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Why All Truth Is Three-In-One
God is Truth. And Truth is three-in-one: it’s authoritative, rational, and experiential.
Truth is not anything more or less than that. Everything you call “real” depends on those three elements coalescing.
So, what one considers “true” relies on some relationship between Authority, Reason, and Experience:
Authority is the traditional argument for a claim: “We say this because we’ve always said it!” or “It’s just a known fact!”
Reason is the mathematical argument for a claim: “It just makes sense!” or “When you put two and two together…”
Experience is your own revelation, what you have seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled, etc.
Please enjoy my cringy acronym: A.R.E.
All jokes aside, I find A.R.E. appropriate. We begin our most honest claims (supposedly) with the phrase “truth is”. And as deep truths are so often revealed by colloquialisms, Truth, at the deepest universal level is self-evident — it plainly is.
Likewise, the components of Truth necessarily A.R.E.
Authority, Reason, and Experience will sometimes feel at odds, despite together composing the totality of Truth. But if you could line them up perfectly, you would have the closest thing to “objective” truth that exists.
Truth is not a collection of data. It is not a falsifiable or unfalsifiable claim. It is not what your mom told you. It’s all of those things at once. It is self-evident, and that’s what makes it true.
If any one component of truth — Authority, Reason, or Experience — is not clearly represented, what do we do? We doubt.
We doubt, because we sense an incomplete truth. And that describes the majority of our lives wading through universal mystery, seeing “through a glass darkly” until we one day “see in full”.
If we want the fullness of the truth, we need unanimous agreement between its components. The Christian hopes one day to see this unanimous agreement, to simply look at something and say, “Yes, that’s all true”.
In this way, the only difference between the Christian and non-Christian is that the former expresses that hope.
Of course, this idea is yet a lofty proposition. So let’s press on with some application.
Identifying Partial Truth
For whatever reason, individuals often prioritize one component of truth over another, usually in response to immediate survival needs. From this, you get disagreements and their resulting factions.
Idolatry of Authority over Reason and Experience gives you a traditionalist.
Idolatry of Reason over Authority and Experience gives you a rationalist.
Idolatry of Experience over Reason and Authority gives you an empiricist.
This is only a reductive illustration, you know. We understand how our emphasis can be a matter of degree that shifts moment-to-moment, ad infinitum. But this illustration helps — the image teaches us something about how we react to information.
If we idolize one mode of data alone, we become a collection of hyper-traditionalists, hyper-rationalists, and hyper-empiricists.
These all comprise different forms of intellectual complacency.
A hyper-traditionalist will argue that he needs what is traditional because it works. What has worked for years is worth preserving, regardless of whether it impedes the rational or empirical.
One great example: Galileo was tortured for suggesting the earth was not the center of the universe. His persecutors were hyper-traditional. Ultimately, Galileo’s empirical observation did not align with their values.
It’s important to note that tradition is the easiest route to complacency, because it’s such a convincing element of Truth: It’s worked as long as you can remember.
Other idolatries, however, are just as criminal.
Hyper-rationality argues that what “makes sense” within an abstract logical framework has primacy over what works and what your senses might tell you.
This is Reason unbridled from Authority and Experience. It results in pure fiction.
Dangerous examples of rational fiction can be found in novel authoritarian states like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Both forewent their nations’ Christian traditions and outright ignored the experiences of their citizens for the sake of rational contrivances which only a handful perceived as “ideal”.
Of course, evils of Authority and Reason are most generally reviled for holding seats of corporate power. They have the broadest, most long-standing and immediate influence.
But that does not make their worship any more evil than this last, more insidious perversion…
Hyper-empiricists will argue that only what they can experience with their senses is true. These are the Emperor Neros of the world. The drunken, self-loathing poets. School shooters, maybe.
These people do not reason anywhere but inside themselves. Their fiction is quickened by sex and alcohol.
They hear voices telling them to do all manner of bad, and in the most extreme cases, they kill themselves.
I can find plenty of examples in my own life, in the lives of friends and family who’ve pursued a cheap hedonism that satisfies only the basest instincts at the expense of real knowledge.
King Nebuchadnezzar in The Bible gives us the perfect archetype for this — his pride resulted in seven years of grazing like a cow. He became something sub-human.
This happens when you ignore the intellect entirely.
Now, we know how these different modes of truth can be abused. But how can they be reconciled?
What happens when we embrace all facets of Truth — traditional, intellectual, and empirical?
Why Universal Truth Is Christian
If you haven’t noticed by now, this entire post is biased by default. You are reading, and as a result, you’re relying on a solely rational construct to tell you something “true”.
Again, we don’t want to treat these different components of truth as definite “buckets” to categorize a behavior or line of thinking. Our perception of reality always contains a peculiar ratio of the three.
Every individual’s calibration of this ratio might even be completely unique, for all I know, since I’m looking through a foggy lens until a better day. Meanwhile, some favor traditionalism, some rationalism or empiricism. But we can peel back the veneer of our biases by anticipating a more complete truth on the other side.
Remember when we talked about contemplating infinity via the Trinity and the Incarnation? This is exactly that.
We can’t decipher Reality without appealing to the Trinity. Because, in both cases, we are contemplating the infinite.
When we meditate on reality as Authority, Reason, and Experience, we really contemplate Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively. These facets of Truth act as icons of the three-in-one.
They even mirror their respective roles.
In Christian tradition, the Father is the monarch from which all reality springs. He dictates the law.
Through the Son, the “Law-Giver”, the law is interpreted fully, as we would Reason to interpret words.
The Spirit, finally, provides our visceral experience of God and Truth — we call it the Spirit of Truth, in fact.
These are all disparate persons, but they are also simultaneously one essence.
It’s clear that the oneness of many distinct things is possibly the greatest mystery for mankind to unravel. We are told to emulate this perfect relationship, despite our various Authority-Reason-Experience ratios.
If the three-in-one is the fullness of Truth, however, then it is contrary to a human Experience riddled with discord. It rejects the Authority of a discordant human history. It confounds Reason by suggesting that something discordant can actually concord.
It is absurd, but we accept it by faith. Not an aimless, fuzzy faith — it hopes that Truth exists somewhere in all its fullness, that there is more to learn than you’ve ever seen or thought.
It is entirely affirmative, not negative, to assume something exists outside our own minds.
So, though we may be hardwired with different A.R.E. ratios, these become strengths when we come together in faith.
In the end, faith forms the church, the pillar of Truth.