Mark Eckel of the Comenius Institute has hit the proverbial nail on its head. Christianity is not a mere religion, it is a claim to absolute Truth. Jesus, as CS Lewis noted, forced the world into a difficult corner when he claimed to be the “way, the truth, and the life.” He was either crazy, a bold-faced liar, or the Lord that he claimed to be. Dr. Eckel rightly argues that Jesus’ claim is more than a statement about something being true, he is Truth.
As westerners, Jesus’ claim might be a bit lost on us. We think of truth as a molecular thing – “it is snowing today” is a truth (at least in Lancaster PA on February 18, 2021.) So what does it mean that Jesus is the Truth? The word does not carry for us quite the same meaning as it did for Jesus and his audience. Dr. Eckel summarizes it this way: “transcendence is the basis for any truth.” (emphasis his) This gets us closer to Jesus’ claim. Yet, we need to go a bit further. Truth claims are expressions of human thought – to speak something or think something that is in alignment with the actual state of affairs (I am happy to go down the road of post-Descartes Epistemological theories, but I am imposing on your attention as it is… forgive me Dr. Gettier.) Jesus is not claiming that he is in alignment with reality or that he thinks in a way that is identical with the way reality is. Jesus is claiming more. Let’s take Dr. Eckel’s statement as a point on a line and follow it out further.
Transcendence is the only basis for any truth, because transcendence is the very logic of reality. John, in the first few verses of his Gospel, is quite helpful here. John makes a claim that shutters the very foundations of both western philosophy and eastern mysticism – “In the beginning was the word.” The word (,… um,) word (that was awkward) is “logos.” John does not mean that Jesus is language. John is pulling on the deepest currents of Hebrew theology and Greek philosophy. For the Hebrews the “Word of God” is the very order of the universe as revealed by Genesis 1 and 2. For the Greeks, the “logos” is, as Heraclitus argued, the mind that is the very logic of all reality. Heading down the same path on which Dr. Eckel is traveling – transcendence is the basis for truth because it is the very logic of the universe. Thus, if we are to make sense of our world in any meaningful way, we must begin with he who is entirely outside this world. But there is more.
If we believe that God is the very logic of the universe, then we also claim that this world does not contain its own logic. This is one of the most important assumptions or presuppositions of Christian faith. I would argue this is the most important and even necessary presupposition for any rational thought – this world can work, can build cell phones, and run governments but it ultimately has no meaning of its own. Truth is only true, beauty is only beautiful, and goodness is only good by the Word himself. John clarifies this when he calls Jesus the “light that was coming into the world.” Without Christ all is dark. That does not mean that people who refuse the light cannot learn to live and live well in the dark. However, without the incarnate Christ (the God-Man) who died and rose again, all human efforts are ultimately meaningless.
There is much, much more to say on this – certainly Charles Taylor has done much to shed light on this reality and on the devastating effects of denying reality in this way. I argue that the belief in transcendence as the logic of all reality was the most important intellectual revolution in human history. It seems to have begun with Moses and spread from there. I will return to this from time to time as it is the very architecture of human creativity, reason, and identity. Suffice it to say for the moment that Dr. Eckel has pointed us to the only truth that makes life worthwhile. Thank you Dr. Eckel.
Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things and in him all things hold together.”