Is Truth Found in Intention?

Is Truth found in intention or correspondence?

Many critics who deny inerrancy do so by redefining truth.  Rather than understanding truth as that which corresponds to reality, they define truth in terms of intention.  Thus, something is deemed true if it accomplishes its intentions.  As applied to the Bible, a text is true if it accomplishes its redemptive purpose, even if mistakes are made in so doing.  Hence, for these critics the Bible could be completely true, even if there were statements in it which did not correspond with reality.  But an inerrant Bible containing mistakes is a contradiction in terms.

Dr. Carl Henry warned against the dangers of this view.  At the CSBI conference on the meaning of inerrancy (1982), Carl Henry observed the danger of reducing inerrancy to the purpose of the author, as opposed to the affirmations of the author as they correspond with the facts of reality. He wrote: “Some now even introduce authorial intent or cultural context of language as specious rationalizations for this crime against the Bible, much as some rapist might assure me that he is assaulting my wife for my own or for her good. They misuse Scripture in order to champion as biblically true what in fact does violence to Scripture” (Henry in Earl Radmacher ed., Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible [1984], 917). This is precisely what has happened with some of the participants in the Five Views book when they reduced meaning to purpose and then read their own extra-biblical speculations into the author’s supposed intention or purpose.

Some critics of inerrancy attempt in vain to twist the meaning of the CSBI to fit their non-correspondence view of truth.  They appeal to Article XIII which reads: “We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  This they wrongly assume means that truth is understood in terms of the intention of the biblical author, not whether it corresponds to reality.  However, the ICBI framers spoke directly to this point.  For in the official ICBI commentary written on the Article by one of the ICBI framers, R.C. Sproul, he spells out emphatically what is meant by “truth.”  It reads. ”’By biblical standards of truth and error’ is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.  This part of the article is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal or the like, rather than that which corresponds to reality.”  Thus, because the Bible is inerrant every propositional statement in Scripture must correspond to reality.  Any statement that did not correspond to reality would be false.  Hence, those who do not believe that all the propositions of the Bible are true have denied its total inerrancy (see Geisler and Roach, Defending Inerrancy, chap. 13).