Truth (religious)

Truth (religious)

Most religious traditions hold a body of truths that are part of the particular tradition. Such truths may be considered to be spiritually revealed, or may be developed through tradition, or may be a combination of both. Whatever these truths are for the particular religious tradition, they can be called part of the "doctrine" of that tradition.


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." "The Collected Discourses of the Buddha: A new translation of the Samyutta Nikaya", Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2000]

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

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

Two Truths Doctrine (Tibetan: "bden-pa gnyis")

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".


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

In Conservative Judaism, truth is not defined as literally as it is amongst the Orthodox. While Conservative Judaism acknowledges the truth of the Old Testament, 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 halakhah, or Jewish law (which loosely-speaking can be described as the will of God as expressed in day-to-day activity), Conservative Judaism believes that it can be modified or adapted depending on the needs of the people. In Orthodox Judaism, by contrast, the halakhah is fixed (by the sages of the Talmud and later authorities); the present-day task, therefore, is to interpret the halakhah, but not to change it.

Reform Judaism takes a much more liberal approach to truth. It does not hold that truth is only found in the Old Testament; rather, there are kernels of truth to be found in practically every religious tradition. Moreover, its attitude towards the Old Testament 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.


Assertions of truth based upon history, revelation and testimony set forward in the Bible are central to Christian beliefs. Some denominations have asserted additional authorities as sources of doctrinal truth — for instance, in Roman Catholicism the Pope is asserted to be infallible on matters of church doctrine. ["See, e.g.," Richard F. Costigan, "The Consensus Of The Church And Papal Infallibility: A Study In The Background Of Vatican I" (2005)] The central person in Christianity, Jesus, claimed to be "Truth" when he said, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me." ["See, e.g." Bible: John 14:6] In Christian Science, Truth is God. [ [ truth - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ] ]

Biblical inerrancy

Some Christian traditions hold a doctrine called Biblical inerrancy, which asserts that the Bible is without error, that is, it can be said to be true as to all issues contained within, whether Old Testament or New. Various interpretations have been applied, depending on the tradition. ["See, e.g." Norman L. Geisler, "Inerrancy" (1980)] [Stephen T. Davis, "The debate about the Bible: Inerrancy versus infallibility" (1977)] 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 yet 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. ["See, e.g." Marcus J. Borg, "Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally" (2002) 7-8]

The Magisterium of the Church

The Roman Catholic Church holds that it has a continuous teaching authority, magisterium, which preserves the definitive, i.e. the truthful, understanding of scripture. The notion of the Pope as "infallible" in matters of faith and morals is derived from this idea.

"Double truth" theories

In thirteenth century Europe, the Roman Catholic Church denounced what it described as theories of "double truth," i.e. theories to the effect that although a truth may be established by reason, its contrary ought to be believed as true as a matter of faith. The condemnation was aimed specifically at a "Latin Averroist" (see Averroës), Siger of Brabant, but it was more broadly an attempt to halt the spread of Aristotle's ideas, which the reconquest of Spain and, accordingly, access to the libraries of the Moors had re-introduced into the Latin literate world. ["See, e.g.," Gilson, Etienne, "La doctrine de la double vérité," Études de philosophie médiévale" (1921), pp. 51-69; translated as, "History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages" (1955).] At the time, much of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church was based upon neoplatonic ideas, and Aristoteleanism struck many as heresy. Siger and others seem to have conceded this, and to have used the sharp reason/faith distinction that came to be known as "double truth" as a way of legitimizing discussion of Aristotle despite that concession. ["See, e.g.," [“double_truth_theory”] ] The teachings of Aristotle came to be accepted as second only to the teachings of the Church. Thomas Aquinas, in his "Summa Theologica" (1267-73), rejected Neoplatonism and stated that there can be no conflict between reason and faith. [St Thomas Aquinas "Summa Theologica" (translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province), Christian Classics, 1981, ISBN 0870610635 ISBN-13: 978-0870610639.] Questions remained, and again came to the fore when scientists such as Copernicus made discoveries which seemed to contradict scripture. The doctrine of "double truth" was revived by the scholastics under the ruberic "two truths". Thus, according to the scholastics, there was a lesser truth, that the Earth circled the Sun, as Copernicus said, and a greater truth, that when Joshua fought at Jericho it was the Sun, not the Earth, which stood still. The scholastics held that both "truths" were true in their own sphere. [ Will Durant, "The Reformation", Simon and Schuster, 1957. ] [See also, [ "Dictionary of the History of Ideas" Double Truth] ]

The current doctrine of the Roman Catholic church rejects the doctrine of "double truth" or "two truths", and holds that there is only one truth, and that Catholics should accept as true such scientific doctrines as the age of the Earth and the evolution of species. They reject the idea that there is a conflict between science and faith which needs to be resolved. For example, they believe that the Earth orbits the Sun, but that to Joshua the Sun appeared to stand still in the sky, and the Bible reports the event from Joshua's point of view. Similarly, they accept evolution and the descent of man, but hold that it was God who caused man to evolve.

Other Christian sects, especially Fundamentalists, go to the other extreme, and urge their followers to reject any science that conflicts with the literal interpretation of scripture. In their view, real scientific evidence always supports the Bible, and scientists only hold beliefs contrary to the Bible because of evidence, and because scientists desire to find a reason instead of God, in order to continue their sinful life styles. [Henry Madison Morris, Gary E. Parker, "What Is Creation Science", Master Books, 1987, ISBN 0890510814 ISBN-13: 978-0890510810. ]

Thus today both sides of the controversy reject the "double truth" concept, and it is primarily of historical interest.


TruthfulnessFact|date=September 2007 is the ninth of the ten attributes of dharmaFact|date=September 2007. Generally, truthfulness relates to speech; i.e. only to speak 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.Truth Alone Will Triumph, [] ] Dubious|date=March 2008In 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 That which 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 that which really is there. This is poignantly described by Ramana Maharshi: “There is no greater mystery than that we keep seeking reality though, in fact, we are reality.”


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 that only enlightened beings can perceive it in its entirety; unenlightened beings only perceive 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. "nayavada"). 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.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Truth (disambiguation) — Truth may mean: *truth (religious) *truth quark, an alternate name for a fundamental physical particle.proper names: * Live DVD by t.A.T.u. * for the anti smoking advertising campaign * Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women s… …   Wikipedia

  • Religious Toleration —     Religious Toleration     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Religious Toleration     Toleration in general signifies patient forbearance in the presence of an evil which one is unable or unwilling to prevent. By religious toleration is understood the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Religious Indifferentism —     Religious Indifferentism     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Religious Indifferentism     The term given, in general, to all those theories, which, for one reason or another, deny that it is the duty of man to worship God by believing and… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Truth in Science — is a United Kingdom based organization which promotes the Teach the Controversy campaign. [ Teaching the controversy is, of course, also related to the required teaching on Variation, inheritance and evolution under topic Sc2 Life processes and… …   Wikipedia

  • Religious belief — refers to a mental state in which trust (faith) is placed in a creed related to the supernatural, sacred, or divine. Such a state may relate to: 1) the existence, characteristics and worship of a deity or deities, 2) divine intervention in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Religious Discussions —     Religious Discussions     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Religious Discussions     (CONFERENCES, DISPUTATIONS, DEBATES)     Religious discussions, as contradistinguished from polemical writings, designate oral dialectical duels, more or less… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Religious intellectualism in Iran — (in Persian: روشنفکری دينی) develops gradually and subtly. It reached its apogee during the Persian Constitutional Revolution (1906 11). The process involved numerous philosophers, sociologists, political scientists and cultural theorists.… …   Wikipedia

  • Religious Painting —     Religious Painting     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Religious Painting     Painting has always been associated with the life of the Church. From the time of the Catacombs it has been used in ecclesiastical ornamentation, and for centuries after… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Religious interpretation — and similarly religious self interpretation define a section of religion related studies (theology, comparative religion, reason) where attention is given to aspects of perception mdash;where religious symbolism and the self image of all those… …   Wikipedia

  • Religious violence in India — includes acts of violence by followers of one religious group against followers and institutions of another religious group, often in the form of rioting.[1] Religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism have survived peacefully with Hindus for… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”