When God reasons with us it is not by creed or abstract propositions of dogma, but by images.
Truth is a touchy topic, a daunting word. It sounds so ultimate, so solemn, with nothing whimsical or casual about it, so that we cannot joke about it without feeling uneasy. It demands our serious thought, our total commitment—and still we’re baffled by it. After all, thinking people have been searching for truth for eons and it has proved eternally elusive, defying definition.
Although its shape escapes us, we sense its relation to the way things really are, actuality beyond mere fact, the core, the root of things, the rock bottom. (But notice how, to get at a definition of truth we are forced to use metaphors like core, root, rock, bottom. Because of its disconcerting abstraction, its largeness and inscrutability, we must choose symbols to make it seem more manageable, more concrete.)
Truth also connotes consistency. Unchangeable in any final sense, it is never discontinuous, and though daunting, it is generally perceived as desirable, a remedy for our insecurity and restlessness because it promises something sure and firm.
Consider two statements, which reflect two ways of coming at the essence of truth: 1. “Only propositions have the quality of truth.… The only significant view of revelation is rational-verbal.… Truth is only propositional” (Carl F. H. Henry in God, Revelation and Authority).
2. “So, the world happens twice—/once what we see it as, / second, it legends itself / deep, the way it is” (William Stafford).
On the first view, truth is presented as an abstraction, which we must attempt to tie down by means of analysis, reason, logic, and verbal symbols (words) that are themselves abstract. Words and propositions are empty ...1
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