We define the veracity or truthfulness of God as that perfection of God whereby He is all that He as God should be, in distinction from all idols, also reveals Himself in complete harmony with His being, truly knows Himself and all things. The first (that God is all that He as God should be) we call the ontological truth; the second (that He also reveals Himself in complete harmony with His being) we call the ethical truth; and the third we call the logical truth. We understand, of course, that the Holy Scriptures abound in their testimony in regard to the veracity or truthfulness of God.
God’s Veracity According To Berkhof.
Prof. Berkhof writes, pages 69-70 of his Reformed Dogmatics, concerning this attribute of God as follows, and we quote: “The Veracity of God. Scripture uses several words to express the veracity of God: in the Old Testament “emeth, amunah, amen”, and in the New Testament “alethes (aletheia), alethinos, pistis”. This already points to the fact that it includes several ideas, such as truth, truthfulness, and faithfulness. When God is called the truth, this is to be understood in its most comprehensive sense. He is the truth first of all in a metaphysical sense, that is, in Him the idea of the Godhead is perfectly realized; He is all that He as God should be, and as such is distinguished from all so-called gods, which are called vanity and lies, Ps. 96:5; Ps. 97:7; Ps. 115:4-8; Ps. Isa. 44:9-10. He is also the truth in an ethical sense, and as such reveals Himself as He really is, so that His revelation is absolutely reliable, Num. 28:19; Rom. 3:4; Heb. 6:18. Finally, He is also the truth in a logical sense, and in virtue of this He knows things as they really are, and has so constituted the mind of man that the latter can know, not merely the appearance, but also the reality, of things. Thus the truth of God is the foundation of all knowledge. It should be borne in mind, moreover, that these three are but different aspects of the truth, which is one in God. In view of the preceding we may define the veracity or truth of God as that perfection of His being by virtue of which He fully answers to the idea of the Godhead, is perfectly reliable in His revelation, and sees things as they really are. It is because of this perfection that He is the source of all truth, not only in the sphere of morals and religion, but also in every field of scientific endeavor. Scripture is very emphatic in its references to God as the truth, Ex. 34:6; Num. 23:19; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 25:10; Ps. 31:6; Isa. 65:16; Jer. 10:8, 10, 11; John 14:6; John 17:3; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; I John 5:20, 21. There is still another aspect of this divine perfection, and one that is always regarded as of the greatest importance. It is generally called His faithfulness, in virtue of which He is ever mindful of His covenant and fulfills all the promises which He has made to His people. This faithfulness of God is of the utmost practical significance to the people of God. It is the ground of their utmost confidence, the foundation of their hope, and the cause of their rejoicing. It saves them from the despair to which their own unfaithfulness might easily lead, gives them courage to carry on in spite of their failures, and fills their hearts with joyful anticipations, even when they are deeply conscious of the fact that they have forfeited all the blessings of God. Num. 23:19; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 89:33; Isa. 49:7; 1 Cor. 1:9; II Tim. 2:13; Heb. 6:17; Heb. 6:18; Heb. 10:23.”—thus far Berkhof.
God’s Veracity According To Bavinck.
This attribute of the Lord is beautifully set forth by Dr. H. Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics, pages 178-174, Vol. II, as follows, and we translate: “To the virtues of God’s mind or intellect belongs finally the veracity of God. The Hebrew word, “emeth, amunah, amen,” is derived from the verb “aman”, to make fast, to bind, to build, to lean, intransitively, to be firm, cling to, trust in, to be sure of something, and expresses subjectively, to cling to something, faith, pistis and objectively, the firmness, reliability, truthfulness of the person or issue upon which one depends. The Hebrew words are expressed in the LXX (the Septuagint) by “aleetheia, en aleetheia,” then by pistooo, pis-teuoo, pistis, pistos, and in the Holland language by true, truly, faithfulness (waar, waarachtig, trouw); the concept “aleetheia” had a significance which was too limited in the ordinary Greek and thus also in the LXX, and in the New Testament to express sufficiently the Hebrew words; hence, it was necessary to complete it with the words, pistos, etc. Already the name, Jehovah, expresses that He remains what He is. He is truth and without injustice, “ayel,” perverseness, distortion, Deut. 32:4, Jer. 20:10, Ps. 31:6, II Chron. 15:3. This implies, on the one hand, that He is the true, essential God overagainst idols, which are “haeb-halim,” Deut. 82:21, etc., and, on the other hand, that He as such always confirms and makes sure His words and promises, so that He is completely trustworthy. For He is no man, that He should lie or repent, Num. 23:19, I Sam. 15:29. Whatever proceeds from Him bears the stamp of the truth. Repeatedly there is mention of His beneficence, “chesed”, and faithfulness, Gen. 24:49, 47:29, Joshua 2:14, II Sam. 2:6, 15:20, Ps. 40:11, of His lovingkindness (goedertierenheid), chesed, and truth, Gen. 24:27, Ex. 34 :6, Ps. 57:4, 61:8, 89:15 etc. His words, rights (rechten), paths, works, commandments, laws, are all pure truth, II Sam. 7:28, Ps. 19:10, 25:10, 33:4, 111:7, 119:86, 142, 151, Dan. 4:37. His truth and faithfulness reveal themselves so rich and glorious upon the earth that it reaches unto the clouds, Ps. 36:6, Ex. 34:6. He repeatedly confirms His word by swearing by Himself, Gen. 22:16, etc., Heb. 6:13. Therefore He is often called a rock, who through His unchangeable firmness offers support to His favored ones (gunstgenooten), Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 37, and in many proper names, Num. 1:5, 6, 10, 3:35, 34:28, and also in II Sam. 22:3, 32, Ps. 18:3, 32, 19:15, 28:1, 28:1, 31:3, 71:3, 144:1, Is. 26:4. And as such a God of truth and of faithfulness He keeps the covenant, Deut. 4:31 7:9, Ps. 40:11, Hosea 12:1, etc., and He is a completely reliable refuge for all His people, Ps. 31:6, Ps. 36:6 ff., Ps. 43:3, 54:7, 57:4, 71:22, 96:13, 143:1, 146:6 etc. Likewise He is called in the New Testament the “aleethinos theos,” i.e., that God alone is the true, essential God, who was revealed Himself in Christ, John 17:2, I John 5:20. And all that He reveals is exclusively the truth. He is a “theos aleethees” in contrast with all men, John 3:33, Rom. 3:4. His word is truth, His gospel is truth, Christ is the truth, John 14:6, John 17:17, Eph. 1:13. Yea, He is yet what He always was. The New Testament is fulfillment and confirmation of His promises in the days of the old covenant. He has remembered His covenant and His oath, Luke 1:68-73. He is faithful, pistos, in that He is the God of the covenant (and remains such) and completely bestows salvation, I Cor. 1:9, 10:13, I Thess. 5:24, II Thess. 3:2, Heb. 10:23, Heb. 11:11, I John 1:9. He cannot deny Himself, II Tim. 2:13. All His promises are in Christ yea and amen, II Cor. 1:18, 20. Christ is “ho martus o pistos (the faithful witness),” Rev. 1:5, Rev. 3:14, Rev. 19:11. And therefore He is and can be the unchangeable object of our pistis (faith).”—thus far Bavinck. We have quoted him at length because of his wonderful quoting of the Word of God.
The Concept, “Truth”, Generally Speaking, Distinguished in a Three-Fold Sense.
First of all, we speak of the truth in a metaphysical sense of the word. This “metaphysical” truth is also called the ontological, or essential, or objective truth. The metaphysical or ontological truth implies that a person or thing is what it essentially should be. “Ontological” refers literally to the essence or being of anything. And Metaphysics, e.g., is the science of the most general principles, or that part of philosophy that investigates the ultimate nature and relation of fundamental conceptions, such as space, time, matter, force, life, mind, will, cause, motion, etc. In other words, metaphysics rises above the physical, above the things we see and hear and feel, and would discover the fundamental relation and nature and essence of the things. Hence, the metaphysical truth is the essential or objective truth, implies that a person or thing is what is essentially should be. Gold, e.g., is true gold when it does not merely look like gold, but when it really is gold. In this sense of the word, truth stands over against all that which is false, unreal, vain.
We can also speak of truth in the ethical sense. We may call this truth the subjective truth. The ethical, subjective truth implies that a person reveals himself as he truly is, implies harmony between a person’s being and his manifestation. Whosoever reveals himself differently than what he is, is a deceiver, a hypocrite, does not appear truthfully.
And, thirdly, we can also speak of the truth in the logical sense, the logical truth. The logical truth implies harmony, agreement between one’s thinking and speaking and the reality. We speak the truth, e.g., when we present something exactly as it is, when we narrate or relate an incident according to fact. In this sense, truth stands over against the lie, error, heresy.
Generally speaking, therefore, we may define the truth as the presentation of reality. If we view that reality objectively, emphasize the essence of a person or thing, call attention to the reality itself, we view the truth in the metaphysical, objective, ontological, essential sense of the work. The ethical, subjective truth emphasizes the harmony between our manifestation and ourselves, when we reveal ourselves as we are really, or, to speak now of the ethical truth as it frequently occurs in Holy Writ, when we, in our spiritual conduct ourselves in harmony with the absolute reality, the living God. And the truth in the logical sense views this presentation of the reality in the logical sense, the harmony between our thinking and speaking and its corresponding reality.
The Significance of the Truth as Applied To Us.
In the first place, of the utmost significance, is the fact that God is for us the truth in the objective, ontological sense of the word. He alone is the absolute reality. As God is, He is it alone. All other being, all creaturely existence is but a creature reflection of what He is in the eternal and absolute sense of the word. He alone is the light; all other light is but a creaturely reflection of His light. He alone is the life; all other, creaturely life is but a creaturely reflection of His life. He alone is the goodness; all other goodness (which He works in His creatures by His almighty and irresistible Spirit) is but a creaturely reflection of His goodness. God alone is; all other existence has been made, and it has been made by Him. Hence, the Lord lives His own life in the eternal sense of the word, but also in the absolute sense of the word—the Lord not only lives His own life in the full and complete sense of the word, but He alone possesses that life. God is the one and only absolute reality. It is for this reason that the Lord also does all things for His name’s sake. And this also explains why all divine revelation is necessarily self-revelation, self-revelation in the objective and subjective sense of the word. It is self-revelation, objectively, because God is the only object of His revelation. When God speaks He always speaks of Himself; when He reveals, He always reveals Himself. This lies in the very nature of the case. Of whom other could the Lord speak but of Himself. He is the only reality. And it is for the same reason that the Lord’s revelation is self-revelation in the subjective sense of the word. Inasmuch as the Lord always speaks of Himself because He is the absolute reality, it lies in the very nature of the case that the Lord must reveal Himself. He must do the revealing. He is not only the object of His revelation but also its subject. Hence, the Lord does all things for His name’s sake. All His works, in creation and in re-creation, purpose to focus attention upon Himself, and that into all eternity.
Only when we understand this truth are we able to grasp, in the full sense of the word, that all sin is essentially the lie. The natural man moves constantly in the sphere of the lie. He always speaks and thinks and does the lie. This does not mean that he always speaks the lie in the natural sense of the word. He is, e.g., able to solve mathematical problems. He knows that 2×2 are 4. He can study the heavens, and give you a true account of the movement of the sun, moon, and stars. He is able to tell you the exact time of the sunrise on a given morning hundreds of years in the future. He is able to diagnose various diseases, can analyze the human body even into minutest details, etc. This, however, does not emphasize that there is after all, some truth in the natural man, but it does emphasize the fact that he is a liar, that there is no truth in him in the Scriptural sense of the word. If the natural man were not a moral-rational creature, if he did not possess any understanding of the works of God’s hands, if he did not have any knowledge of the living God, one might ascribe his failure to serve and glorify the living God to the fact that he had no knowledge of Him. Man, then, simply does not know any better. But, now such is not the case. He is a moral-rational creature. He has remnants of natural light. He can scan the heavens and study the stars in their courses. He also has knowledge of the living Lord and is fully acquainted with the fact that God is and that He alone must be feared. This fact merely serves to emphasize the awfulness of His condition, the terribleness of his lying nature. That he does not serve the Lord is, therefore, not to be attributed to ignorance, but to the fact that he hates the living Lord, that he willfully refuses to honor and praise Him Who alone is the reality and does all things for His name’s sake. Man is, therefore, a liar in the spiritual sense of the word. And, understood thus, he lives in the lie exclusively. He never speaks or thinks or acts unto the glory of the living God. Fact is, God is not in all his thoughts, and the wicked saith in his heart that there is no God. This, however, is not all. The natural man does not merely refuse to serve the Lord; he does not merely conduct himself as if there were no God. More terrible still, he has wickedly and willfully set himself to destroy the cause of the living God, His truth and revelation of Himself. All men are liars, and this also implies that they would stamp out the name of the living God from the face of the earth.
Bearing in mind that God is the truth in the objective, ontological sense, we can also understand that Christ is the truth. As such He reveals Himself unto His disciples, in John 14:6, in the well-known words that He is the truth, the way and the life. He is the truth, first of all, because He is Immanuel. As Immanuel He is God with us, the living God united with our flesh and blood in the person of the Son. Hence, He is necessarily the revelation of the Father—fact is, He is God in the flesh. It is also for this reason that whosoever hath seen the Christ hath seen the Father, John 14:9. And also for this reason Christ is the truth, the presentation of the reality, the revelation of God Himself in the flesh. But our Lord Jesus Christ is also the truth in all His works and words. Whenever He spoke He spoke of, revealed the living God. He spoke the truth; all His words were words of righteousness and holiness, etc. And all His words were words of truth, righteousness, and holiness, etc., because He always revealed and spoke of the living God. Having come not to do His own will but the will of Him that sent Him, He was the representative of the living God in the midst of the world, condemned, therefore, the wicked world and the unfruitful works of darkness, denounced the wickedness of the ungodly scribes and Pharisees, and also the carnality of His own disciples. He was the personal and living embodiment of the law of Jehovah that we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. That He, therefore, always spoke the truth lies in the very nature of the case; fact is, He Himself was the living God in the flesh and constantly spoke that His Father might be revealed and glorified. And this also applies to all His mighty works. His works were works of life and light even as His Father is the living God of all life and light. He raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, enabled the lame to walk, stilled the angry sea, condemned the devil and his host and revealed this by casting out devils. If the work of the devil and of sin is always destructive, breaking-down, the mighty works of the Son of Man revealed the opposite characteristic. Hence, always, in all His walk Christ was the truth, revealing the living God, and truth is the representation of the reality. The servant of Jehovah He was, always revealing the Father. And this reaches its amazing climax at the end of His life upon this earth, in the shameful and awful death of the cross. Alone He trod that weary way. He, the eternal Son of God in the flesh, permitted Himself to be taken captive by His enemies, to be ridiculed and mocked and beaten and scourged, to be the object of all the hatred and bitterness of a world that lieth in darkness without offering the slightest resistance. And all this He took upon Himself because, as the servant of Jehovah, He must reveal the God that sent Him in all awfulness of His terrible justice and righteousness. Because the love of God toward His people must be in perfect harmony with His righteousness, and the Lord cannot be merciful at the cost of His justice, Jesus Christ, who had no other desire than to reveal the living God, does not hesitate to humble Himself even unto death, emptying Himself, according to His human nature, into deepest hell, bearing the awful burden of God’s wrath and indignation upon sin, thereby revealing the wonderful love but also awful righteousness of the living God. Truly, Jesus Christ is the truth, in all His walk upon this earth, but particularly when He pours out His life’s blood upon the cross of Calvary.
And, finally, continuing to bear in mind that God is Truth in the objective, ontological sense of the word, we may also say that the Scriptures are the truth. For the Scriptures are the revelation of the living God as revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord. They are the truth, objectively, the true presentation of the reality. They are, in the first place, the revelation of the living God Himself. In them the Lord has made Himself known unto us, speaks unto us of Himself. But this is not all. In those same Scriptures also all things, good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, the calling and obligation of man are presented in their true perspective, their relation to the living God. What is good or evil is determined solely by man’s relation to the living God. And in those same Scriptures all of eternity is held before us, also from the viewpoint of the living God, as the day, the eternal day, when the Lord will publicly maintain and reveal Himself, as the God of salvation for those who, by His grace and Spirit, may believe in His name, and as a consuming fire to those who were disobedient to the gospel, hated the living God, and therefore must taste that the Lord alone is good, in eternal ruin and desolation.