What is Truth?

Nothing in this article can convince you of Truth.  However, absolute truth does exist.

  • This article can, however, help you think through what is Truth, and how you approach that thought. 
  • To the Creator, accepting His truth boils down to dealing with an authority problem made necessary by creating us with sovereignty - the ability to choose our destiny. 
  • Why would the Creator give His creation sovereignty and risk such a problem?  Simple - he wanted to "love and be loved" in a genuine way. 
  • This academic article addresses this issue as part of explaining something beyond intelligence and human knowledge - wisdom.  It digs into the truths about revealed knowledge and the choices everyone has to make about what to believe as Truth.

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age… No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.”

Paul, the Apostle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 2:6)

Article excerpt from: The Tri-Person Matrix:  A Holistic Developmental Model of the Person for HRD Theorists and Practitioners, a doctoral dissertation by Dr. Lawrence E. Green (pp 82 - 106).  NOTE:  A PDF copy can be sent to you via email if you request it in the Contact Information.  It is listed under the Trinity Capstone index, and accredited by the University of Liverpool, UK.



Navigating Ultimate Authority

            This is also a truth issue, for authority defines truth. HRD professionals must be aware of the fact that, at some point in everyone’s life, they struggle with, for, or against authority; it is essentially a question of how will they decide who or what will define reality (ontology) and knowledge (epistemology) in their lives. In simpler terms, it is a struggle with defining the numinous (the ontological and epistemological overlap in Figure 1) of their life. Giberson places the issue in terms of origins, “The issue boils down to one of authority. Who should decide what is true in questions relating to origins? Is the origin and development of the human race a scientific or a theological question (1993, p. 36)?”

            It is also a struggle with submission vs. control, in that once authorities are identified and acknowledged, individuals must choose their relationship to those authorities, and ultimately determine how they will handle conflicts between those authorities. This research does not attempt to resolve this problem, but as stated above, it attempts to map them in terms of how they impact a holistic HRD model of the person, since everyone in practice at least, does make a decision as to the authorities they recognize.  Mapping may result in solutions at the local level, however, and allow HRD professionals to clarify issues that otherwise might hinder a project. “All men consent, either authentically or inauthentically, to existence (Montgomery, 1999, p. 222; NIV, Isa 45:23, Ro 14:11, Php 2:10).” Everyone (assuming they have the freedom to choose) eventually decides which one authority will ultimately resolve any conflict in theoretical and/or factual discrepancies. There are many pitfalls in this process.

            Warren makes the following observation as to how people handle authority choices in general:

Most of our troubles occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities: culture (“everybody is doing it”), tradition (“we’ve always done it”), reason (“it seemed logical”), or emotion (“it just felt right”). All four of these are flawed by the Fall. What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us the wrong direction. (2002, p. 187)  

Culture, tradition, reason, and emotion are all existential in nature, and subject to the tautological (self-defining-self) thinking loop discussed below. It is safe to say that Warren did not feel any perfect standard would be possible without appealing to a transcendent (something other than self) source. It is also important to observe that he did not say is that people “want” a perfect standard, indicating his concurrence that there is a general resistance to any “standard setting,” or ultimate authority in human beings as a whole. Others agree with this struggle for accepting external sources of wisdom to guide life choices (NIV, , 1 Cor. 21:18-3:23). Accepting an ultimate transcendent authority opens one’s life to evaluation, discipline, standards, discernment as to good and evil, and a host of other uncomfortable moral and value judgments. This revisits the concept of submission vs. control – again, never a fun topic for any HRD leader to address.

            Examine the words from this leader’s book of wisdom on how he struggled with discipline and accountability in his life once he finally chose an ultimate transcendent authority, and his relationship to that ultimate authority.

You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” … For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. (NIV, 1986, Proverbs 5:12-4, 21-23)


In taking a holistic approach, HRD professionals will need to discern what (if any) authority the knowledge bases, models, theories, clients, etc. in their profession have accepted, and what their current relationships are to those chosen authorities. This will impact how they understand and utilize any developmental model of the person, and especially the Tri-Person Matrix, for it candidly delineates a specific worldview on how truth can be defined and validated in a person, organization, or culture.

            There are many ways this ultimate authority argument is handled by HRD scholars and practitioners, but it is always related in some way to how they have handled authority in their personal lives. Montgomery notes that for individuals, truth is ultimately defined in “personal,” as opposed to intellectual terms (1999, p. 323). The two cannot be unlinked. This scribes the ultimate authority question as a personal, emotive, and essentially a spiritual (numinous submission vs. control) issue. When it is unresolved in either a professional’s life, or in the lives with whom they work, it becomes an even riskier issue to deal with. Discussions on ultimate authority (and truth) can lead to depression, denial, fear, rejection, anger, or even hostility, as can be seen in any area of life where belief structures are studied - identified, observed, evaluated, and/or compared. Since HRD is built upon process and measurement, this is an unavoidable eventuality if a holistic approach is employed. The question is how will/can they be dealt with professionally and constructively?

            The Strategy of Deferring: In the HRD realm, some choose to “defer” this ontological and epistemological discussion of an ultimate authority, like Dubin, when he shows frustrations with the logic of instrumentalists in their position on “proving reality.”

We are alleging, then, that the characteristic concern with properties of things rather than with things themselves as the units of theories is a consequence of man’s biology rather than the nature of things. Once we accept this simple assumption, we are freed of the hoary issue of dealing with the essence of things. We simply admit that we do not know what things “really” are or are “in essence.” Nor are we any longer interested in this issue (1969, p.31).

Dealing with “essence,” and whether something is “real,” demands the resolving of the ultimate authority issue, i.e., “What authority will be used to judge the observations and arguments?” It seems so trouble-free and easy to just “not deal with it” at the moment, but this deferral strategy limits potential knowledge bases and thus potential outcomes; in this case, it excludes some aspects of philosophy, and all of theology. This non-holistic approach eventually presents trouble for any sober scientist or professional, and one seriously doubts if Dubin is really “no longer interested in this issue.” As he stated, it is just a messy (hoary) issue to resolve. Many HRD professionals can identify with this feeling.

            A deferral approach always has the tendency to downgrade the importance of any holistic resolution to a topic, issue, or discussion. While expedient in some areas of research, it spells death to holistic model development. As illustrated in Figures 1 and 4, the area Dubin is side-stepping is in the overlap of the ontological and epistemological aspects of the person. Avoiding the discussion through deferral does allow his theory building to “move beyond” what seems to be an irresolvable issue, but it moreover results in major knowledge areas being excluded from his theories. With this self-limited, non-interacting scope of knowledge, it is impossible to be exposed to some significant gestalts in any study of the person. The positive aspect of a deferral strategy is that it still recognizes philosophical and numinous issues as valid, and does not prevent others from dealing with them – although in a compartmentalized fashion. In a holistic model, deferring the discussion does not ultimately help in navigating the ontological and epistemological aspects of the person or problem being studied; the discussion will again return at some point, and have to be deferred again, or actually addressed - “Who will be the accepted source for defining ultimate reality in his model?” It is an alluring choice, however.

            The Strategy of Denial: Some researchers choose a “denial” and/or a “closed-minded” strategy. It is interesting to observe that this is often chosen by those who feel that they are the “most” open to ideas and options. They state their disbelief in an ultimate source of authority without question, essentially refusing to enter into any argument. This approach, purposefully or not, results in the wholesale rejection all other authority sources (either directly or indirectly), and labels them as invalid or insignificant. Consider this statement of reliance upon empirical data by Eliyahu Goldratt, an influential process improvement guru in the 1990’s, in his book The Goal:

Science is simply the method we use to try and postulate a minimum set of assumptions that can explain, through a straightforward logical derivation, the existence of many phenomena of nature… I view science as nothing more than an understanding of the way the world is and why it is that way. At any given time our scientific knowledge is simply the current state of the art of our understanding. I do not believe in absolute truths. I fear such beliefs because they block the search for better understanding. Whenever we think we have final answers progress, science, and better understanding ceases (Goldratt & Cox, 1992, pp. i, iii).

These declarations on the impossibility of an ultimate authority are sometimes done with bold, intimidating confidence as in Goldratt’s case. Other times they are done with quiet mention, essentially letting you take or leave their statements upon the authority of their knowledge source. In both cases there is really no meaningful dialogue about their conviction, or even a true discussion, as their statements are declarative and exclusionary of any other possible worldview.

            For instance, by declaring that he does not believe in absolute truths, Goldratt eliminates any empirical law that may be absolute and any knowledge base that desires to empirically test the absoluteness of its theories. It will later be shown that this is perhaps a valid stance for an empiricist talking about the physical world, but here it is problematically applied to the ontological and epistemological aspects of life as well. At this point Goldratt goes on shaky, intellectually-deficient ground, and becomes a true “denialist,” to coin a new word. The good thing about this strategy is that the congruence and completeness of these boundary statements can be mapped with the HK-Map, and worked with accordingly. The deductive world of thought is easy to identify and map on the model. The risk of this system of thought is that, should there actually be a transcendent authority capable of defining their observational world, they will miss it entirely. Perhaps even worse, those who choose a denialist stance miss meaningful conversation, discovery, insights, and relationships with others who navigate in the subjective and numinous thought domains.   In Figure 1, unlike the deferral strategy that acknowledges the existence and validity of numinous arguments (the logical source of ultimate authority issues), the denialistic approach refuses to accept the possibility of their existence. This strategy, with its consequential thinking limitations, is inevitably locked into a tautological loop, as has been discussed below.

            The Strategy of Pluralism: Some appeal to “pluralism” or a type of “non-discriminatory, global inclusion of all authorities;” this strategy essentially says that it is a matter of personal choice and it ultimately does not matter that any authority be a tie-breaker. Montgomery observes that “In the university world the pluralistic cacophony is louder than perhaps anywhere else: materialism, idealism, pragmatism, communism, hedonism, mysticism, existentialism, and a hundred other options … (1978, p. 39).” So which ultimate authority does one choose? Even though it sounds civil, to agree to disagree, it is actually a combination of denial, discussion-avoidance, and/or deferral strategies. The ultimate authority choices of individuals, organizations and cultures exist in the real world, and are commonly in conflict. This is where Montgomery criticizes theological centers of thought for their constant contribution to the problem of pluralism, not the solution: “In a pluralistic age of science… the theologies without apologetic strength and epistemological sophistication are easily dismissed by secularists whose disciplines demand evidence, not simply claims (1978, p. 158).” A non-choice is sometimes the easiest choice when one authority does not stand out from the others, or one cannot see the facts, or it is assumed that the facts are not there to be seen.

            Other times, even when there is a clear choice and the facts are in hand, it is easier just not to be in conflict. This option has some advantages in instances where the ultimate choices do not matter greatly, or where the interest groups are not polarized around identified authority sources, for it allows peace among the ranks and does not label one group as “more right” than the other. When standards and values clash axiologically, however, people must eventually face conflict by making a choice. Unlike the deferral strategy, pluralism doesn’t say that “We will table the discussion;” it tries to articulate the logic that “Every view is right and there is no need to determine an ultimate authority.” Were it that this were true; it would resolve the issue forever! In the areas of ontological and epistemological ultimate authority choices, this is not the case. Authority systems do not agree and some demand allegiance. A non-choice is not a valid option unless one is willing to remain meaningless:

Van Buren’s basic epistemological principle [is] namely, that assertions compatible with anything and everything say nothing. Contemporary analytical philosophy, in arriving at this principle, has made an inestimable contribution to epistemology, for by way of the principle, vast numbers of apparently sensible truth-claims can be readily identified as unverifiable, and time and energy can thereby be saved for intellectual pursuits capable of yielding testable conclusions. (Montgomery, 1999, p. 100)

One can even shift authorities to keep the peace, but eventually, for any given problem, individuals, organizations and cultures have to state which ultimate authority will rule their definitions. Even the existential approach, deciding to alternate authorities to match the situation at the moment, eventually will arrive at a situation where this is not satisfactory to those in authority – they are required to make a sincere choice. Thus, the conflict that the pluralistic strategy tries to avoid keeps returning. As shown in Figures 1 and 4, those voids just cannot be denied or ignored forever. Although it has its immediate advantages in conflict avoidance, a pluralistic strategy is ultimately not satisfactory in the area of navigating the ultimate authority question. Pluralism at best, should be contained to issues not related to ultimate authority or truth, such as respect, appreciation, creativity, and even aspects of love (Swanson, 2003).

            All of these approaches have problems, and none are easy to address - but the issue remains until resolved when employing the deferral, denial, and pluralism choices. These are the Option A choices in Figure 1. Perhaps this is why academic disciplines (and all other systems of belief) have such high walls of isolation, resist interdisciplinary model building, and develop such critical stances toward the cultures of belief in other disciplines (belief systems). Perhaps this is the reason for compartmentalization of thoughts from beliefs and the heavy reliance upon the empirical and subjective over the reductive. Like Dubin states, dealing with the numinous in the person is just too hoary!

            The Strategy of Holistic Inquiry: There is a truth in operation, however. Regardless of one’s philosophical, religious, or other personal viewpoints, or even the willingness to address the subject, everyone operates in this reality – they do have a final source of authority by which they make their life decisions personally and professionally, even if it is their selves. Their choices as to their ultimate authority do make a difference in whether their theories and models are holistic. People may not want to confront the issue, but it would be helpful for HRD professionals if everyone honestly declared, like Dubin and Goldratt, where they stood on the issue of ultimate authority. This study has tried to respond to this need for HRD professionals.

            How has the Tri-Person Matrix (TPM) handled the ultimate authority question? It has chosen Option B in Figure 1. First, in its study of the ontological and epistemological aspects of the person, the TPM research design has embraced, not deferred the issue; invited and not closed the discussion upon it; and discerned the risks of, rather than accepted all authority sources as equally valid (without consequences). The TPM has chosen to explicitly map the ultimate authority perspectives of all knowledge bases, including the mapping of the strategies of deferral, denial, and pluralism and their impacts upon both inductive and deductive research processes (See Figures 15 and 16).

            Second, the TPM has holistically endeavored to consider these positions on ultimate authority through the descriptive research process, and present a way to integrate and empirically evaluate them as to their usefulness and helpfulness to HRD professionals.  The triadic research methodology utilized is capable of mapping both ontological and epistemological human dimensions, including the overlap of the numinous dimension. Because the TPM has chosen to utilize the empirically testable Christian biblical knowledge base in generating its principle gestalt, model units, laws of interaction, system states, and domains, where there is conflict with other knowledge bases, this has been noted and mapped – but, it has chosen to remain congruent with the scriptural insight inspiring its theory, as illustrated in Figure 16. It will evaluate its gestalts and validity measures in relationship to the Logos (T1) plumb line. Since this knowledge base is self-declared to be capable of being its own ultimate authority for discerning and testing the resulting model of the person, as well as evaluating other knowledge bases, it has proven capable of setting standards of measure (Montgomery, 1978, 1999). This is a point that Giberson misses, and would change his approach to the integration of inquiry methodologies. As illustrated in Figures 9, 10 and 16, and as discussed under the methodology and research sections below, this knowledge base’s incarnate and revealed links to the objective and subjective (via. the RK Cone) also allow its claims to be empirically tested.

            The utilization of this knowledge base in dealing with the ultimate authority issue should not be a problem for HRD professionals, as this unique source allows for other models to co-exist through a concept called “free will.” This concept of free will is an obvious law of interaction linked to the essential qualities of agapé developed in the TPM model building phase (Chapter 3).   The free-will concept is based on the general premise that since God is love and created mankind to love him in return, free-will has to be a characteristic of his creation. For, if love is to be love, it must be “free” to love. All other options would represent some form of coercion or inducement and thus love would not truly be love. Love in any other context but freewill is incongruous by definition. Montgomery states it simply, “…genuine human love is impossible without freewill - without the free possibility of accepting love or rejecting it (1999, p. 260).”   There are other defenses for the concept of freewill, such as the “ideal-world thesis” of Almeida (2004), but the Montgomery’s defense links to many other facets of the person as well.

            This concept of freewill is also an important law of relationship to the TPM gestalt that helps HRD professionals map the concept of evil, individual uniqueness, and communication with God (Mawson, 2004, pp. 23-40). Evil is possible due to the necessity of “freedom of choice” needed for love to exist – individuals must be “free” to reject love, and even hate. Love demands the coexistence of evil if it is to be authentic. Likewise, the ability of an “individual” to choose his relationship to his Creator, as a “freewill” choice, exemplifies the characteristic of individual “uniqueness.” As Montgomery states it, “Humans are likewise unique – no person is just like another and the very meaning of ‘subject’ entails this irreducible uniqueness. To call God-talk [communication with God] meaningless, then, is at the same time to render man-talk nonsensical (1999, p. 260).”   This supports scientific findings as to the centrality of language in defining both individuals and cultures. As such, it can be seen that freewill also is a foundational concept related to the laws of relationship explaining an individual’s ability to communication to and about God. It may be surprising to some that the Biblical knowledge base is so tolerant of other systems. This, too, is based upon the concept of freedom, but does not exclude consequences.

            Like Frankl’s logotherapy suggests, there is personal risk associated with any free choice system. Individuals must take that risk with whatever ultimate authority they choose. The critical difference in choosing Option B over Option A on Figure 1, is that the Tri-Person Matrix inquiry scheme has knowledge and data bases available from all three levels of the triadic methodology – objective (facts), subjective (emotion), and belief (faith) – See Figures 9 - 15. In the HRD tradition, it has presented the most holistic choice available for research, analysis, and application.

Navigating the Measurement of Truth

            Dubin defines truth in 2 ways, subjective truth and empirical truth. The first concept of truth relates to “non-empirical," or subjective truth, and is very useful for model building. The major requirement for subjective truth to exist is that it is congruent and logical to the theory premise within which it is attached. This is a very helpful approach, for it allows ideas to flow unencumbered by costly and slow external verification procedures, and novel constructs to be built that can conceivable fit the observations of the theorist. It is a system open to ideas with the freedom to innovate. Congruence is the only internal validation measure to the specific model’s constructs and domain(s). Logically, the inductive theorist creates a world of ideas and a world of facts, and agrees that they never really have to meet – unless they want to undergo the empirical scrutiny required to be utilized in the marketplace. The model’s subjective truths can then be empirically tested and the results fed back into the theory for further conceptualization. At this point they can become empirically true, and establish external reliability; empirical testing is the only real process of proving external validity for subjective truth. He does not see the value in searching for absolute truths, and feels that this pursuit is basically a meaningless process.

            Whereas all theology according to Dubin’s worldview is “non-rational,” and thus belongs to the non-testable, theory category (1969, p. 227), theology and theological truth are therefore considered subjective truth. Dubin encourages theology to develop truth in any method it chooses, but as subjectively bound (compartmentalized) truth that can never be factually verified suggesting that it really does not interface with the imperial world, and it is never absolute, ultimate truth. It is an archetypal compartmentalization of the numinous dimension of the ontological and epistemological aspects of the person used by most human behavioral scientists today. Not all compartmentalists (and dualists) separate the numinous, however. Some scientists have seemingly found middle ground between empirical and numinous thinking. They in suggest that individuals are neurologically pre-programmed genetically with assemblies, sub-assemblies, and super assemblies of neurons automatically guiding thought (in a sort of fatalistic fashion) into areas such as the holism, reductionism, abstractions, emotions, etc. (Albright, 2001). Albright points out, however:

The authors seem to have derived this list of operators inductively, by observing individuals and theorizing about central human identity. Of course, most psychiatrically based theories of human nature have been derived in much the same way; to say the theory of operators seems mainly inductive is not to say that it is invalid. (Albright, 2001, p. 490)

The positive aspect of the resulting “meta-theology” is that it rebuts philosophers of religion that see self-in-community as a central religious concern, and again places religious choices back to the individual level (Albright, p. 491). Part of the premise is that people are programmed to desire an ultimate authority – “People are compelled to believe that a cause exists for every phenomenon, and so we make one up if cause and effect are not apparent (Albright, p. 490).” Their claims, however well scientifically observed, are not empirically testable. With the exception of the knowledge base chosen for the TPM, it is a fair evaluation to say that truth generated from sacral knowledge bases is not any more testable or absolute than that from the non-empirical sciences. Their truth statements and declarations are for the religious, and do not have any empirical power to extend beyond the subjective world in which they are conceived, regardless of the philosophical and existential claims they triumph. This becomes evident when displayed on the HK-Map.

            Montgomery agrees that “every theological ‘truth,’ to the extent of its isolation from empirical reality, becomes unverifiable and therefore meaningless (1999, p. 337).”  He also believes that in the singular case of Christian biblical knowledge, that when conducted scientifically, theological research is capable of discovering valid, empirically testable, absolutes. Because of his stance on the historical accuracy and provability of the incarnate and resurrected Word, and the infallibility of recorded, self-interpretive, revelatory Christian scriptures, his triadic methodology has a foundation upon which to test truth in all scientific dimensions, i.e., RK plumb lines through all levels of knowledge and inquiry. This incarnate, Christocentric theology knowledge base and his resulting triadic model, give him the freedom to view all sources of knowledge and their truth statements with a tool for measuring their truth claims in reference to empirically tested facts. This ability to holistically access any knowledge source is an important element of the model for HRD professionals who work in multi-faith or even faith-hostile environments, and is the premise upon which the HK-Map was constructed.

            Figure 12 maps the attempts of many to establish ultimate truth from subjective knowledge. This has never been a successful approach for either philosophers or theologians. Note Montgomery’s observations on this futile subjective approach to ultimate truth:

Moreover, if Bath’s flight to a transcendent Gospel put him in a realm of unverifiability, even more so did Bultmann’s descent into existential subjectivity… Just as secular existentialism was unable to “satisfy the search for authority,” so Bultmann’s religious existentialism, founded on the Kierkegaardian axiom that “truth is subjectivity,” necessarily produced relativistic chaos on the theological scene. (1999, p. 30)

Sartre, for example, asserts that [what] all existentialists, atheistic and Christian, “have in common is that they think that all existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point.”40 Such subjectivity, however is utterly non-testable… (Ibid., p. 334)

Diagram F12: B shows that subjective as well as numinous arguments must be grounded in factual verifiability to be worthy of holistic, and meaningful logic. Theologians have fallen into this trap many times, but so have subjective and empirical scientists (Ratcliffe, 2003, p. 323). It is assumed that all Christian theology is in Diagram F11: A, but that is not the case.   Montgomery notes that “Søren Kierkegaard’s willingness to substitute for objective proofs of faith the believer’s personal, existential experience and to claim that, in the final analysis, ‘truth is subjectivity,’(1978, p. 45)” is a tragic error made by many in reaction to philosophers such as Hume.

            Modern evangelicals, in emphasizing experience as the ultimate proof of their theological truth, make the same error. This is not to suggest that experience is not an important element of the apologetic for evangelicals. Montgomery correctly states that “Absolute proof of the truth of Christ’s claims is available only in personal relationship with Him; contemporary man has every right to expect us [theologians] to offer solid reasons for making such a total commitment (1978, p. 35).” The knowledge source for the principle gestalt of the Tri-Person Matrix will measure truth statements of all knowledge bases from the Christocentric axis (T1) based on John 14:6 linking all truth with the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. This ties all knowledge bases and levels of inquiry together by RK and allows the empirical testability needed for HRD professionals. There is growing support for such a truth axis through the concept of hermeneutics and the broader concept of language.

            Philosophers and theologians are increasingly supporting the notion that language is the key to ontology, and for HRD professionals, the development of people (Spencer, 1996, p. 251). Spencer reaches back to the writings of Herder (1744-1803) to undo the damages of dualism gospelized by the Enlightenment. She notes the importance of language in establishing relationships, building community, and retaining individualism as well (1996, pp. 249-51). Weber makes a case for Kant’s emphasis on the language of systems in spite of his ontological dualism, suggesting a thread of connectivity in spite of his separation of thought from realism (2003, pp. 146-8). Spencer points out that language is essential for mapping any truths (1996, pp. 429-30).   Ludlow brings the issue of the importance of language and ontology to the forefront in the comparison of Origen’s and Gregory of Nyssa’s to find unified meaning from the diversity of scriptural text (Ibid.).

            The use of allegorical exegesis is defended as a vehicle to express personal “salvation-history” recognizance (i.e., without damage to textual accuracy), but two very important side points are made that have significance to this study. First, hermeneutics is important for making theology relevant, and second, reading “scripture as a whole” is critical to sound exegesis (Ludlow, 2002, pp. 45-6). Figure 16 reflects this holistic approach to scripture as a key to not only producing completeness in methodological approach, but also in discovering congruence between the empirical, subjective, and numinous through the vehicle of divine language (logos). This is not without its dangers, however, for empirical scientists such as Giberson have unnecessarily given up the concept of plenary inspiration in order to find this congruence (1993, p. 162-5). The linking of levels of inquiry does not eliminate the empirical testability of plenary inspired text, nor force science to concede to seeming inconsistencies. Indeed, theologians can assist in contextualizing these through scholarly interpretation of God’s use of language in culture without forcing theology to yield to scientific disclaimers of authenticity as well.

            Kortum (2004, pp. 81-96) presents an interesting logic on the importance of language to ontology and epistemology that oversteps Plato’s mystical separation of thought from reality, and even enhances Aristotle’s interrelated reasons (causes) for existence (formal, material, efficient, and final). He first establishes the need for ideation to be inseparably linked to thought - no idea, no thought. He then integrates the logical necessity for intention to the thought-idea unity. In step 2 of his argument, he then links talk with thought – i.e., no talk, no thought. He convincingly illustrates that “without language (i.e., talk),” thought itself is not possible. His inability to understand God’s Trinitarian relationship to himself without slipping into the heresies of tritheism or patripassionism leads him to a false conclusion about God’s intentionality at creation, but his logic about the key of language (word or logos) in creation and connectivity is sound. It is an integrative amazement to see how the aspects of language (intentional, meaningful words) link all levels of reality and aid the testability of truth. It is also interesting to observe that this hermeneutical wonderment has been a principle stumbling block for philosophers and theologians through out history in dealing with the concepts of absolutes in authority and/or truth. Figure 16 illustrates this centrality of language to the mapping of knowledge bases, but more importantly, to the establishing of a measurable truth index for the TPM. What the figure does not explain is that in John 1, the focus of the diagram, it is clearly stated that the WORD was “not recognized” by many (NIV, verse 10). Whenever a plumb line of truth is established, it brings the authority struggles to the forefront, and that is always a communication (recognition) problem.

            The Tri-Person Matrix has utilized the methodologies of Dubin and Montgomery to build a model of individual development from revelatory Truth that can display all systems of epistemological and ontological thinking – i.e., truth systems about reality and knowledge. It has no need to denounce other sacral knowledge sources, and indeed, welcomes their display (i.e., recognition) on the model. The triadic methodology has the ability for recognizing (via. displaying) and measuring truth systems based upon prepositional and a priori statements of either philosophies or religious belief systems in terms of their distance from the T1 axis. With this methodological approach, HRD Professionals can utilize the Option B in Figure 1 to address the developmental factors of the person on each of the empirical, subjective, and numinous levels (Figure 4).

            Much like Frankl’s logotherapy, the Tri-Person Matrix (TPM) has been developed as a model capable of handling any belief system or source of ultimate authority (and truth), without degradation of its central empirical units of measure, laws of interaction, system states, or stated domains. Its undertaking has been to present the data for the HRD professional with as much forthrightness as possible, and leave the consequential choices and actions to the responsibleness of the users. This has given the TPM freedom to respond constructively to the challenges of alternative interdisciplinary theories or models; its posture has been to understand, evaluate, and measure them in terms of their knowledge base center of truth, and the resulting testability of any theories, models, and beliefs they assert. Facts do not mean everyone will see the same truths. Deferral, denial, and pluralistic worldviews are still options for each professional. Holistic models, such as the TPM, demand intellectual honesty and tolerance. They also can clarify and wield influence. That is the nature of language and communication. The holistic worldview is a valid option.

            Concerning the acceptance of biblical revelatory truth in research, “Pascal said, there is enough evidence to convince anybody who is not set against it. But there is not so much evidence that a person can be forced into believing it if he simply will not (Montgomery, 1999, p. 166).” Kepler stated that “Good science is good theology,” and Galileo “remained a devout Christian until he died (Giberson, p. 77).” For the HRD professional, the TPM’s truth statements will ultimately stand upon marketplace verifiability, leaving its users free to accept or reject the tested scholarly outcomes. The model’s final value will rest upon its benefit to the HRD practitioner. End of story.

Navigating Tautological Logic Loops

            Finite minds cannot create “infinity inclusive” holistic models of understanding – without infinite help. First, consider these etymological roots of tautology:

tautology – n. 1 a saying of a thing over again in other words without adding clearness or force; useless repetition. 2 Logic: A statement, classification or accounting that overlooks and excludes no possibility. 3 The stating or believing of a fact to be its own reason; confusion of cause and effect. Example: I know because I know. (Barnhart & Barnhart, 1980b, p. 2150)

tauto- pref. [Gk. tauto, the same, contraction of to auto.] Same: identical, tautomerism> (Soukhanov & Ellis, 1988, p. 1186)

tautology – n .REDUNDANCY [<Gk. Tautologos, redundant: tauto, the same + logos, saying]             Logic: A statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it true whether the simpler statements are true or false; e.g., Either it will snow tomorrow or it will not snow tomorrow. (Soukhanov & Ellis, 1988, p. 1186)

Second, consider this parody:

Ontological and Epistemological Self-Talk – A Parody of Loop-Logic

All knowledge and meaning comes from either “self,” or self and something not self (i.e., from “self” and “other”).

Any system of knowledge and meaning that excludes any “other” as a possibility is tautological - it is conceived of and interpreted by itself. Its tautological logic is self-talk. This includes all empirical as well as subjective areas of factual discovery as well, for if a self observes it and a self interprets it, then a self is in essence defining reality as the sole source and interpreter of its own self knowledge and self meaning. If science is solely observation by a self, then science is tautological. Science is self-talk. If self believes this is true, and there is only self to decide if it is true or not, then it is an “ism.” If self is a human, then it is solipsist humanism. Humanism is self-talk.

If there is an “other,” and that other is also a self, then all knowledge and meaning comes from “themselves.” One self is in competition with an “other self” for ultimate authority – or they don’t care. Self conceived competition and the law of survival of self will eventually determine any system of truth accepted by common selves – if it matters anyway. Each self decides for itself. It is a “self”-ish world. All knowledge and meaning is a selfish tautological loop, for it comes from, and is defined by a self or a combination of selves defining their selves. Self-talk is selfish.

If there is a “transcendent other,” and there is no way to factually test or verify that transcendent other as being truly “transcendent” or “other,” then all knowledge and meaning is still tautological and decided by a self or many selves – through self or selves-talk (via. consensus or coercion). The transcendent other may just be another self or imagined self.   Or, it is there and unlinked to selves, and thus an uncaring other incapable of being known or experienced in any meaningful way – which does not matter since it cannot prove its otherness. Thus, other-talk is really self-talk, since it is only philosophically there. If philosophy is the world of logical ideas, then logic is tautological, and transcendence is logic. Philosophy is logical self-talk.

In a world where only tautological, self-talked choices for knowledge and meaning are available, including from any sacred knowledge that is empirically untestable, it is of no consequence which tautology is chosen. Self-talk is self-talk. One truth is as good as another truth as defined by a self or another self. Since all systems of value or quality, even if tested with empirical means, are interpreted by self, they are subjective and of no ultimate consequence. All knowledge and reality systems are the same and the choice is wholly existential. Truth is never absolute and unverifiable and existentialism is tautological. Existentialism is self-talk – if it matters.

There must be a caveat to break these endless and pervasive tautological loops of self defining self in all dimensions. Self-talk is essentially unsatisfying. A “transcendent other” must identify personally with self in an empirically verifiable way. It then has the authority to become a non-tautological OTHER, and a source of origin other than self. That is, this OTHER has the right to claim truth that it is truly separate from the self. This other must be able to interpret its “OTHER-ness” to the self, or the tautological loop is still not escaped. At that point empirically tested claims can be measured in terms of truth as established by the “OTHER.” For the first time, standards of truth are possible that are not tautological. There is now the possibility of absolute TRUTH by which to measure all other truth – even truth imagined or observed by a self. Self-talk can see an end.

            Thus, science, religion, philosophy or all other system of ontological and epistemological truth now have the possibility to escape tautological reasoning loops because of the entrance of this self-interpreting, personally-identifying, empirically testable “OTHER.”   If they access KNOWLEDGE from this OTHER, they for the first time will be capable of empirically breaking the tautological logic loop to discover TRUTH. Meaningful communication is born. Relationships can begin.


In the words of a the philosopher Wittgenstein, “If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case…Ethics is transcendental (Tractatus 6:41-6.421)”   He went on to say in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (6.41) that “the sense of the world must lie outside the world,” “that is, man never has sufficient perspective from within the world situation to build an eternal structure of truth and value (Montgomery, 1999, p. 365).” If truth is based on empirical knowledge alone, it can never hope to run enough experiments to look at all the cases to make sure there are no surprises – empirical science cannot responsibly afford absolutes.           

All empirically based science is tautologous in that it uses its own constructs to verify its own truths.

Empirical method is not ‘provable.’ The justification for its use is the fact that we cannot avoid it when we investigate the world. (To prove that what we perceive with our senses is real, we would have to collect and analyze data in its behalf, but we would then already be using what we are tying to prove!). (1978, p. 53)

Consider this statement from Wittgenstein and Ryle:

The criterion which we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability. We say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which purports to express – that is, if he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being true, or reject it a being false.29 (1999, p. 326)

Montgomery comments about this problem of attempting to discover truth in science apart from some revelatory insight:

This “Verifiability Criterion of Meaning” arose from the discovery (set forth by Whitehead and Russell in Principia) that assertions in mathematics and deductive logic are tautologous, i.e., they state nothing factual about the world, but follow from the a priori assumptions of the deductive system. (1999, p. 326)

In pointing out the problems with science, these philosophers point to the tautologous limits of their own attempts to determine truth:

Thus analytical philosophy does not, pace its detractors, attempt to silence all discussion of non-verifiable matters: rather, it attempts to limit discussions only to the “understandable” aspects of these matters: namely, to the emotive considerations represented by metaphysical assertions. (1999, p. 328)

            Montgomery (1978) has gone to great lengths to review the writings of Hume (p. 46), Van Til (p. 118), Clark (p. 53), Abu Qurra (p. 120), Bultmann (p. 183) and point out their tautologous arguments. He (1999) further looks at the views of Tillich (p. 80), Vahanian (p. 80), Niebuhr (p. 99), Dewy (p. 99), Nielson (p. 99), Matlack (p. 99), and Kierkegaard (p. 104), and a many others to point out the hermeneutical circles (intentionally or by default) that they all eventually create in their ontological, epistemological, and numinous presentations (Albright, ; Velde, 2003; Yerkes, 1998). Even history is stuck in a tautology. “Dilthey argued that the historian is never able to obtain a genuinely objective view of the past, for his own subjectivity inevitably enters into his investigations of earlier times (1999, p. 367).”

            Is it possible for scientists and practitioners to break out of this loop? Does a holistic approach to HRD model building have any advantage over the uniqueness of individual or combination of pluralistic approaches of inductive, subjective, and/or numinous studies? Is it even possible? Yes, if there could be some way that transcendent meaning “outside” the tautological reasoning’s of human thinking could be verifiably established. If there could be some way to end meaningless “self-talk.” Montgomery points out that “Christian theologians” have held such a book for centuries, but in order to utilize its helpfulness to this issue, it must be linked again to the inductive and deductive sciences without succumbing to tautological thinking.

It is the conviction of orthodox Christianity that in Holy Scripture just such a book exists [to break out of tautological loop logic]: a Book “intrinsically sublime and above all other subject matters” because its Author is the transcendent Lord God, who is unconditioned by the human predicament that corrupts even our best attempts to find life’s meaning, and who alone knows and is Absolute Truth. (Montgomery, 1999, p. 366)

In the HK-Map, the OTHER is intentionally mapped “outside” the domains of potential and human knowledge. This concept is displayed as an over-unity (U1) concept, or all known reality “plus (Bailey, 1996; Stevens, 2004a),” for the triune God must be “beyond” reality to break the self-talk loop. The Tri-Person Matrix builds its conceptualizations and understandings of self and the person upon this source. And, as such, can bring knowledge of truth and reality to any and all other systems of though without solipsist or tautological error. It can be a measure of absolute truth about the self.   Self and empirical testing error is still possible, but this self-produced error does not negate the truth, knowledge, or reality of the “OTHER.” This research utilizes the above non-tautologically looped logic. For some, however, this will not be enough.

If you hold unsound presuppositions with sufficient tenacity, facts will make no difference at all, and you will be able to create a world of your own, totally unrelated to reality and totally incapable of being in touch by reality. Such a condition (which philosophers call solipsistic, psychiatrists call autistically psychotic, and lawyers call insane) is tantamount to death, for connection with the living world is severed. (Montgomery, 1999, pp. 122-3)

These individuals, organizations, and cultures have chosen to live in a tautological loop. Self-talk is their choice. 

(References Link)

A Perspective VIDEO on TRUTH (Link)


TPM Fig 01

  Figure 2:       

TPM Fig 02

    TPM Fig 03


TPM Fig 04

TPM Fig 05

TPM Fig 06


TPM Fig 07

 TPM Fig 08


 TPM Fig 09

 TPM Fig 10

 TPM Fig 11

TPM Fig 12

TPM Fig 13


TPM Fig 14

TPM Fig 15


TPM Fig 16