What Qualifies for Truth?

Dear Janice,

Forgive me for the length of time you had to wait for my response to your very reasonable questions. I wanted to honour the query by taking the time to answer it thoughtfully, and I thought it best to enter the discussion through your last question, “Why can’t the truth come as a set of ideas?”

For the most part, I have thought of truth as something that matches reality.  The Cambridge  Dictionary of Philosophy calls this the correspondence theory of truth. More formally stated, truth is the property of statements or propositions that correspond to reality.

Now I am a product of the Western modernist tradition so my tendency is to assume that the truth can and should be stated as a set of ideas. That assumption rests on a more fundamental conviction that ultimate reality is something like the natural world, which can be approached through testing, and detached reasoning. If so, then I can apprehend the truth concerning stars or electron states, hamster ovulation or neural networks apart from my personal involvement with them and without any expectation that my identity would be affected by my discoveries.

But what if nature is not the ultimate reality? What if the fine-tuned universe took its form not under the chaotic whims of chance, but the elegant and purposeful crafting of a Personality?  That would imply that the most natural way to ultimate Reality lies in the realm of revealed knowledge, through person-to person-relationships in history. Let me illustrate.

Suppose I am new to Toronto; I want to visit the Royal Ontario Museum and I ask you for help at the Bus Terminal. You could do one of three things. First, you could give me directions to St. Patrick station and tell me to ride the University line north to Museum. But because I am terrible with a sequence of verbal direction to places I’ve never been, you give me your trusty TTC map so I can picture where I’m going. Both the directions and the map are objectively  truthful in the sense that they correspond to a reality.  If I could follow either one faithfully, I’ll get there.  But suppose that I’m still confused and you realize that I’m going to the ROM by personal invitation from a grad student who happened to be one of your tutors in anthropology. ( When I was in Chicago, I  was actually invited for a personal guided tour of the Oriental Institute.) You find this to be a remarkable coincidence and it being a sunny day, you offer to walk with me to my destination and say hello to your teacher.

This last offer, though it takes the most effort on your part,  is the best for me because I can’t possibly misinterpret your directions and you would personally introduce me.

This is the force of Jesus’ claim,  ” I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but through me.”  Through his life, he demonstrated the pattern of loving submission to God, that we are to emulate – the Way. Through his words and deeds, we have an absolutely faithful and dynamic picture of the Father’s attitudes and intentions-the truth.  Then by putting ourselves in his hands he puts something of his own life and spirit within us that allows us to follow him as he walks us to his Father’s side-the Life.

Everyone who has ever come to God has been given access through him, whether one realizes it or not. (Jn 1:4, 8:56-58)

So that is how I have come to understand that the
Truth is not just a set of ideas.  If ultimate reality is really the Creator and not the creation, then Truth is a person and can only be represented by a person who can bring us into intimate union with the Creator.

Now what is the implication for those who seek to know the Truth.  Now truth about anything, propositional truth, is just information, most of which has no immediate bearing on our lives.  Now I believe that the existentialists are right in saying  that life cannot be thought, it can only be lived. Information can be understood, even enjoyed, but Truth has to be lived by choosing – by authentic commitment.  A woman who knows several men who would make good husbands but can’t decide on which one, has by default chosen singleness.

It is for this reason, that the call to relationship comes embedded within the revelation of Truth as a person.

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