God is truth.

We now approach the subject of how God and truth are related and we do so in reverence and prayerfulness, asking God for his illuminating Holy Spirit that those things he has revealed to the minds of men would be here revealed. The study of God, theology proper, is a subject that ought to be approached with the highest of esteem and caution, for we are never closer to blasphemy than when we pervert theology or unleash our tongues in anger. As God is the keeper of all truth, we ask he grace us with a proper understanding of him.

Some of what will be said here will borrow from topics already addressed, as the subjects overlap. It should also be pointed out that those subjects are really dependent on this one, and that the arguments repeated here, really derive their necessity from God rather than the other way around (obviously). The primary meaning of the thesis is that God is the lone source of all truth. It begins by demonstrating first that God is indeed true. The argument asserts that not only is the Godhead truth, but each Person of the Trinity as well, and this is said explicitly in Scripture. The idea is so pervasive in Scripture that a great multitude of verses could be presented; however, just three citations from the Gospel of John will suffice.

The Father is truth:

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God . . .” (John 17:3 NASB).

The Son is truth:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life . . .” (John 14:6 NASB).

The Holy Spirit is truth:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . .” (John 16:13 NASB).

We should also add this.

God’s word is truth:

“. . . Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NASB).

These four verses demonstrate that the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures are all true. This evidence, along with myriad other biblical passages that express precisely the same meaning, led the Westminster Divines to conclude that God “is truth itself” (WCF 1:4). What, indeed, could be truer? But lest we should be charged with making an invalid inference—for simply because God is truth it does not follow on this premise only that God alone is truth—we intend to demonstrate that indeed God alone is truth.

There are primarily two arguments that will be pursued to prove this thesis. The first comes in two interrelated parts. In the first part, we wish to show that God is the source of all things. Secondly, we wish to demonstrate that since God preexisted as the truth, only he can be called truth (that is, the source, or foundation of truth) because truth is eternal. The second argument aims to show that nothing temporal can be true.

The first argument follows as such. If God is the source of all things, and if God does not change, then truth does not change, seeing that God is truth, for if truth changed, God would change. The two premises are founded in the following Scriptures:

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever (Romans 11:36 NASB).

“For I, the LORD, do not change  . . .” (Malachi 3:6 NASB).

To the immutability of God, we also add eternity:

Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:2 NASB).

Now, the following inference will probably not sit well with some, but this is what the Bible says, so try to stay with me. If God is immutable, eternal, and truth, then truth is immutable and eternal, also. This is not A(ab) < A(ba), mind you (that would be God is truth and truth is God). The argument follows thusly: truth must be immutable and eternal; otherwise, since God is truth, if truth changed, or if truth was temporal, God would change, or be temporal. This would contradict God’s immutability and eternity, and as a result, truth is necessarily immutable and eternal.

If one more passage from John may be permitted, this argument can soon be concluded.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3 NASB)

Verse three here asserts that nothing that came into being (that is, temporal things, essentially, everything except God) that was not created by the Word of God, who is God and truth.

This brings us to the second argument. This is the part that will upset many people, though why I cannot imagine. Since truth is eternal, but creation is not, it follows that creation cannot be truth. Note that this does not mean creation cannot be true. It means that creation itself has no inherent truth quality. Creation is not true because of anything found in it. Creation is true because God did it. In other words, truth is completely reliant upon God. What God thinks is true and what is true is thought by God. What we think is not necessarily true. It is only true if God thinks it is true.

This leads many people to make a considerable number of objections that attempt to reduce this position to absurdity. One such objection is that if we can never know the truth, then we cannot be saved. This objection misses the point, though. The argument does not assert man can never know the truth. It says that man is not the source of truth. Let us use a particularly useful example.

Sensation is something that many take for granted as true. If you see a hand attached to an arm that is attached to a torso to which your head appears to be attached, you conclude that it is true that the hand in front of your face is yours. This might indeed be true, but you cannot possibly know it. Why not? Because there is nothing necessarily true about your thoughts. You are not truth. There is nothing inherently true about you at all apart from God. Now, it just so happens that since you understand what I am saying, you are rational. As a result, you must be a man made in God’s image, for man alone is rational among God’s creatures. But note that this is only true because it is derived from God’s word. The truths contained in God’s word are necessarily true, for they are a part (an infinitesimally small part) of God’s thoughts.

The next objection comes quickly after this reply. The Bible has many occurrences of sensation, which must be true, since God’s word is true. This is an apt, but irrelevant reply. The argument readily acknowledges that these instances of sensation are true; however, the arguer’s sensations are not accounted in Scripture (that is, your sensations and mine are not in the Bible); therefore, they cannot be said to be necessarily true, for we do not know if these sensations are correct or not. This also gives birth to another objection.

If God knows all things then he must know all instances of sensation; therefore, sensation must produce truth because God is true and he knows them. This argument demonstrates considerable confusion. It is true that God knows all things. It also is true that God knows all instances of sensation. But there are two problems with the objection.

First, simply because God knows what sensations we have and what inferences we draw from those sensations, it does not follow that those sensations and inferences are true. What God knows is that you think such-and-such sensation infers such-and-such proposition. This does not mean that God thinks so. In fact, if that were true, then everything we think would be true by implication.

The second is that, while we apparently have “sensations,” we do not really know what they are or how they work. We take for granted that when we “see” something, that object exists as an entity separate from our visual perception of it. We might even invite a friend over and ask him if he sees the same object. If he concurs, we conclude that the object is objectively sensible. This does not follow, however. First of all, objectivity infers universality. That is, if the object is objectively visually sensible, it must be visually sensible to all sentient beings. Great problems arise from this position. In the first place, there are blind persons who would not be able to see the object. In the second, a colorblind person may perceive the object to be colored differently. Is this different colored object the same as the one sensed by you and your friend? If so, how do you know? Any appeal to sensation at this point will result in a circular argument, and thus beg the original question. Even more, the inference that the object is objectively visually sensible is invalid because you have not tested the inference against all sentient beings. Only after testing the assertion against all sentient beings (and this, of course, must include all dead and all future sentient beings, for the assertion was universal) would you be able to make such a conclusion. But such a procedure is temporally impossible. From this, it necessarily follows that we cannot know whether or not our inferences from sensation are true or not.

Therefore, God alone is truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

Jon

 

Rationality is Morally Necessary

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20, 21 NASB)

Romans 1:20, 21 is the definitive passage that expresses the a priori knowledge of God in man. It seems natural that man, as the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7), would have a priori ideas about God. We probably do not know all the forms or all the information that man has available. But we do know from whom this knowledge comes—Jesus, who is “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9 KJV).

There are many interesting theories about what precisely this enlightenment and this a priori knowledge are. Augustine wrote a short little book called De Magistro (roughly translated, Concerning the Teacher) in which he posited a very Platonic idea, which runs thus. Man never learns anything; he only remembers. He gives numerous examples of why he says so and goes round and round with his fifteen-year-old son (the book is written in the form of a dialogue). Augustine’s main argument is that no one can teach any man anything because he must first know the subject on which the teacher would speak before he can understand. If I told you all snarks are delicious, there would be precious little for you to make of this proposition; however, if I told you snarks are delicious, have snouts, cloven hooves, curly tails, a pinkish skin, eat slop, make grunting noises, and taste outstanding when smoked and pan-fried, you would begin to remember the objects that these attributes are commonly associated with and would draw the inference that by snark, I mean pig. And naturally, when we discuss how you knew these attributes of a pig, we would have to inquire into the remembrance of things that occurred when someone first reminded (not taught) you what a pig is. And this would regress to your birth, at which point, Augustine believes his argument is proven that man must be born with a priori knowledge of not only himself and God, but of other objects as well.

This is all very Platonic, and Augustine’s ideas expressed here never really did catch on. Nevertheless, there is a certain value to mentioning it here. If it is true that all men are born with the knowledge of things and need only be reminded of them through interaction with the sensible world then are we also born with the knowledge of good and evil? I believe the answer lies right at the beginning of the Bible.

Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? . . .” (Genesis 3:9-11 NASB)

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has proven to be an exegetical difficulty for many a commentator throughout the ages. I profess it is no easier for me, so I will not undertake to explain the full of its significance here, but will address the consequences of Adam breaking the Lord’s commandment. It becomes clear to us from the account of the Fall that the Tree in some way effected the moral knowledge of good and evil in Adam. We even see that Adam realizes (Augustine: remembers) that he is naked without the explicit revelation of the Lord. That is, God did not tell him he was naked (“Who told you that you were naked?”). From this, we infer that the knowledge of good and evil was something foreign to man in his prelapsarian(1) state. But we did not remain ignorant—Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil . . .” (Genesis 3:22 NASB). And in some manner, this knowledge of good and evil has resulted in man being wholly set in his heart to do evil alone: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 NASB). It is also by this event that Paul says sin entered into the world and that all men sinned in Adam (Romans 5:12). Even more, the prophet speaking under inspiration of the Holy Spirit said of this condition, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV).

This brings us to the current topic of why rationality is morally necessary. Man has fallen from his previously perfect state. And note that the use of “perfect” here follows the common biblical meaning of “sinless.” Adam was not perfectly perfect in the sense that God is, but was blameless. Now, however, all men are evil, with wicked and deceitful hearts. It might be inferred from Jeremiah 17:9 that Adam knew his own heart, for it was not deceitful or wicked, but was pure and blameless. As fallen creatures, we do not have this ability, though.

Now, our curse is living with a heart that deceives us. We know the good we ought to do, but our mind provides us with all the excuses we need to not do it. And this should not be missed, of course. What was lost at the fall is the will to do good, not the knowledge or ability to do good. There are many cases in the Bible of postlapsarian man discerning good (Judges 17:13, 1 Samuel 29:9, Job 5:27; 34:4) and discerning what is not good (Ecclesiastes 3:12, Matthew 7:11, Romans 7:18). And this leads us back to vv. 20, 21 in the first chapter of Romans, where we began this entry.

The title of this entry is “Rationality is Morally Necessary.” What I mean to say is that morality is dependent on rationality. Animals, though they have bodies and souls (yes, they do: Genesis 7:15, 22, Ecclesiastes 3:21), they are not the image of God, they are not rational. When God commanded Adam to not eat of the tree, he put it in the form of a proposition: If you eat of the tree then you shall die (Genesis 2:17). Other commands are simply imperatives and not propositions, such as the Ten Commandments. But as objects of knowledge, they are propositions—the eighth commandment forbids stealing; or, if I steal then I am breaking the eighth commandment.

What is morally necessary in the law is the rational basis of the law itself. The law is a standard against which the thoughts and deeds of men are measured. As we have seen, the heart cannot be the standard, for it is deceitful and wicked. Man is not his own judge. This is not to ignore passages such as Romans 14 where it is said that whosoever eats and does not eat of faith, he sins. The heart is not the judge here, but the law, which asserts that whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23) and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

A few weeks ago, we had examined some of the problems with irrationality. Those points apply explicitly to the topic at hand. One point in particular bears repeating.

The obvious problem with irrationality is that it refuses to submit to the Scriptures. Paul says that the Scriptures are sufficient to make a man wise unto perfection. Those who make their own emotions the basis for morality completely ignore the Scriptures’ claim to be the infallible rule of faith.

Irrationality presupposes the non-existence of objective and unequivocal truth. Similarly, though not identically, skepticism, which is the non-cognition of truth, is just as destructive to morality as irrationality. The irrationalist asserts that truth does not exist and the skeptic asserts that truth cannot be known. Both of these assertions necessarily infer that man can neither know good nor evil, and consequently denies the fall and the rational basis of the law. If the proposition, “Stealing is wrong,” is not true, then it follows that man cannot be held accountable for sins. If God’s proposition to Adam in Genesis 2:17 was not true then men should live forever. Even more, we should have no knowledge of good and evil, yet one of the primary arguments for the non-existence of God is the “problem of evil.” The hearts of the heathen do greatly deceive them, for they do not realize (or forget, as Augustine might say) that evil exists as the contradictory of good, and that only objective, universal truth can provide the necessary basis for moral good and evil.

Soli Deo Gloria

Jon

(1) Prelapsarian means “before the fall.” Postlapsarian would be “after the fall.”