It is, of course, not enough to show that the culture and the church have strayed from their roots. The issue of what truth is and how a truth-claim may be tested now needs to be addressed. The essential nature of truth’s relationship to faith ought not be abandoned for relativistic pluralism.
Elton Trueblood says:
“If any religion or any part of religion is not true, we ought to give it up. To maintain the appearance of a faith merely because it is socially useful, or comforting, though believed to be false, is to deny what is asserted. If a religion is not true it is evil! If God is not, then prayer is a waste of good time and wholly indefensible. If there is no life after death, the sooner we find that out the better. In any effort to deal with religion philosophically, we must try to understand what we mean by truth. If we have differing or ambiguous conceptions of the nature of truth, further fruitful discussion will be impossible, for we may be arguing for different positions without knowing it.”
Therefore, it makes sense that we ask the question, “What is truth?” Winfried Corduan provides a helpful way of understanding this question. He writes,
“…there is some kind of reality that is constituted independently of what we say about it. In other words, either my car is in the parking lot or not; either the geometry of right triangles follows the Pythagorean theorem or not; either God exists or He does not. This reality is a given. Our statements are true if they correspond to the reality in question; they are false if they do not correspond. We call this the correspondence theory of truth…”
In other words, regardless of what reality might be, if something is true, it corresponds to that reality. For Christians, the truth proclaimed relates to God because he is ultimate reality. Because truth is ultimately grounded in the person and character of God, truth is absolute or objective, unchanging, and universal. This absolute, unchanging and universal truth corresponds between a belief, a judgment or proposition, and a fact or state of affairs. Again, it is important for the Christian to respond to the charge of being arrogant with the humble claim that it is God alone who is omniscient. It is God who knows “all the truth about everything and knows it perfectly. As creator of all, he is the ultimate source of all our knowledge, so that our attempts to know truth are dependent on him and bear witness to him.” Thus, the Christian freely and humbly admits dependence upon the living God for his or her epistemological foundation.
Nevertheless, it is one thing to assert that one’s proposition or religious belief is true while quite another thing to test that truth-claim. How does one test a religious or philosophical truth-claim? Ronald Nash suggests five such tests: reason, experience, outer world, inner world, and practice. While all five are extremely helpful in evaluating a worldview, the limitations of this post prohibit examining all of them. Therefore, only the test of reason will be considered.
Nash says that by referring to the test of reason, he is referring to “logic or the law of noncontradiction.” The law of noncontradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same relationship. What this means is that when two contradictory truth-claims are stated and compared to one another, if one is true, then the other one is necessarily false. Nash says:
“Since contradiction is always a sign of error, we have a right to expect a conceptual system to be logically consistent, both in its parts (its individual propositions) and in the whole. A conceptual system is in obvious trouble if it fails to hang together logically.”
This test obviously will not be as useful for those religions or philosophies which make no universal truth claims. However, Carl Henry points out that “Logical inconsistency sacrifices plausibility; a logically inconsistent system cannot be valid or true.”
Furthermore, any repudiation of the law of noncontradiction is purely artificial and temporary. Aristotle showed that the law of noncontradiction is indispensable for significant action, significant thinking and significant communication to take place. Any argument against the law actually assumes it. In order for significant action to take place one cannot therefore do and not do a certain task at the same time and in the same relationship. If significant thinking is to take place then one cannot affirm two contradictory propositions as true. Finally, if significant communication is to take place, then words and propositions cannot be contradictory or have infinite amounts of meaning. More importantly, the use of logic is not the use of a human invention or meaningless word-games. Ronald Nash writes:
“‘The true nature of logical conclusions has not been arranged by men, rather they studied and took notice of it so that they might be able to learn or to teach it. It is perpetual in the order of things and divinely ordered.” For Augustine, the truth of propositions like ’2+2= 4′ does not consist simply in the mental act of making this judgment. Rather, its truth lies in the eternal reality which makes the judgment true. The truths of logic are not empty tautologies devoid of any reference to being.”
Moreover, this is not merely a law of thought, but has a direct relationship to ontological reality. Nash suggests:
“The denial of the law of noncontradiction leads to absurdity. It is impossible meaningfully to deny the laws of logic. If the law of noncontradiction is denied, nothing has meaning. If the laws of logic do not first mean what they say, nothing else can have meaning, including the denial of the laws.”
Thus a truth-claim, to be considered true, must actually correspond to reality or to the way things really are, and must not contain contradictions within the system. Once again, the test of reason can only serve as a negative test for truth. “…[T]he absence of contradiction does not guarantee the presence of truth.” However, as one of five tests for truth, it is extremely useful.
Next time we’ll take a look at the essential components to the Christian worldview.
PS - The video below is the best one minute and 43 second answer as to why as person should be a Christian that I've heard in a long, long time. And, gratefully, it goes well with I've just written. Enjoy.
Grace and Truth,