Garry’s Irreducible Truth Principle


I’m aware that what I’m about to write might be utter rubbish. It seemed quite profound to me when it came to me whilst I was praying a couple of nights ago, but in the absence of any scholarly qualification, I have to acknowledge that it might be a load of claptrap that doesn’t actually help anyone and just makes me look a bit silly. This is my escape clause if it does turn out to be useless.

Now that I’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, I can crack on with what I like to call “Garry’s Irreducible Truth Principle” (catchy name, I know). I constructed this with the Bible in mind, but I reckon it actually works on any text which people disagree about the meaning of. As a bit of background, I know that for some people, the fact that bits of the Bible can be interpreted in different ways (Genesis 1 is the example that I’m going to be using in this post) means that they distrust the whole thing and disregard it as the Word of God. Is this fair? Is it actually possible to create a book (and then numerous translations) without people arguing about the meaning? What “Garry’s Irreducible Truth Principle” aims to do is get to the really important, irreducible truth at the heart of a text. This is not a method for teasing out details, this is a method for getting to the bare bones and, in the case of the Bible, trying to work out the fundamental message that God has given us.

Now, let’s use Genesis 1 as an example (read it first if you haven’t already – it’s too long to put on here). From this chapter, you get Christians arguing all sorts of things, to Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, full-blown evolutionism…the lot. What does Genesis 1 actually mean, you may wonder (as I have, many times). Aha! Now for “Garry’s Irreducible Truth Principle”. We have to ask contradictory yes/no questions of the text to find out what the fundamental meaning is. That probably makes no sense to you. Read on, and hopefully it’ll become clearer.

Question: Can it (the text) mean that God created the world in 6 days? Answer: Yes.

Question: Can it mean that God didn’t create the world in 6 days (i.e. longer)? Answer: Yes (due to the Hebrew word for ‘day’).

Question: Can it mean that God created the world? Answer: Yes.

Question: Can it mean that God didn’t create the world? Answer: No.

Therefore, there is no irreducible truth regarding the length of time for the creation of the world, but God creating the world in some way is an irreducible truth.

For Christians, this is obviously important and it means that whatever the other interpretations say about the greater details, we should (I hope) have a meaning here which you can’t argue with without going outside the text.

There you have it, “Garry’s Irreducible Truth Principle”. As I said at the start, you may think it’s utter rubbish, but I’m just throwing it out there to see what people think.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hmmmm… I wouldn’t call it rubbish, but I don’t know if it helps in revealing truth anymore than your typical steps in exegesis. Maybe Genesis 1 is a bad example since you had to further clarify your second answer. That clarification is warranted, but I can still take issue with your answer from a contextual standpoint.

    Also, if your answer is ‘yes’ to two different questions regarding the same event (as in your first two questions), you open yourself up to claims of contradiction. So it may start more fires than it puts out.

    I like where your head’s at though, trying to make truth as clear as it can be. 🙂

    1. bengarry says:

      Yeah I really see what you’re saying there. When I was thinking about this, I wasn’t really sure if it was particularly useful, but I wanted to put it out there. I guess I just think it’s important that Christians have points in the Bible that they can be united on, regardless of more detailed doctrines about textual interpretation. Thanks for the constructive comment! 🙂

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