Thursday, March 22, 2007

Truth is the First Principle, From Which All Else Follows

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
-- John 14:6

Moses asked God, "when I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' if they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?" God replied, "I am who am." Then he added, "This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you."
-- Exodus 3:13-14

Then God delivered all these commandments: "I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
-- Exodus 20:2-3

Truth is Absolute and Transcendent --
Truth is what is. It is objective and universal reality, which is valid in all times and places. Thus, it is seen as transcendent, eternal, and absolute. God, as the “I am,” is the Ultimate Reality and is therefore Truth itself. Indeed, if something lacks truth, it lacks reality and existence. This Truth is the first principle, from which all else follows. God is also the Word, that is, Logos (Creative Reason), and as such, is again Truth itself from which everything that exists proceeds. "God is the ultimate truth to whom all reason naturally tends, solicited by the desire to totally fulfill the journey assigned to it. God is not an empty word or an abstract hypothesis; on the contrary, he is the foundation upon which to build one's life." (Benedict XVI Address to Students) Truth thus exists independently of man and is merely discovered by him by reason and/or revelation. And since there is only the One God, there can be only One Truth.

Truth, then, is necessarily absolute, fixed, and unchanging. Truth is not subjective; it is not a matter of feeling, a matter of opinion, or a matter of the will. One cannot choose their own truth, their own reality. Truth is not relative or malleable. Moreover, Truth exists and is relevant. Truth matters. It is something which is absolutely necessary for order to exist in the universe. Truth cannot be dismissed as merely theoretical or irrelevant or immaterial. This is so, not only with respect to scientific truths, mathematical truths, and psychological truths, but moral truths as well. That is, there are absolute standards and truths against which moral questions can be judged, and certain actions are per se right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act.

Truth, especially the highest Truth, has everything to do with life, even specific contexts of it. Moreover, the human person is drawn toward the Truth. Know¬ledge is for man, but man is for truth. Truth is central to the concept of the Church and in the last analysis can only be grounded in God. No matter how separated someone is from God, "in the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it." The splendor of truth "shines forth deep within the human spirit."

Faith helps reason to discover itself and its openness to transcendence. Faith and reason are not contraries; they both belong to the desire for truth and it is precisely because of this common root that they are compatible sisters who need one another. Only a rational animal can have faith and, in a certain sense, must have it. Indeed, the very work of reason is based on belief. The search for truth never starts from zero, but always presupposes a trust in knowledge, ideas and data which we cannot always control by ourselves. Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of revealed faith. Indeed, truth exists whether or not it is ever discovered by man. The tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason.

Moral Truth -- The term "morality" refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of good and evil, also referred to as "right or wrong," used within the context of moral truths or values and the individual conscience. The Church recognizes and teaches that morality is objective and absolute, determined by eternal and transcendent truths, which are discovered by right reason. However, many in the modern world insist that morality is relative and is determined by the situation and the subjective values or positive codes that are shared within a given culture or community, so as to regulate behavior within that culture or community. Others see morality as merely a product of evolutionary forces and as evidence for continuity with other group-living organisms. These people argue that moral codes are founded on emotional instincts and intuitions that were naturally selected in the past because they aided survival and reproduction. The systematic study of morality is a branch of philosophy called ethics.

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