Q&A: What is truth?

What is truth?

Question

Is the correspondence theory of truth a completely accurate definition of truth for every question relating to truth?

Answer

Pilate asked, "What is truth?" prior to condemning Christ (John 18:38; 19:16). This, of course, includes a multitude of things of which there is not time, space, or adequate knowledge or wisdom for mere humans to discuss in their entirety. Common dictionary definitions of truth mention some form of accord with fact or reality. One such debated theory is the "correspondence theory of truth" which maintains that the truth or falsity of a statement is determined only by how it relates to the world, and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world (Wikipedia). Biblically, however, this theory is weak in that it assumes the existence of reality (this world) prior to the existence of truth itself. Thus, this definition presupposes that God's word in creation at least momentarily may not have been truth as the reality that it set in motion did not yet exist. But wasn't God's word true before the existence of the created reality of which it spoke?John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word" and not "in the beginning was the world." As Paul exclaims:
Col. 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Moreover, it defies the Scripture which states that God makes "known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come" (Isa. 46:10). The reality of which God's truth speaks is not yet a reality in this world! In opposition to the existence of reality of this world prior to God's truth, God says, "I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass" (Isa. 48:3).

Truth is whatever God says it is - nothing more, nothing less. This definition presupposes the existence of God, but there is no definition of truth that does not at least presuppose something (i.e. reality, etc.), and thus the Christian's position remains embedded in the author of truth for the definition of truth.
1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
God and His word are true (Psa. 119:160; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 John 5:20; Rev 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2; 19:9, 11). His truth leads to other truths. Are there things which are true outside of Scripture? Of course. What I write here appears on a computer or website, etc., but is not mentioned in Scripture. However, no truth exists outside of God who is the maker, creator, and sustainer of all truth (Heb 1:3).

This leads us to the greatest of all truths. From a Christian worldview, one would say that God is true (Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 1:9, etc.). Since God himself is true, then by definition all he says and does is truth (Psa. 19:9; Dan. 4:37), otherwise he would deny himself and no longer be true. So, the Bible is true (Psa. 119:160; John 3:33). It may at times be wrongly interpreted, but this does not change the truth of the Word of God; rather, it is a verdict against the interpreter. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37-38), and since he is God incarnate, he himself is true (Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:14; John 1:1-17; 17:3; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 3:7, 14, etc.). This then leads to the great truth that, since God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2), Christ bore the sin of His elect on the cross (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7; 2:5; Col. 1:14; 2:13) and they will spend eternity with the Trinity (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:17).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).