How do we define truth and scientific reality, and does that differ from theologic reality?

Who is the arbitrator of “factual truth”? Google? Wikipedia? Facebook? Fauci? Lol!

Reality is. After saying that truth came from the reality of the data in God’s creation and from the reality of the data in the Bible, and that if they appear conflict, the interpretation of one or the other or both is in error, a YEC once asked me for chapter and verse were the Bible says that truth comes from reality. :grin:


Would you say common decent is a scientific reality? I argue against common decent purely based on the science. We have to be careful that what we claim is scientific truth actually is scientific truth. Should we not be careful in dismissal of biblical truth (theological

I know that God is sovereign over the mutations in DNA. You don’t think so?

The title question for the thread is an important question. Part of the issue is semantic - deciding on our exact definitions.

Scientific truth and scientific reality are our best-supported understandings of the physical world. We are limited - as humans, we are finite, fallible, and fallen - so our understanding is not perfect. But God has made a creation that does follow certain patterns. We can take our ideas and test them against the physical evidence to determine whether they are true as far as we can tell, or if we detect a problem.

Theological truth, in contrast, is based primarily on the information in Scripture. However, it is also true that our understanding is not perfect, and we need to test our ideas against the available evidence to see how well they hold up.

The idea of universal common descent of all known life on earth is a well-supported scientific claim. Unlike Wikipedia, which is often not even tested against the laws of grammar, common descent has been tested in many ways and holds up well so far. The similarities in DNA and other aspects of biochemistry fit very well with expectations of common descent; the patterns in the fossil record and comparative morphology fit it well. But there’s always the possibility of further corrections, or better ideas, or of some microbe out there that we haven’t noticed yet which had an independent origin from the primordial soup, etc.

As an idea that has been around for quite some time, common descent has had a lot of testing and has come through well. New ideas will tend to go through more change, such as our understanding of COVID-19 and how best to control and treat it. So we should expect updates and corrections from people who work hard to provide the best available information.


Is evolution “ common descent “‘a scientific reality? It’s by far the only interpretation of the data that makes sense.

You say you disagree with it based purely on the science? What science?


What is “factual truth”?

What is theologic reality?

Common decency is a real good thing.

Every discipline, whether it is science or theology has a community of practitioners who decide on the accepted methods of inquiry, what counts as legitimate inquiry, and who is qualified to make and interpret observations as “experts.” Together the community creates an established consensus that forms the basis of knowledge or what is accepted as fact or doctrine. The community also establishes the ways in which that consensus can be appropriately challenged and refined. Science and theology have different methods and “rules” for arriving at consensus, but in both disciplines, it is consensus among the experts/authorities that is accepted as fact/truth.


I’ve edited some. That in itself should teach you to be wary! :slightly_smiling_face:

That may be overstating some with respect to ‘theological truth’?

How so? Theology has authority structures and it is consensus among those authorities that have determined what counts as orthodox and what exegetical and hermeneutical methods are legitimate ways to get truth out of the Bible.

But some expert human conclusions may not be necessarily true, or conflict with other experts.

Right. Some expert theological conclusions might not be true. There’s definitely plenty of conflict. I don’t know why people assume that when it comes to absolute truth we aren’t limited by our human faculties if the domain is theology. We are all trying to know things (including things about God and how to understand the Bible and historical Christian teaching) with finite brains that understand reality from a specific cultural and social location. That doesn’t mean consensus isn’t the way we decide what is true it just means we disagree about whose expertise we trust, and whose consensus counts. I would say that because Bible interpretations and theology are inherently more subjective enterprises, you will have multiple claims to authority and deciding who is right comes down more to who is trusted than who has the best evidence or arguments (compared to scientific consensus, which depends on interpretations of empirically verifiable data).


Science and theology have some features in common. But I would not say that the opinions of experts/authorities is accepted as fact/truth, not in science and not in theology.

Science can conclude that something is very likely but not that something is the truth. It is the inherent nature of science.

First someone proposes a hypothesis. If the hypothesis gains sufficient evidence to support it, it is viewed as a theory that is probably true. The theory may even gain a central role within a scientific paradigm. Yet, even if the theory would be very, very likely, it is never 100% sure. That’s the nature of science.

A more controversial thing to say is that theology is in a comparable situation. Even if we agree that Bible includes perfectly reliable messages from God, our interpretations are not perfect. We don’t have perfect knowledge of prehistory, God or His grand plans. We may conclude that something is very likely and trusthworthy because the same message is repeated many times in many parts of the Bible. Yet, our interpretation is never 100% truth because we don’t have perfect knowledge.

Few messages are repeated many times in the Bible. Any interpretations based on rarely mentioned things is even more uncertain. We may say that our interpretation of these things is probably true but it would be self-deceit to claim that our interpretations are perfectly correct.

I would say that the degree to which we can accept that our interpretations may be false, is a measure of humility.

It could also be said that it is a measure of trust in God. If we have built our worldview on some interpretations, do we trust God that He takes care of us even when the false interpretations collapse and we need to rebuild our worldview?

Science is the set of minimal coherent conclusions we deduce from repeat observations of nature by disinterested observation. Theology is part of nature - science is nature looking at itself. Where it and science overlap, where it is part of science therefore, it is the disinterested study of religious belief. Where it departs from science is wherever it posits what kind of God could be real, how would God be real if He is; what is the nature of God.

I wouldn’t say opinions are accepted as truth either. I would say the arguments and evidence that bring people into consensus on questions are accepted as truth.

I use truth to mean a good assessment of reality. I think we can have sufficient knowledge of truth without it necessarily being exhaustive or absolute or perfect. You are conflating knowing truth and being certain of your knowledge of truth. Those aren’t the same.

Consensus doesn’t depend on certainty.

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A better way to frame the question that may make it less internally combative I think would be “ theological truths and scientific realities”’because something can be theologically true and not supported by science. Such as there is zero
Scientific evidence to support some 2,000 year old Jewish guy who came back from the dead. But I accept it as a theological truth. Or a even better example would be looking at proverbs. They share proverbial truths that are not even necessarily theological truths and certainly are not scientific facts.

But surely there is no concensus between for example Catholic church ‘authorities’ and Protestant authorities? That is why there is disagreement on theological truth.

But surely theological truths reflect realities? As for the resurrection, one may not be able to prove it scientifically, but it was a historical reality nonetheless.

No matter how it’s sliced. If a theological truth just happens to line up with reality it’s by chance. It’s like hearing the myths of Hercules , or the horror stories of Lovecraft, and by chance finding correlations to reality. Biblical truth is expressed through multiple narratives. The proverbs presents truth differently from revelation which presents it differently from acts. You can’t get the way you determine truth from acts and use that as the lens for revelation or places like genesis 2.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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