Religious views on truth

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Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.[1] Religious views on truth vary between religions.

Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are the most fundamental Buddhist teachings and appear countless times throughout the most ancient Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon. They arose from Buddha's enlightenment and are regarded in Buddhism as deep spiritual insight, not as philosophical theory, with Buddha noting in the Samyutta Nikaya: "These Four Noble Truths, monks, are actual, unerring, not otherwise. Therefore, they are called noble truths."[2]

The Four Noble Truths (Catvāry Āryasatyāni) are as follows:

  1. The truth that suffering exists (Dukkha).
  2. The truth that suffering exists with a root cause (craving).
  3. The truth that suffering can be eliminated (Nirvana).
  4. The truth that there is a way to eliminate suffering known as the Noble Eightfold Path.

Two Truths Doctrine

The two truths doctrine in Buddhism differentiates between two levels of truth in Buddhist discourse, a "relative", or commonsense truth (Tibetan: kun-rdzob bden-pa; Sanskrit: samvrtisatya), and an "ultimate" or absolute spiritual truth (Tibetan: don-dam bden-pa; Sanskrit: paramarthasatya). Stated differently, the Two Truths Doctrine holds that truth exists in conventional and ultimate forms, and that both forms are co-existent. Other schools, such as Dzogchen, hold that the Two Truths Doctrine are ultimately resolved into nonduality as a lived experience and are non-different. The doctrine is an especially important element of Buddhism and was first expressed in complete modern form by Nagarjuna, who based it on the Kaccāyanagotta Sutta.

Christianity

Nikolai Ge's What is Truth?, depicting the New Testament account of the question as posed by Pilate to Jesus.
Pontius Pilate's "What is Truth?" - stylized inscription at entrance to Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Família (Barcelona).

In John 14:6, Jesus is reported to have said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."[3] Truth is thus considered to be an attribute of God.[citation needed]

Christian truth is based upon the history, revelation and testimony from the Bible, and are central to Christian beliefs.[citation needed] Christian philosopher William Lane Craig notes that the Bible typically uses the words true or truth in non-philosophical senses to indicate such qualities as fidelity, moral rectitude, and reality. However, it does sometimes use the word in the philosophical sense of veracity.[4]

Some Christians believe that other authorities are sources of doctrinal truth. Catholics believe that the Pope is infallible when pronouncing on certain, rather specific, matters of church doctrine.[5]

In Christian Science, (not recognised as a Christian organization by the bulk of mainstream churches) Truth is God.[6]

The Magisterium of the Church

The magisterium of the Catholic Church is the church's authority or office to establish teachings.[7][8] That authority is vested uniquely in the Pope and the bishops, under the premise that they are in communion with the correct and true teachings of the faith which is shown in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.[9] Sacred scripture and sacred tradition "make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church",[10] and the magisterium is not independent of this, since "all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is derived from this single deposit of faith."[11]

Biblical inerrancy

Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy", is the doctrine that the Protestant Bible "is without error or fault in all its teaching";[12] or, at least, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact".[13] Various interpretations have been applied, depending on the tradition.[14][15] According to some interpretations of the doctrine, all of the Bible is without error, i.e., is to be taken as true, no matter what the issue. Other interpretations hold that the Bible is always true on important matters of faith, while other interpretations hold that the Bible is true but must be specifically interpreted in the context of the language, culture and time that relevant passages were written.[16]

Hinduism

Generally, truthfulness relates to speech: to speak only what one has seen, heard or understood, however the essence of truthfulness is far deeper in Hinduism: it is defined as upholding the central concept of righteousness.[17] In the Upanishads of ancient India, truth is Sat (pronounced Sah't), the One Reality and Existence, which is directly experienced when the vision is cleared of dross. The Rishi discovers what exists, Sat, as the truth of one's own Being, the Self or Atma, and as the truth of the Being of God, Ishvara. In this usage, the term truth is used to refer to not merely a derived quality "true rather than false", but the true state of being, truth as what really is there. This is described by Ramana Maharshi: "There is no greater mystery than that we keep seeking reality, though, in fact, we are reality."

Jainism

Although, historically, Jain authors have adopted different views on truth, the most prevalent is the system of anekantavada or "not-one-sidedness". This idea of truth is rooted in the notion that there is one truth, but only enlightened beings can perceive it in its entirety; unenlightened beings perceive only one side of the truth (ekanta). Anekantavada works around the limitations of a one-sided view of truth by proposing multiple vantage points (nayas) from which truth can be viewed (cf. Nayavāda). Recognizing that there are multiple possible truths about any particular thing, even mutually exclusive truths, Jain philosophers developed a system for synthesizing these various claims, known as syadvada. Within the system of syadvada, each truth is qualified to its particular view-point; that is "in a certain way", one claim or another or both may be true.

Judaism

There is no unilateral agreement among the different denominations of Judaism concerning truth. In Orthodox Judaism, truth is the revealed word of God, as found in the Hebrew Bible, and to a lesser extent, in the words of the sages of the Talmud. For Hasidic Jews truth is also found in the pronouncements of their rebbe, or spiritual leader, who is believed to possess divine inspiration.[18] Kotzk, a Polish Hasidic sect, was known for their obsession with truth.

In Conservative Judaism, truth is not defined as literally as it is among the Orthodox. While Conservative Judaism acknowledges the truth of the Tanakh, generally, it does not accord that status to every single statement or word contained therein, as do the Orthodox. Moreover, unlike Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism believes that the nature of truth can vary from generation to generation, depending on circumstances. For instance, with respect to halakha, or Jewish law, Conservative Judaism believes that it can be modified or adapted depending on the needs of the people. In Orthodox Judaism, by contrast, the halakha is fixed (by the sages of the Talmud and later authorities); the present-day task, therefore, is to interpret the halakha, but not to change it.

Reform Judaism takes a much more liberal approach to truth. It does not hold that truth is found only in the Tanakh; rather, there are kernels of truth to be found in practically every religious tradition. Moreover, its attitude towards the Tanakh is, at best, a document parts of which may have been inspired, but with no particular monopoly on truth, or in any way legally binding.

Notes

  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, truth, 2005
  2. ^ The Collected Discourses of the Buddha: A new translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000
  3. ^ John 14:6
  4. ^ Craig, William Lane. "Are There Objective Truths about God?". Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  5. ^ See, e.g., Richard F. Costigan, The Consensus Of The Church And Papal Infallibility: A Study In The Background Of Vatican I (2005)
  6. ^ Truth - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  7. ^ Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
  8. ^ Thomas Stork, "What Is the Magisterium?"
  9. ^ "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the college of bishops in communion with Him" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 100)
  10. ^ Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei verbum, 10
  11. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 86
  12. ^ Geisler, NL. and Roach, B., Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation, Baker Books, 2012.
  13. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. (1994). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-85110-652-6. OCLC 29952151. 
  14. ^ See, e.g. Norman L. Geisler, Inerrancy (1980)
  15. ^ Stephen T. Davis, The debate about the Bible: Inerrancy versus infallibility (1977)
  16. ^ See, e.g. Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally (2002) 7-8
  17. ^ Truth Alone Will Triumph, Akhand-Jyoti.org
  18. ^ Relationship of chasidim to their rebbe
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