The God of Truth

26 Oct

THE GOD OF TRUTH

by Pastor Vocab

Christians must testify to the truth of the Gospel in a way the world will understand.  Problem: by and large, they no longer believe there is truth (mainly when it comes to “spiritual” things). If “true truth”, as Francis Schaeffer put it , is important, then we must strive to show our culture there is such a thing as real truth. And the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only place to find it. The following article gives the foundation for the fact that there is a such a thing as Truth; Truth with a capital “T”.

 I once preached a sermon on the Triune God of Scripture as the bedrock for the concept of truth (link: THE TRUE NATURE OF TRUTH). God’s truthfulness or the doctrine of God’s veracity is closely related to God’s faithfulness. God’s truthfulness can be described as an absolute attribute, as a moral attribute, or just as a general communicable attribute – the classification is mainly a matter of emphasis. 

 

Wayne Grudem places it under the subsection of God’s mental attributes. Grudem says “God’s truthfulness means that he is the true God, and that all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth” (Systematic Theology, p 195). Millard Erickson describes the same attribute of God in this way, “Divine veracity means that God represents things as they really are. Whether speaking of himself or part of his creation, what God says is accurate” (Christian Theology, 2nd ed., p 316). The great Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge, also spoke about truth in relation to God: “The true is that in which the reality exactly corresponds to the manifestation. God is true, because He really is what He declares Himself to be; because He is what He commands us to believe Him to be; and because all his declarations correspond to what really is (Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p 437). God is the “truest Truth” there is. 

Colossians 2:2-4 is a particularly unique passage about God being truth: “attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” The stand out line here is “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is one more verse showing that God’s veracity is the foundation for all reality. Louis Berkhof comments: “He is the source of all truth, not only in the sphere of morals and religion, but also in every field of scientific endeavor” (Systematic Theology, 4th ed., p 62). We can extrapolate this truth out: the truthfulness of Christianity must touch on and have something vital to say about every single area of reality and human existence.

An interesting passage on God’s veracity comes from the lips of the “for-profit prophet” (Balaam) in Numbers 23:19, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Here we clearly see the close connection between God’s truthfulness and his faithfulness.

One other way in which the Triune God of Scripture relates to truth: He is the only true God. God is, metaphysically speaking, the only God who is “really there” over against the false gods of the nations whom Scripture designates as “lies.” Robert Reymond (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 201) gives three verses for this point: John 17:31 John 5:20 and Jeremiah 10:10, which declares, “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.”

I have heard people say that the Bible (especially in the Torah) assumes other gods exist when it says things such as “have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2). Many liberal scholars or critics of Christianity say this language is a leftover from the polytheistic mindset of some of the writers. A good response is to demonstrate the solidarity assumed in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and the whole Creation account. There is one God who is creating every single thing in the Universe and he is doing it simply by speaking – where is there even metaphysical “room” for other “gods” to exist? Whenever Scripture speaks of other “gods,” the sometimes unstated (and sometimes stated) underlying premise is that they are all false gods.

THE SCRIPTURE ON TRUTH

The truth of God’s Word is grounded in the nature of God. God is a morally perfect being. Part of moral perfection includes speaking only what is true; God cannot lie. What God says is true because the content is grounded in or comes from a morally perfect being. In other words, the grounding for the Christian belief that the Bible is true is because it came from a source who is morally perfect. Thus, God’s Word is true because God is Truth (for some resources on this, see the notes at the end of this post). Here are some pertinent Scriptures…
In 1 John 4:6, the apostle John talks about knowing the difference between “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”. Within the span of John’s three tiny epistles, he mentions the word truth 16 different times. Paul told a young pastor in Ephesus named Timothy that increasingly people “will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:4) and they will “always [be] learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Paul’s remedy? To “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) so you can “gently correct those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:25). In John 18:37, Jesus states his earthly mission in these terms: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth”.

THE TRUTH IN THE TRINITY

All three persons of the Trinity are described as truth. Theologian Rolland McCune (A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, Vol. 1, 254) talks about this: “As the self-contained, self-consistent Ontological Trinity, God is the source of all truth. David suggests this when he says, ‘You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth’ (Ps 31:5)”.
The ESV translates the phrase Yahweh el emet as ‘faithful God’ in this passage. Emet is a Hebrew word meaning the following: ‘firmness’, ‘faithfulness’, ‘truth’, ‘sureness’, ‘reliability’, ‘stability’, and ‘continuance’. In the New Testament, the main Greek word used for truth is alethes and it has the following meanings: ‘constant’, ‘valid’, ‘genuine’, ‘proper’, ‘upright’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘reliable’, ‘sincere’, ‘honest’, ‘real’, and ‘true’. These definitions help us discern what Scripture means when it describes the Triune God as true. In fact, this word is applied to each person of the Trinity:

THE FATHER: John 3:33 “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.”
THE SON: John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”
THE HOLY SPIRIT: 1 John 5:6b – “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

From this we can ascertain the high significance of God’s truthfulness. The Father is truth, the Son is truth and the Holy Spirit is truth. Therefore, the Triune God-breathed Scripture is true and correct in all that it affirms. 

 THE APPRECIATION OF TRUTH

These Scriptures on God as truth reveal how God is the source of truth. This means the laws of logic – upon which intelligibility is predicated – are a reflection of the mind of God. Reymond’s Systematic (p 201) has a helpful comment: “In other words, as the God of truth, for him the laws of logic, which are laws of truth, are intrinsically valid because they are intrinsic to his nature.” John Frame (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p 253) says that “logic is an attribute of God.”

This means the more rational we are, the more we mirror God’s mind. However, the natural man’s mind is inherently irrational due to the noetic effects of sin. This simply means the doctrine of total depravity applies to the unregenerate person’s mental faculties. Romans 1:21 demonstrates this truth clearly: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Therefore, even though the ability to reason is a gift of God to man, we should not assume man’s reason is autonomous. No matter how intelligent an unbeliever is, their self-constructed logical propositions and truth axioms are not an ultimate authority unto themselves. Unbelievers can learn a lot of truth – in fact, they often do – but to do this, they must operate as if they are living in God’s universe (one that is rational and predictable). They ultimately end up in a place of foolishness because they refuse to recognize their Creator and therefore are left with silly theories and unworthy objects of worship to fill the void. God’s Word is the only sure foundation of truth and must be the final standard. This is not to say Christianity will be illogical, on the contrary, it is the only possible completely cogent system.

truth

THE LOGOS AND SCIENCE

What then, is the relationship between the Logos and Science?

 The Logos is a full-bodied concept; I will not do it justice nor discuss all its aspects here  but one aspect of the Logos is an understanding that the Triune God is wise.  His mind  is perfectly ordered and intellectually beautiful; supreme knowledge without  end. Rational thought  requires using  the laws of logic. But the laws of logic are not material; they are eternal,  unchanging,  necessary, immutable, true and cannot be disproved (for to disprove logic you must  employ logic).
But how does logic “work” in a strictly material universe? If theism is false, from whence does logic arise? Logic can’t be thought of as merely a descriptive label or just a useful tool or a societal convention or a product of neurochemicals – all these things negate the concept of logic in some way. If the universe is the product of a gravitational hiccup caused by another universe within the multiverse, or if our universe is the result of a chance set of events (the first of which defies the law of cause and effect and the principle of sufficient reason), then how does logic hold? It has no real foundation, no place for a source, no ability to be what it must be for the very laws of the physics to work.
Jumping forward, we know that products of evolution cannot produce real logic because brains just produce what they must produce according to DNA and various chemicals. But this is not what logic is; it is abstract yet real. Additionally, logic is not a material thing – no material thing produces it.
Logic is a description of the way God’s mind works; it is how he thinks. Logical thought is a reflection of the completely truthful mind of God Himself. Logic is a “mirror” of God’s thought process. I am speaking in analogical terms, but we see that for scientific investigation to even be possible, the laws of logic must first be in place. Otherwise, there is no guarantee the laws of physics will work, there is no guarantee words make sense, there is no guarantee the present will be like that past (uniformity of nature), nor is there any guarantee that empirical data is legitimate or sensory perception is “actual” in any sense.
These are broad philosophical assumptions and assertions but this argument has been fleshed out in great detail by Christian philosophers such as Greg Bahnsen, Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantiga, John Frame and Gordon Clark (among others). It is sometimes called the Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence. It demonstrates that without God, there is no logic and therefore no science. In short: the existence of God is what makes science possible.

OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE

Sometimes atheists ask if God’s omnipotence means He can do anything. It is a trick, of course, because if I were to say “yes,” then they will ask me if God can lie. If I were to say “no” then they would counter with “well, I guess God’s not omnipotent, then!” God can not do anything inconsistent with his own nature. Hebrews 6:18 tells us “it is impossible for God to lie.” God would not want to lie and he never could lie, anyway. Titus 1:2 is explicit: “God, who never lies.” A more well-known passage is Romans 3:4: “Let God be true though every one were a liar.” This is one reason why God’s revelation is true and his word is the final standard (Job 37:16 and John 17:17 also speak to this).

One objection I sometimes hear in regards to Yahweh being the only true God is by Jehovah’s Witnesses. In their desire to make Jesus “a” god, they purposefully obfuscate the issue by saying that Moses (Exodus 4:16) and Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) are also both called gods. The passage about Moses says he shall be as God to Aaron, not actually God! The verse about Satan is simply saying that he does indeed have power in this age but by definition one can not be God if they are only called “the god of this world.”

Another common objection in our so-called postmodern era is an outright rejection of objective truth. Some people assert that no one can actually know truth with any certainty. Prolific apologist Norman Geisler provides a good response to this line of thinking (Christian Apologetics, p 135):

No statement about all truth can disavow all truth implications, and the skeptical proposal is a statement about all truth. Even working presuppositions about truth must be cognitive and meaningful. And whatever is meaningful must be subject to truth or falsity via the law of noncontradiction, for apart from noncontradiction one cannot even know what the statement means. But if the skeptical proposal is subject to the truth test of noncontradiction, it cannot avoid being offered as a truth statement. In short, to disclaim the possibility of knowing any truth is indeed a truth claim of the highest and most serious kind. Truth cannot be denied unless some truth is being affirmed.

This means that denying truth is a self-refuting exercise. Still, what does it mean to apply the truth that has been revealed to us? This is the practical challenge we face in our daily lives.

christian-quotes_truth_blaise-pascal

APPLICATION OF TRUTH 

One application that comes out of this is we should trust God’s Word as true. It is an accurate description of reality over and above all competing claims. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

 

An example would be if certain neurologists with naturalistic presuppositions claimed that they have discovered a gene which causes people to believe in God and then they say people who lack this trait will not believe in God due to their genetic makeup. We know this is a lie, for Romans 1:20 tell us that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived … so they are without excuse.”

A closely related application to this is that we should work to defend the truth against attacks. We should also care about accurately explaining the truth so people can understand it better (1 Peter 3:15). These duties would be directly applicable in the area of apologetics, evangelism and teaching/preaching. Pastors and teachers must recognize this reality and focus on truth issues and engage in the discipline of apologetics in a new way.

One prerequisite for explaining truth is first knowing it. This means we should strive to learn more of the truth (Proverbs 18:15). Since everything that is actually true flows directly from God’s own mind, as we learn more truth we are actually thinking a little more like him. This glorifies him because we reflect more of who he is to the world. This enables us to “see” him a little more clearly. As we see him more clearly, we will cherish and treasure him more and even desire to know him better. This is a common theme in many of John Piper’s writings (the first book that comes to mind is God is the Gospel; I am echoing some of its ideas here).

A more obvious application is we should never lie (Exodus 20:16). Even more than that, we should be as absolutely accurate as possible (Colossians 3:9). We should be preoccupied with truth telling – I word it this way because it seems more emphatic than just “don’t lie” (Ephesians 4:25). Theologian Millard Erickson talks about this in his section dealing with God’s veracity (Christian Theology, p 317): “Paul makes clear that ‘we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God’ (2 Cor. 4:2). A God of truth is best served by presentation of the truth.”

This even has certain implications for how we present the Gospel to people and what methods we will – and will not – use when evangelizing. For example, certain things that could be used to artificially bend the will of the hearers – such as emotional rhetoric, strategic lighting and manipulative music – should not be used carelessly … and maybe not at all.

Lastly, all real morality is based upon God’s character. John Feinberg (No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, p 373) comments,

“In saying that God’s rules match what he knows to be the objective standards of right and wrong (rules based on his own moral perfection), the biblical writers simply say his commandments are true. Not only do God’s moral rules conform to objective moral law, but Scripture also tells us that God’s actions are what they should be; they correspond to the moral law he has revealed.”

In conclusion: God’s people can trust God to fulfill all of His promises. God’s truthfulness is a fantastic blessing indeed.

NOTES:
Cornelius Van Til, In Defense of the Faith Vol. I, The Doctrine of Scripture
Bahnsen, Autographs, Amanuenses and Restricted Inspiration
Bahnsen, Inductivism, Inerrancy, and Presuppositionalism
Bahnsen, The Inerrancy of the Autographa
Bahnsen, The Concept and Importance of Canonicity


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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone

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