What is truth?

By Mike Munoz
Pastor, Covenant Bible Church

Thank you, Mr. Weland, for your vigorous response to Mr. Tanners post concerning the pride event at the Pearl Theater—“Open letter to the Pearl and rebuttal from a board member.” As well, thank you for a willingness to engage in civil conversation over the issues involved.

It is encouraging that you begin by citing the Declaration of Independence as it is well known to have Christian roots (contrary to popular lore, the Declaration was co-authored and edited by a committee of five including John Adam, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston). “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You asked Mr. Tanner, “Whose God” he makes appeal to. I would ask you the same question since your answer and citation are grounded in the recognition of a “Creator.” I would appeal to the Triune God of heaven Who has revealed Himself in the Bible. I would ground my appeal in the impossibility of the contrary—it is impossible to make sense out of “truth,” “equality,” “rights,” “goodness,” “justice,” “sexual ethics,” as well as “ethics” or “morality” in general apart from presupposing this God. Space won’t allow me to expand upon all these issues, so I’ll just address three: truth, rights, and ethics.

“What is truth?” A question made famous by Pontius Pilate (John 18:38). This question is not answered the same by those who reject the Triune God. Having taught philosophy and critical thinking for many years at the college and university level, the idea of truth is explained variously as: 1) there is no truth; 2) truth must correspond to reality—the correspondence theory of truth; 3) truth cannot contradict itself—the coherence theory of truth (allowing for different disconnected areas of truths); 4) the idea that truth is relative; 5) a combination of these various ideas; as well as 6) many other theories from around the world. Christians believe that truth is ultimately found in a Person. As Creator, God determines truth, defines all things, and reveals truth to human beings. Ultimately, truth reflects the thinking of the Creator. As with “rights” and “morality,” “truth” must be grounded in an abstract, universal, invariant, personal entity to be binding—i.e., authoritative—upon all men. Men must also have access to the “truth,” which necessitates revelation from God.

As to “rights” we find ourselves in much the same quandary. “Unalienable rights” cannot be given to anyone because they are inherent upon who and what we are. Nor, for the same reason, can they be given away. “Rights” create obligations upon others so as not to infringe upon them. Thus, “rights,” are invested with a kind of authority and cannot be invented. Again, I would ask you, where does that authority come from? Only the Creator can extend “rights” to humanity and demand that they be respected. This, again, presupposes a revelation so that the creature knows his or her rights. According to the Christian worldview, men have “the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:15).

As to “ethics,” it seems clear to me that we both recognize its existence. Why do we disagree as to its content? Unless “might makes right,” there must be an absolute standard that is binding, personal, and authoritative on all of humanity. The Bible addresses both issues. The triune God is the Absolute, Personal Standard of what is “good,” “just,” and “moral.” As mentioned above, He has revealed these things to all men. As to our content disagreement, the Bible explains this as well—“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 2:23). As a result, we desire to create our own rules and force them upon others. We, again, see the necessity of revelation. The Bible makes clear that true morality is freeing. It allows us to live in a meaningful way that provides joy not just to ourselves but to society and culture as well. When we transgress God’s moral standards, it brings pain, sadness, and suffering—both personal and societal. Therefore, when you subtly accuse those who hold a Biblical standard of morality as being “bigoted” and “intolerant,” you make a woefully wrong characterization, which often short circuits ongoing conversation.

You wrote that Mr. Tanner was targeting as wrong “who someone is” (emphasis mine). Unfortunately, this is an old argument which has never been proven. I would gladly read any source you have to back up this dubious claim, which isn’t even believed by many, if not most, in the LGBTQ+ community. See, for instance, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop, written by David P. McWhirter, M.D. and Andrew M. Mattison, Ph.D.

In summary, what I am claiming is that “truth,” “rights,” and “ethics” must have a foundation. They don’t materialize out of thin air, and they are not invented by man. You make the same assertion by appealing to our Declaration’s grounding them in the Creator. That foundation must be personal because these principles apply to human persons. It must be authoritative, or it is meaningless. It must be universal, to apply to all of humanity. It must be invariant because it can’t change with the whim or preference of man. The Triune God of the Bible can account for—i.e., provides a foundation for—all these necessary presuppositions. Hence, it is necessary to presuppose Him and impossible not to. To reject His standards of morality would be like a child sitting on his father’s lap and slapping him. All the while being held up and sustained by his loving father.

10 thoughts on “What is truth?

  1. Thank you for your erudite and scholarly reply, Mr. Munoz! In all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve ever read such a well crafted collection of words that said so little!

    I appreciate your faith and pray it serves you well and makes of you a righteous man, but your assumption that there is only one true God who happens to be the one you pray to is an assumption shared by the devout of each of around 4,000 to 10,000 religions being practiced in the world today.

    Even if our Declaration of Independence is founded on Christian roots, it was written with the idea of religious freedom far more fresh in the author’s minds, as evidenced by their careful avoidance of mentioning or singling out any one religion, not even their own. I doubt anyone involved expressed an appeal in favor of any deity based on the impossibility of the contrary — without evidence, such an assumption would certainly seem presumptuous.

    Their choice of the word “creator” is open to the interpretation of every individual who reads it.

    Personally, I don’t find a need to invoke a god or deity to make sense of truth, equality, rights, goodness, justice, sexual ethics, ethics or morality, quite the opposite.

    Suppose our great, great ancestors (who dwelt upon the face of the Earth far, far earlier than 6,000 years ago) found conditions for survival extremely harsh, having small teeth, weak nails and thin skin as we did, and so banded together as a matter of survival.

    What we did have was opposable thumbs, which enabled us to control fire, contrive spears, knap stones and create for ourselves what genetics hadn’t. Over time, our ingenuity grew and, tired of chasing dinner up and down the plain, we gathered in cities and began farming. This gave us leisure time, time to think,

    But among us walked big bullies who beat up kids and took their lunch money and took the first and best of everything and, because right makes might, held sway over the people much as does the baboon with the reddest butt hold sway over his flock.

    Anyway, the big bullies could say about anything, “you are wearing my fur!” and everyone in the village knew otherwise but what are you going to do? He’s big and he’ll beat us up and take our sandwich.

    But the little guys, huddled in their dark caves to avoid the big bullies, had time to think and one night the toddler wandered in, rubbing his eyes and announced, much as innocent toddlers do to this very day, said, “Imma skeered … there’s monsters!”

    And in the mind of one of those men, a small torch flared to life. His name now as lost to the mists of time as that of the fish born with deformed fins who, washed ashore years earlier in a storm, became the first vertebrate to walk on land (those clubbed fins making pretty good feet) … that man created from his imagination the first god, and used that deity to convince the big bullies to tell the truth and do the right thing else a club-finned fish would beat him in his sleep and take his sandwich.

    And the bullies were sore afraid and thus were ethics and the “science” of religion born.

    Over time, the bullies would forget the lesson and so the small men would gather to think of something, anything to keep the bullies in their places and tithing, invented shortly after the invention of the gods.

    And so it came to be, many, many, many years later, that a group of men, bereft of knowledge of the man who, inspired by the baseless fears of a child, invented a god to frighten the bullies into behaving, ordained the crucifixion of a man called Messiah, and another group, knowing nothing of a fish born with deformed fins who first trod on land, drove nails into the feet of a man now worshipped as one tine of an omnipotent and omni-present Triune God who is because to presuppose otherwise is impossible.

    1. Hello Mr. Weland, I hope your day has gone well.
      You supposed that perhaps a man “created the first god, and used him to convince the big bullies to tell the truth and do the right thing else a club-finned fish would beat him in his sleep and take his sandwich… And the bullies were sore afraid and thus were ethics born.” Based on this, I ask the question: Do you believe that ethics are based on lies?

        1. Thanks for your response. So, if slavery like that in the early United States was necessary for society, it would be ethical?

          1. Not by the mores of today, or by the mores of those who opposed slavery on moral grounds. But by the mores of those who believed in the necessity of slavery, their ethics were both essential and under attack.

        2. If ethics vary depending on the needs of the society does that make you a Putin sympathizer? Putin describes his decision as ethical and meeting the needs of ethnic Russians as reported by the Wall Street Journal:


          “Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action,” Mr. Putin said. The goal, he said, “is to protect people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years, and for this we will strive to demilitarize” and rid Ukraine of what he described as Nazis, “as well as bring to justice those who committed numerous bloody crimes against peaceful residents, including citizens of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Putin said.

          We in the United States, on the other hand, are convinced that it is our ethical obligation to protect Ukraine’s borders at any cost while failing to protect our own borders. Whose ethics are right? Whose needs take priority? Russia’s ? Ukraine’s ? US Citizens’ ? Without any absolute ethical reference, how can anyone support or condemn either side? Better yet, what grounds exist to oppose oppression and evil? Can evil actually exist if the needs of the people claim it to be ethical behavior?

          History is littered with this sort of ethical dilemma: Honor killings, the Holocaust, the Holodomor, the Great Leap Forward and more recently failure to prosecute shoplifting less than $950 of merchandise in San Francisco and the war in Gaza…

          If there is no absolute good and evil, anything goes. ANYTHING. Might makes right. Bullies rule. Inalienable rights are curb stomped. Are you really arguing in favor of that kind of society?

          1. Mr. Rush, to start with, hyperbole and jumping to the farthest and most inane conclusion possible are good ploys for argument and picking fights, but they have no place in rational discourse or debate without at least a sprinkling of satire. How and why would my contention that ethics are dependent on the needs of society make me a Putin sympathizer? Or a Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Mao Zedong or, give him another chance, a Donald Trump sympathizer?

            No, sir, the existence of those and other ruthless and narcissistic dictators who convince themselves and others of their superiority are proof of my conjecture.

            Notice how a society’s ethics change under a ruthless but charismatic leader?

            Honor killings, the Holocaust, the Holodomor, the Great Leap Forward and more recently failure to prosecute shoplifting less than $950 of merchandise in San Francisco and the war in Gaza …

            Hmm … one of those doesn’t quite seem to fit.

            Anyway, though you don’t spell it out, I take it you don’t think anything goes, that might doesn’t make right and there is absolute good and absolute evil and that bullies rule because you believe a deity has intervened on our behalf to ensure we do what is right and Godlike and good for us.

            That these United States are ethical and just because we are a God-fearing nation.

            I don’t share those beliefs, sir.

            I think instead we are a species imbued with the intelligence to recognize that no matter our differences, we all want the same things; life, liberty, to shoplift in San Francisco, to pursue happiness. To avoid stress and strife, to enjoy peace rather than conflict.

            You notice one of the first things most despots do on their march to power and ignominy? They get the highest religious powers of their realm to fall in, usually by offering concessions the priests and shamans and pastors are certain their always omnipotent god(s) demands but can’t have unless we lowly, sinful creatures give it freely to him … by government decree and common consent, as declared by an enlightened one.

            Ethics change like socks, bartered on the contributions and love of the common man.

            When in the midst of the coarsest of human events, no matter how dark the moment or hour. When evil is rampant and none of it fair, when destruction and death have all but erased any hope you ever had. When there seems nothing good. Calm your anguished mind and listen. Look around.

            No matter how dark, how dire. How dangerous or how abhorrent … you will always find two things — small smiles and helpers.

            A bird singing in the midst of terror and chaos, people rushing into hell solely because their compassion and empathy compels them to bring water, help, hope. The shape of a cloud, the glint of color that catches your eye and grants but fleeting respite from what is otherwise agony.

            Ethics, like manners, money and law, is nothing more or less than a human construct, a simple idea meant to foster the life, liberty and justice craved by all men that somehow resolved into numerous dogmas that evolved into cities and counties and states and nations and various religions to watch over us, each to our particular biases.

            I don’t know, Mr. Rush. I think I prefer a society that takes its cues from the helpers, the bringers of hope. Those who extend a helping hand rather than a fist. But I guess there are and will always be those who prefer to assert power, to impose their superiority. To promise you liberty even while taking it away, who promise to save the ship even while sinking it.

            Sound familiar? Putin, perhaps? And tell me … when in time did rudeness begin replacing civility in the mores of our nation? Argument gain power over discussion, lies begin to stand in for truth? When did the leaders of our nation and of certain of our churches begin overlooking honor and integrity and embrace a figurehead endowed with neither?

            When did ours turn from an imperfect but well thought out government of, by and for a people ever intent on working to form a more perfect union to a red-hatted cult enamored of, by and for one deeply flawed but charismatic man?

            By my watch, it was about 2015. And his cult even now clamors for more.

            Are you really arguing in favor of that kind of society?

        3. Mike,
          So you admit then, that slavery, or child sacrifice, or arranged marriages or sweatshops are/were not wrong if they are based upon the needs of society at the time?

          1. George and Roger, thank you! Different names, different emails, same IP from the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Am I safe in my assumption that you are one individual, you wear a red hat and the words of Donald J. Trump resonate in your ears as sound and reasoned argument? Or should I infer you are two grown men still living in your mom’s basement who spend your days eating Cheezy Poofs and watching Fox news in your under-drawers?

            Please read my response again, more slowly this time. Sound out the big words, refer to a dictionary if need be. Let comprehension flow through you

            If after you still want to chat, give me a yell.

    2. “Thank you for your erudite and scholarly reply, Mr. Munoz! In all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve ever read such a well crafted collection of words that said so little!”

      That’s irony at its finest, because that’s how I feel every time I read any of your responses to a sound and reasoned argument!

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