Meditation – Truth in The Triune God of Scripture (The Truth of God Pt. 3)
by Isaac Overton
In our previous studies on truth, following the lead of Herman Bavinck, we divided up the idea of truth into three categories. First, there was objective truth, referring to that which exists in reality; second, there was propositional truth, referring to whether or not a given statement truly reflects that reality; and third, there was perceptional truth, which refers to whether or not we perceive things as they really are in our hearts and minds. On top of this, we learned that God is truth. He exists as the source of all that exists, he is self-existent in his own being, and he sustains all the things that he has created.
Having said that God is truth, however, it follows that truth must also be triune in nature – for God is triune. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but I think that when we consider what we’ve learned about truth in light of the doctrine of the Trinity, what we find is that the three-fold definition of truth that we’ve been talking about has a parallel to the three persons of the Trinity. I know, I know! We need to tread carefully when it comes to trinitarian doctrine, but I think that this question can be seen very clearly as we consider the nature of the Godhead (within the bounds of orthodoxy of course!). Let’s begin with the parallel between God the Father and the idea of objective truth.
When we consider the first category of truth – objective truth – what we’re talking about is the idea that reality exists objectively, outside of ourselves. The tree outside your window, for example, is there whether or not you realise it, or whether or not you are thinking about it. Scripture clearly teaches that God exists and is the fount of life from which all created things come. Thus Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. In other words, objective truth is what it is because God is who he is. Considering this fact from a trinitarian perspective adds another layer of insight, because what we find is a parallel between God the Father and objective truth. Let me try and explain what I mean. We confess in that ancient creed as follows:
“We believe in one God, the Father almighty… And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages… ...begotten, not made;” (taken from the Nicene Creed).
In speaking of the relationship of the Son to the Father, our creed uses that word “begotten”. What does that actually mean? If something is begotten of another thing, it means that it is generated by that thing. In the case of the Son, then, to say that he is begotten (e.g. Jn 3:16) means that Christ was generated by the father. Yet we add with haste that he was “not made”, but is eternally begotten (Letham, The Holy Trinity, p.460; MacLeod, The Person of Christ, p.131). That is to say, the Son in his person is eternally generated and begotten by the Father. He comes from the Father – light from light, life from life. True God of True God. In this sense we see that the Father exists as the objective truth from which the Son springs (so too the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son). Following on from this, we see more than a passing resemblance between Christ, the second person of the Trinity, and the idea of “propositional truth.”
Our second category of truth is “propositional truth”. This use of the term “truth” refers to whether or not our statements truly and accurately reflect objective truth (the first category of truth). In John’s gospel, we find that one of Christ’s titles is “the Word of God”. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn 1:1-3). Christ is represented here as a living, personal word, spoken by God - being himself the full and final revelation of God (Heb 1:1-3). The idea that a word could be a living person is certainly mysterious, but the scriptures present Christ in this way. He is the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, but also he is a living revelation from God – the very Word of God. In Christ, therefore, we find a clear parallel with our second category of truth.
In the Holy Spirit, the third person of the godhead, we likewise find a parallel with our third category of truth – “perceptional truth”. Perceptional truth refers to truth as it is received or perceived in our inner man. We speak truth only as we perceive truth. In the Holy Spirit, we see a clear parallel to this idea, clearly expressed in 1 Cor 2:10-11: “...the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The Holy Spirit here is presented as being the inner force of life in God that searches and comprehends the depths and mind of God. We would probably stray if we tried to explore these concepts further, but nevertheless it seems clear that the three-fold nature of truth is based upon the Triune nature of God.
How is all of this relevant for us in our daily lives? Sadly for many the doctrine of the Trinity is seen as a dusty and irrelevant doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reflective glory of the Triune God of scripture is woven into the very fabric of his creation. All truth is rooted objectively in the Father, revealed and declared with authority and power through the Son, and perceived in our spirits by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, who searches the mind and depths of God and illumines our hearts progressively in the same. Truth is crucial for life. Without a true perception of the world, we will blind and ignorant of God, and subject to his judgment by our hard heartedness. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work within us, however, our lives are renewed, the eyes of our hearts are opened by faith.
Do you appreciate the mighty works of God in your life in these things? Do you appreciate that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father by adoption, stands Almighty beyond the twisting, turning vagaries of this life? Everlasting and unchanging, the ground and source of all things? Do you appreciate that – by his Son, the Word of God – he created all things and upholds them by the word of his power? That through Christ alone we can know the Father, that we can perceive the truth? And do you appreciate that – were it not for the gracious, illuminating work of the Spirit – that we would be blind, deaf, and dumb to the glories of Christ? These things help us to worship the Lord God with our minds, as we perceive and understand something more of his workings in our salvation and in creation. They help us to know the great God whom we serve! To grow in truth, to truly perceive and understand the world as it is, we must look to the Father as the one true God (Jn 17:3), through the Son who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6); by the Spirit, who himself is the Spirit of Truth (Jn 16:13). SDG.
Q. What does it mean to say that God is truth?
A. To say that God is truth means that God himself exists as the ultimate ground and source of all that is, was, or will be; that his Word perfectly reflects and conforms to the mind of God, also determining that which exists in creation; and that, in his Spirit, he perfectly, fully, and truly perceives and reveals all things.