What actually makes a belief true? Does the mere fact that we believe something make it true or does something need to be true in order to justify our belief in it? An even bigger question would be what is truth? This is the same question Pilate asked of Jesus in John Chapter 18 and 2000 years later we are still asking the same question: What is truth?
Let’s start off with a definition of truth. Truth is that which affirms propositionally the nature of reality as it is. This means that when we talk about truth we are not talking about something being subjectively true for me. We’re talking about something that is objectively true and actually real. Now we have three tests for truth that were going to talk about today. They are: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance.
Logical consistency is that test that asks if something is rational. It seeks to show that the worldview in question makes sense within itself. Basic doctrines like God existing, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and even the Trinity need to be logically consistent. Now this is not to say that we can comprehend the complexity of a thing, but only that it is apprehensible. There has to be no apparent logical fallacy at play in an of these things. An interesting thing you will find in every other worldview is that they are logically inconsistent or downright contradictory. If we look at atheism it makes some leaps in logic that are inconsistent with its own worldview, and what it can account for. The main one is morality. If we come into being from non being, come into life from non life, how can we maintain morality coming from amorality? Furthermore atheists are borrowing concepts of ethics, value, and purpose from another worldview as atheism cannot logically account for it.
Empirical adequacy is the test that asks if we can verify these facts empirically. This would be most specifically applied to the Christian claims of Jesus. You see, if a worldview is not able to justify or verify what it is claiming, it might as well be claiming anything it wants in an egoist or nihilistic way. It can get away with it because it is not subject to empirical testing. When we look at Jesus we see that He was a real man who existed in history, is multiply attested to by the Bible and non Biblical sources, has early sources for the life and ministry of Jesus, has eye witness testimony, and has it’s central claim seated firmly within 1st century history. If we want to look into the claims of Jesus and the Christians of the world, all we have to is historically test the claims of the New Testament with the standard methods, and draw our conclusion based on what we find.
Experiential relevance is the test that asks how this actually has relevance to my life. You see, if a worldview was maintained without sufficient relevance to my life, what would the point be? In order for a worldview to have relevance it would need to be one that challenged you, changed you, and sustained you in good and bad times. Now to avoid speaking into relativism and denying objective truth of a worldview, let’s make sure we keep in mind that my personal experience with something is not the sole standard by which I measure the truth of a worldview. For the Christian, the acknowledgment of God’s existence, Jesus’s resurrection, and the life we are called to live makes it a view that is absolutely relevant to my life. It also gives us a wonderful explanation of the human heart and the model by which we should strive to live. One last thing to be said about personal experience of a practice or worldview is this. A belief or ritual can have a coincidental association with some life event which can leads us to make the faulty assumption that the belief or ritual helped us through or caused it. We need to be careful not to use unbridled experiential relevance because without the other two tests, this can become a recipe for inadequate and incoherent answers.
In any effort we make within our worldview, we need to make sure we are always seeking to make a cumulative case for what we believe, and one way to do this effectively is to use logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. If we are claiming some truth about the world, and have a lot of lines of “evidence,” but they are inconsistent, inadequate, or irrelevant, we have a problem. What we have is something that does not even make sense in the meekest of ways, does not fit the facts, nor does anything in my life. This would be an inferior worldview. As we are looking into the big questions of life we need to make sure we do so within the constraints of a testing system that universally applies to all worldviews. If you are an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, or otherwise please evaluate your worldview with these 3 tests if you are serious about asking, “What is truth?”