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The Table Video

Mark Baker& Gregg Ten Elshof

True, False, Soul, and God

Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, Rutgers University
CCT Scholar-in-Residence and Executive Board Member / Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
November 16, 2012

Mark Baker (Rutgers University) connects the existence of truth and falsity to the existence of God.


You’ve been thinking recently about, uh, this, uh, capacity for, uh, things to be true or false, um, but this might give us some evidence not only for the existence of immaterial souls, but also for the existence of God. This might be confirmatory of, of belief in God’s existence. Can you say something about that? Why, why might this be relevant for the question of God’s existence?

Uh huh. I maybe say it a little bit differently, again, that, um, that, uh, there’s things– I would say maybe there’s things that are puzzling if you don’t believe in God that seem less puzzling if you do believe in God. And I think this matter of kind of true and false um, is again like that. If I’m just a natural object, and all my beliefs come from, you know, things that’ve, have, uh, affected me in some way or another, then I’m not different from that cliff face.

I might bear all the impressions of things that’ve affected me, but it doesn’t give me this idea of true and false. Um, but God is in a very different relationship to the world than I am. So God created the world, God sees everything that happens in the world, God has perfect knowledge of the world. So whereas my ideas are kind of fallible, and my relationship to the world is indirect, God’s ideas are perfect, and his, he, you know, creates and upholds the whole world. So he has a, a perfect relationship to the world where I have only a, a partial, an imperfect relationship to the world.

Um, so I think where the true and falseness of my ideas comes from might be: Well God sees the world perfectly, and God sees what’s going on in my head, and He’s the one who can validate my ideas as true or false. And that gives them this extra quality which otherwise they would only be information. They would only be impressions that’ve been caused by something that happened to me. But it’s God’s intelligence that kind of underlies and underwrites my intelligence in that way.

Mm hm. So is the idea then that, um, uh, my thoughts, um, much like perhaps the, the rock face, they’re not, they’re not intrinsically true or false, they’re intrinsically information-loaded, but they require the underwriting of something like God to, to take on this property of being true and false.

I think that’s right. That, that’s how I like to think about that now. Um, I maybe would, uh, clarify a little bit, when we say “my thoughts,” we haven’t clarified “who’s me?” and “what are my thoughts?”. So if we’re just thinking of me as my brain, and, uh, my thoughts as the neural activity that’s going on in my brain, as materialist-oriented people, um, do, then I think that physical sense of me isn’t really different from the cliff face.

Um, and therefore it needs something else, just like the cliff face needs the geologist to understand it, to figure out what that means about the geological ages and kind of say okay, this is what it means. In the same way, we as physical creatures might need God to understand us, and give the physical things that happen in us meanings that can have, uh, true or false. We go back to the soul hypothesis, there is the possibility that there’s a little more to me and to my thoughts than just that neural part.

I might have a soul as well, and then if you put my soul into the equation, and my thoughts aren’t just the neurons firing in my brain, but they’re my neurons firing in my brain being understood by my soul, then that might already make them different from, uh, the cliff face.