Christian Foundations for Faithful Thinking: Truth is Personal
If knowing is communion, then the other side of that is Truth is Personal. But this is not such a leap, after all, Jesus calls himself the Truth. St. Paul says of Christ, that “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Truth is absolute, because Truth is a Person: namely, Christ; or more broadly, the Holy Trinity.
But we are not used to this understanding. Ours is an inheritance from the Enlightenment, and for us, truth is exclusively propositional, intellectual. But this conception has led to the Cartesian problem of the split between mind and body. This semi-Gnosticism has made its way into modern Christianity as well. On the one hand there are the mainline liberal churches which boil Christianity down to a few main propositions–keeping them as vague and general as possible for the sake of ecumenism–which have no real connection to morals and ethics, aside from some nice slogans. For example, the Episcopal Church officially has no doctrine on sexuality. The concept of love for one another gets bandied about, but when it comes to what one does with one’s body, it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, in the more conservative evangelical world, there are, indeed, moral truths, but once again, these things are relegated to intellectual propositions and moral codes, for the most part.
But if Truth is Personal, then it is also Incarnational. If Jesus is the Truth in his Person, this has to mean that Truth is embodied. So in faithful Christian thinking there is no mind-body dualism. There are intellectual truths, to be sure, just as there are truths about one’s person and body. But these are not split, but are joined together in perfect union. So when Paul exhorts us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, he calls this our “reasonable worship.”
Precisely because of this embodied nature of Truth, as Christians understand it, the Truth is freedom. And we shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set us free; for freedom Christ has set us free. This is not always the case when insistence is made the Truth is essentially propositional. The difficulties here is that reason’s rules often bind in logical necessity that do not allow for embodiment. Indeed, this is the trap of the Law from which we have been sprung. One can reason oneself into extreme ethical dilemmas, which a fuller Christian perspective on Truth would resolve.
Take for example, the arguments for pacificism. They are extremely persuasive on rational grounds, because they subscribe to principle which necessitate certain conclusions. But they also fail to embody themselves in concrete situations. From a few simple premises, for example (one should not kill or resist violence; God is completely sovereign; one cannot know the future), it is possible to argue that one should not kill or attack a murdering rapist who has a knife to the throat of your infant daughter and is about to rape your wife. The answer that one’s bonds of love to family demands protecting their physical, emotional and spiritual welfare is often dismissed as viewing the situation emotionally and not from rational principles. But the fact of the matter is, viewing it with reason and emotion, with the concomitant considerations for potential bodily harm, is a more embodied way of understanding the situation, and is closer to the Truth that came down and was born of a Virgin.
This principle of embodied Truth, is, of course, founded on the primary demonstration of God’s love for us in the Incarnation. God did not communicate to his human creations by mere propositions, as he is pictured having done in Islam. Rather, God communicated in a Person, revealing his Truth not just with intellectual knowledge, but with the knowledge of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight, with the knowledge of personal communion.
Thus if a Christian is going to think faithfully about matters of Gospel and matters of knowledge and insight, he is going to do so not from mere rational propositions, but from the whole of his being. Because it is only from the whole of his being that he can love. And it is only through love that we can know anything at all.
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