While combing the library shelves for the book of John Paul II poetry, I happened on another book by the pontiff that I thought I would check out. Crossing the Threshold of Hope has the late Pope addressing head on some of the simple questions – is there a God, can you prove Jesus was divine, why is there evil in the world – you know, the light stuff.
Read several chapters on the plane, and I have to say, the guy was getting my ire up. Not that John Paul was saying things that irked my sensibilities, but because the guy was so dang wise. And that makes the pikers that are leading other parts of the Church look even more dim-witted in their attempts to appear clever.
The fella I was thinking of as I read the words of Threshold was the preacher at the church I visited on my trip. His topic was the Bible, and he started by pointing out The DaVinci Code was opening this Friday. A lot of people are going to be questioning the validity of the Bible after seeing that movie, he said, so it was a grand time to give his congregation the tools to defend the attacks on the Bible that the book purports.
All righty, thinks I, this is just the sermon I was hoping to hear.
So this guy outlined four ways to prove to an unbeliever that the Bible is true. Ways one through three can be summed up thusly: because the Bible says that the Bible is true. Yep, he was advocating that we, with a face as straight as his, tell someone who doesn’t believe that the Bible is true that Paul said it was true, and thereby end all debate.
That is akin to saying that one can prove that The DaVinci Code is true, by turning to the preface and pointing out that Dan Brown says it is true. If I think Danny is lying on page sixty-eight, am I really going to take his word as gospel on page ix?
Way four was his claim that he wasn’t going to hell when he died, and it was the Bible that pointed him to such a salvation, so the Bible must be true. This is an argument that could have worked – pointing out that the Bible leads to true things; however, he had no backup for his claim that he was heaven bound, except that the Bible says so. Back to arguments one through three.
John Paul, in addressing the question of proving the ineffable, speaks of Scriptures, and of philosophers (Christian, atheist and in between) from Wittgenstein to Descartes to Voltaire, and of experience (human, moral and historical), and of science. And he does so in a simple voice, so that any layperson could follow the argument.
In other words, he engages in dialogue knowing his stuff, and is able to converse with more than just those that already agree with him.
Too many of us are content to argue thusly: “You should believe because I believe,” and then we stick our fingers in our ears and sing loudly, “la la la la, I can’t hear you, la la la!”
Because that has worked so well for us before…
Just my thoughts,