noblethemes

Quid est Veritas? Answering My Friend

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PilateIn an incisive comment following my last blog article, “God is the God of All Truth: Revised Article,” one dear, old friend of mine asked the perennial question, “What is truth?” It is, of course, the same question asked by Pilate to Jesus, “quid est veritas?” (John 18.38)

Down through the ages, many answers have been offered, yet none have completely satisfied. However, years ago it occurred to me that, for the Christian at least, Truth (with a capital “T”) is not primarily conceptual, as the philosophers and many theologians would have it.

Why do I say this? Jesus the Christ said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14.6a, NRSV) This is an important claim that I fully believe has not been deeply and seriously explored and considered enough epistemologically by Christian philosophers and theologians. The implications, I believe, are quite astounding.

However, one must first ask if Jesus was only  relating this claim to the second part of his statement, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, he may have been circumscribing his claim to salvation/justification only, essentially saying, “I am the only true way to the Father, which, of course, is the only means to authentic life.”

I do not believe so for at least two reasons:  1) Jesus uses the definite article “the” (η αληθεια), which is distinguished from the other two very definite claims of being the way and the life,  2) God is not only the God of truth; God is truth. Scripture testifies, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (I John 1.5b, NRSV) Therefore, his claim to being “the Truth” would seem to extend beyond salvific considerations.

And what does this mean? While I am certainly not an erudite intellectual, still less philosopher or theologian, I venture to say that this means Truth is not primarily conceptual; rather Truth is the Person of Jesus the Christ. Consequently, then, Truth is personal, and being personal, then Truth is also relational and communal. This may seem subjective, and perhaps it is, but it is not an anomaly in world history.

If I am wrong, anyone is at liberty to correct me, but for most of the history of our world ~ especially focusing on the Ancient Near East ~ peoples were very “narrative.” They were story-tellers, and they did not approach truth, first and foremost at least, conceptually (or scientifically, one might say). And so far as history was concerned, it was not so much an academic discipline as it was an art.

This does not mean that for millennia upon millennia peoples lied about their history and heritage, their beliefs and understandings of life and the world. It was simply (but importantly for our consideration) an altogether different world. The idea of truth (or Truth) being conceptual would have to wait for the advent of the great Greek philosophers and their mostly Western successors.

Mind you, I am not arguing that truth is not conceptual; that would be an absurdity. That would be saying that truth is not related to or based upon mental ideas and/or notions (according to the basic definition of conceptual). What I am saying is simply that the answer to the question, “quid est veritas?” is first of all an imperative correction, at least for the Christian, in rephrasing the query, as such: “Truth is not so much ‘what,’ but ‘who.’ And the answer to this is the Person of Jesus the Christ, or more expansively, the living, dynamically personal, relational, communal God.”

This being the case, then, Truth in toto is living and dynamic, relational and directly or indirectly communal; yet this without being self-contradictory. If the Eternal One had gifted me with greater intellectual ability I might be better able to explain this idea/perspective; however, this all is foundational in understanding how it is that I have no problem not only accepting truth wherever truth is found, but also deeply appreciating and benefiting therefrom, because whatever truth in consideration is only one truth that is an almost organic part of the whole living, breathing, dynamically personal Truth, who is God, who is Truth.

Really,  I can only close by repeating an insinuated appeal made earlier, to wit: Christian philosophers and theologians ought to “tackle” this subject more seriously, passionately, and deeply. (Perhaps some have, but not to my admittedly limited knowledge.)  My own reply here is, perhaps, paltry, but important and sincerely my best effort.  God bless all who read, and have mercy on this imperfect thinker and writer.

 

 

Written by noblethemes

September 20, 2014 at 9:15 PM

God is the God of All Truth: Revised Article

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The great Medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, taught that “one should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds.”[1] Touché! If God is the God of truth – more than this, if God is truth, as the Christian claims – then it naturally follows that all truth ultimately derives from God, no matter the earthly source; therefore, “never speak against the truth, but of your own ignorance be ashamed.”[2]

Now, at the point, many of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ might be tempted to naively limit truth to only that which is found in the holy scriptures of the Christian faith. This line of thinking is easily refuted by the simple reality of the world that has always existed beyond the narrow confines of the Ancient Near East; i.e. the Judeo-Christian scriptures say nothing of the peoples or cultures or historical events of the Korean peninsula, or North and South America, etc. Not surprisingly then, speaking from the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, Fr. John Garvey notes:

Orthodox have believed from the earliest years of the Church’s history that God has worked outside the boundaries of the Church and that religious truths have been manifested in other places. In its missionary work, Orthodoxy has at times been able to bless traditions that originated outside of Christian belief because they not only did not contradict Christian belief but also in some ways were consistent with it and, therefore, should be received.[3]

Perhaps, though, my beloved brothers and sisters of a more narrow mindset would limit the truth in question to spiritual truth – that is, that truth necessary unto salvation – precluding all other religious writing and sacred literature as being false or, at the very least, completely unnecessary. That is to say, all necessary and profitable spiritual truth is contained within the Christian scriptures and these scriptures alone.

Ah, but this is a dubious perspective at best. Again Fr. Garvey answers, “It is unlikely that God would make the right path so completely obscure that only one tradition could see it all, and all the others would be completely lost.”[4] Of course, the Apostle St. Paul certainly did teach that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”[5] What of this principle?

Forget for the moment that the Apostle was referring to the Old Testament (or Hebrew scriptures), which, interestingly enough, had not even yet been finally canonized in totalitas. Let’s go ahead and apply his statement to the whole of the Christian scriptures (full canon, mind you). To say that “all scripture is inspired by God” is not the same as saying “God inspired only scripture.” St. Paul was making a statement about one particular body of sacred writings; he was decidedly not  circumscribing the possible inspirations of God throughout the rest of the world. As the renowned evangelical Protestant theologian, Clark Pinnock, beautifully points out:

Counting against restrictivism is not only God’s nature as Father and the universality of the atonement of Christ, but also the ever-present Spirit, who can foster transforming friendships with God anywhere and everywhere… Indeed, “the Spirit meets people not only in religious spheres but everywhere – in the natural world, in the give-and-take of relationships, in the systems that structure human life. No nook or cranny is untouched by the finger of God. His warm breath streams toward humanity with energy and life.[6]

At this point, some may concede but ask, “Why bother with other religious writings or sacred literature, though? Do we not have enough in the Christian scriptures?” The answer to this is rather simple, really, but important: 1) To broaden one’s psychological, cultural, and spiritual perspective, 2) To deepen one’s own spirituality,  3) To better understand many truths of the Christian faith taught from a slightly different perspective arising from out of a different time and culture,[7]  4) To more firmly establish universal divine truth, revealed by the one true and living God, and  5) To better prepare one to knowledgeably, in an irenical dialogue present the Good News of Jesus the Christ.[8]

Certainly St. Jude had no problem with this as he authoritatively referenced the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses as points of truth.[9] Even the Apostle St. Paul quotes Greek poets to make, or buttress, an important point of truth when he says, “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”[10]

So, yes, “all scripture is inspired by God;” however, the light of God has shone forth throughout the world, throughout all generations, even if it was but moonlight in comparison to the brilliance of his revelation to one especially chosen people. Hence, there is no reason the Christian cannot and should not benefit from the sacred literature of the world without compromising his or her creedal convictions; after all … the moon may be dimmer, yet it also has a splendor all its own, and the same God created both.

 

[1] Joseph I. Gorfinkle, trans., The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics, 35-36

[2] Wisdom of ben Sirach 4.25, NABRE; cf. also Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, 652: 2467-2469

[3] John Garvey, Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions, 17

[4] Ibid, 17

[5] II Timothy 3.16, NRSV

[6] Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, 186-187

[7] For points one and three, cf. John Garvey, Op Ct., 24; Francis J. Hall, Theological Outlines, 138: 6.6

[8] For Points four and five, cf. Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 49: 170; J. Garvey, Op Cit, 23-24

[9] Cf. Jude 1.6, 9

[10] Acts 17.28, NRSV; Note: In the first, St. Paul is likely quoting Epimenides of Knossos (6th Century B.C.), while in the second he is quoting Aratus of Soli (3rd Century B. C.)

My Only Friend Darkness

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My only friend is darkness.

All through the day I call on You, the Everlasting;
I stretch my hands to heaven, weeping and fasting.
Imprisoned in the darkness in the deepest abyss,
No friendly soul, no sound to relieve my loneliness.

What have I done, my God, to incite your anger?
Whom have I hurt to place my soul in such danger?
Yet You have cast me down into the lowest grave;
Will You not now hear me, my very life to save?

Why do You cast me off and reject me, my Lord?
In terror You unsheathe Your double-edged sword.
Your wrath sweeps over me like the terrible flood
As I plead the mercy of Your beloved Son’s blood.

But my only friend is darkness.

(Note:  Inspired by the 88th Psalm)

Written by noblethemes

September 8, 2014 at 8:33 PM

God is the God of Truth … Anywhere and Everywhere

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religionThe great Medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, purportedly said, “We must accept truth wherever we find truth.” Touché! If God is the God of truth – more than this, if God is truth, as the Christian claims – then it naturally follows that all truth ultimately derives from God, no matter the earthly source.

Now, at the point, many of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ might be tempted to naively limit truth to only that which is found in the holy scriptures of the Christian faith. This line of thinking is easily refuted by the simple reality of the world that has always existed beyond the narrow confines of the Ancient Near East; i.e. the Judeo-Christian scriptures say nothing of the peoples or cultures or historical events of the Korean peninsula, or North and South America, etc.

Perhaps, though, my beloved brothers and sisters of a more narrow mindset would limit the truth in question to spiritual truth – that is, that truth necessary unto salvation – precluding all other religious writing and sacred literature as being false or, at the very least, completely unnecessary. That is to say, all necessary and profitable spiritual truth is contained within the Christian scriptures and these scriptures alone.

Ah, but this is a dubious perspective at best. Certainly, the Apostle St. Paul did teach that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (II Timothy 3.16, NRSV)  Forget for the moment that the Apostle was referring to the Old Testament (or Hebrew scriptures), which, interestingly enough, had not even yet been finally canonized in totalitas. Let’s go ahead and apply his statement to the whole of the Christian scriptures (full canon, mind you). To say that “all scripture is inspired by God” is not the same as saying “God inspired only scripture.” St. Paul was making a statement about those scriptures; he was decidedly not  circumscribing the possible inspirations of God throughout the rest of the world.

At this point, some may concede but ask, “Why bother with other religious writings or sacred literature, though? Do we not have enough in the Christian scriptures?” The answer to this is rather simple, really, but important: 1) To broaden one’s psychological, cultural, and spiritual perspective, 2) To deepen one’s own spirituality, 3) To better understand many truths of the Christian faith taught from a slightly different perspective arising from out of a different time and culture, and 4) To more firmly establish universal divine truth.

Certainly St. Jude had no problem with this as he authoritatively referenced I Enoch and the Assumption of Moses as points of truth. (Cf. Jude 1. 6, 9) Even the Apostle St. Paul quotes Greek poets to make, or buttress, an important point of truth. (Cf. Acts 17. 28ff)  So, yes, “all scripture is inspired by God;” however, the light of God has shone forth throughout the world, throughout all generations, even if it was but moonlight in comparison to the brilliance of his revelation to one especially chosen people. Hence, there is no reason the Christian cannot and should not benefit from the sacred literature of the world without compromising his or her creedal convictions; after all … the moon may be dimmer, yet it also has a splendor all its own.

River of Life

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One River of Life, twisting and turning and every flowing,
And never changing, despite the winds of change blowing;
Quickly here, slowly there, brackish some and also clear,
Translucent and wholesome yet sinister and most austere.

Some fight upstream in hopeless effort to reach the source,
Only to tire and weary, to be swept along the River’s course;
While others swim and play and leap, hopping and popping
In the ever flowing current with ne’er an idea of stopping.

Not all swim; they are just carried along, ever quite content,
But all reach the same end no matter how the trip was spent;
For there each is engulfed in the Ocean deeper than deeps,
Vast and endless and peaceful, where the sun never sleeps.

Written by noblethemes

June 7, 2014 at 9:57 PM

Falling Out of Illusion

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Ah! Have I been deceived? Yes, but by my own weakness falling prey to another, the Enchanter, the god of grand vision and illusory promises.

But this other god now frightens me;
This other god is old and cold,
But not the Ancient of Days,
No! Now I know!

Love and mercy are not his ways.
The other god is stiff and barren,
And he makes me cringe,
Pushing me off to the outer fringe.

Ah! But that god is not You,
No! Now I know!
Which is why my faith can begin again.
Protected by Your right strong arm,
Kept safe from all harm.

I can rest myself against Your breast,
And say, ‘I love You,’
And hear the beat of Your heart,
And the whisper, ‘I love you, too.’
Amen.

Being Human: What It All Really Boils Down To

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I know I have posted this poem elsewhere on my blog, but I did so without any explanation … assuming, of course, that the intelligent read would understand. And I do not doubt for a moment that most people have understood; nevertheless, I feel compelled to re-submit this as an actual blog “article” with the explicit explanation that in the ultimate scheme of life in this time, in this world, no one is really “better” than anyone else … an unadulterated truth taught by the greatest of faith/religious leaders down though the ages. More specifically, my “target” audience are those who, like myself, adhere to the Christian faith.  All too often, I have found it to be tragically the case that “Christians” look down their long noses, so to speak, at “those people,” without realizing that in truth ~ in reality, in this time, in this world ~ they are no better whatsoever. And that is what this poem is all about…

I am the pusher, the user, the drunkard laid upon the floor;
I am the whore, the prostitute, the refuse knockin’ at your door;
I am the working man, poor man, the child starving in the night;
I am the sick, the diseased, the dying from an unknown plight…

I am the albatross around your neck,
The nightmare that will never go away;
I am the life of promise become a wreck,
The horror of creation, ever here to stay.

I am the rapist, heartless killer, the thief in the dark;
I am the demon, the beast, stamped with the mark;
I am the singer, the binger, the beloved movie star;
I am the doctor, lawyer, the friendless man at the bar;

I am your brightest dream that faded away,
All of your hopes and prayers for a better day;
I am the inescapable truth of life in this world,
The vilest evil, what makes the blood run cold.

And what will you do with me, saddled as you are ~
Such a troublesome burden, and creation’s scar?
Will you throw me away and simply let me be,
When you realize that I am you and you are me?

Now I might only add the scriptural truth that “there is no one righteous; no, not even one… For all have fallen short of the glory of God: therefore, judge not that you be not judged.”  Right?

Right!

 

Written by noblethemes

May 4, 2014 at 7:15 PM

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