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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Aletheia and the Correspondence Theory of Truth

In this paper I try to combine careful exegesis with philosophical refelction. My subject is the correspondence theory of truth. This theory has been defended with great fervor by many in Evangelical circles. I have attempted to examine this theory strictly from the perspective of the aletheia of the Fourth Gospel and allow the proverbial chips to fall where they may.

The result? I find that the correspondence theory is necessary and is foundational for making sense of certain alethic passages in The Gospel of John. However, I also find that it is not sufficient to capture the aletheia of the Fourth Gospel. I find in my research that it would be advisable not to restrict "truth" to the correspondence theory. To do so seems to deny the author his alethic intent and thus do harm to the Fourth Gospel.

You can find the full text here:

Here are a few excperts:
The purpose of this paper is to carefully analyze the concept of alētheia developed by the Gospel of John and to examine how this relates to ­the Correspondence Theory of Truth. The first step in this process, then, is exegetical. The goal is to apply an organic understanding of alētheia as it appears in several key passages in the Fourth Gospel. The second step is to turn the focus on the Correspondence Theory of Truth to understand the implications for the theory. Specifically, we want to examine the necessity and/or the sufficiency of the theory.

By necessity we wish to examine whether the Correspondence Theory of Truth is foundational to alētheia in the Fourth Gospel. Is it possible to understand the use of alētheia without holding to the Correspondence Theory of Truth? Or must we hold to some form of the theory to make sense of John’s alētheia as he develops this concept in various contexts?
When we speak of sufficiency we are dealing with explanatory scope. Specifically, we are asking if the Correspondence Theory can adequately account for everything that alētheia entails in the Gospel of John. What is important to note in our approach is that it is possible for the Correspondence Theory to be necessary, but not sufficient. It is not an all-or-nothing proposition whereby the theory if necessary must also be sufficient. But then it is obvious on this account that if the theory is found to be unnecessary, then this would entail that the Correspondence Theory is also not sufficient.

By focusing on the Gospel of John, we are examining a book in the Scriptures that has a very deep regard for truth (alētheia)....

...we return to the Groothuis quotation we cited earlier, “The correspondence view of truth is not simply one of many options for Christians. It is the only biblically and logically grounded view of truth available and allowable. We neglect or deny it to our peril and disgrace.” On the one hand we understand Groothuis’ enthusiasm to preserve the necessity of the Correspondence Theory. This is clear from our study of the use of alētheia in the Gospel of John. We particularly analyzed 4:18 and 19:14 to see that some form of the Correspondence Theory was absolutely necessary and foundational to alētheia in the Fourth Gospel. We saw that the whole meaning of these passages would collapse without this common sense notion of correspondence. It is imperative that we defend the necessity of the Correspondence Theory.On the other hand, to say, as Groothuis does, that this view of truth is “the only biblically and logically grounded view of truth available and allowable” seems to dramatically overstate the case and puts us in danger of denying the very Bible Groothuis is seeking to defend...

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