Darrow Miller and Friends

When is Truth Self-evident? Part 1 of 3

Recently two of my friends have challenged the affirmation in the United States Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident …”

The first challenge came from my good friend, co-laborer and contributor to this blog site, Vishal Mangalwadi. Vishal wrote:

“Because the truths on which America was founded have never been self-evident to human reason in any culture. Jefferson would have been honest had America’s Declaration of Independence affirmed, “We hold these truths to be divinely revealed that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights (such as) life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”[1]

A few days ago Alice, our friend and a reader of this blog, wrote:

[I]f there is one important thing I’ve learned from Vishal Mangalwadi, it is this: “It is not self-evident that all men are created equal” as it says in the preamble to our constitution. To most of the people of the world it is evident that some are created “more equal” than others and therefore we can lord it over them. Being created equal and in the image of God is something that we learn from a biblical foundation and not that it is self-evident to all.

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I agree with Vishal’s preferred “We hold these truths to be divinely revealed …”. (Actually, Jefferson had originally penned, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…”, but Franklin edited the affirmation to: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” )[2]

Having said that, I’m not convinced the Founding Fathers got it wrong. Yes, it is through God’s revelation that we understand these truths. However God has revealed himself comprehensively through both his Word and his Works. God’s Word includes the Bible – the written word, and Jesus Christ – the living Word. This is often called special revelation. His works—including Imago Dei man and the rest of creation—are often referred to as general revelation. Jefferson may have been thinking about general revelation when he said that the truths are “self-evident.”

Objective Truth

We live at a time in history where atheistic culture is dominant and truth is seen as relative. Even a majority of professed Christians regard truth as based on feelings. This is in contrast with objective truth which comports with reality, is universal for all time, and is independent of our own feelings and perception. If there is no revelation and no self-evident truth, then there are no inalienable rights granted by God. If there is no truth, anything is possible and everything is morally permissible. Eventually such thinking will lead to anarchy–everyone doing what is right in his own eyes, and anarchy will ultimately lead to tyranny. There will be no foundation for free societies.

The universe is intelligible! This affirms two things, first the creation is orderly and rational. Second, men are made in the image of God and have the ability to discover the order and rationality of the universe. In our own time we have witnessed the unraveling of the sequence of human DNA, with its three billion chemical based pairs, and the mapping of the 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA. These make clear, to all who will see,  the beautiful and comprehensive mind of the Creator.

The purposes of created things are found in the structure and function of the object. In addition the Purposer is revealed in the purpose, the Code Maker is revealed in the code.

Truth that God has revealed (through general revelation) to all members of the human family is, by definition, self-evident. However that does not mean that all people will see it, nor that in seeing it they will affirm it. This is explicitly stated by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the Romans. We will examine two claims, the first in Romans 1:18-23 and the second in Romans 2:14-15.

… to be continued

[1] Vishal Mangalwadi; Could America Collapse Like A House Of Cards?; Posted on May 06, 2010 on the website Revelation Movement

[2] Wikipedia article “All men are created equal”

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).