Traditionally, truth means the correspondence of the mind with reality. In this sense, truth is formally an aspect of propositions or judgments. But there are other ways in which the word “truth” can be understood. One of these is the pragmatic model of truth, according to which the truth of something is assessed in terms of its functional value or its usefulness. Another is the disclosure model of truth, according to which truth is that which manifests or “unconceals” itself. For example, a great work of art or literature can have such a profound effect on us that we are immediately certain that a new depth of reality, previously unknown, has now been revealed to us. This experience of truth as disclosure is most naturally congenial to the idea of religious revelation, though in a limited sense the correspondence and pragmatic models may also be used in our assessment of its truth status.

If there is truth in religion or in revelation it would fall, primarily at least, in the category of “manifestation” or “disclosure.” In this case, it would be inappropriate to employ the notion of truth as correspondence of mind and reality, since by definition the content of revelation far surpasses the adequacy of our own minds. As in art, music, and poetry, the truth of revelation is not something that we might arrive at in the same way as scientific or logical truth. It is, instead, a truth that grasps us by its disclosive power. We could hardly subject it to our verificational control, but would instead be required humbly to surrender ourselves to it in order to encounter its content.

Still, after acknowledging this obvious fact, we are nonetheless obliged to determine whether there is a positive relationship between revelation and scientifically enlightened reason which employs the correspondence notion of truth. If these are in conflict, as indeed they seem to many critics to be, then the notion of revelation will not be taken seriously by intelligent people. We must at the very least establish that revelation does not contradict science and reason. And if we could go further, and demonstrate that a trust in revelation actually supports the work of science and reason, we would have taken a further step in responding to the skeptics.

— John F. Haught, Mystery and Promise: A Theology of Revelation, Chapter 11: Reason and Revelation (available online)

Published in: on February 28, 2010 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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