Van Til’s Correspondence and Coherence Theory of Truth

Van Til’s Correspondence Theory of Truth

  • “True human knowledge corresponds to the knowledge which God has of himself and his world. Suppose that I am a scientist investigating the life and ways of a cow. What is this cow? I say it is an animal. But that only pushes the question back. What is an animal? To answer that question I must know what life is. But again, to know what life is I must know how it is related to the inorganic world. And so I may and must continue till I reach the borders of the universe. And even when I have reached the borders of the universe, I do not yet know what the cow is. Complete knowledge of what a cow is call be had only by an absolute intelligence, i.e., by one who has, so to speak, the blueprint of the whole universe. But it does not follow from this that the knowledge of the cow that I have is not true as far as it goes. It is true if it corresponds to the knowledge that God has of the cow. From this presentation of the matter, it is clear that what we mean by correspondence is not what is often meant by it in epistemological literature. In the literature on the subject, correspondence usually means a correspondence between the idea I have in my mind and the “object out there.” In the struggle between the “realists” and the “subjective idealists” this was the only question in dispute. They were not concerned about the question uppermost in our minds, i.e., whether or not God has to be taken into the correspondence. We may call our position in epistemology a Correspondence Theory of Truth, if only we keep in mind that it is opposed to what has historically been known under that name.”

Van Til’s Coherence Theory of Truth

  • “It is our contention that only the Christian can obtain real coherence in his thinking. If all of our thoughts about the facts of the universe are correspondence with God’s ideas of these facts, there will naturally be coherence in our thinking because there is a complete coherence in God’s thinking.”

Correspondence Theory’s Relationship to Coherence Theory

  • “Accordingly, the determining factor must be a consideration of that which is most fundamental in our theory of correspondence or of coherence. Now this depends upon the question whether we have God’s knowledge in mind first of all, or whether we begin with human knowledge. For God, coherence is the term that comes first. There was coherence in God’s plan before there was any space-time fact to which his knowledge might correspond, or which might correspond to his knowledge. On the other hand, when we think of human knowledge, correspondence is of primary importance. If there is to be true coherence in our knowledge there must be correspondence between our ideas of facts and God’s ideas of these facts. Or rather we should say that our ideas must correspond to God’s ideas. Now since we are dealing with opponents who speak of human knowledge almost exclusively, we can perhaps best bring out the distinctiveness of our position by calling it the Correspondence Theory of Truth.”

(Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology)


2 thoughts on “Van Til’s Correspondence and Coherence Theory of Truth

  1. Pingback: Mid-November 2015 Round up of Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links | The Domain for Truth

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