Luminouré – Part One: Who Do I Trust?
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen it comes down to the fundamental things that I know, I have come to realize that all I’m sure of is that I am uncertain. There are things that I hold to be true, at least in the sense that they influence my life more strongly than others. There are also other things that I wish I held to be true because I am somehow aware of their value. However, it is hard for me to make a list of things that I know. Even when it comes to teaching, I make students aware that the rules I present are normative and not imperative. There are sometimes when crossing over the lines is actually the right thing to do. Nevertheless to function as a society, we have certain behaviours that we not only adopt but also enforce to keep things flowing. Without these, nobody could get anywhere safely or quickly.
Fundamentally, I believe that truth exists yet I still consider it to be unknowable. Even in the sense that I understand Jesus to BE the truth as He claimed (John 14:6), I still consider Him to be unknowable. The example that I give is like that of a husband and wife who might be married and whose lives are closely connected, but who might forever grow in the knowledge of each other. If it were possible for single individuals to truly know themselves, then perhaps it would be possible to assume that they could know anything else. However, because the first is not possible, the second requires an even greater leap of the imagination.
This last idea makes a single individual the arbitrator of what is, which is contradictory to my assumption that nothing “is” apart from God. All things that exist do so through Him and Collossians 1 makes clear that it is in Jesus that all things hold together. Therefore the individual human is part of a greater story altogether than what he can see, observe, or understand. While God may not be knowable, it is possible to relate to him at an ever-increasing depth. The reason for this does not rest with the understanding of man, but with what we have come to understand about the nature of God and His purpose for humanity in which He sacrifices everything in order to restore a connection. He may not be knowable, but still He has revealed Himself in a way that humanity can understand and relate to. He became a person like us in the form of Jesus.[pullquote-left]He may not be knowable, but still He has revealed Himself in a way that humanity can understand and relate to. He became a person like us in the form of Jesus.[/pullquote-left]
When I ask the question of whether or not I know this to be true, I am hesitant to answer yes, even though I believe it. If someone were to make the claim that what I believe is not true, I would certainly hear their arguments and consider the validity of what I claim to believe, but only if their life aligned with what they claimed. I have made claims about the truth of Jesus, which my life contradicted. Now the opposite is true in which my life makes claims that I cannot substantiate with my words. I have defined myself in terms of the greatest truth that I know of, yet I still leave some room to doubt whether there might be another greater truth yet undiscovered. I have not yet come to rest in my quest for truth and I don’t know why this is still the case.
I have been baptized as a demonstration of full commitment to the gospel of Jesus. My life is aligned inasmuch as I must consciously choose it to be so with the truth of the Scripture (though even using this phrase bothers me), and I have been captivated, embraced, and securely held by a love that I cannot explain and a joy that cannot be expressed. I have tasted through experience the nature of what ‘is’ and still I cannot bring myself to claim that I know it. Perhaps I could relate it to watching a movie in which my heart strings have been played by the hand of the expert director, so that when the film comes to an end, I know more deeply what love could look like. However, if you were to ask me what love looks like, I would probably hesitate before proposing that it could be like what I have just seen. Though something inside of me has the childish desire to run through the streets shouting “I have found it!” can I really be sure of what it is?
On the flip side of this I find that truth also reveals itself in an objective form that is not always present in my experience. Perhaps this is because I do not yet see reality as it is and remain caught in some alternate way of thinking that allows me to explain and engage with the world around me without actually perceiving its nature. [highlight]How can my eyes be opened to discover what this is?[/highlight]
I cannot be content to simply look into the Bible and claim that what I see there explains the nature of reality.Today I shared a discussion with a friend in which we explored the distinction between the Christian belief in Jesus as Lord because of what is written in the Bible and the Muslim belief that Jesus is not God as written in the Koran. Who has a more valid argument if both point to a book as the source of their belief? In the course of our discussion, I found that I could claim that my belief in Jesus is right, but I could not find within me to claim that the Muslim was wrong. I could propose that they were mistaken and might be better off embracing a belief more similar to my own. However, I could not make the claim that I was right and they were wrong if I had nothing more to argue from than my belief in the validity of a book.
Certainly, I believe that the nature of the book is wrapped up in the nature of Jesus and the revelation of who He is. Yet I know that within the Islamic belief system, the Koran also transcends a merely human recording of ideas. It is not just letters and words, but something almost magical in its power and sacredness. Christians do not even treat our holy book with the same sort of reverence. In my opinion, the Bible is a revelation of the Truth because it is a revelation of Jesus. However, in itself it is not truth. This does not necessarily assert that it is false, but [highlight]relegates it to the place of supporting and facilitating an encounter with the truth rather than being the truth in itself.[/highlight] A reflection in the mirror is not the same thing as the object which is reflected. The mirror is simply a means by which the object can be seen. In this way I differ somewhat from a standard evangelical opinion toward the words of God. Does this mean that I think it could be wrong? The answer is no. However, it is possible that the way in which I understand or apply it could be wrong.
The reason today that I am a Christian is not because I looked into the Bible and discovered that I needed to do so. Certainly the revelation it contains was helpful in my conversion, but I owe my response to the knowledge it contains to an encounter with its Author. I would have no value for the book if I did not first love the person about whom it is written. The end goal of my interest in the Bible is its revelation of Jesus, not some abstract truth that it might contain.
I am afraid that my understanding of truth as outlined above may limit the passion that I am willing to display. There are certain people in this world who have a deep-seated knowing that is unfathomable to me. There are some who claim in ignorance to know and others who are so persuaded of the justice of their cause and the validity of their argument that those who hear them speak find growing within them a longing to embrace whatever it is that the speaker has said. Why do I not feel this way about the truth I claim to believe about Jesus? I seem to make a rather strong distinction between knowing and believing something.
As I looked further into this question, I disclosed an idea that perhaps it is impossible to know anything without belief. In order to know my past, I must believe some written or spoken record about what took place. In order to understand and engage with my present, I must believe that certain words and modes of communication can express my ideas. I must even believe that words themselves carry meaning and that when I open my mouth it is not simply meaningless sounds that come forth. The black marks on the computer screen are not just art, but ideas and knowledge locked away in groupings of shapes, letters, words, and concepts. I have learned how to interact with all of these and I might even dare to say that I know something about how to write. I wouldn’t say I know how to write because I have read other authors who I believe do know how to write and I would not compare my own work to theirs for many years to come, if ever. But then again if we are exploring the idea of fundamental truth, one might claim that even these authors I admire did not know how to write, but simply reflected the nature of writing through their works.
The real nature of writing is unknowable and unattainable by the human creature because it is something other than what we are. However, there are some who come closer than others to revealing its nature and these receive our admiration and applause for so familiarizing themselves with writing that the rest of us can enjoy its benefits.
Jesus is said to be like this in regard to the very nature and image of God. To have seen him is to have seen the Father (John 14:9). He is like the one writer who was able to capture and communicate the essence of writing. In Jesus, humanity is able to see the fullness of who the Father is if we are only willing to look and find it.
I write this as if it were a fact. If I were asked if I believe it is true, I would say yes, otherwise I would not write it. On the other hand, do I know it? In whatever respect I might claim to know anything at all, the answer again is yes. But I claim to be unable to know anything and I even question this very claim against knowing because it makes me uncomfortable. I would almost rather be able to know something. Do I believe that it is impossible to know, or is it simply impossible to know without believing? This last question I am finding to carry greater weight the more I press into it. There is nothing that can be known apart from belief. [pullquote-right]There is nothing that can be known apart from belief.[/pullquote-right]
I must believe something, some one, some writing, some experience, some interpretation in order to know anything at all. Thus, whatever I believe must be worthy of trust. Otherwise my knowledge is worthless.
In order to believe, one must first learn to trust. Trust takes time to develop and requires a relationship to exist. Inanimate objects may be easier to trust since they appear more unchangeable in nature and may even find themselves adapting to whatever an individual wants them to be. On the other hand, real people are more difficult to trust, and even more difficult to know. I may know the name (or word) by which I may address another individual and I might even believe that it is their name if I trust that they were honest when they said it was such. I may even believe what they say about themselves and enter into the same sort of incomplete self-knowledge that they possess if I take the time and attention to do so.
‘What do I know?’ therefore becomes a question of ‘who do I trust?’