Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who can we trust?

“All those things which can be thought with the heart, or spoken with the tongue, or seen with the eyes, or felt with the hands, are as nothing in comparison with those which we can neither think, nor see, nor touch. All the saints and wise men who have passed away, and all those who are now in this present life, and all those who shall come after us—all those who have spoken or written, or shall speak or write of God—shall never be able to show forth so much of Him as a grain of millet in comparison with the whole extent of heaven and earth; nay, a thousand thousand times less.”
—The Sayings of Brother Giles of Assisi, Ch. 2

“I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.”
—Attributed to Yuri Gagarin, 
the first man to go into space,  but now known to have been fabricated and used as propaganda by Nikita Khrushchev. Gagarin was a faithful, baptised Orthodox Christian.

“The visualization of the cosmos presented from the center outward is:

The Isle of Paradise — the most gigantic organized body of cosmic reality in all the master universe.

The Sacred Spheres of Paradise — twenty-one enormous worlds, three circuits of seven worlds each — the Worlds of the Father, the Worlds of the Son, and the Worlds of the Spirit orbiting in three processions on the inner margin of space.

Havona — one billion (1,000,000,000) perfect worlds across seven circuits, with upwards of thirty-five million worlds in the first or inner circuit, over two hundred and forty-five million worlds in the seventh or outermost circuit, and proportional numbers of worlds in the intervening circuits.”

The three quotes above are about "what we can know" about reality, about God (if there is one), about our place in the universe. Most of the indifference of modern man to God and specifically to the claims of Jesus Christ hinges on the idea that it is impossible to know for certain anything at all about these things, and therefore they can have no application or relevance to modern life. What we cannot know for sure can't help us or, in existential terms, can't save us.

Philosophers and theologians, what do they say? Is there anything that can guarantee for us that the teachings, the theories, the speculations of such historical figures as Moses, Plato, Gautama, Jesus, Augustine, Muhammad, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Blaise Pascal, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or C. S. Lewis are true in any real sense? Aren't they, after all, just words that you can read, think about, try to practice, or even just decorate your mind with? Sure, some of these people lived exemplary lives. Some are said to have performed miracles, well… hmph, who can know if they really did? Aren't we still just reduced to sorting out opinions about reality? Where are the irrefutable proofs?

Like the cosmonaut who was supposed to have said, “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God,” we want to be able to see and experience, empirically, the reality, the ultimate reality, God or whatever, that is supposed to be there. Or like the mysterious author of The Urantia Book, do we want to simply skip over the existential encounter, since it is probably not possible anyway, and just dream up something so intricate, so detailed, that entering into it we need never come out again to answer the question?

The easy answers, atheism—“I didn’t encounter God”—and fantasy—“The Isle of Paradise — the most gigantic organized body of cosmic reality…” turn out, of course, not to be answers at all. Only the realist, the honest philosopher who like Brother Giles says, “All those things which can be thought with the heart… are as nothing in comparison with those which we can neither think, nor see, nor touch,” only that man stands at the threshhold of knowing the Truth. Why? Because he has honestly realised the only thing anyone can, that we are in fact unable to know the ultimate Reality in a human way, from our end of the range of being.

Who, then, can help us? Who can we trust, since it seems we can't trust ourselves?
So now it comes to this, that we want to know the truth, and we're told to trust?

Knowing that I can know so little, knowing that in an everyday manner I do actually trust more than I know, even that doesn't help me. The teachings and even the example of Jesus Christ, transmitted to me after two thousand years, in themselves these cannot assure me that His claims are true. If I am honest and not trying to protect my "religious" heritage, I have to say, though the Christian faith in content is the best I can find, it still contains no guarantees. I have to trust more than I can know.

And that trust devolves to a single thing being literally true, without which nothing else can be certain—Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

This is something that has to have happened about two thousand years ago, if it happened at all. The event is very poorly attested in writing, just whatever has survived in a few passages in the New Testament. It is on something of such scant witness and reliability that I am reduced to wagering my life.
Yes, I wager my life.
I didn't see it happen, and I'm just taking it on trust.

The only proof I have now is, not scientific, not philosophical, not speculative, but historical.
I didn't see the resurrection with my own eyes, but not many have.
The honest ones have said over and over again, "We can know so little…"
But almost from the very moment of that supposed event, the rising of Jesus from the dead, we find men and women willing to wager their lives, their physical, earthly lives, their livelihoods, their reputations, their families, all that they were, all that they possessed, to attest the truth of it. And though they may have known so little, they received so much.

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV

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