"Quid Est Veritas?"

"Behold, the Man!", said Pilate, hoping the beaten Jesus would satisfy the mob, but it was Friday, and they wanted their show, so Pilate sent Jesus to Golgotha, proclaiming he did so under duress from the Jews, and without the innocent blood of Jesus on his hands. 
It would be nice if it were true, perhaps, that we only have to believe that long ago some dead Jewish criminal, executed for sedition against the Roman Empire, and thus having paid the price for all human transgression, rose from his tomb after 40 hours in Hades.

And now, if we proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior of the world, we do not have to die, but can live forever with God in heaven.

Jesus said he came into the world to proclaim this good news, and that his truth is open to any person who has the eyes and ears to see and hear the truth.

And yet, a skeptical heart, which must be the heart of any reasonable person, is drawn to that question allegedly asked by Pilate on Good Friday:

Quid est veritas?—What is truth?

Jesus does not answer Pilate of course. Quid est veritas? is a philosophical question, not a religious one. For a religious person, there is only one answer, without any basis in a tangible, demonstrable fact: God is truth. This is, for a person truly open to the Light of the Holy Spirit, as obvious as saying the sky is blue or that they love their children. It does not, and really cannot be explained to anybody else. It is a matter of deep, and unavoidable, faith in the divine.

But, is this evasion of Pilate's question an honest engagement? If it were a question about anything else, and we answered as Jesus—those who are open to truth will believe me, and otherwise not—we would detect a rhetorical rat. Jesus is implying of course that he possesses and expresses the truth, and the proof of it is that those who believe in him are capable of seeing and hearing the truth. And that is a circular argument.

Now, to be fair, Jesus spends a lot of time explaining what he means by truth, or by a Christian view of it. Basically, he says look to one's actions, in accord with Christian principles, and this reveals the truth of one's heart and convictions, and further is an exemplar of the greater, divine truth at work.

This is very appealing, but it again asks us to assume without evidence that there is a divine truth at work, and that a human being (especially one who claims it) is its holy agent. Why would God, necessarily, have any truth at all, or any purpose or plan to be working out in the Universe? It is fair to say that if he did, he might not see any reason to tell humans about it, or to reveal it in its fulness; but to entertain that point, we have to allow for the possibility of something never demonstrated in the entire history of the world (at least in the part humans have been around to document): that there is any God in the first place.

Let us skeptically demand to be shown, before we start arguing about the nature of God's plan, or how we may or may not fit into it, if there is any God to be making this plan. And what is this extraordinary evidence?

For most Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the answer is: the Bible (and Koran) is the Word of God, and it tells us He is real, and further that he cares about us each and every one.

But if I told you Winnie the Pooh was a documentary of a real animated stuffed bear, you would smile and know I was either exaggerating or suffering from a naive level of literalness.

Am I being insulting comparing the monotheistic holy books to a story meant to enchant children? Perhaps insult is the inevitable result of suggesting that people begin the often excruciating process of growing up.

Recall what Jesus says: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Now, generally, this is interpreted to mean: "Become trusting, unquestioningly faithful, children of God."

However, if you think about it, one of the key characteristics of being a child, even a little child, is that one asks questions. And given that the answers will necessarily be expected by adults to be taken as true without experience or demonstration, a child necessarily takes a lot of his received knowledge of the world on faith alone.

The good little children, presumably, accept what they are told, like what Jesus seems to be saying.

The bad little children, the intelligent ones in other words, knowing they have no personal experience of the myriad alleged facts and truths of the world, make a distinction between what they are expected to regurgitate or affirm to please their masters, and what they actually know. And they will not be able to keep from doing the right thing, to keep asking "Quid est veritas?", or simply "Quid est?"—what is it?

We should recall that Jesus does not say what kind of little child we should be. It is implied that all shall enter the kingdom of heaven, faithful and skeptical alike.

Yet Jesus does tell us that "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed".

But naturally these, like the poor and the meek, would need to be blessed (divinely favored), for they believe unquestioningly, and are at a disadvantage in a world of sharp, unforgiving duplicity. Jesus would tell us however that it is no disadvantage when one naively believes the truth.

That takes us back to Pilate's question, which again Jesus never answered.

As I said in the beginning, it would be nice if it were true, but in light of the lack of any evidence to think it is so, the Christian myth has to be rejected without hope of reasonable resurrection.

Happy Easter.

Comments