57 – Where Does Truth Come From?
When you read the word “science” what pops into your mind? Most people would say things like progress, experiments, laboratory, answers, technology, solving problems.
But for Christians, science also raises questions. In some cases, the findings of science seem to be in conflict with the Bible. And so, we have to ask ourselves questions like these:
What are the limitations of science?
Should we always believe what science says?
Where does truth come from – science, the Bible, or both? It’s this last question that we will focus on in this article.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SCIENCE
After the renaissance and reformation of the 1400 – 1600’s came the enlightenment and the rise of the scientific method. Learned men, many of them Christians, began to discover that the world worked in predictable ways. They thought that through experiments they could understand and describe how God made the world.
As time went by and scientists observed the predictability of the world, more and more of them began to believe that there was no need for God. They thought that through progress and the scientific method man would eventually unlock all the secrets of the universe.
This optimism reached its height around the end of the 1800’s. Science had made incredible advances during the industrial revolution, both in practical applications and in theory.
One of the greatest achievements was Principia Mathematica, by Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead. In this work, these men set out to define a system of mathematical thought that was “complete,” i.e. that could prove any statement as being true or false from within the system.
WHAT DID THE 20TH CENTURY BRING?
Three discoveries of the early twentieth century brought this optimism to a screeching halt. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity showed that space and time are not absolute but rather depend on forces like acceleration and gravity.
Heisenberg showed in his Uncertainty Principle that it is impossible to know both the position and direction of an electron as it orbits the nucleus of an atom. These discoveries turned their respective fields upside down.
Kurt Godel’s 1931 discovery was perhaps the most revolutionary of them all. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem showed that in every mathematical system you can always come up with a statement that cannot be proven true or false from within the system. Not only did Godel show that Russell and Whitehead failed in this aspect of their Principia Mathematica, he proved they failed for a good reason – their objective could never be met. There can never be a completely “logical” mathematical system. You must always bring in unproven assumptions into the system.
In short, during the first few decades of this century, scientists began to realize that the search for ultimate answers would be much more difficult than they had earlier imagined, if not impossible. That is why today, more and more scientists are including in their worldview a place for some kind of divine being.
Over time, it became obvious that science had made promises that it could not keep. Feeding all the world’s poor, getting rid of disease, making our lives easier – we have made progress in these areas but yet at what cost. Many younger people see the toll that “progress” has taken on the quality of our lives and wonder if it is worth the price.
So now, people have a “schizophrenic” attitude toward science – we are happy for the advances, but pessimistic about science being able to provide meaning or answer the big questions about life. If we go back to the Bible, we see that God’s Word speaks directly to these issues. So let’s look at three truths about truth…
3 TRUTHS ABOUT TRUTH
1. We can’t discover truth on our own.
Ever since the garden, man has been tempted to believe that he could find truth and knowledge independently from God. This was the first sin – Adam and Eve believed they knew more than God. It’s interesting that their sin was eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
As one man said, “At 20, I was sure I was right. At 30, I knew I was probably right but tried not to gloat. At 40, I seriously entertained the possibility I could be wrong. At 50, I realized it’s a toss up.” Another man added, “At 70, it won’t really matter one way or the other.”
As we get older, we waver between the growing realization of our fallibility and our sinful desire for independence and self-righteousness. This is why Proverbs 1:7 says “the fear of the Lord is the starting point of wisdom.” The fear of the lord is the acknowledgement of our total dependence on Him.
Several times I have tried to explain something to children – it could be neurosurgery or the law of supply and demand, it doesn’t seem to matter – and they will stop me just after I start by saying “I know, I know, I know” and not let me finish. It is so annoying.
Yet how often do I do the same thing when someone is telling me something. On the outside I am being polite, but on the inside I have dismissed what the person is saying because I believe I already know it all.
What is your first thought when faced with a difficult situation? I don’t know about you, but my default mode is usually to find out as much information as I can, carefully weigh the various options, and then make a decision. Notice the dangerous assumption is that I can make a correct decision on my own.
In reality, there will always be information that I can’t gather. There will always be options and consequences I can’t foresee. And even if I had all the information, I am always flawed in my decision making process.
God wants us to use our minds, but he wants us to use them by faith under his lordship and authority. We were made to depend on Him.
2. Truth must come from outside the system.
Godel’s Theorem clearly proved that there could be no absolute mathematical system that can prove every statement either true or false. Many scientists believe his conclusion applies to logic as well. In other words, these scientists admit that they must always bring in some “truth” from outside their system.
This agrees with the conclusions of the Bible. “If you look for (wisdom) as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4, 5).
Without revelation from outside of our experience, we would be like the people Paul describes in Romans chapters 1 and 2 – we could know some things about God, but we could never know God. We can’t discover the answers to ultimate questions on our own.
Jesus is God’s revelation to us from outside our “system.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So Jesus becomes the living word, the final prophet, the one who is the exact image of the invisible God. He is the one who brings the truth that we could never discover on our own.
3. God freely offers us his truth in his word.
The area of knowledge is no different than any other part of our lives – just like our physical life and our spiritual life, we must walk with God by faith.
We should submit to His authority and look to Him for truth. This truth is found in the Bible, and only by allowing his word to penetrate our hearts can we “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).
“For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). Only God has truth, but he’s willing to share it with you. That’s why the Bible was written. That’s why Jesus came. God wants us to know Him and be restored to His image.
1. These truths should cause us to be humble in the area of knowledge. We need to hold our own ideas loosely and acknowledge that we have not yet discovered all of God’s truth.
2. These truths should encourage us to seek truth from God. Our minds were affected by sin and we need God’s truth so that we can see the world correctly. Reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, hearing the word preached, interacting with Christian friends – all of these things express our dependence on Him. Allow God to help you see things as they really are.
3. These truths should cause us to evaluate how much we’ve been changed by the truth. Look back over your life for the last several years. Are there areas where God has transformed your heart and mind? If not, that’s a good sign that you are depending on yourself rather than God. Give thanks to God for the ways he has changed you and helped see His truth.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.