A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Greg Koukl on Truth

Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason came to our neck o' the woods tonight. He had a lecture at Grace College and Seminary (I attend the Seminary) on the topic of postmodernism and the emergent/emerging church.

Much of Koukl's presentation was based on truth. He was particularly concerned to defend the correspondence theory of truth. There were a few points at which he came very close to saying that the correspondence theory of truth is the only biblical theory of truth. He didn't actually say that, but came very close. Doug Groothuis, however, states this view quite poignantly in his book Truth Decay that:
"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." (110)

This view is something that has particularly bothered me for quite some time. The view that the correspondence theory of truth is the only biblical view spurred me on to do serious biblical exegetical research on the concept of truth. I am certainly intrigued by the philosophical questions raised by discussions on truth, but for me what is most concerning is whether or not the correspondence theory is, in fact, "the only" biblical position available.

Towards the end of Greg's lecture tonight there was a Question-and-Answer session. So, I questioned Greg about the issue of whether or not the correspondence theory is really and actually the only biblical theory available. His response was interesting. Although Greg acknowledged that there were different nuances to the biblical view of truth he nevertheless seemed to side with Groothuis. Furthermore, he also stated that the correspondence theory of truth was presupposed even when it was not explicitly stated. (I believe this is also a position of Groothuis.)

Greg and I had a brief and cordial exchange and that was the end of it. He was very gracious to entertain my challenges and I appreciated the opportunity to bring this issue to the forefront of discussion.

Yet a few of my concerns remain:

1) Is there really one and only one "biblical view" of truth?
From my study of the Gospel of John I find a very developed and thoughtful view of truth. Aletheia for John is a very key concept that is tied in with some very important theological themes. But the way that John uses this term differs from the way that Paul uses aletheia. Furthermore, the use of emeth in the Hebrew conception of truth is also different from the above two Scripture writers. So, I wonder if it is even wise to speak of one, biblical view. The topic is misguided from the start. We must clarify more specifically in which context a biblical writer is using this term, otherwise we risk talking over each other's heads.

2) Could there be more than one form of truth?
In digging around in the Gospel of John one finds that truth has many diverse and rich nuances. While it is certainly the case that at some times the correspondence view of truth is clearly in view (e.g. the Samaritan woman of chapter four) there are other times where aletheia definitely takes on a form that hardly resembles the correspondence theory of truth. For example, in chapter three we read about those who "do truth." Can truth be an action? In chapter eight we find that for the devil "there is no truth in him." But the devil certainly had knowledge of some truth propositions. So, in a propositional sense he had truth. But because the devil stands in such stark opposition to God, the author of truth, no matter how many true propositions the devil may know he still "has no truth in him."

I am a staunch believer in the need to stand firmly for a correspondence theory of truth. (Philosophically speaking I tend to find a lot of common ground with Common Sense Realism.) But the above two examples, amongst a few others, have caused me to lean towards thinking that truth may take on more forms than just the correspondence theory. The correspondence theory is necessary on biblical ground, but is it sufficient to capture all that we mean when we as Christians talk about truth.

3) Do Greg Koukl and Doug Groothuis take too narrow of a view on truth?
In the Gospel of John I find something truly compelling: A holistic call of commitment. There is a call to surrender the whole person. John's development of aletheia leaves no part of the person untouched: Truth is correspondence with reality, but it is also a life of truth. Truth is a proposition but it is also a situation: Truth is how we stand in relationship to Christ. (14:6) John's Gospel is Christological, and how we react to the Son determines where we stand in relationship to truth.

While some may be uneasy in speaking of "many forms" of truth it is important to qualify that for John these forms all collide upon the person of Christ. Hence to speak of many forms of truth does not imply a free-for-all or any kind of a relativism. The Christ demands something from us - complete surrender. This does not allow us the option to determine truth for ourselves. Only when we come to Christ in desperation and obedience can we begin to open up all that truth and life has to offer. I think that this is one of the primary messages of the Fourth Gospel: What will you do with Jesus? It's an all or nothing demand. A high calling. Higher than anything we could cook up in and of our own selves.

The above are a few questions I had in walking away from tonight's session. As always I am interested in hearing your thoughts and comments.

For further reading:
If you are interested in a very detailed essay on my view of aletheia in the Gospel of John see "The Use of Aletheia in the Gospel of John." This essay focuses on exegesis and meaning of John's formulation of aletheia and explains more about what it means that truth takes many forms ("polymorphous"):
http://theosproject.blogspot.com/2006/07/use-of-aletheia-in-gospel-of-john.html


I tackled the issue of the correspondence theory of truth in relationship to the Gospel of John in "Aletheia and the Correspondence Theory of Truth." In this essay I define the correspondence theory of truth and find that it is necessary but not sufficient to capture John's development of truth:
http://theosproject.blogspot.com/2006/01/aletheia-and-correspondence-theory-of.html

There are more essays and thoughts on truth in my Aletheia Project:
http://theosproject.blogspot.com/2006/07/aletheia-project.html

29 comments:

andrew jones said...

johnathon - excellent post. as for your (1), i have been giving some thought recently as to the Hebrew word for 'truth' and what it means to "love the truth" in all its holistic, completeness of the word.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Thanks, Andrew - nice to see you here!

Please keep me posted on your study of the Hebrew.

Melody said...

Ok, so this entailed alot of reading for me since I'd never actually heard of the correspondance theory before and certainly didn't know that there was a such a strong evangelical stance on it, though that's hardly suprising.

I'd sort of have to agree that the correspondance theory of truth only addresses one type of truth.

What I am a little less clear on, only having just discovered this subject exists, is what other theory or theories would encompass the additional idea of truth you present in your paper.

Also, if I understand what you're presenting correctly, I don't understand why evangelicals would be opposed to it because unlike the other ideas of truth, as presented by wikipedia, it seems to build off of the corespondance theory (which is the only thing I came out of this understanding - actually) rather than oppose it.

And, as explained by you and understood by me, it seems to be our own little Christian brand of truth...so shouldn't that be rather exciting than otherwise?

Or does that bother Evangelicals because we like to think that you could have a logical conversation with someone and talk them into being a Christian...rather than it being the work of God...which we have little to no control over?

Lindsay said...

I see that the correspodence theory expands on the idea that only one truth exists is evedantly depated quite a bit among evngelists and theologians. Yet, I feel I need a litte bit more background not only in these theories, but in the opposing theories as well. But I am confused why other Evangelists would disagree,too? It is a very interesting topic; I enjoy hearing new theories even if my theological knowledge is rusty and lacking;)
P.S. Melody, Wikipedia is a horrific secondary resource guide. I can't believe you used it!!!! ;) I'm so disappointed in you....

Jonathan Erdman said...

This is just my take on the situation....

I think that evangelicals like Koukl are passionately defending the correspondence theory because they believe that the alternative is complete relativism. Relativism being the attitude that each person can choose their own truth without reference to God or really to any other authority. So, in this sense I think that the Greg Koukl's of the world are doing a good work. Because the attitude of relativism is completely ridiculous and absurd.

However.....I think that both from a biblical and philosophical perspective it is problematic to say that the correspondence theory of truth is the one and only view of truth.

Philosophically, there is a lot that has been written in the last few decades. It is hard to keep up with, and I am admittedly a bit behind, however, there are a few philosophers (like Michael Lynch) who are developing a view called "Alethic Pluralism". This view shows some similarities to my thoughts on a "polymorphous" view of truth. The idea is basically that what truth is depends upon which context is under discussion. So, to talk about the truth of "the frog is on the log" is different than talking about ethical truth such as "it is wrong fool around with your neighbor's wife." My theory (as amature and undeveloped as it is) would also add that truth is a state of spiritual positioning in relation to God and his Son, Jesus. This would be the distinctly Christian view of truth. (Guys like JP Moreland I think would react rather strongly against such a distinctly Christian view. At least that's what I gather from Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview)

Melody said...

Lindsay, Wikipedia made a heck of alot more sense in explaning the basics than the philosphy encyclopedia or whatever Jon linked to. Almost the only only terminology I understood were the articles, like "the" and "a". It was terribly depressing.

Jon, I'm guessing that Moreland is bothered by a distinctly Christian concept of truth because he believes that truth, like physics, should apply to all situations?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I don't want to speculate too much on Moreland's behalf, but I would guess that you are correct.

I think for Moreland truth is important as something that is not distinctively Christian because it is the apologetic appeal. Moreland appeals to unbelievers to accept "the truth" of Christianity. Why is Christianity "true"? Well, we've got these good arguments that demonstrate how reasonable Christianity is. Hence, it is reasonable to believe that Christianity is "true."

Truth, then, operates as kind of a third party between two people in a discussion. I've got my thoughts on the world (Christianity) and you've got some different thoughts. Who is right? How do we know? Well, let's find out which one is "true." Let's look for "the truth."

Again, this is just speculation, however....

Jonathan Erdman said...

Correction:

A quick technical correction to one of my above comments: Lynch would probably no longer be considered an alethic pluralist. I think that at one time he was associated with it, but either his view or alethic pluralism (or both) has changed/evolved.

Here are a couple of links to two essays from Lynch's website that give a better idea of where he is coming from:
http://www.philosophy.uconn.edu/department/lynch/funct.pdf
http://www.philosophy.uconn.edu/department/lynch/rewrpl.pdf

Also, I wanted to make the point that "alethic pluralism" is not the same as "relativism." This is not the idea that anyone can determine their own idea of truth (which is an absurd position). Rather the point is that "truth" depends in some way upon the context in which it occurs.

But Lynch and the alethic pluralists are all discussing this issue in the context of analytic philosophy. I know that Lynch defends some form of Realism, but I'm not sure exactly how those who are being called alethic pluralists pan out on this issue....As I said, I need to do some reading a get a bit more current on the discussion. Summer project???

glach said...

Ron Nash was a big defender of the correspondence theory of truth. In his book Life's Ultimate Questions, he defends the idea that truth is corresponding in nature but shows that there are several tests for truth, such as pragmatism, coherentism, etc. His main argument is that these tests are often mistaken for the nature of truth. I think there's something right about his diagnosis if not his conclusion.

I'm an evangelical doing a graduate degree at a secular analytic philosophy program (Ohio State). Though analytic departments do not even give postmodernism/relativism/pluralism the time of day, analytic philosophers have several different and popular theories of truth that are realist in nature, yet are not correspondence theories. I tend to lean towards the idea that correspondence is a sort of prerequisite or assumption in most of these views. But I'm extremely reticent to say something as bold as Groothius. But I would rather err on the side of correspondence then go the route that seems to be all the rage with evangelicals now. Emergentism leans too much upon the continental philosophy tradition. Though there is some good work being done in that area, there is much more that evangelicals should not even bother with, particularly these anti-realist/postmodern approaches to truth. If you curious to know some other good sources on truth, that aren't evangelical or postmodern, let me know: mcglothlin.13@osu.edu

glach said...

Ron Nash was a big defender of the correspondence theory of truth. In his book Life's Ultimate Questions, he defends the idea that truth is corresponding in nature but shows that there are several tests for truth, such as pragmatism, coherentism, etc. His main argument is that these tests are often mistaken for the nature of truth. I think there's something right about his diagnosis if not his conclusion.

I'm an evangelical doing a graduate degree at a secular analytic philosophy program (Ohio State). Though analytic departments do not even give postmodernism/relativism/pluralism the time of day, analytic philosophers have several different and popular theories of truth that are realist in nature, yet are not correspondence theories. I tend to lean towards the idea that correspondence is a sort of prerequisite or assumption in most of these views. But I'm extremely reticent to say something as bold as Groothius. But I would rather err on the side of correspondence then go the route that seems to be all the rage with evangelicals now. Emergentism leans too much upon the continental philosophy tradition. Though there is some good work being done in that area, there is much more that evangelicals should not even bother with, particularly these anti-realist/postmodern approaches to truth. If you curious to know some other good sources on truth, that aren't evangelical or postmodern, let me know: mcglothlin.13@osu.edu

Jonathan Erdman said...

Glach,

You raise some good points. First, it is always interesting to me when evangelicals defend a "correspondence only" view because, as you say, even amongst realists in the analytic tradition there are extremely diverse ideas as to what truth is. I think evangelicals like Groothuis, Koukl and Moreland would do much, much better if they modified their position just a bit and took a dogmatic stand on realism, as oppossed to a particular strand of realism (i.e. the correspondence theory). There is far from a consensus among realist philosophers on how to contrue truth.

You mentioned that you lean towards the idea of correspondence, and that you were suspicious of Emergentism. I have a question for you. How do you view ethical truth? Is there such a thing as truth in morality? Are "right actions" true if they correspond to something (like a moral law)? In my analytical readings on truth I have found that ethical truth is an area that many analytic philosophers don't like to deal with. So, I'm curious as to what your thoughts are.

Thanks for weighing in.

glach said...

I understand your question but I would not word it quite the way you did. I do believe in the existence of moral facts. Moral factualism has few advocates today but it is a slowly growing position. If there are moral facts, then we can say that there are moral truths, i.e., moral propositions that recieve true truth values. As a Christian I think these moral facts subsist within the character of God and to a certain degree are reflected within us, by which we gain access to them. But even ethical expressivists (one strand of analytic ethicalism) would say that their moral propositions receive true truth values because those propositions reflect or correspond to their expressions (Expressivists think 'good' mean Yeah! and 'bad' means Boo! In essence it's a more highly nuanced version of emotivism though it tends to avoid emotivist criticisms.). Do you feel that Emergentism has a better view to offer for moral realism?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I do not know enough about Emergentism to answer your question, but I am also curious about how an Emergent or an emergent (as I understand it the "E" and the "e" represent important distinctions) would understand morality and particularly how this would tie in with truth. My wild guess on the issue is that the truth question is not center stage in the E/emergent debates, because I haven't heard much buzz on it, and because E/emergents are missionally minded and would likely avoid prolonged debates about meta-truth issues simply because it seems to distract from the presentation of the kingdom. That's not to say there is no interest, just that I haven't heard much on it. But I'm not around E/emergents enough to really get a good feel of it. Like you I am very curious.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Glach,

I wonder if you might unpack your understanding of moral facts a bit. Do you believe that moral propositions are "grounded" in any way in "moral law"? Must all moral propositions be grounded in something (moral law or the "character of God" as you put it) to have truth value? For example, if a youth group leader stand up and states that it is "wrong" to have sex before marriage must his moral statement be grounded in a higher moral law that forbids pre-marital foolin' around?

And how does the idea of "grounding" morality have to do with the character of God?

glach said...

Jonathan,

Again, the way that you are wording things is a bit off-putting. I would characterize moral facts like Frege characterizes concepts: I think the are part of the furniture of the universe. I would characterize true moral propositions as justified in relation to these moral facts. "Must" a moral proposition be justified in this way? Not necessarily. We could stipulate certain rules for certain contexts. A proposition would be true in relation to these stipulations. I don't think a rejection of pre-marital sex is a such a stipulation.

"And how does the idea of "grounding" morality have to do with the character of God?" I think I've answered that. If you're asking more for the nature of this relationship, I would say that it's mind-dependent. But as a Christian I claim that this is realist idea since it depends upon the mind of God. If I haven't answered your question, try again. I assumed that you had an emergent-type view on morality. How do you understand the status of moral propositions? Does their truthhood not matter? If not, what does matter or what is at stake? I'm not aware of any other more attractive option.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Glach,
A bit of context for my line of questioning:

Many evangelicals will live or die on the notion of a correspondence theory of truth. Truth is correspondence. Hence when we speak of moral truth it is a correspondence between a moral proposition and a moral law. At least, this is how I understand it. Those I have read who hold this position or something like it would be JP Moreland, Doug Groothuis (and I think probably Greg Koukl as well).

Let's call this view MGD ("M" for Moreland, "D" for Doug Groothuis, and "G" for Greg Koukl): That a moral proposition must correspond to a moral law.

But perhaps it need not be a moral law. Perhaps it would simply be something along the lines of what you are going. That a moral proposition (or a moral action even) would correspond with "the furniture of the universe." The important thing for MGD is that there is a correspondence with somehting. And I think the even more critical issue at stake for MGD is that if moral propositions or actions do not correspond with something objective (an abstract law or the character of God or the furniture of the universe) then we are reduced to some sort of relativism.

It is with this last issue that I seriously question.

Let's go to John 3:
19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (NIV)

This is the NIV translation. In verse 21 the text literally reads "the one who does truth." This gets me to thinking that perhaps truth is an action. But this sounds odd at first. However, in the context of John's use of aletheia throughout the Gospel it is evident that aletheia is something that is all-encompasing and holistic. In particular, it is one's relationship to God as manifest in Christ. Hence one's actions in verse 21 are "true" because they are done "through God" or "in God."

This gets me to questioning whether or not one's actions must correspond with anything to be true....or whether or not morality is more contextual and subjective than we conservative Christians might normally think. (I think this may be where you are going as well.) Will we be judged one day on the basis of whether or actions corresponded with a moral law? Or will be judged more on the basis of whether or not these actions were done "through God"? Or perhaps something of both.....We would not, for example, want to through out divine command. If God tells the Israelites to keep the Sabbath and gives them specific instructions on how to do this, then they will be judged based on whether their actions correspond with the divine command. But is this the case with all actions? Is there a simple formula (correspondence or otherwise) that we can apply to "truth" in all domains (ethical or material/physical or even spiritual).

Current philosophical discussion (particularly in analytic circles) seems to me to be having a hard time nailing down the "one thing" that truth is. Hence, I find it questionable that many evangelicals are taking an even harder line on truth being reduced to one, simple formula (correspondence). The only thing I can see is that they want to take a hard line against anything that smells of relativism.

Glach - Perhaps this will give you a better idea on where I am coming from and how I perceive the current truth-talk in evangelical circles. I'm curious how you respond.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Apologies for my spelling in the last post. I should have previewed it!

glach said...

Jonathan,

I haven't done any Greek exegesis for awhile so I'm not about to quibble about how the Apostle John uses "aletheia" within his Gospel. Nevertheless, just from the way "true" is being used in the passage you quoted to me it's obvious that truth is being used in ways that anlaytic philosophers normally do not talk about. I see two reasons for that: one, analytic philosophy is unfortunately a primarily secular field of study and two, "doing the truth" would be considered a category mistake by most philosophers. Since I hold the Bible in high regards I do not believe the Apostle John is making such a mistake. But it is obvious that he is using the word in a way that makes it hard to make sense of correspondence talk, moral facts talk, and other kinds of current ethical talk.

That being said, I still see nothing in that particular passage (or elsewhere) that contradicts the idea of truth being corresponding in nature. The Apostle John shows other uses of true, e.g., Jesus' famous "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." But just because we (or the Bible) can use the word "true" in various ways this doesn't say anything against truth being corresponding in nature.

Furthermore, even if we granted that correspondence was the "biblical" model of truth this would still not guarantee that we would always know what is true. Even though I believe there is a moral law, that does not mean that I won't have a hard time trying to figure out what's the right thing to do in certain instances. The Apostle Paul's epistles come to mind here. It seems that Paul was often addressing particular issues (e.g., offering meat to idols, proper use of tongues, etc.) that had moral or ethical implications, which were not directly addressed by revelation.

So I am bit puzzled with your hangup with the correspondence theory of truth. My guess is that you're probably put off by the tone and demeanor of people like Moreland, Groothius, and Koukl. I don't know about Koukl, but Groothius' blog can be quite abrasive at times (sometimes aptly), and I've heard Moreland in person give papers and he can be quite dogmatic. But surely we an separate the message from the messenger.

Originally when I thought you were an "emerger" I thought you were buying their po-mo party line that correspondence arose from Descartes, or the Enlightenment, or whatever, and thus was foreign to early Christianity. So again, I'm not sure what the problem is for understanding truth in a correspondence way.

I think I've addressed a couple of your worries; but if you think I'm just ranting, coulb you give me some specific problem about understanding truth as correspondence? Where is the friction?

Jonathan Erdman said...

1) Personally, I don't think there is a "biblical view of truth." I think there are various biblical views (plural) depending upon which writer we are dealing with. The aletheia development in John's Gospel just happens to be a more highly developed and theologically important one. But I would agree with your caution on reading too much philosophy into the text. That is why I talked about John 3 "getting me thinking" in certain directions. I'm not proof texting.

Ironically, it is this position that puts me at odds with MGD (Moreland, Groothuis, etc.). Groothuis especially states that the correspondence theory of truth is the only biblical option. (I cited him in the opening post.) It was this comment that really spurred me on in my exegesis.

2) I have no problems with the correspondence theory! I think that it is common sensical in many instances. Pragmatically we operate on this theory all the time. Personally I see no reason to pitch it. My "official" position on the issue at this point is that the correspondence theory is necessary but not sufficient to capture all that truth is.

I'm still working my view out. I am leaning towards truth as a "polymorphous" concept. I've worked out what this might look like in some other places, so I won't rehash, but just briefly...Truth would depend upon what particular aspect of reality was under discussion. This would be such that there would be no simple definition of truth that would apply across the board. In fact, I wonder if there is even any one thing that we can apply to all "truth," i.e. there may not be a common denominator to everything that is true. For the MGD types the common denominator is correspondence. Fine. They can roll with that....but please, Groothuis, do NOT say that this is the "only biblical option"!

Jonathan Erdman said...

By the way....

I like Doug's (Groothuis) style. I just disagree with him on some of the issues of truth philosophy, particularly his use of the biblical text. But I do appreciate him taking a firm stand on what he believes is important. We (Christian's of all stripes) need more truth-talk, and we definitely need more dialogue.

glach said...

Jonathan,

Fair enough. It seems that you've thought long and hard on the subject and you have made some specific commitments philosophically on some issues, which is good. It shows you've wrestled with the subject.

I was looking at some other topics on your site. Though you don't claim to be part of the postmodern position, it seems obvious that you have some commitments that lean that way. My commitments lie elsewhere though.

My offer still stands if you want to talk about education options, particularly if you want to get out of the evangelical ghetto (and I don't mean that derogatively). Trust me, it's not that easy to escape.

Good hunting (my ode to Battlestar Galactica),
Glach

samlcarr said...

Jonqathan, rather than hijacking ktismatics' post, I though this would be a more natural place to continue, if you are in the mood to, that is.

the truth can’t be boxed up as easily as we would like it to be. On an obvious level just admiting that there may be levels of truth all existing within a text itself sets up an interesting series of thoughts. If there are levels when humans communicate, what happens when God communicates? It should lead to an infinite number of levels shouldn’t it? So, on that pinhead, how many angels did we decide on finally?

quoting from over there:

"One problem with attempting to utilise PoMo thinking within the cloisters of our orthodoxy is that all these thinkers have given up quite early on on truth itself as an existent reality. Their thinking militates against using truth even as a conceptual reality, but could we suspect that they do protest too much?"

Anither problem is that the conservative stance wants to make truth into something monilithic and as you point out, in scripture itself that simply does'nt match up. So where does this leave us?

samlcarr said...

Jonqathan, rather than hijacking ktismatics' post, I though this would be a more natural place to continue, if you are in the mood to, that is.

the truth can’t be boxed up as easily as we would like it to be. On an obvious level just admiting that there may be levels of truth all existing within a text itself sets up an interesting series of thoughts. If there are levels when humans communicate, what happens when God communicates? It should lead to an infinite number of levels shouldn’t it? So, on that pinhead, how many angels did we decide on finally?

quoting from over there:

"One problem with attempting to utilise PoMo thinking within the cloisters of our orthodoxy is that all these thinkers have given up quite early on on truth itself as an existent reality. Their thinking militates against using truth even as a conceptual reality, but could we suspect that they do protest too much?"

Anither problem is that the conservative stance wants to make truth into something monilithic and as you point out, in scripture itself that simply does'nt match up. So where does this leave us?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam,

First of all I don't know that all po-mo thinkers completely gave up on truth. I think it would depend upon who you are speaking about. The question, I think, may have more to do with going back to the question of what truth is and if/how we can know it. Also, if we are contextual/situation/infinite beings can we expect to know the whole truth, or only a tiny, little sliver? And then there is the whole issue of power/control/dominion: How come the "truth" always winds up being what the powerful want it to be? (History is written by the winners.)

I think we definitely need to preserve something like the correspondence theory of truth, but I'm just questioning if it is really the end-all-be-all of truth for the Christian. And who said that we need a one-size-fits-all theory of truth, anyway?

samlcarr said...

So, the question is, how would you modify the correspondence theory to make it include more of what truth is or truth can be? Would it be enough just to twiddle with the theory in a few places or are we going to get the Erdman Version or perhaps it has to norph into something else?

The hermeneutic puzzle still bothers me, Gadamer and a fair bit of existentialism go into a 2 horizons approach, so are we still talking about correspondence?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ok. So, let's keep CT intact. After all, if you have a significant other and you ask them where they spent the previous night, I'm guessing you want their answer to correspond with reality in some way. That last phrase is the thing that has been debated in philosophy. What does "in some way" really mean? That's where it gets a bit philosophically tricky. But never mind that. Let's just roll with the fact that we want truth - truth in the sense that what people say or assert lines up with reality.

But CT is only useful that far. What if I want to talk about living a true life? Are there actions that are true? And actions that are false? Some CT Evangelicals try to cram actions into CT by saying something like, "Well your actions can correspond with a moral law." But this doesn't make much sense to me. It might for some commands. Like if a man sleeps with his neighbor's wife that is a miscorrespondence with the moral law....but this is getting awkward. Would his actions have been "true" if they had lined up with the moral law to NOT sleep with his neighbor's wife? Are there moral laws floating around for every possible action and choice we face?

This is problematic, as I see it.

So, I want to keep CT, but say that some other "theory" of truth is out there that gives us a direction for the fact that as believers in God there are true actions and false actions. There is a pure and true life and a false and untrue life.

I would also throw in there that there is truth in where we are at in relation to God/Christ. How are we going to cram that into CT???

samlcarr said...

Doing truth? A very interesting concept that does seem to tie in with aletheia in the broadest sense. Taking John's concepts to their natural conclusion; Jesus is truth, grace, life, light and logos, if we dwell in the vine then we too should be and therefore do in the same way!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Exactly. And then truth becomes more holistic. It should completely dominate a person. Evangelicals sometimes spend so much time emphasising true propositions that they sometimes unwittingly send the message that as long as we've got some true facts that we carry around as beliefs that somehow we are ok. I know they don't mean to send this message - at least most of them - but this is the message that guys like Koukl send.

Our generation needs to hear a more holistic version of truth. I need to hear it....otherwise I'm going to die!

samlcarr said...

So, back to square one on correspondence. Nothing that we have in 'truth theory' corresponds to the truth, yet we believe it and in it anyway. that's a real leap of faith!