What is truth? What can be true?
Christians should be people of the truth. But to be that, we need to know what it means for something to be true or false.
To that end, I was reading a 1974 book review written by the late Gordon H. Clark where he gave a very nice summary of truth (you can read it here).
The author of the book, The Challenge of Our Age, a Dr. Hendrik Hart, made the following claim about “truth”:
“Many Christians … say that truth is objective and that it is independent of us. But this is a very dangerous thought, connected with the assertion that truth is fact-correspondence” (p. 56).
In a footnote, Hart goes on to write this:
“Theories of truth that speak of absolute objectivity make truth to be a conceptual matter of doubtful origin. Intellectualistic doctrines of truth cannot possibly account for the biblical notion of truth as something to be done and lived. Truth primarily concerns man’s relation to the Word of God and not his first of all having correct ideas or beliefs.”
Evidently, Hart denied that truth is intellectual. It is not about what you believe, but how you are related and how you behave.
Clark thought this definition of truth was false. And confused. Clark replied to Hart by giving a summary of what it means for something to be true. I think that summary is worth repeating:
“In opposition to this, the reviewer wishes to assert that all truth is propositional. The term dog or cat is not by itself true. Attach to either one the predicate black, and you have a proposition, which is true, or false, as the case may be.
“The name Moses is neither true nor false; but the proposition, ‘Moses wrote of me,’ is true.
“A command, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ is not itself true. Commands are not propositions and cannot be either true or false, as also for another example, ‘Right face!’ But the proposition, ‘God commands men not to commit adultery,’ is true.
“Nothing can be true unless it is a proposition. Hence when anyone speaks of non-propositional revelation, he is speaking of something unintelligible, uninformative, and so devoid of meaning that it cannot be false.
“For this reason the final proposition of Dr. Hart’s note on p. 62 is false. Truth, first of all, does indeed concern our having correct ideas or belief. The Playboy people do not obey the commandments because they do not believe that God commanded them. There cannot be obedience to divine authority unless one believes that there is such authority. Therefore, contrary to Dr. Hart’s position, our relation to God’s Word is, first of all, a correct intellectual understanding of what the Scripture teaches.”
While you don’t need to know the definition of truth to believe that something is true, the truth is, it wouldn’t hurt!