accomplish it. Thus the idea of “getting beyond logic” is a self-destroying proposition. As Mark Hanna put it, “There is no way to escape the horns of this dilemma. The employment of logic in the attempt to refute logic is an implicit acknowledgment of the certainty and absoluteness of logic.”
To move beyond logic is to move into rational chaos and a total breakdown of our ability to understand and reason. To move beyond logic would not lead to truth but would make truth impossible to discover.
God has placed in human beings, by virtue of being created in His image, the ability to reason and to think logically. This is what separates humanity from the beasts. God created a rational world that subscribes to the laws of logic and other first principles. When we are encouraged to accept religious beliefs that fly in the face of these laws and self-evident truths, doubts occur. And rightly they should!
If we are to proceed any further in our search for religious truth, we must agree that truth corresponds to reality and that it never violates universal, absolute principles of logic. Only by strictly adhering to these laws can we determine truth from error among conflicting religious worldviews. If you reject these laws, you may as well close this article right now (as well as your mind) because truth will forever elude you.
Is Truth Relatively True or Absolutely True?
Have you ever heard comments like these?
Homosexuality? It’s just another lifestyle. It’s not for me, of course, but if someone wants that kind of relationship, why shouldn’t he? It’s a free country, isn’t it?
Pornography? I think it’s terrible. But we can’t close down the peep shows and adult bookstores just because it’s smut. We have to protect everyone’s constitutional right of free speech.
Abortion? I don’t agree with it personally, but a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own body.
Christians? They’re so narrow-minded and exclusive. Why should they have a monopoly on God? God can reveal Himself in any religion. I believe that all religions are paths to the same mountain top.
These comments have one thing in common. They reflect an increasingly popular belief in Western culture, especially in the area of ethics and religion. It is the claim that truth is relative; it flows from individual beliefs, cultural worldviews, or circumstances rather than from an objective standard (such as God) that exists beyond human subjectivity (beyond personal opinion). In such a system, if beliefs, worldviews, and circumstances vary depending on geography and period of history, then truth must vary as well because it depends on these entities to give it meaning. Truth, then, is not universal and unchanging. Rather it is enslaved to a variety of interpretations.
The philosophy of relativism springs from two foundational presuppositions (assumptions). First, what was once true may not be true anymore. Adultery was immoral in the 1950s but may not be in the 1990s. Homosexuality was a sin in the past but is an acceptable lifestyle today. Second, what is true for me may not be true for you. Abortion may be evil to me but not to you. God may reveal Himself to me in Christianity, but He may reveal Himself to you in Hinduism.
Relativism is widely accepted (wrongly of course) because these two presuppositions are part and parcel of modern pluralism. Take, for example, religious pluralism—the belief that all religions reflect truth. Religious pluralism can only be sustained if truth is relative. Why? Because the world’s major religions contradict one another in their essential doctrines. Only the claim that truth is relative prevents religious pluralism from crumbling.
If religious relativism is true, it follows that ethical relativism is also true. Aren’t ethics generally a product of religion? Thus, just as there are no religious absolutes, there are no moral absolutes. Moral truths change with time and circumstances and are determined by culture or personal opinion, not God.
The philosophy of relativism teaches that absolute truth, truth that is applicable to all people at all times, is non-existent. Over the past few decades, this philosophy has become widely accepted and represents one of the most significant worldview changes in modern Western society. More and more people believe that truth and ethical behavior are neither determined by God nor revealed as absolute principles through the Judeo-Christian religion. Rather they are a result of personal beliefs and experiences as interpreted by one’s culture.
A recent survey by the Barna Research Group asked the question, Is there absolute truth? The survey revealed that the majority of American adults believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth and that different people can define truth in contradictory ways and all be correct.
Says George Barna: A 1991 study discovered that the vast majority of Americans do not believe in absolute truth. If you combine that insight with the prevailing perceptions about sin, you might conclude that although Americans believe in the idea of sin, they reject the notion of an absolute definition of sin. Thus, an act that is a sin in my eyes may not be something you would consider sinful. To most adults, this conflict in perspective is perfectly permissible. When all truth is deemed relative, so is the evaluation of our actions. (But it is wrong).
This surprising (and alarming) fact becomes paradoxical when we consider that 88 percent of American adults say they are Christians, and that two-thirds of the nation’s adults claim to have made a personal committment to Jesus Christ. Add this to the fact that 56 percent of all adults “strongly” agree that the Bible is the “written Word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches” (and another 18 percent agree with this statement “somewhat”), and you are forced to conclude that most Americans do not understand what being a Christian is. They fail to recognize that biblical truth-claims are absolute statements about reality and not open to personal opinion. Relativism has infiltrated their thinking. (CB’s comment: It also proves that most who claim to be Christians do not know how powerful God really is and more importantly they do not know what God wants of them!!!)
Absolutism: The Way God Intended It
Christianity opposes relativism at every turn because to surrender to relativism is to admit that truth does not have its source in God. It is determined by people and is wholly subjective in nature. According to relativism, there is no such thing as objective truth. Truth is wholly subjective—it is relative to individual or cultural interpretation.
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that truth is absolute. It flows from a standard outside human reasoning and experience. Truth is complete, final, unchanging, and applies to everyone equally. Truth is not capricious nor is it relative and determined by individuals or cultures.
Absolutism teaches that there exists an absolute standard for judging moral behavior and spiritual truth. This absolute standard is God, and He is revealed in Scripture (revelation). Hence God is the source of all truth, the ultimate reality, and the standard by which all truth-claims are measured. As Geisler observed, “Since God’s moral character does not change, … whatever is traceable to God’s unchanging moral character is a moral absolute.” In sum, if truth-claims do not measure up to God’s revelation as recorded in the Bible God inspired, they are untruths and must be rejected.
Let’s tie this all together. For something to be true, it must reflect the facts as they really exist. It is not enough to say that such-and-such is true because it agrees with the facts as I understand them to be. Rather it must agree with facts as they really are. It must correspond to reality. Truth does not change. As Geisler and Watkins put it:
Truth, like ethical laws, is universal and corresponds to reality. Truth does not spring into existence, neither is it dependent on individuals, on cultures, or on what works. If a statement accurately describes or explains a state of affairs, then its meaning is true for all people, at all places, and in all time periods independently of anyone’s knowledge or verification of the statement. Truth is timeless and absolute, and it corresponds to what is, not to what is not.
Truth, then, is synonymous with reality. If you have truth, you have reality. This implies that if something was true in the past, it is true today whether I recognize it or not. Likewise, if something was false in the past, it is false today because truth is not affected by the passage of time or by personal opinion. It exists outside human beliefs, worldviews, cultures, or circumstances.
This is borne out in everyday experience. Occasionally, we discover that something we thought was true in the past turns out to be false. For example, a few decades ago it was believed that tomatoes were poisonous. Now we know tomatoes are not poisonous, and we recognize that this has always been true—even when we didn’t know it. The truth that tomatoes are healthy food has nothing to do with time or one’s beliefs.
Therefore, if the above mentioned statements are true, and they are, then:
- God is the cause of the universe.
- God and His Son inspired the bible and brought truth to earth.
- God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one being operating as three separate beings.
- Truth cannot change and is absolute.
- Truth Depends on First Principles.
- Truth must correspond with reality.
- God created a rational world that subscribes to the laws of logic and other first principles.
- It is logically impossible for contradicting religions to all represent truth.
- Only by strictly adhering to these laws can we determine truth from error among conflicting religious worldviews.
- The law of non-contradiction is particularly important in determining religious truth. Simply put, it prevents two contradicting religions from both being true.
This is a super fact relating package about God and truth and should be given the utmost of consideration. It is as good an explanation for the existence of God and what truth is as any this writer has found.
Always keep Jesus in your heart and on your mind.
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time.
Prayer: Father, I praise You for Your Son and the Holy Spirit. I praise You for Your grace in sending us Your wisdom about “Truth and Firming the Foundation.” Please bless Dan Story the writer of this article for his wonderful efforts that show and prove Your words true. Please bless those who have read this writing for they too are seeking Your righteous truth understanding.
May God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Christianity be our guiding lights for eternity. Let it be Your will Lord not mine. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory through the power of the Holy Spirit,