What makes something true? Many people believe something is true just because they want to believe it. Some people believe things because their parents believed it. Others believe things because their preacher said it. Some people believe things because it has always been taught that way. Unfortunately, most people never question why or how they believe what they believe.
Believing or not believing something does not make it either true or not true. If a man believes he can fly and he jumps off the roof of a ten story building, regardless of what he believes, the truth will soon become apparent. Just because your parents told you there is a Santa Claus, doesn’t mean there really is. Just because a preacher says drink the cool-aid, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
Truth correlates to reality. If I say it is raining outside my house, how would you know if I was telling the truth? You would look outside my house to see if it was raining. If I am telling the truth, it will be raining outside my house. The truth of my statement will correspond to the reality of the situation. But then how do we know what is real?
Do we get to make up our own reality? The man who jumped off the roof of a ten story building didn’t get to make up his own reality and neither do we. Reality is settled by virtue of creation. In other words, reality depends on God. God created the world in a certain way. In order to get from one point to another, for instance, I have to move through time and space. The distance of the earth from the sun at any given point in time is a certain distance (roughly 93 million miles). We don’t get to vote on that distance to change it. That distance is not one distance for you and another for me. It is as God created it.
Why should we think the nature of moral-spiritual truths are any different than temporal-spatial truths? A thing is morally true if it corresponds to reality and reality is determined by God. Just as we don’t get to vote on the distance of the earth to the sun, we don’t get to vote on whether drunkenness, murder or homosexuality are sins. These things are not morally right for one person but wrong for another. Moral truths, as temporal-spatial truths, are also determined by their correspondence to the reality of God’s creation. But how do I know if any given moral statement is true or not true?
If I make the statement it is raining outside my house, I can check that by looking outside my house. If I say the sun is 93 million miles from earth, I can measure that (after a fashion). But how do I know if the statements “murder is a sin” or “homosexuality is a sin” are either true or false? Just as we look in the Book of Nature to objectively discover temporal-spatial truths we must look into the Book of Revelation (i.e., the Bible) to discover moral-spiritual truths. When someone says homosexuality is a sin, how do I know if that is true? I look into the word of God and see if that is what it teaches. That is how all moral and spiritual truths are determined. In principle, it is determined the same way we discover temporal-spatial truths.
But someone will object and say not everyone agrees on moral-spiritual truths. That is true, but not everyone agrees on temporal-spatial truths either. Many scientists believe in evolution, but many scientists do not. The history of science is filled with failures, men and women believing things about the natural world, like spontaneous generation, etc., that are not true. The scientific method is used to discover temporal-spatial truths and sacred hermeneutics is used to discover moral-spiritual truths. When properly handled, these methods advance truth, when improperly used, they extend ignorance.
What makes a statement or proposition true, then, is its correspondence to the way God created the world. He created certain temporal-spatial truths, which are discoverable through the scientific method and He created certain moral-spiritual truths which are discoverable through sacred hermeneutics. The heavens declare the glory of God just as the Word declares His will for man.
What so many people fail to do, however, is to be guided in what they believe about moral and spiritual matters by what God has revealed in His word. Many who do hear or come somehow to understand what the Bible teaches will still reject it. They will cast doubt on the reliability of God’s Word as a standard of authority or they will say “That is just your interpretation,” asserting that no one can really know the truth about morality.
But without recognizing God’s word as the objective standard, they leave themselves open to subjectivism. For if moral “truths” are determined by human opinion and not divine revelation, there is, in effect, no moral truth. If human opinion determines morality, murder may be wrong to you, but it may not be wrong to someone else. Thus, there would be no truth concerning morality, only individual opinions, and opinions differ widely.
But those who either take an agnostic posture with regard to morality or dismiss objective, moral standards outright, will inevitably, but inconsistently, assert some moral standard as absolute. Everyone will at least assert “It is wrong for you to take my life.” They understand the God-given right to life (though they may not recognize it as such). But when they do this, they give up any claim of an agnosticism of morality and admit there is an objective moral standard.
The truth is, there is an objective, moral-spiritual truth to which all men are amenable–the Word of God. It is just as much a part of God’s creation as are the temporal-spatial truths. All of these truths and laws were codified in creation. We come to understand or discover all of these laws and truths through observation and study.
What makes something true is that God has declared it to be true.
Eric L. Padgett