Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Father Don Imming I know there are people who say that religion is about feelings and has very little to do with the truth. But that is not what Christianity has historically thought of itself, nor is it what Jesus taught according to the gospels. When Jesus stood on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, he was asked whether he was a king. In effect Jesus says it depends on what you mean by king � he had previously, as recorded by John's gospel, avoided the title. But Jesus rather describes himself as follows:

"The reason I was born, the reason why I came into the world, is to testify to the truth. Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice." (John 19/37b)

Pilate retorts: "Truth! What is that?"

Our age, like Pilate's, is very cynical about the truth. Many appear to have quit believing in it. But in another place Jesus assures his disciples:

"If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8/31-32)

Jesus was not a philosopher. He was in the Jewish prophetic tradition. He spoke as a prophet and more than a prophet, as God's son. His message was not a carefully reasoned message, but one revealed by his father. He taught the truth with a capital "T." What I mean is that he taught those things which were answers to the big questions people ask about life: What is my relationship with my creator; with the universe in which I live; with other people; with myself? Every other truth, no matter how important, pales in significance with these. These constitute the truth.

This is not to imply that other truths are not important or insignificant. Much of the Christian tradition through the ages has placed a great value to the pursuit of all truth and the sciences held in great esteem. During the medieval period this was markedly so. Reason itself is not therefore to be despised. In fact it bears witness to the same truth that faith does. It supports faith by helping us to see that faith is reasonable. The purposiveness of nature is a signpost pointing us to God. Jesus's miracles are divine credentials authenticating his mission. The very survival of the church over 2,000 years of traumatic history is a reason for taking her claims seriously. We use our human reason to read these signposts pointing to God and his activity in the world. Reason does not take the place of faith, God's special gift, which empowers us to believe. But it does help us to see that belief is reasonable.

Recently I viewed Ted Koppel's show on TV, Nightline. There was a kind of debate over the Kansas Board of Education's decision not to require that Darwin's theory of evolution be taught in the public schools. I don't wish to comment on that decision. But I was struck by what one participant seemed to be saying. He described himself as being a believer (religious) and also committed to the scientific position that nature evolved. He came dangerously close in his comments to saying that something could be true in science and false in religion and vice versa. That seems to me to be patently false. Truth is truth. Reason and faith witness to the same truth. If evolution and religion appear to be at odds on at least some aspects of this question, the discrepancy must be in our perception of the truth in question. Science, due to its method, has its perception of how creation came about, and religion its perception. But ultimately, if the two are proceeding legitimately, their positions must be reconcilable.

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