The Biblical View of Truth

What does the Bible mean by the concept “truth”? When we turn to the biblical usage of the word, we find that “[t]he meaning of the Hebrew word ‘emet, which is at the root of the great majority of Hebrews words related to truth, involves the ideas of ‘support’ and ‘stability.’ From this root flows the twofold notion of truth as faithfulness and conformity to fact.”[1] J. P. Moreland and Garrett DeWeese expand upon this theme:

The Old and New Testament terms for truth are, respectively, ‘emet, and aletheia. The meaning of these terms and, more generally, a biblical conception of truth are broad and multi-faceted: fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. Two aspects of the biblical concept of truth appear to be primary:  faithfulness, and conformity to fact. Arguably, the former presupposes a correspondence theory. Thus, faithfulness may be understood as a person’s actions corresponding to the person’s assertions or promises, and a similar point could be made about genuineness, moral rectitude, and so forth.[2]

I will now provide what I believe is a biblically faithful harmonization of the information gathered above regarding the nature of truth.  The most promising of the secular theories of truth is that of correspondence theory. Nonetheless, while truth without a doubt refers to a proposition’s correspondence with the reality to which it refers, Evangelicals must not fall into the trap of modernism with its correspondence definition of truth. Modernism’s error with regard to its view of truth was the same as its views of logic and science, namely acknowledging their reality while abstracting them from the Lord who governs them. As Christians we must acknowledge this correspondence perspective of truth, but, and this is crucial, we must make sense of the Bible’s usage of truth as faithfulness.

I propose this understanding of truth, while acknowledging that it can be expanded and revised: Truth ultimately points to God’s relationships, first to Himself, and secondly to His decrees for His creation. Our statements are validated as true when they properly represent the reality to which they refer, yet the reason they can correspond to reality to any degree is because God stabilizes our world. The reason we can ever acknowledge and have any degree of insight into the working of God’s world is because He enlightens our mind. So ultimately the world acts in such a recordable fashion because of God’s faithfulness in action.

Thus I see both correspondence as well as coherence as valid definitions of truth, when properly presented within a Scriptural framework. A God-centered view of correspondence sees a belief or state of affairs as true if it corresponds to the way God structured reality. Likewise, a God-centered perspective on coherence views a belief as true when it harmoniously fits with God’s way of thinking about His world.[3] Bahnsen defines truth as that which corresponds to the Divine mind. Van Til called this “analogical reasoning,” i.e. truth is attained by “thinking God’s thought after Him” on a particular subject matter.

Unlike the various secular theories of truth, the Biblical one does not limit the number of possible forms of truth. Particularly the pragmatic view of truth is in mind here, with its limiting of truth to practicality alone. Bahnsen draws out the wide scope of truth in the following:

God’s thinking is what gives unity, meaning, coherence, and intelligibility to nature, history, reasoning, and morality. In terms of this picture of the knowing process [i.e. the search for truth, JET], man can search for casual relationships and laws (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about His providential plan). He can think in terms of shared properties, similarities, or classes (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about the patterns, classifications, or kinds of things He creates and providentially controls). He can draw logical inferences (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about conceptual and truth-functional relations). He can make meaningful normative judgments (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about the demands of His righteousness). He can account for man’s mind knowing extramental objects (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about created man’s control over the created environment in which God placed Him). He can account for the public or objective character of truth available to many finite minds (thinking God’s thoughts after Him about the community of minds created and providentially planned to reflect His thinking), etc.[4]


[1] Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay, 60-61.

[2] J. P. Moreland and Garrett DeWeese, “The Premature Report of Foundationalism’s Demise,” Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 88.

[3] Douglas Groothuis echoes this thought, “In a theological sense, one could say that coherence is the meaning of truth, if one means that whatever is true coheres with the mind of God, since God know all things with perfect consistency. But, this fact does not eliminate correspondence as the meaning of truth, since all true statements correspond with facts, which are either in the mind of God or pertain to other states of affairs.” “Truth Defined and Defended,” footnote 49, 73. Unfortunately, Groothuis saves these comments for a footnote, thus showing, in practice at least, that he privileges the correspondence definition of truth over the coherence model, as opposed to what I propose, i.e. seeing both as maintaining a reciprocal relationship.

[4] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis,, 223.

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Posted on October 1, 2009, in Truth and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you for this. I really wanted some clarification of “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” I wanted to know the meanings and implications of the word “truth” here in the NT. This helps, gives me more to work with.

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