The Nature Of Truth -- By: John V. Dahms

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:4 (Dec 1985)
Article: The Nature Of Truth
Author: John V. Dahms


The Nature Of Truth

John V. Dahms*

In evangelical circles truth is commonly understood to be solely a matter of true propositions. The following may be taken as statements with which many would agree: According to Gordon H. Clark, “truth is a characteristic of propositions only. Nothing can be called true in the literal sense of the term except the attribution of a predicate to a subject.”1 C. F. H. Henry has affirmed: “Nothing can be literally true but a propositional statement.”2 N. Geisler has stated: “One can safely say that the normal and consistent New Testament usage of ‘truth’ is of truth in the cognitive, propositional sense.”3

The simple propositional view of truth is not universal among evangelicals, however. A. F. Holmes affirms that truth is both propositional and personal4 and contends for the unity thereof on the basis that “truth is first a matter of inner character and only derivatively of words and deeds.”5 He states that “the ultimate locus of truth is… in the utter reliability of the true God.”6

E. J. Carnell advanced the view that there are “three kinds of truth: onto-logical truth, truth as propositional correspondence to reality, and truth as

*John Dahms is professor of New Testament at Canadian Theological College in Regina, Saskatchewan.

personal rectitude.”7 The unity of truth is apparently indicated in his statement that “essence and existence are united by right moral decision.”8

A. C. Thiselton9 contends that there are five major connotations or “nuances of meaning” of the word “truth” in the NT10 and insists that “truth in the New Testament is a polymorphous concept.”11

It appears, however, that the majority view of truth in evangelical circles is the simple propositional or correspondence view. As we sketch briefly the results of our own examination of Scriptural usage and add some theological reflections, we shall have this view primarily in mind.12 It should, perhaps, be added that what we consider to be the ...

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