Dimensions of Truth// 2 Knowing Truth
2 Ways we can use Legal Precedent + 4 Dimensions of church history's "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" to reveal "How we can Know Truth?" You know I have a chart 😉
Read time: ~7m
Imagine if you will, a shape of infinite light. Lasting for eternity, this light creates life and all that is good. It spreads throughout the mind until all that's visible is this light.
Now we step back and find ourselves tripping into a shed. The doors close, but there are many windows, and the light pours in from all sides. Over time, we start meeting the other people around the shed. Each person has their own story about the light.
They see it on the walls, patterns on the floor, through the colors of glass, and reflecting from mirrors. It illuminates the darker corners of the room. Some see it through the window, some feel the warmth on their skin, and others have forgotten its true colors.
This scene is our poetic summary from the previous post on What is Truth?
Each person has their own filters as they uniquely encounter the light. These filters of belief are our Worldview. Some people observe the light through Scientific Truth. The light on the walls, patterns on the floor, and if they're lucky even from the window itself. Others observe a Poetic Truth. The colors of glass, the feeling of warm light on their skin, and in personal encounters with each other.
If we're wise, we may be able to discern principles of truth where Poetic & Scientific Truth overlap. If we can, we can catch a glimpse of Absolute Truth, the source of the eternal light itself. Some call it God.
Naturally, this begs the next question we will explore in this post...
Followup: How can we know what truth is?
"Truth is often so valuable it needs to be protected by a bodyguard of lies” - Winston Churchill
I like to approach this by observing how specific domains pursue this question all the time. We have a legal precedent for seeking truth in court, and we have thousands of years of church history.
Each has a bias in sorting through facts and opinions, but I find the intersection quite helpful.
The Continuity of Truth
The way I like to imagine the 2 classic legal models of discerning truth, is through an XY Grid. While not a perfect fit, the church tradition mostly follows this same pattern. By seeking truth from multiple angles, we're more likely to discover truth and God in the intersection.
If one angle is over-prioritized, I may have a bias. We remedy this by bringing in the opposing area to add perspective. As we go through this, I'd encourage you to consider where your own bias may be in emphasizing a particular area.
First, let's look at our XY legal precedent...
X-axis: Correspondence Theory of Truth
Here we ask, "Does what we believe or say correspond to the way things actually are in the world?"
I consider this on a timeline of what happened in the past that brought us to now (Tradition). Looking forward from now, how might this be replicated moving forward (Reason).
Legally, if the stories of many witnesses match up, or the evidence is reasonably assembled - we likely have a truth Corresponding to reality.
Y-axis: Coherence Theory of Truth
Now we ask, "Is the truth claim coherent with other beliefs in the system, or does it 'hang together' with a person's beliefs or body of knowledge?"
This can be considered in a vertical intersection of now. What else in my own reality can I map this to around me (Experience)? And what messages have stood the test of time before me, that I can stand on (Scripture)?
To be Coherent, we generally line up claims against itself rather than a 3rd party. e.g. Does a single person's account of a robbery all line up forward & backward in their own view? If not, do we need a few points of clarification? If all lines up, we may have discovered part of the truth.
As you can see, only a single path to discovering truth can leave us with missing pieces and create a bias, this is where many angles can be helpful.
👤 If you have someone come to mind as you're reading this, use it as an opportunity to reconnect! You can share this post with them as an excuse to start the conversation.
REST Test in the "Wesleyan Quadrilateral"
The REST model for uncovering truth was formed by John Westley of the Christian Methodist denomination. For Westley, a relationship with God is so vital that he didn't limit it to a single area. Instead he identified multiple avenues by which we could come to know God. For our purposes, Truth and God will be interchangeable.
The trouble with limited tools, is it's easy to get lost when facing a challenge. Again, we all have a bias toward one or two of these areas. What are yours?
Description: A sensible, thoughtful approach. Discerning truth from error via critical thinking and logic. What does the best of learning help us to understand in this setting?
Examples: Deduction, meditation, modern books, modern science, psychology, sociology, philosophy // Luke 10:27, Romans 12:2-4, Phil 4:7-8, Eph 4:23 // Modernity bias or Liberal emphasis
Unique Value: A grounded view of reality to understand God and/or truth, by applying logic of our world. Helps with logical security and avoid anti-intellectualism.
Exclusivity Vice: Humanism- Leads to a God of the Gaps, where given enough time we can explain anything, and God is no longer necessary. Rather than a partnership with God being woven throughout the process.
Description: When we personally observe or interact with something, or someone. You have experiences, but so do others. Take some time to listen to them. Swap stories of day-to-day encounters with God. Where and how do you see him moving in your life and the lives of others?
Examples: Your interests, hobbies, friends, life // 1 Cor 2:9-10, Col 3:16-17, James 1:17 // Charismatic emphasis
Unique Value: Personal experiences, shared experiences, emotions, testimonies, etc. Cultivates intrinsic motivation. Helps avoid legalism.
Exclusivity Vice: Experiences are valid, but locally limited to our own views or social network. Having an overemphasis on feelings, we might say, "That's great for you, but I haven’t experienced that." As if our current feelings or understanding is somehow more true than a friend's experience, or a previous experience. Sometimes we may never experience it.
Description: Timeless wisdom literature curated over every season of the human condition. Standing the test of time. As the foundation for Christian understanding, all other areas essentially clarify Biblical scripture. This makes scripture not just a source text to reference as needed, but a living story that speaks to us across time and culture.
Examples: The 66 standard books of the Bible // Deut 4:2, Josh 1:8-9, Prov 30:5-6, Rev 22:18-19, 2 Tim 3:16-17, Gal 1:6-9 // Evangelical, baptist emphasis
Unique Value: Scripture invites us to work from the same reference point. In health, this can unity our understand as we navigate through a common situation. Helps avoid relativism.
Exclusivity Vice:Sola Scriptura says the Bible is the exclusive way to understand the infallibility God. This is quite troubling if the humans don't understand or apply scripture as it's meant to be. This is compared against Prima Scriptura, which instead says scripture is primary. A collection of experiences, reasonably assembled through tradition can help us better understand God's truth.
Description: The historical background, community, and practices we hold that influence our faith or view of the world. What wisdom does the history of our communities over time have to share about this topic?
Examples: Anthropology, Cultural history, Church history, faith denominations, spiritual practices, extra-biblical sources, +50 years old books // 2 Th 2:15, Matt 15:3,6,14, Acts 2:42, Heb 7:12, Col 2:8, 1 Cor 11:2 // Catholic emphasis
Unique Value: What is true stands the test of time, and passes down through many generations. Standing on the shoulders of giants, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Instead we get to take it deeper. Helps avoid individualism.
Exclusivity Vice: We’ve always done it this way- but is it right?
Throughout church & cultural history, the social pendulum does swing. The weight we tend to assign to each area shifts. The point isn't for each area to be fully understood, but by bringing them together in dynamic tension, we can find a deeper revelation in the unity.
At best, overemphasis in any one area could leave a person unbalanced. e.g. Using our own logic to come to conclusions in contradiction to the truth or scripture.
At worst, this can make us self-righteously abusive, speaking down to others for their different views. This completely misses the intention for the Christian in the first place.
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” - Jesus in John 13:35
It is imperative for us to be able to recognize truth if we hope to be stable human beings. Truth is being in continuity with reality. If something is out of continuity, it requires closer examination to determine the misalignment.
For example, sometimes I feel God very close, sometimes I don't. If I overemphasized experience, I might think he's not there, but by balancing it with scripture, I can know he never leaves me and his character does not change. That doesn't mean he isn't there, rather my knowledge of truth isn't required for God's presence with me.
Sometimes my views are out of alignment. Sometimes the data is in error. But for the beliefs or truth claims we do hold, the bold question from the first post stands, "do you really believe what you believe is real? If you do, why don't you live that way?"
Our actions reveal what we believe to be true, even if it's not front of mind. So whether we do know the truth or not, what do we do with that? We'll get into this more next time.
Next Steps: Where are your biases?
Continuing to recognize our own biases, helps us more clearly see truth when it's revealed to us. Personally, my tendency is to lean toward reason and scripture, and I could probably benefit from more tradition to stay balanced. What about you?
💬👇 When it comes to knowing truth, where do your biases land?
💬👇 Was there a dimension of truth that stood more out to you than others?
💬👇 Other Questions, Comments, Compliments?
🙏 Reflection Prayer: (Feel free to adopt in your own language)
God, I ask you to reveal any hollow or misleading philosophies in my worldview. Help me to understand and live in consistency with your way of life. Give me grace for the gaps in myself, and the ones I think I see in others. Bring us together in love and unity toward your ordered world.
PS. I can't see your face, but would love to hear your voice!
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👤 If you had someone come to mind as you were reading this, use it as an opportunity to reconnect. You can share this post with them as an excuse to start the conversation.
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