How could Buddhism demolish the age of reason..-Vishal Mangalwadi
HOW COULD BUDDHISM DEMOLISH THE AGE OF REASON?
[Chapter 4 TRUTH IS A MATTER OF SPIRIT, NOT STORY]
I come from the same people group as the Buddha -- the Sakyamuni. Therefore, I’m flattered that the Buddha has become one of the most honoured faces in Germany. One can see his statue in almost every second shop. Buddhism has demolished the West’s “Age of Reason.” That is, it has buried the Enlightenment’s confidence that human intellect (logic and physical senses) is sufficient to lead us to truth. We do not need revelation.
Why did logic lose?
Philosophers’ logic lost because Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) could not prove that he exists. He merely believed that he exists.
Descartes failure has forced his intellectual offsprings to question logic’s sufficiency, even validity. Western philosophers have reached the same fundamental conclusions as the Buddha:
(a) The intellect cannot lead us to truth, and
(b) No one exists as a real person -- a permanent self, soul, or spirit. The idea of the “self,” or personal existence, including as male and female, is an artificial, temporary construct.
Today, this Postmodern belief in the unreality of individuality implies that a boy should be free to choose to be a girl. Ever-changing consciousness, i.e. Psychology, not biology, should define us. Consciousness must construct gender.
Descartes argued that he could doubt everything. He could doubt that God exists; that the universe, right and wrong, true and false exist. However, he could not doubt that he was doubting. That would be self-contradictory. Therefore, it would be illogical and false. From this, Descartes reached his famous conclusion: “I think, therefore, I am.” His logic, he believed, had mathematical certainty.
Descartes successors pointed out his fallacy. His logic proved only that doubting (consciousness) exists. It didn’t prove that the doubter (the self) also exists. To prove the doubter (the subject), Descartes needed to prove that every effect “has to have” a cause; that doubts have to be caused by a doubter.
Logic can never prove that every effect has to have a cause. An atheist has to assume that the cosmos is uncaused. Either it has existed forever, or, it just popped into existence without a cause.
Europe’s faith in Reason has come to a sad end. From David Hume (1711-1776) to Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) Reason has driven the West to Buddha’s feet -- to non-Reason; to stories, occult, and mysticism. Logic is incapable of proving that you exist as a self -- a real metaphysical entity.
Knowledge of a particular thing, say “Guava”, requires us to be able to relate it to a universal, a “fruit.” What is Nick (a Particular) can be known only if we can relate it to “boy” (a universal). Likewise, we know what is a boy, by relating it to a larger universal: a boy is a young male “human being”. What is a human being?
Existential philosophers such as Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) realized that we cannot know what is a man in the absence of a larger universal. No finite thing or point can have any meaning without an infinite reference point.
By the end of the 20th century, Sartre’s successors, an influential group of French philosophers called Post-Structuralists, had reached the conclusion that man or individuality is an illusion created by language. Language and literature fabricate the individual person as a real being, a self, soul, spirit, the thinking subject. Language fools you into thinking that you exist as a real, stable, permanent substance or metaphysical entity. In Buddhism, this non-existence of the ‘self’ is called the doctrine of Anatman (no-self).
Is your existence or non-existence an abstract intellectual issue?
Traditional Buddhism never talked about human dignity and human rights because it did not believe that the human ‘self’ was real, let alone valuable and immortal.
Why do you claim a right to “freedom of conscience”? Does your body have an organ called “conscience”? No atheist country has ever respected an individual’s right to conscience because “conscience” is an aspect of your soul. The West developed its peculiar ideas of a unique human dignity and inherent rights only because the Bible taught that the Spirit that created the world made Adam a living soul in His own image. The Creator gave to Adam and Eve abilities, authority, responsibilities and rights that made them different from all other animals.
Post-Structuralists such as Michel Foucault (1926-1984) assumed that the biblical account of Adam and Eve was a story. Therefore, their philosophy viewed “self” as created by language, not God. These philosophers built upon the logic of Europe’s greatest philosophers: David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger. Each of these philosophers took a bit (or much) from Buddhism.
In dreams, drugs, hallucinations, mystic experiences, or mental ‘diseases’, people see, hear, touch, smell, or taste a lot of things. They may talk to ‘beings’ long dead, or to characters that existed only in myths. Such experiences feel real to those who have them. These mental experiences carry their own authority, as does our waking, rational experience. Why isn’t that world ‘real’ in their mind? After all, what we consider the ‘real’, ordinary, external world of everyday experience also exists in consciousness. The idea of our “personal” existence as a real, permanent person is only a tiny idea in the vast ocean of (collective) consciousness.
So, why do we assume that we are real: a “being”; a stable, permanent bundle of consciousness -- soul or spirit? We assume that, Buddhism says, simply because we are ignorant of the reality that no “self” exists as a real entity. Buddhism named this ignorance Avidhya.
Buddhism blamed Avidhya (primeval ignorance) as the source of human bondage. Our salvation, Nirvana, depends on deliverance from this delusion of personal existence. To be saved is the opposite of eternal life. Nirvana or the Buddhist salvation is to be delivered from the delusion that you exist. Buddhist salvation is cessation of existence -- eternal death.
If the illusion of self -- personal existence -- is created by language and thought, then the path to Nirvana lies in “meditation” techniques. We need help to stop thinking, to go within our consciousness, to experience that there is no “I am” inside us -- no self, soul, spirit, or permanent you. Behind fleeting thoughts, there is only emptiness, nothingness, void, silence. Traditional Buddhism never spoke of human dignity and rights, because it believed that the human person does not exist.
Dreams, drugs, and ‘demon possession’ do demonstrate that much of human consciousness is irrational. Why should we then assume that truth is logical?
What is logic?
If personal, rational consciousness is only a temporary, ever-changing by-product of irrational, mythic, Collective Unconsciousness, where does logic or intellect come from?
Buddhism taught that our intellect, like everything else, is a product of cosmic Ignorance -- Avidhya -- and not of divine wisdom (sophia, Word, or “logos”).
How Buddhism Demolished Greek Rationalism
Postmodernism is the second time that Buddhism has triumphed over Western faith in reason. The first time was three centuries before Christ. Back then a Skeptic philosopher, Pyrrho of Elis (360 - 270 B.C), went to India with Alexander the Great. They spent 18 months in what is now Pakistan. This gave Pyrrho plenty of opportunity to interact with the “naked” Buddhist philosophers whom they called “Gymnosophists.”
Alexander had been mentored by Aristotle who codified the valid rules of logic. Even before meeting Buddhists, Pyrrho the Skeptic questioned Aristotle's idea that truth had to be logical.
What made him doubt logic?
It could be because he was married.
My wife and I have been married for 43 years. Therefore we have had plenty of time to quarrel. If a disagreement continues for days or weeks, I come up with three reasons why I am right and she is wrong. I provide evidence and “solid” arguments in defense of my view. Ruth’s exasperated response may be: “I can’t argue with you, but I know you are wrong.”
It may take me ten years to realize that she was right. Then I can give half-a-dozen reasons why she was right and I was wrong. She may still give no logical reasons for her views. She is not dumb: but why bother with reasons if you already know that you are right?
Split brain surgery has shown that the human brain has different compartments. Left (logical, linguistic, mathematical) brain dominates my mind. In her case, the right compartment (intuitive, imaginative, pictorial) brain predominates. My logic may be wrong. Her intuition can also be wrong. Both of us can be wrong at the same time. Our little grandchild may have the correct insight into a situation.
I do not know if marriage taught Pyrrho to be skeptical of Aristotle’s faith in logic. What we do know is that Buddhism destroyed faith in logic because Rationalism had deeper problems.
Rationalism became influential because Socrates questioned Greek stories. He showed that Greek myths contradicted each other. They were illogical.
Socrates disciple Plato, who mentored Aristotle, grasped that logic can be related to truth only if there is Logos behind the universe. Plato conceived of logos as a rational mind/sense/word/principle that permeates the universe. In order to believe our intellect we have to assume that our minds resemble the Intellect behind the cosmos, its logic and language, ethics and aesthetics, mathematics and music.
What is this logos? Where does it come from? Where does it live?
In order to answer such probing questions, Greek Rationalists had to invent new myths. Plato thought that a realm of ideas must exist somewhere. That was an unobservable, philosophical myth. It was not much different from the gods Socrates rejected. Plato’s “world of ideas” had to be assumed. “Assuming” logos, rather than knowing it became a problem for skeptics such as Pyrrho. For Socrates, like the Buddha, had begun his quest by questioning religious myths.
Buddha and Socrates rejected popular gods and goddesses because they were made up. They were also immoral. Priests fabricated gods, often to terrorize, seduce and exploit people.
Rejecting made-up gods and religious stories was easy. The difficult questions were:
If God is non-existent, how can you exist as a real self? How can you be a being who thinks true or false thoughts and communicates them in words that are true or false? How can you be a soul with free will that makes responsible choices: a “person” who could be praised or condemned for what you decided yesterday or decades ago?
If God is non-existent, what is there behind the cosmos? Who designed it and why? What is ultimate reality, or the beginning and the end?
Buddhist philosophers said that Nothingness was behind the cosmos, just as there is no “self” at the root of our self-consciousness or our dreams.
Nothingness is silence. It says nothing. There is no logos, word or sense in the beginning, only Avidhya, Ignorance. Our sense of existence, self-consciousness and intellect are products of cosmic Ignorance. Therefore the intellect cannot know truth. Truth cannot be communicated in words.
Rejection of myths and Rationalism left Buddhists and Greeks with little option. They had to turn to mysticism: to meditation, yoga, tantra, drugs, and other psycho-technologies. These help meditators transcend the trap of rational-personal consciousness. Greek mysticism, called Gnosticism, sought a non-rational experience of that secret Reality which cannot be verbalized.
Many scholars have spent their lives studying Buddhism and ancient Greek civilization. They will find reasons to dismiss my summary as simplistic. Indeed, there are plenty of variations and nuances within schools of Buddhism. Yet, hardly anyone will dispute that Buddhist and Greek cultures failed to develop a high view of a human person. They never debated a woman’s dignity or a child’s rights.
Buddhism enjoyed political patronage in India for centuries. It built impressive centers of learning in places such as Taxila and Nalanda. Yet, the Truth it sought was non intellectual, and mystical. It never developed a deep interest in sciences or humanities.
Buddhism failed to sustain education or develop sciences because it lacked the confidence that the cosmos was real and rational. It did not think that the human mind could know truth, or that human language could communicate it.
Returning Back to Stories
Why did Roman Governor Pontius Pilate dismiss Jesus with the question: What is truth? He did so because, following Pyrrho, Rationalists had given up the hope that the human mind can know truth.
Descartes re-started the Age of Reason in the Seventeenth Century. He followed up his attempt to prove that he exists by trying to prove that God and world also exist. Neither his arguments nor those of his successors succeeded.
What if logic cannot prove God or self? Does that mean that God and you do not exist? Or does it mean that logic is limited or that logic’s value and purpose is different from what Rationalism assumed.
The Enlightenment’s faith in logic reached a dead end with Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Nietzsche courageously acknowledged that western logic killed God. That is, the God who was the conclusion of the arguments constructed by philosophers. Freud had to give up faith in ‘Logic’ that was independent of brain-chemistry. Logic had to be an accidental product of the irrational unconsciousness.
Logic’s failure forced forced Freud’s followers, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, to push the modern world into Postmodern. They opened the doors of the “New Age” of stories. Western intellectuals, including theologians, began going back into myths, magic, and mysticism.
Jung was right in exploring the paranormal, the supernatural, the spiritual. He was honest in recognizing that we have multiple personalities and we hear contradictory voices within us, demonic and godly. Yet, he found no way to answer the core questions:
If God does not exist, can the human self exist as a real person? Can individuals have dignity and rights that are inherent -- “natural” not socially constructed? Does every human being possess rights that transcend the state? Are governments instituted to respect, promote, and protect human rights? Those were important philosophical assumptions behind America’s 1776 “Declaration of Independence”:
“We hold these truths to be [sacred] self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;
Let’s suppose that zillions of meaningless accidents evolved us from lower animals. Therefore, our language is merely an evolved version of the sounds that lower animals make. In that case, can human words be anything other than tools that evolved to help us manipulate each other and our environment?
Cows and monkeys are bought and sold. They are chained and caged. So, why can’t a woman be sold as a sex-slave? Why can’t she be caged and beaten until she is broken? Dehumanized?
Many societies permit parents to abort their babies. Why can’t a society permit people to grow babies in order to sell them or eat them? Is the taboo against cannibalism nothing more than a social prejudice? Richard Dawkins, Oxford’s well-known evolutionary biologist and public atheist, believes that all ethical ideas are man made. There is no God who has commanded, “you shall not commit murder.” Therefore, he says that he is looking forward to eating human flesh. He wants to help demolish another one of our ethical prejudices. He hopes to be able to eat human flesh without going to jail as soon as scientists can grow it in a lab. Uganda’s former dictator, Idi Amin, was able to get one of his 30+wives cooked and eaten without having to go to jail. For the idea that her Creator gave her an inalienable right to life is only a biblical story.
Why Buddhism Lost?
Buddhism and Gnosticism are recognized “pessimistic” worldviews. They don’t believe that the human intellect can know truth. That explains why they paralysed India and Greece before self-destructing. Buddhist sages were brilliant. Their pessimism, however, prevented them from developing vibrant educational, political, legal, or economic theories and practices. They could not cultivate or sustain an interest in technology and science.
In an earlier chapter we discussed that the decadence of Greek culture became the backdrop for the Apostle Paul’s success. Its darkness enabled Europe to see the Gospel as “light.” Paul was able to confront Europe’s mystery religions by proclaiming hidden mysteries that God had made known. God’s revelation was rational. It was communicated in words that could be discussed, understood, believed, applied, obeyed and taught. In this context of Truth revealed in words, “meditation” took on a different meaning. It began to mean ‘think deeply’; the opposite of techniques to silence the mind. Peace came from casting our cares upon our Father, not from temporarily forgetting life’s challenges.
While Paul went to Europe, Christ’s another disciple, Thomas, traveled to India in AD 52. His preaching began to change Buddhism in South India and Sri Lanka. In our day, the Gospel’s most visible impact has been on Dr. Ambedkar’s version of Neo-Buddhism. He had to revive Buddhism in 1956 because by the 13 century, it had ceased to exist in mainline India.
Today, Yoga and Tantra are popular. When I was growing up they were deemed to be dirty words. That began to change only by the end of the 1970s. Initially the Indian press mocked the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, our former Prime Minister, when she adopted Dhirendra Brahmachari as her Yoga teacher. This attitude began to change when the Beatles followed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi into Transcendental Meditation (TM). The hippies brought Yoga and Tantra out of India’s forgotten cloisters. The irony is that TM is a technique to help individuals transcend their illusory individual, rational consciousness. It is meant to help you lose your identity by becoming one with everything.
Why is the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Not Universal?
In the late 1940s, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States’ former First Lady, championed the United Nation’s “Universal Declaration For Human Rights” (UDHR). For the first time in history, on December 10, 1948, nations “adopted” these supposedly “universal” human rights.
In the UN’s General Assembly, 48 nations voted in favor of UDHR. No nation “opposed” human rights. However, eight nations abstained from voting for or against UDHR. Saudi Arabia was most honest: it correctly perceived these human rights were not “universal”. They were a peculiar Christian idea, unacceptable to Muslims. They limit the state’s power over individuals. in 1982, Said Raja’i Khorasan, an Iranian official and representative to the UN explained that the UDHR was a “secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” Therefore, it was impossible for Muslims to implement it without contravening Islamic Law.
Muslim nations could have easily made their critique stronger: lapsed or “secular” Christians who believe that human beings were nothing but animals were “imposing” upon everyone, “inalienable”, “inherent”, “natural” or “fundamental” human rights that were, in fact, “artificial” or peculiar cultural fruits produced by the Biblical theology: the Bible’s teaching that God created “man” (male and female) in His image.
Some people do want to end their “useless” lives. However, most human beings “feel” that they really exist and that they are valuable. A man’s death may make his widow hopeless and depressed. She may want to burn herself on her husband’s funeral pyre as a Sati. Should her relatives assist her suicide?
Many nations made suicide, especially assisted suicide, a crime. If a person is depressed, our duty is to refresh his/her spirit, including by affirming his inherent value. For God Himself turns our mourning into dancing. He gives us beauty for ashes. Jainism, a religion that began in India before Buddhism and prescribes renouncing of clothing or nudity for Digamber ascetics, teaches that starving oneself to death is the highest spiritual practice. It is called Sallekhana.
The West’s unfavourable view of suicide came out of the Bible’s teaching that death is a curse upon human sin. Every human being is precious, even if he/she feels worthless and depressed. God wants to give abundant and eternal life to broken, sinful people.
Are these ideas true? Do individuals have worth and “natural” rights just because they are “human” -- different than animals? Do our souls need restoration as do our bodies?
At the entrance of the St. Gallen’s Abbey Library are engraved the Greek words, psyche latreion: “Sanatorium for the Soul.” That is the source of our modern term Psychiatry. Books and knowledge of the truth are resources for the healing of our souls. It was the study and teaching of the Bible that created the worldview soil, the social climate, which nurtured and blossomed the notions of human dignity and rights. Family, church, and society were intended to build up individuals. Pastoral leadership meant caring for the struggling spirits, strengthening them. . . because the Bible said, “The Lord is my shepherd . . . he restores my soul.”
“What is man?”
It was the Psalmist who asked: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” He recognized that the value and worth of human beings comes not from within, not from society, but from their Creator:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet, . . .
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Pico della Mirandola, as we will see in another chapter, built his Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486) upon such teachings on the Bible.
Do You Really Exist as a Person?
Between 1508-1512, Michelangelo painted the truth on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which captured the Bible’s foundational teaching that created the modern world. In the painting God is making Adam in His image. Adam is on the earth, while Eve is still in God’s arm, waiting to be created. The truth behind the painting is that because the Divine Spirit made you in His own image, you exist as real, spiritual, rational, valuable, immortal self.
Many theologians think that the Bible’s account of Adam’s creation is a story. Jean Paul Sartre, the French atheist existentialist, understood profound implications of the Bible’s account: “Life has no meaning,” he recognized, “the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” That is quintessential Buddhism.
You exist as a real, valuable and permanent spiritual entity “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
The earlier account explains the source of human creativity and authority:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Adam and Eve’s identity as individuals came from God’s relationship with them. God created them to be His children, friends, co-creators, His stewards on this earth. God wanted to “walk” with them, “talk” to them, be their God.
God did not want human beings to be religious. He wanted them to know Him. For spirit is not physical body. It is knowledge -- consciousness. Eternal life is to know God. As Geneva’s reformer John Calvin explained in his 1536 classic, Institutes of the Christian Religion, knowing God enables us to know ourselves.
The Bible taught that the relationship with God was not a matter of seeking power by practicing religious/magical rituals. It was not a matter of listening to or believing pious stories or observing festivals. Neither God nor any priest told a single religious story to God’s friends mentioned in the Bible -- Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. These heroes were called to walk with God, to listen to God, to be their Father’s co-creators as history-makers.
“What is Truth?”
Truth transcends body. It is a matter of spirit. Without the spirit, the postmodern world intellectually dominated by atheists, has to become Post-Truth. Language, that used to communicate truth, has become a tool of manipulation.
The monks at St. Gallen Abbey did not devote their lives to copying, preserving, and studying manuscripts because they were rationalists. They understood their labor as a spiritual ministry. On the Library’s ceiling are painted four historic Church Councils of Nicea (year 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451). Each painting is summed up with a verse from the Bible.
For example, the 381 AD Council is summed up with Acts 15:28. The verse says that the very first Church Council concluded the controversy over the oneness of Jewish and Gentile believers with the words, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” That is, the affirmed equality not a self-evident truth, but as a mystery revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Church did not invent the idea of human equality. It accepted the revealed truth after listening to testimonies of brothers such as Peter, Paul, and Barnabas.
Likewise, the 431 Church Council that met in Ephesus relied upon Jesus’ promise in John 16:3, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Rational words that communicate truth are a matter of Spirit. They are not products of irrational brain chemistry. Friendships or positive relationships rest on trust. Trust is a non-material, spiritual quality. It is cultivated by consistency in truthful communication.
Why did Jesus lay down his life “according to the Scriptures”? He did because he trusted His Father’s word: “Your word is truth.” Abandoning relationships, and cheating your partner is commonplace. Building relationships that you can honour by shedding your blood is something else. It requires you to know what your friend expects and do what will please him/her. This requires listening carefully and understanding. That is the kind of precious friendship/sonship to which God invites us. This kind of friendship makes friends genuinely valuable to each other.
Truth is more than words. Words can be used to deceive and manipulate. At times, truth or deception can be communicated without words. Yet, usually it takes words to understand, confirm, and transmit truth and deception, wisdom and folly, right and wrong. That makes truth and language matters of the spirit. Good spirits as well as bad spirits use language.
Buddhism destroyed India’s confidence that words can communicate truth. That, in turn, destroyed not just quest for knowledge but our languages themselves. A little over two centuries ago we Indians knew absolutely nothing about one of our greatest emperors, Ashoka. “Ashoka Pillars” from two centuries before Christ were standing (or buried) in many parts of India. Their 33 inscriptions were written in Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts. Amazingly, India did not have even one scholar who could read either of these scripts. It took a British officer, James Prinsep (1799-1840), to decipher Ashoka Pillars.
Turning Indian dialects into literary languages was the contribution of Bible translators. They developed all modern indian languages. Many of them served in Calcutta’s Fort William College, which trained British civil servants for India.
The Bible created the modern world that valued language that communicates truth because it taught that God is a Spirit who knows truth and communicates it. Parents teach language to their children so that they may teach what is true or false, right or wrong, wise or foolish. Wise parents and teachers do not teach everything to a child. They allow children and students to research and learn for themselves. This is exactly what God is as our Father. He gave us the gift of language, and the responsibility to develop it so that we may find truth and transmit it.
Later we will discuss how and why Bible translators triggered and led global linguistic revolutions. Bible-based cultures also became the drivers of creativity because John’s Gospel taught that words, truth and creativity are related:
In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
These opening words of the Gospel of John became foundational for the West’s intellectual and educational revolution. John goes way beyond affirming Plato’s insight that the cosmos is rational because it is created and sustained by God’s own Word. John explains that God’s logos is not a philosophical idea, a religious story. John and other apostles saw God’s word and lived with him. They were eyewitnesses of history:
And the Word [Logos] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John [the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
The Bible reveals the opposite of what the Buddha assumed. In the beginning was the Word -- sense, wisdom -- not Silence or Ignorance. God’s Word creates and reveals. The Bible’s main characters changed history because they heard God. They built their lives on the truth, on God’s Word that was revealed to them.
Confronting Europe’s mystery religions, gnosticism, Paul explained, that Truth and language were matters of the spirit. God is a Spirit, a mind (Logos) and He has shared His Spirit with us. We can know and speak because we are spiritual beings:
"Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age . . . we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, . . . these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. . . . “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ."
In the passage above, Paul presents a key truth that the Lord Jesus taught repeatedly:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the 'Spirit of truth', whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, 'the Spirit of truth', who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning."
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When 'the Spirit of truth' comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."
Western philosophy is lost and confused today because first it thought that the human brain, “flesh and blood,” could know truth. Having reached a dead end with Rationalism, Postmodernism had to deconstruct self. Killing God made it necessary for the Postmodern man to follow Buddhism into killing “man”, the thinking, speaking subject.
Wandering around in the darkness of their own making, western intellectuals are now exploring the power of myth and mysticism. What they need is not stories but God’s Spirit of Truth. Truth is the source of human freedom and justice. The knowledge of truth is a matter of spirit. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied:
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him [God’s servant],
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Was Isaiah a romantic poet, or was he a wise prophet, whose words changed history? Let’s explore the power of his creative words.