The Basis of All Truth

The first page of John’s Gospel from the Latin Lindisfarne Gospels (about 700 AD). It reads “In Principio erat Verbum” or “In the beginning was the Word.” The text continues with “and the Word was with God, and God [was the Word]” onto the next page of the manuscript.

This page from the Latin Gospels gives us the opening sentence of John’s Gospel (John 1:1), which is philosophically one of the most radical texts from the first century.  The extreme contrast between the worldview of the Greek New Testament and the surrounding Greco-Roman culture of the first century is startling and cannot be easily accounted for.  John clearly wanted us to recall the Greek translation of the first verse of Genesis, when he starts his text with the Greek expression En Arche, the opening two words of the Septuagint that we have in our Bible as “In the beginning God created,” etc.  He presupposes both the existence of the God of the Old Testament, and the doctrine of creation out of nothing, which he immediately states in the following two verses.

The question can be asked about any religion, what the basis or starting-point should be for religious truth?  Why should anyone believe this religion rather than any other?  The Christian answer since the time of the apostles has been that Truth is that which is found in the Bible as the Word of God, plus whatever can be reasonably deduced from the written text, together with any propositions from the outside world that are compatible with it.  These added concepts may have their basis in logic or in fact, or in both.

Initially, we believe the Bible “because it is the Word of God” and we believe that fact in turn primarily on the testimony of Christ himself.  Jesus is called the Word of God by John because he is the Logos revealed, both in the Incarnation (and so the life of Christ) and in the Hebrew and Greek Bible that flows from him as the revealer of God.  It is the Hebrew Old Testament that Jesus validated in the four Gospels, and the Greek New Testament which he promised in John’s Gospel particularly (John 14:26; 1 Cor 14:37; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Pet 1:20-25).

John’s starting-point for understanding the phenomenon of Jesus’ coming as the long-promised Messiah of the Jewish people, is the reality of God and his revelation in the Old Testament.  For John, the basis of all truth is the reality of God, the person of Christ, and the written Word revealed through the work of the Holy Spirit.  As his Gospel unfolds, the Trinitarian perspective become clearer and clearer.  One could say therefore that the basis of John’s concept of truth is the Triune Creator-God of the Bible.

All worldviews or religions or theories or interpretations of anything at all, must begin somewhere, and that starting-point reveals the presuppositions, the axiomatic assumptions of that worldview.

We believe that there are no presuppositionless arguments.  Ultimate presuppositions cannot be proven, but they can be chosen.  If they could be proven, they would be conclusions from arguments based on previous assumptions.  You must choose your presuppositions, and we choose to start with the God of the Bible.  We think that all the facts and all the reason in the world support this assumption.  It is the most comprehensive presupposition imaginable.  We do not think that a “Proof of God” is appropriate or a reasonable request, because it is the concept of “proof” that is at stake here.  We hold that unless you begin any interpretive endeavor with this assumption, no knowledge can be justified, and nothing certain or even possible or probable, can be known.

The real choice is between the God of the Bible and nothing at all, between Jesus and the yawning Void, between Christ and Chaos.

Nobody can escape the presuppositions they choose to start with, and our presuppositions control every move thereafter, much like the rules of the game of chess determine in advance what counts as a valid move all across the board.

The only alternative to starting with the reality of the God of the Bible is to start with something found in the world of experience.  With Strato of Lampsacus, we agree that you either start with God or with the world as a self-interpreting entity, while against Strato, we think that the principles (or ultimate assumptions) for interpreting experience must be found in God, not in the world.  There is no other choice.  Ultimate principles must be found in God or in his creation.  And making the creation (or things found in it) ultimate is the essence of idolatry.  The absolutization of the finite is an intellectual dead end.

That is why we, with John, start with the Creator-God of the Bible. All else is commentary.

As Jesus says in John 12:48, “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings, has one who judges him; the word I have spoken to you, the same will judge you in the last day.”

“In the beginning was the Word…”

You are invited to go elsewhere on this website for essays and blogs that expound this viewpoint more fully.