God personalizes everything. There’s nothing in the cosmos divorced from who he is and what he’s doing. As one of my favorite theologians put it, “Our surroundings are shot through with personality because all things are related to the infinitely personal God.” Shot through, pierced with the light of God’s character. Even the things we don’t perceive as personal—rocks, trees, clouds, truth (Luke 19:40; Isa. 55:12; Ps. 19:1–4; John 14:6).
I’ll focus on the last one, since I’ve been reading Vern Poythress’s Truth, Theology, and Perspective. He’s reminded me of something revolutionary: Truth is personal. And because it’s personal, it requires much more of us than assent, than a head-nod to “the facts”; it requires trust. How does that alter the way we see God, ourselves, and the world?
Living on the Divine Estate
Let me get at this through an analogy. Let’s say there are two different ways of portraying the world we live in. On one hand, it feels as if we’re “just here.” The world around us is a neutral playground of sorts. We see what we want to see. We choose a means to evaluate what we experience—whether that’s moralism, feelings, or revealed truth. But all the stuff—the stones and the trees, the plants and the people, the air we breathe and the colors we see—is “just there.” Life is an abandoned playground. It belongs to no one, and it doesn’t matter much where it came from or where it’s going. We do our best to imbibe the swings and seesaws with meaning and hope, but that’s it.
On the other hand, we can view the world as a divine estate. Ever since our inception into a world of light and noise, we’ve been playing on someone else’s property. And the property is laced with marks of the estate owner. Everything we see, touch, smell, hear, taste, and experience is his. There is no neutrality. There is nothing “just here.” It’s all been put here by someone. It’s all owned by someone. It’s all meaningful because of someone.
Of course, Christians believe life is lived on this divine estate, not on a neutral, godless playground. But we can forget this when we’re working with portions of the estate that don’t seem directly tied to a personal attribute of God. And truth is a prime example. Isn’t truth just a thing, a concept, an unbiased principle?
Where Truth Fits
Nothing on the divine estate of creation is “just a thing.” Paul was clear that everything in creation reflects God (Rom. 1:20). Everything bears a message from the estate owner. And that includes truth.
In fact, in a mind-blowing revelation, the Son of God tells us that truth isn’t something; it’s someone. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). How in the world do we understand that? It sounds ridiculous to our ears. “It’s a truth that 2+2=4.” I can’t say, “It’s a Jesus that 2+2=4.” Right? What can it possibly mean that Jesus is “the truth”?
The trouble is that we’ve lived so long in a broken world that we’ve divorced created things from their creator. We’ve taken what God identified with himself (truth) and made it something separate—a helpful but abstract principle we can apply to our experiences. But truth was never meant to be divorced from the personhood of God. “The truth originates in God. So the reception of the truth involves communion with God. That is, it involves communion with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit. We are personal creatures, matching on the creaturely level the personal nature of God.” Truth is a person. And so our reception of the truth requires a relationship. We were meant to know truth out in the world only in relation to its source, to the person of truth. Rightly understood, the truth 2+2=4 should tell us something about Jesus, about God, not just something about figures. The equation reveals the faithfulness and consistency of God, and the world that reflects him. Theologically, an appropriate response to 2+2=4 isn’t just “that’s right.” It’s, “Praise God for his faithfulness!”
Truth and Trust
Now, if truth is ultimately personal, something we only have access to in communion with God, who is the source of truth, then that brings out something the unbelieving world would hate: Truth requires trust in God. I can imagine the responses. “Yea, right! You don’t have to know anything about God to know that 2+2=4!” Maybe it would help to put it this way: Apart from a relationship with God, you will never know 2+2=4 as richly as you were meant to. Contrary to popular opinion, accepting the equation is actually an act of trust, bound up with a relationship. This has been the case ever since the beginning. Even with Adam and Eve, their reception of the truth of God’s word wasn’t a matter of cold analysis or objective inspection; it was a matter of trust and love, just as it is for us today.
"The fundamental issue at the level of the heart is whether we love God or not (Deut. 6:5). Do we trust, then, that what he says is true and is for our good? Or do we listen to the serpent, who insinuates that God is withholding something that would be good for us? The test for Adam is whether he will listen to the truth, the truth of God, or to falsehood, the falsehood of the devil. The truth leads to life. The way of falsehood leads to death."
Truth and trust are interwoven. In fact, truth, trust, and love are interwoven. There’s no separating them from each other or from the God who is truth and love (John 14:6; 1 John 4:8), who calls for our trust. In claiming that anything is “true,” we’re simultaneously claiming something that deeply involves God—who he is and what he’s done. We’re living on his estate, after all.
Facts to Persons or Persons to Facts
If truth demands trust and relationship, that puts the whole world at a crossroads. We must constantly choose to either trust or distrust, to put God at the center of all things or to put something else there (usually ourselves). This is the way God has ordained things. It seems backwards to us, but that’s because we’re so bent from rebellion. We think that we can only know persons once we know the objective facts. I can only claim to know my wife, for example, once I’ve learned enough about her. But with God it’s opposite. God has always asked us to go through his person to see any of the facts about him, ourselves, or the world properly. In daily life, we tend to go from facts to persons, but God is always asking us to go from his person to the facts, from trust to truth.
Truth, we might say, always asks for trust. And much of the world isn’t willing to give it. They want the truth detached from trust, detached from God. And they don’t see that in wanting this, they are wanting something less than the truth. How could we ever claim to know the truth about something without knowing what it says about the truth-giver?
These are the lessons, among many others, that await readers in Truth, Theology, and Perspective. Praise God for creating a world that’s shot through with both the truth and the personality of the one who gives it. It’s in knowing him that we truly know ourselves and the world around us.