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“What Is Truth?” Part 2

Joseph Nkwatle

‘“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.

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.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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