Objective Truth

Question from a Site Viewer
Did God create objective truth, i.e., all the natural rules and laws that are part of human life? Or did objective truth exist on its own, and God drew from this truth when He created life? Is God subject to this objective truth, or did He create it?

Or is this subject beyond human comprehension?

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your question about whether God created objective truth. I do not believe that God created objective truth.

Truth exists solely within the world of moral communication. Truth without moral communication is a meaningless concept. Plants, stones, water, and air do not function in the world of truth and lies. Animals may communicate but they do not exist in a world of truth and lies. A bee returning to a hive with communication about the location of a pollen source is not functioning in a world of truth and lies. But a human being making the same communication about the location of a pollen source is working in the world of objective truth. Truth is dependent on communications between morally responsible persons. Conceptually, this is true whether or not there is a God (doing away with, for the sake of the argument, the problem of conceiving of morally responsible persons apart from God). Thus, if we could have morally responsible persons without God, there would still be truth. Statements people would make could still be judged as objectively true or objectively false.

Accordingly, the concept of objective truth is something that exists because of who we are as beings. Though it is dependent on God’s creation of us as morally responsible and communicative persons; truth itself, in my view, is not a created thing. Truth rather is an abstract concept used to describe a communication. Only in this sense does it make sense of Jesus’ statement that He is the truth (John 14:6). He is the communication of God to humanity (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:2).

Abstract concepts are often used of God (love, holiness, faithful, just, merciful, etc.). The biblical writers understood these concepts as being true of God, not because the abstract concepts were created by Him, but rather because He fully fulfills the meanings of these abstract concepts. Thus, whatever God says is true, because being truthful is part of His character.

Some may go to the statement that He created all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16) and conclude that because truth exists therefore it must have been created by God. But lies exist as well; yet we know that God did not create evil. I think the better view is that the things referenced in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 are the physical and spiritual universes but not abstract concepts. He did not create unrighteousness, unfaithfulness, unholiness, hatred, envy, etc. Neither did He create righteousness, faithfulness, holiness, love, or peace, although what He created was created in righteousness, faithfulness, holiness, love, and peace.

We have hints in Scripture that abstract concepts exist without logical dependency on God. Thus, in Genesis 18:25 Abraham speaks to God and raises the question of whether the Judge of the whole earth should not do what is just. Abraham appears to be using the term “just” to describe an abstract concept that He thought should circumscribe the actions God should take. The rationale is that a judge should do what is just and God is the big judge and therefore He also should do what is just. Abraham believed that God was held to the concept of being just. We find much the same relationship between God and justice in Hebrews 6:10 where the author of Hebrews states that God is not unjust to forget the reader’s labors. Jesus used the relationship between abstract thought and God is precisely the same way in Luke 18:7 in the parable of the unjust judge. He tells us that God will give justice to His elect. Justice is an abstract concept that we have every right to expect God to live up to, at least so the Scripture writers would have us understand.

Thus, when we say God is just, we are saying that the character of God is justice. We are saying the same thing about God that we would be saying if we said “Mr. Hoberno is just.” We are using a term that has a set meaning and applying to a person; in this case, to God. Everything God does is just, not because we define justice by what God does, but rather because God will always conform to what is just. That is His nature. It is this concept that I find embedded in Scripture. When we speak of God being just, we are saying something different than that God is what He created. Rather, we are taking an abstract concept that we know and saying this is the character of God.

The same is true of truth. God did not create truth. Truth existed in the Trinity, within those inter-trinitarian conversations of God, precisely because the nature of God is truth in the inward parts (to borrow a phrase from David in Psalm 51).

This then brings up your next question as to whether objective truth existed on its own and did God draw on this truth when He created life. Objective truth cannot exist on its own. It requires morally communicative persons to exist. Thus, it is dependent on the existence of God, a morally communicative person. Because God exists, objective truth exists. Apart from God, there would be no morally communicative persons (at least for those of us who follow Scripture), and therefore there would be no objective truth. But because God existed always, morally objective truth has existed always. Yet, it would be awkward to say that God drew on this truth when He created life. It is more appropriate in my view to state that the communications of God are always truth, and when He communicated to create the world, His communications were in truth.

You ask whether God is subject to truth. The question is a little like asking whether a fish is subject to swimming. A fish is born to swim. A fish is not subject to swimming. So, it is with God and truth. God is not subject to truth. Rather, it is that the very nature of God is one of truth. He speaks truth, not because He thinks in Himself that He better speak truth, but rather because truth naturally flows from His nature. He would need to go against His nature to speak a lie, something He would never do. In contrast, Satan is the father of lies; it is in his nature to lie, and there is no truth in him (John 8:44). We know Satan is lying when he speaks, because that is his nature. In the same manner, we know that God is speaking truth when He speaks, because that is His nature. He is not subject to truth. He is truth.

I hope this helps with your thinking.

a servant of Christ,

tim

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