The Difference Between Truth and Fact

There is a difference, you know.

Before you argue with me, let me define my terms for the sake of the conversation.

Facts are a set that overlap the set containing truth, if you want to graph the difference. Dictionaries define “truth” as “a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like;” they define a “fact” as “a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true.”

There’s an objective value to fact. Facts are known by “actual experience or observation.” Facts can be researched, measured, quantitatively tested, verified, proven.

There’s a subjective value to truth. Truth can be a “fact, proposition, principle or the like.” Truth can be expressed, discussed, qualitatively evaluated, affirmed, accepted.

Facts populate the language of science.

Truth populates the language of faith.

Truth allows people the dignity of making an informed choice, of thinking for themselves, of meditating and considering and evaluating and coming to a point where they can say within themselves, “I believe.”

Well, this is what I believe:

creation

The Bible is not scientific study. Scientific study is not the Bible.

The study of the origins of the universe through science is not the study of the beginning of God’s story about mankind.

One looks to answer how was the world created; the other, by Whom and why.

Let me put it this way. You can look up what grass is at Wikipedia. I already have, and here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass.

You can look up a poem that asks and answers “What is grass?” by Walt Whitman, and it goes like this: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-child-said-what-is-the-grass/

grass

Now, who is right?

Wikipedia? or Whitman?

Well, they both are.

They’re both “right.”

Because Wikipedia is trying to answer the question in a scientific way — with facts.

And Whitman is trying to explore the question in a poetic way — through truth.

You don’t get faith from scientific study, although many of the answers you will find within it are formed from evidence, conjecture, experimentation, AND faith in the conclusions based on the results and the logic used to reach them.

You don’t get science from the Bible, even though many of the things you read there have a basis in communicating source and order and reason and purpose. So we meditate on it, talk about it, come to conclusions, and we believe what we choose to believe.

The purpose of science is to help us find answers.

The purpose of the Bible is to help us find faith.

What might happen to our worldview if we stopped trying to see the Bible as a book communicating dry facts and tedious law, and saw it as a volume telling us the truth, a Story leading to a proposition/principle/or-the-like to be accepted or rejected?

And that proposition would answer the most important question of all:

Is Jesus the Messiah looked forward to in prophecy from earliest times … the fulfillment in full obedience of the law of God … His very Son through whom and by whom and for whom all things were created … the last Adam undoing the fatal lock of sin upon our souls wrought by the first Adam and every Adam’s child of us since … the perfect-yet-crucified-yet-resurrected Savior and Reconciler of all creation to her Creator?

How would it affect our view of others if we saw them not as good or evil; right or wrong; lost or saved; this or that; one or the other — but as beloved of God to the point that every last Adam’s child of us since Eden was worth the price of the very life of His Son?

How could it not improve our ministry of the gospel if we focused on the gospel, the Story, the main thing and not all the seeming factual contradictions or the tantalizing mysteries or the difficulties of translation or the differences of language and meaning? If we left behind the elementary doctrines of man about salvation and sanctification and predestination and excommunication — and only, singularly, lovingly told the story of Jesus over and over and over with undiminished and increasing passion; passion that is the very witness and hallmark of His Holy Spirit within us?

What if we let the facts sort themselves out by the ones who are enamored and enraptured by facts and science and proof, and we just told the simple truth?

And gave people the gift of reaching their own conclusions?

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4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Truth and Fact

  1. Pingback: Links To Go (February 12, 2014) | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

  2. Hi, Keith: It is interesting that you would write on the truth/fact question around the same time that I was also thinking about it. If I may, I’ll share a link with you to the first of 2 posts I wrote back in January. Perhaps this may help to sustain the discussion on this very important topic.

    http://dlray.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/facts-about-truth-truth-about-facts-i/

    I think we often confuse the two concepts, conflating them into one interchangeable term. However, while they are related, I agree that they are distinctly separate.

    I enjoyed your post and perspectives.

  3. “fact” as a truth known by actual experience or observation, something known to be true. Man has concluded that evolution is “fact”. Even though it has never been experienced or observed. When God said he created all things in 6 days, it is fact as well as truth. John 17:17, “thy word is truth, sanctify them by thy truth”. God’s truths are facts whiter we believe or not.

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