‘“You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.”’ John 18:37-38
Our understanding of philosophy should or must stem from the fact that, philosophy is a way of attempting to make sense out of our world. There are within the realm of philosophy three divisions of study that together helps us to comprehend the world around us. They are metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology. I do not intend to make a detailed exposition of these disciplines of study; I would rather leave that to philosophers. But my interest however is drawn much to epistemology which seeks to establish how one can know truth and distinguish truth from error. Among other things, epistemology involves the nature of correct thinking and valid reasoning.
Let me put out right here that one of legitimate roles of philosophy is to ask important questions of life. Philosophers have throughout the many years just as you and me, were concerned with such great issues as “What is good?” “What is real?” “What is truth?” like in the case Pilate during the trial of Jesus the Christ. Now, the claim made by Jesus as the truth in scripture left Pilate with a question, “What is truth?” Before attempting this question, I desire that we look at the roles of faith and reason in verifying truth.
FAITH AND REASON In his book “Problems of Christian Apologetics” Bernard Ramm cites four positions that those defending the Christian faith have assumed in an attempt to demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith. These four positions differ mainly in the place each accords to faith and reason. Christian rationalism: One of the best known proponent of this view Raymond Lully who worked as a missionary in Muslim world and died after being stoned attempted greatly to demonstrate that reason alone with regard to truth can validate the Christian position. However, there are two problematic issues with this view. First, its exaggerated emphasis on the role of human intellect, it implies that one would have to be a philosopher to become a Christian. Second, such a stance takes inadequate account of the role of faith and conviction of the Holy Spirit that are taught in the New Testament.
Christian agnosticism: This view altogether is distrustful of the reason in the spiritual realm. It separates faith and reason as belonging to different sections: Reason is for the natural world; faith is for the spiritual world. Blaise Pascal, a renowned French philosopher holds this opinion. Modern existentialist thinkers such as Rudolf Bultman and Karl Barth fall into a similar pattern. The problem with this view is that, faith without rational content leads to uncertainty and doubt.
Logical Christianity: The proponents of this view hold that while reason is the starting point and may go a long way toward truth, the last steps are made by faith. The outstanding example of this perspective is the medieval Roman Catholic philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas.
This view treads between Christian rational and Christian agnosticism. Inherent in this view is that the unregenerate human mind is able to reason its way toward God. Reason is not seen as deceptive, but it is limited. There are strong points in favor of logical Christianity. These include confidence in the rationality of the Christian system and an awareness that there are some mysteries in Christianity which are not subject to natural understanding. However, there are holes in this view, in that it exalts reason at the expense of revelation. Some proponents of this view saw no need for the Bible since God can be perceived through the power of reason. This view just like rationalism decimally fails to give faith its proper place.
Autonomous Christianity: This view appears to be most accepted in the circles of the evangelical because it propounds that faith is self-establishing and, once established, may have been shown to be consistent with reason.
Augustine in the fourth century proposed such a view. Augustine saw faith as the starting point with reason coming next. This is also the stand taken by A.W Tozer who states: What God declares, the believing heart confesses without the need of further proof…It was the attitude of Anselm, “the second Augustine,” one of the greatest thinkers of the Christian era, who held that faith must precede all effort to understanding.
Reflection upon revealed truth naturally follows the advent of faith, but faith comes first to the hearing ear, not to the thinking mind. The believing man does not ponder the Word and arrive at faith by a process of reasoning, nor does he seek confirmation of faith from philosophy or science.
Is this to dismiss scholarship as valueless in the sphere of revealed religion? By no means. The scholar has a vitally important task to perform within a carefully prescribed area. His task is to guarantee the purity of the text, to get as close as possible to the Word as originally given. He must compare scripture with scripture until he has discovered the true meaning of the text. But right there his authority ends.
He must never sit in judgment upon what is written. He dare not bring the meaning of the Word before the bar of his reason. He dare not commend or condemn the Word as reasonable or unreasonable, scientific or unscientific. After the meaning is discovered, that meaning judges him; never does he judge it. Can truth be tested? Can Jesus’ assertion be tested as a true statement? We look at this next week. Shalom!
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.