The assertion that “all truth is God’s truth” obviously doesn’t reflect a relativistic outlook on the existence or nature of truth. Those who express this sentiment truly do believe there is truth to be discovered. In a pluralistic context, however, where the epistemological basis for knowing anything is constantly challenged, “all truth is God’s truth” serves to neutralize divisions among worldviews for practical purposes. It is rooted in the view that the unification of people around particular ideas is the higher value over and above the unification of people around the source of those ideas. “All truth is God’s truth” ultimately pays tribute not to the God of scripture, but to the individuals who consider themselves to be the arbitrators of truth.
As written by John Calvin, we can embrace the view that truth is to be found among believers and nonbelievers alike. In his Commentary on Titus, Calvin wrote “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” Notice that his emphasis is not on the bearers of truth but on the source of truth. The point I am raising has nothing to do with the desire to reject true statements from unbelievers, or unbelievers embracing true statements from those who are expressly Christian. Having been created in the image of God, being the recipients of God’s common grace, we can all know that a square has four sides, the sky is blue and that the killing of innocents is wrong. Accounting for how we know each of these to be true is the challenge. One might argue that we know these things empirically. We can observe that a square has four sides and that they sky is blue. But where does the assumption of reason find its source? It gets a bit murky with the sky—how do we account for blue? And while I’m grateful believers and unbelievers can agree that the taking of innocent human life is wrong, without a basis for this knowledge, this is a position can turn on a dime. God’s truth is always under the threat of attack and distortion.
In response to my recent article, When an Oasis is Really a Mirage, one individual commented about the work of Pomegranate Place, that “We believe that all truth is God’s truth, and that all women have truth and wisdom to share. We listen intently and acknowledge the good we see in others and in our world.” There is nothing to argue with in this statement, except to say it is insufficient for truly reaching into lives of anyone. Certainly, in the course of ministry it makes sense to build bridges and create opportunities for the truth of Christ to eventually be presented. Paul modeled for us in his conversation with the Athenians at the Areopagus, ultimately answering for them the identity of their Unknown God (Acts 17). Paul could have left them with the limited truths that they understood, but he knew the insufficiency of this knowledge. When the goal is spiritual care to any degree, leaving Christ out of the conversation is never an option.
So what assistance is it in ministry to perpetuate the understanding that “all truth is God’s truth?” As the example in Act 17 proves, it can be helpful. But to use it as the reason to avoid any proclamation of Christ is erroneous. Of course, all truth is God’s truth, but without any acknowledgement of the source of truth, not only do the worldview divisions remain intact, but the contention of “God” remains ambiguous at best. Ironically, the assertion of “all truth is God’s truth” creates more questions than answers.