Continuing on from the last post on Origen’s views, what can we say about truth? There are three criteria by which to judge whether something is true or not: 1) does a statement match the facts, 2) does a statement cohere with a web of other known truths or person’s characteristics, and 3) does the statement produce the results which it promises? These there criteria are called, respectively, 1) correspondence theory of truth, 2) coherence theory of truth, and 3) pragmatic theory of truth. Most Enlightenment thinkers, or those of us today influenced by modernism, focus on 1) often to the exclusion of the other two. Postmodern thinkers will tend to focus on 2). Those involved in the physical sciences will frequently focus on 3). Most will think in terms of the old adage, “Just the facts,” concluding that if a statement does’t match what actually happened, then it isn’t true. If this is you, then please be aware that this is to reduce truth down to just one theory of truth. I can’t see any reason to opt for solely one theory; I prefer to see the truth as a tri-dimensional reality because of my belief in God the Trinity. Therefore, the truthfulness of some statement need not be judged merely according to 1), but, instead, I argue that we should be discerning to the context in which we hear a statement to judge it according to the emphasis on 1), 2), or 3) that the context suggests.
Imagine with me for the moment that you have done something inconsistent with your character, say lie, and your significant other knows that you are taking this inconsistency really hard. He/she might say to you in order to console you, “That wasn’t true to who are you; that wasn’t really you!” Notice here that this consolation uses 2) in opposition to 1). What you did was violate 1) by lying about some fact, but what your significant other is saying (assuming he/she is truthful in her statement) that you are not that action, appealing to 2), which says that your overall character, proven in many many actions, is what is true about you. I see no reason why 2) isn’t just as valid, if not more so, than 1). Basically, your significant other has tallied up your actions in the past and sees that as a cohesive set of truths that characterizes you, diminishing the potency of this one failure (lying).
Now this same type of process occurs all the time when someone speaks of someone else as “a good girl or gal.” Clearly, all have done some evil in their life; thus 2) is being used when the statement that someone is good is issued. These theories of truth pertain to the discussion about the infallibility of Scripture, especially the Gospels.
We get disturbed when 1) is violated because we are so prone to just assume that truth has only one emphasis, but this seems potently at odds with the fact that God is Trinity. We think this mainly because we understand that the original writer (John, Peter, Paul, or what have you) to have written just one manuscript in just one certain way, allowing for no variation by later leading by the Spirit. And if there is any doubt that the Spirit does lead different authors to describe the same event with various foci and presentation, look at the four Gospels, which describe many of the same events but with differences of focus and presentational order. Can the Spirit inspire different men to present the life of Christ (one life lived in a specific way) in differing fashions? The answer to this better be yes no matter who you are if a viable theory of inspiration is going to be able to be maintained. Notice, too, that the inspiration of the OT books requires an original speaking or writing with later adaptation to those original speaking events or writing. Most of the Prophets, for instance, are giving oracles, not writing Books as we have those today that bear their names. Are the prophets responsible for writing down their own sermons? Maybe, but who can say. In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the OT, the reference is made, “from Dan to Beersheba,” before Israel settles those lands and gives those names to those places. Clearly, a later editor has written in these names that could not be known to the original human author at that time, unless of course we just claim that God imparted knowledge to the writer to know those places and what the names of those places represent. This is too easy, however, and goes against the non-prophetic nature of those passages of Scripture (violating the context). Sure, we can claim God just told them, but this does little to satisfy the mind’s desire for an understandable and explainable theory of OT inspiration. Instead, we should formulate a theory of OT inspiration that is “gritty,” so to speak,” that accounts for the human process of knowing things, that is, through partial knowledge growing ever more complete. Such a theory will emphasize the preservational work of the Spirit as much as His original inspiring of the OT books. Moreover, we humans use the tri-dimensional emphases about truth noted above, so shouldn’t we see all three of those emphases in books written by men? Moreover, since God is Trinity, there is a place for such differing emphasis in understanding truth since God the Father is the truth, God the Son is the truth, and God the Spirit is the truth, although Each emphasize difference aspects of God who is the Truth. I’ve offered enough to think on here.
Til next time, Dr. Scalise