Faith, Truth, and Reason
The answer to the question, “What is truth?,” is easy. Truth is
Reality. Truth is “what is.” Truth is a view of things as they are fully
understood. Truth is knowing a thing in every possible way. Truth is
being able to understand every aspect of a thing or person.
The problem of truth is not its definition, but knowing a thing or a
person truly, that is, knowing it or him fully. That is, truth is knowing everything
about that thing or person and its relation to every other object in
the universe. Thus, to know the truth of a thing is impossible for
any person, group of persons, or the entire human race from Adam and Eve
to the present.
In other words, to know truth requires omniscience. And,
omniscience requires omnipotence and omnipresence so that no power can
hide any information anywhere in the universe.
“Ah!,” you say. You have just said that only God can know truth. “You
are correct.” That is exactly what I am saying.
At one time (not so much lately), philosophers and theologians spoke
of “objective truth.” That is, truth that could be known of a thing or
person, if the seeker of truth were able to accumulate information about
a thing or person that was entirely free of their own or someone else’s
preconceptions, biases, prejudices, assumptions, axioms, presuppositions,
etc.). In philosophical terms, what is required by this approach is that
one must divorce himself from his cosmology--the theory of how the universe
and everything in it came to be.
But being objective in this way is impossible. Whatever one thinks,
he cannot avoid his preconceptions (and all the other synonyms) with
So, we are back to square one, only God can know truth.
“But” you say," Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) said, ‘You shall
know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And,
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). The
Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this is good and acceptable
in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to
come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one
Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy
2:3-5). There are many verses about this concept, so I do not need to
multiply them here.
The Apostle Paul has given us the key to our quest for truth. What
follows “the knowledge of the truth?” This sentence follows, “There is
one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
This knowledge about Jesus is not the whole truth. It is true,
but it is a partial truth. The gospel writer, John, said that “And there
are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written
one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the
books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Now, if the world could not contain all the books about what Jesus
did on earth, how much more space would be required to write about who
and what the Second Person of the Trinity is?
Perhaps, you have grasped my conclusion: we cannot know truth in
the sense of knowing everything about a person or thing. But God
has told us that we can know some truth. We know that the Trinity
consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know that “there is no
other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts
4:12). We know all the information in the Gospels and elsewhere about
who Jesus is and what He did. We know that everything in the Bible is
true. So, we know a great deal of truth. We know truth!!
But this truth that we know is partial. The first point about
truth is that we can know it, at least in the Bible. (For this
limitation, see below.) The second point about truth is that we know
only partial truth. Since omniscience is required to know the
Reality of a thing or a person, then we can never know truth.
“But” you say, “The judge in a courtroom requires that we ‘state the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Well, let us see if
we can live up to that requirement.
Have you ever been in a courtroom? If not, no matter. I am sure that
you have heard several people giving their view of what happened in an
incident. As a physician, I used to work in emergency rooms. I would
often read in the newspaper the next day about the accident that caused
the injuries that I treated. I heard first hand from the victims what
happened! But often, I would have to read the newspaper article
carefully to be sure that the incident in the paper and that that was
described to me was the same incident. Descriptions from different
people vary, and the vary markedly.
Let us assume that everyone who is describing the same incident is
being honest. Why the difference in reporting? I think that you
know. We do not see everything in a situation. Some may be so close to
it that they don’t see what happened on the fringes. Others are so far
away that they don’t see details. Some see everything from beginning to
end. Others may see only a few seconds. People see a situation from
different angles; that will give different views. Some watchers have
better memories that others. And, emotions are running very high. They
always give distortions, both positive and negative.
So, no one person sees “the truth.” In fact, all the eyewitnesses
together do not see “the truth”; that is, everything that happens. So,
can we fulfill the requirements of the judge? Yes and no.
No, we cannot report everything that happened. Only God could do
that. But yes, we can report honestly and carefully as much detail and
explanation as we are able, without any intent to deceive or
misrepresent. (A corollary of this point, then, is that the only truth
that we can know is that in the Bible. If we cannot know everything,
the only way that we can be certain of anything is if God tells us. And,
He has told us a great deal in the Bible.)
This, then, brings us to my third point of truth, and also my
conclusion. Truth is our best effort to know and understand anything.
God requires this truth from us: “You shall not bear false witness
against your neighbor.” This carefully stated commandment requires
us to be honest, not to tell the truth. It is truth from a human
perspective, not the "whole truth."
So, I am done. “Wait,” you say, “You have left one important item
dangling. If God only requires honesty in reporting, then we are off the
hook for reporting or understanding erroneously. If we make our best
efforts, then that is acceptable to God. If we are sincere, that is
acceptable to God. And, while I am speaking, that makes any person’s
belief valid before God, including all the myriad of religions on earth!
Sincerity is all that is required.”
Ah, you have raised a great point and a great challenge. So, I am not
Faith Determines the Truth That I Will Accept
Augustine of Hippo said, “I believe in order to understand.” He could
have said, “I believe in order to know the truth.”
There are many Christians who are evidentialists. They want to argue
that facts and knowledge are prior to faith. Members of the opposing
camp are presuppositionalists. Now, perhaps the most complete and
strongest contention for evidentialists is the book, Classical
Apologetics by R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur W. Lindsley
(1984). But they begin their work with three presuppositions (page 72).
This list is “evidence” that presuppositions are unavoidable and
inescapable. Either one must assume that his senses and thinking are
reliable or he must assume that something else is reliable and
In essence, this “in-house” debate is a reflection of the continuous
debate of philosophers over the centuries. Does man have a priori
knowledge and categories, does he “learn” a posteriori, that is,
as he proceeds from infancy, or does man learn by some combination of
the two? But the assumption of one of these is always prior! There
is always a first principle that governs any approach to knowledge that
is considered valid!
This first principle is a belief. It cannot be proved or else, by
definition and application, it is not a first principle. Geometry
provides a simple illustration. The student starts with axioms and then
develops his proofs. René Descartes
stated, “I think, therefore I am.” That was his axiom, his starting
point, and his first principle.
In their article, "Biblical Epistemology” (see below)
Edward Crawford and Daniel Ghormley stated, “Presuppositionalism … is
manifestly false,” based upon the knowledge that every person has in
Romans 1. Uh, excuse me? Have they not presupposed the truth of the
Bible to make this statement?
So, Augustine was right and all the evidentialists are wrong. Again,
first principles cannot require proof because they are first principles.
Presuppositions are inescapable. And, since they cannot be proven,
they are beliefs, not reasoned statements.
Where, then, are we in our pursuit of truth? Just here. Faith
determines what I will accept as truth. Or, first principles
determine what I will accept as truth. Faith is prior to a
determination of truth for every person who ever lived or will live.
Reality May Have a Rude and Shocking Awakening for
There is one final piece of the puzzle for truth. One’s first
principles must be true or that person will never find truth. When I
dream and wake up, I find that dream was not reality. When a non-Bible
believer wakes up in eternity, he will find that his belief was not
reality and that he lived his entire life as a lie.
When a doctor makes a wrong diagnosis, the patient may suffer because
of his failure to discern reality. When I believe that I can beat a
train to a crossing, I may die because of my belief. When some have
believed that they could fly under their own power, they have had hard
landings! There are innumerable events in the life of every person who
have believed that something was true and Reality gave them a rude and
So, while belief may determine what I will accept and act upon as
true, Reality will determine whether my belief was true. Thus, my
fourth point is that Reality will eventually force one to accept its own
as truth. Now, you can see that Reality is capitalized because God
is Truth; He is reality. Eventually, in every life, His truth will be
Where Is the Place of Reason?
A vigorous debate has always existed between the place of reason and
faith in epistemology. But I have already established that faith begins
the process of knowledge. Reason tests one’s first principles and
establishes a system built upon those first principles. The most
exact form of reason uses the rules of logic. The rules of logic
allow true propositions to be derived from propositions. What is
fascinating about logic if that one can reason logically and reach false
conclusions--because the original propositions were false.
But there are other kinds of reasoning. Likenesses, associations,
similarities, etc. can be made and conclusions derived from
propositions. So, one cannot reason his way to faith; he believes and
reasons from that (those) beliefs.
In philosophy, two of the tests of truth are coherence and
correspondence. Using logic and other forms of reasoning, one can build
a branched system to see how one’s ideas and ethics fit into the whole.
One of the greats tests of a system is a lack of contradiction
anywhere. For example, how does the right to life apply to the
individual, the family, the culture, and to state and national law?
Let’s consider abortion. First is definition. What is a person? Well,
how about the simple definition that a person is the offspring of two
other human beings. Our Declaration of Independence and the U. S.
Constitution says that every person has the right to life and that right
is protected by law. Thus, the claim of a woman that she “has a right to
her own body” has no application in the consideration of abortion. The
child in her womb has a morally and legally protected right to life. It
has the right to be raised in a family with a mother and a father. Thus,
if the “mother” does not want the child, she should allowed it to be
adopted. The state should facilitate this process because it protects
the rights of the child. So, there is coherence in the entire system.
I realize that I have passed through many nuances that others might
want to consider, such as, the issue of “person” and “personhood” and
“right to life.” However, what I have said is Biblical, and the issues
not only cohere, they fit another test of truth, pragmatism.
Problem #1: There are at least one million unwanted pregnancies each
year. Problem #2: There are hundreds of thousands of married couples who
cannot have children, but want them. By Biblical ethics, the two
problems are solved. The women with unwanted pregnancies give their
babies to parents who want them! What could be more pragmatic?
But because the state has violated God’s laws allowing abortion and
has mistaken notions of “child-protection” and “family services,” unborn
children are killed, childless marriages remain childless, and children
are shuttled from family to family for months and years without a stable
home. In this area, the United States has become evil.
1. Truth can be known. We do not know truth by “analogy,” as some
have postulated. We can truly know truth.
2. A finite human being can only know partial truth. And, the only
certain truth is that in the Bible because God has known the truth and
has told us what He has wanted us to know.
3. Our responsibility is to know truth as fully as God has presented
it to us in the Scriptures, and to make every effort to be honest in our
thinking and reporting.
4. Reality, that is, God’s structure of the universe, will eventually
make its truth known, oftentimes in this life, and finally in the life
There are some other nuances on truth that need to be addressed. (1)
All truth is God’s truth. (2) While truth-telling, in the sense of total
truth, is impossible, nevertheless we have certain responsibilities in
the process. (3) If we know only partial truth, and are so easily
mistaken, why does personal and social action work so well. A corollary
of this statement would be, why does modern science work so well, if it
is not truth. And, why have philosophers in their naturalistic and
positivist approach sought science for their answers to all of life’s
dilemmas? I call this approach, “functional truth.” These question
will be answered in other posts on this website.