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The Many Paths to Truth


      When was the last time you proved something? When you took a proposition, examined it, and dissected it? To prove something is to assure yourself that it is true. To say something is true is to say that it exists, or actually happened. But truth is not that simple. Truth is not a self-evident principle in the minds of those who examine—humans—nor is truth obvious in principles. So how are we to go about discovering what is true? But even more importantly, who has discovered truth?
     Truth, as previously defined, is what exists, or what has existed. Grass is green. Truth. Grass used to be green. Truth. We can know this because we see the grass—our observations can lead us to truth. And this is possible for all humans. All humans possess the faculty of observation. True, there are some who are more perceptive than others, but the physical truths of the universe, in their most basic forms, are available to all. But physical facts are just one facet of reality. If the universe were only what we could see, we would be the masters of creation. We would be, in some way or another, God. And yet, we are obviously not. Sense perception has us conclude that we are not God—that the world around us has a different master, and our observations are interpretive tools, not creative tools. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s there to see it, does it make any noise? Physical phenomena are preexisting, and outside of us. Motion must have a Mover. The world outside us moves, there must be a Mover outside of us, and this is what we call God.
     But this argument leaves us with a knowledge of the existence of God, and no revelation of His personal nature. Therefore, there are two components in existence—God and us, us including the world around us. So we have a solid definition of truth: what is, but only one part of “what is” is directly accessible to us. And the “what is” that is beyond our reach is the nature of God. That would have to be revealed to us by someone who has that knowledge—Him.
     While aliens or pantheons have been credited with the Creation of the world, and called God, a proper study of reality, a discerning one, brings us to a book, five thousand years old, written by forty authors, all in perfect agreement on who Man is, who God is, the relationship between the two, and the way to live life in light of these actualities. It is more colloquially referred to as the Bible. Unity of effect implies unity of cause, and that is exactly what the Bible claims. It was inspired by God and the men were tools in His hand. The Bible is God’s direct revelation to man, the solution to a vacuum of knowledge about Him. God revealing truth to us is a sign about our nature. If God must intervene, how could we get there in the first place?
     If man, naked, perfect, and upright, pre-fall, still needed God, then truth was not enough. To simply know what was right, and do it, was insufficient. And now we are less than Adam. We've fallen from his and Eve’s state. Clothed, imperfect, fallen. And yet we claim to know more than Adam and Eve ever did. In one way, we do. Adam, more than likely, did not know all the foibles of molecular biology, or the ontological argument for God. But that knowledge is not bad. Knowledge is a means to ends, with a user. And to study anything is to study what God has given us. Adolf Hitler knew that humans responded to patriotism and loyalty to their people—and so did Winston Churchill.
     Perhaps they are not the best examples because they used their talents for war. But that is beside the point. Man is where he is in any area of study because God put him there. Even in an indirect sense, our rationality is from Him. That doesn’t make it any less ours, or that we should only use our tools for discovering truth to theological ends. It means there is a division. There is truth, and there is a Truth. One encompasses the other, and vice versa. The Truth is “what is,” inside truth. And “what is” proceeds from and should be evaluated by the Truth.
     One is superior to the other. Because Christ said “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He claims to be sufficient. Everything that proceeds from Him is true, and part of it is exclusive, only accessible through Him. “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:4) To say that bread in this context only means bread, and to only subsist in every sense, physical or otherwise, by the Bible, would be to violate Augustinian (and for that matter, Biblical) hermeneutics and create a sequestered, prideful life. Beware homo unius libri, the man of only one book. All that is in the world was created by the Truth. And the term Truth refers to God Himself. What’s more, the truths of the world are accessible to all men, heathen or Christian. But that doesn’t only encompass physical truths. No matter how old someone is, how tall or short, intelligent or average, they can make judgments about physical characteristics of objects. And because they proceed from God, they testify of Him. The world was given to testify of God, among other things. “The heavens declare the glory of God; / And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
     Imagine there was a book. A thick, rich volume. The cover reads De Doctrina Christiania, and the author is Augustine. The book is a fantastic, beautiful volume, full of things that train men to become better expositors of Scripture and persuaders of their audiences. But upon opening it—it’s in Latin. The average person cannot read Latin, especially medieval Latin—which most full works of the Middle Ages were written in. But Latin and English are extremely similar, full of root words and cognates. So, while the book not might be fully understandable by the regular English-speaker, it would be partially readable. The world is like that. A colossal book we’ve forgotten how to read.
     That doesn’t mean we can’t partially browse it. When we look at the world, and view it through our natural reason alone, we can scope some truths. We see that men kill other men. We see that there is justice, and a punishment for evildoers. We see the natural world, sometimes incorrectly functioning, working in an ordered way. No one has ever really said there was no God—they just disagreed on where He was.
No one has ever really said there was no God—they just disagreed on where He was. 
Plato, Aristotle, the wise men of the Greeks, and Homer, Virgil, Tacitus, Seneca, were not only fools. They, by the intellect God gifted them with, had access to a world created by the Truth, and they used it to—sometimes—proclaim things as they were in their history, literature and philosophy. Sometimes.
     They, fallen men without the light of divine revelation, made many errors. Using the incorrect methods can lead to right and wrong conclusions. Both the mathematician and the physicist come to the same conclusion by different means, different paths—the Earth is round. Their methods do not make their conclusions any less valid. They are, in one sense, plucking fruits from God’s tree unknowingly. And Christians, when observing these somewhat stolen fruits, should act as if they are from God to men. It is impossible to define a lie without reference to truth.
     What in actuality determines what is a lie and what is truth is the Truth. When we have to decide what is an accurate picture of reality, we can rely upon God and what He says. The Bible is not man, reaching up to seize upon truth. It is God dropping it into the lap of man freely. It is direct revelation, and all things are measured by it. Does it agree with the truth God has straightforwardly given us? When it does, it is a real treasure. Dante puts it best in his Purgatorio, when Statius speaks of Virgil, whose fourth Eclogue brought him closer to Christianity. “You were the lonely traveler in the dark / who holds his lamp behind him, shedding light / not for himself but to make others wise….” (lines 67-69)
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