TRUTH IS LOVE
(In the light of Christ’s philosophy)
(Interactive session on 21.2.2015)
Keynote address by Ms. Meriel Michael
(Other participant speakers: Mr. Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Arun Sahu, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Mr. P.C. Jha, Mr. Ranjit Ghosh & Mr. R. K. Gupta)
[Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Dasgupta]
Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha
Truth in philosophical parlance denotes a thing, concept or existence that is non-transient, immutable and ever-lasting, or in other words, a permanent reality. Since God is the only existence that is believed to be permenent and non-transient, Truth is held as synonymous with God. Now, going by the caption of our topic, the question is whether God can be equated with love.
Theists firmly believe that God has created this universe which inter alia includes human beings. Since it is but natural that one would love one’s creation, the proposition that God loves all would stand to logic. However, following rider or caveat is often introduced by pedantists that God loves all those who listen to God’s command and do what God wishes. Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace as they flouted God’s command by tasting forbidden fruit. Some pedantists, however, subscribe to the view that irrespective of the sin committed by Adam and Eve, God continued to love them. It is also propagated by priests and philosophers that the ultimate purpose of life is to love God. Thus we have following two propositions before us: God loves all, and we must love god.
The caption of our topic, however, goes beyond the above two propositions. If God is love, can we say that we love / worship God by loving someone, some community, or for that matter, all beings. Or the word ‘love’ should be strictly restricted to God only and not to any lesser beings, thereby making a distinction between God, the Creator and His creation so far as dispensation of love is concerned. Obviously, in the above context, the meaning of the word ‘love’ needs to be explored.
Since our topic has a reference to Christ’s philosophy, let us first dwell upon Jesus and his thoughts relating to God and love, before we deal with the question whether Truth can be equated with love.
Does God exist?
Is there a creator? The scientists are the ones who delve into nature and can answer such questions. In the words of Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Genome Research Institute, “The scientific method can really only answer questions about HOW things work. It can’t answer questions about WHY – and those are in fact the most important ones. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does mathematics work so beautifully to describe nature? Why is the universe so precisely tuned to make life possible? Why do we humans have a universal sense of right and wrong, and an urge to do right – even though we disagree on how to interpret that calling?”
“Confronted with these revelations, one may reasonably infer that the proposition that faith is the opposite of reason — is incorrect. Scripture defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Evidence! Theists argue, not unreasonably, that atheism is, in fact, the least rational of all choices. As Chesterton wrote, “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas … for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” How could we have had the arrogance to make such an assertion? It will be more rational to accept the plausibility of a powerful force, a creative Mind, that exists outside of Nature.”
The following observation of Stephen Hawking, though known by now to be a sceptic, if not an atheist, published in The Times, 6th September, 1993, is pertinent to the core issue: does God exist?
‘If the density of the Universe one second after the Big Bang had been greater by one part in a thousand billion, the Universe would have re-collapsed after ten years. On the other hand, if the density of the the Universe at that time had been less by the same amount, the Universe would have been essentially empty since it was about ten years old. How was it that the initial density of the universe was chosen so carefully? May be there’s some reason why the universe should have precisely the critical density.’
Dr. John Polkinghorne, a well-known quantum physicist and former President of Queen’s College, Cambridge, is apparently stuck by the astounding configuration of energy and matters to bring in existence the universes and lives. In his words:
“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going. For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe’s history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 1060. The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy. For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davis of what that accuracy means. He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away and hitting the mark!”
From the above citations, one may find it logical to infer that the orderly, well designed and accurately crafted laws of nature leading to the formation of the universes and lives have an underlying purpose, obviously of the creator who is called God. Let us now take our discussion to the next level – the purpose of the creation.
Does creation and life have a purpose?
Why am I here and what is life for? what is my purpose in life? Am I of any value? Those are the refrains of a questioning mind.
To put it clearly, do I have time to discover why I was born before I die? Why do I have to know this answer? Because I am unable to believe creation was only an accident, and if it wasn’t one, it must have some meaning. Is there any meaning in my life that will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death which awaits me? All these fundamental questions are answered by Jesus.
Given a Creator, I believe that there has been an intelligent purpose to the entire creation. What is that purpose? Christians know that all humans were created to live in a loving relationship with God. He did not need us, but we need Him. Without the relationship with God there will always be a hunger, an emptiness, a feeling that something is missing.
Sometime people say that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. But it is possible to be sincerely wrong. Adolf Hitler believed he was right and killed millions of people, as did Pol Pot in Cambodia. One’s belief affects one’s behaviour. Thus it matters a great deal what we believe, because that dictates how we shall live.
Jesus said “ I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. He who believes in Me shall not perish, but have everlasting life”
The proof that Jesus existed?
Jesus was a historical person. There are contemporary writings which mentioned Him. The Jewish historian Josephus born in AD 35 mentions Jesus as a wise man and his followers as coming from both Jews and Gentiles. Two Romans, Tacitus and Suetonius have mentioned him in their writings.
The second proof is the existence of documents mentioning Him. There exist actual copies of full manuscripts of the New Testament (which applies to the life of Jesus) from as early as AD 350. There is a fragment of the gospels carbon dated to around AD 125, papyri in existence from the 3rd century containing most of the New Testament. We can compare the position of other historical works authored by scholars like Herodotus (428 BC), Thucydides (400 BC), Tacitus (100 AD), Julius Caesar’s Gallic wars (58-50 BC), Livy’s Roman History (59 BC – 17 AD) etc. with that of New Testament written in AD 40 – 100, the full manuscript of which was available in AD 300 – 350 only. It is important to note that the number of copies of those ancient works available at the material time or after about a few centuries did not exceed a few hundreds. Just as the historicity of the narratives of those ancient scholars or personalities is not in doubt, by the same logic historicity of the New Testament or its central character, viz. Jesus, cannot be in doubt.
From the above facts it is clear that He existed and that the Gospels on which our knowledge of Him is based are eyewitness accounts of his life.
Some people call Him a great teacher or a prophet but no more than that. His disciples and followers do not accept such categorisation. The Christian contention is that He was the Son of God and at the same time, fully human.
He had a human body (Matthew 4.2) He could be tired and hungry. He had emotions like anger, love and sadness. He experienced poverty, temptation work and obedience. All this proves that he was a genuine human being. How do we say that He is the Son of God, if not God?
His teaching centred on Himself. Some of the things he said about himself are incoceivable as coming forth from a person who does not have God-consciousness. He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6.35); “I am the light of the world”( John 8.12); “I am the Resurrection and the life” (John 11,25) ; “ I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14.6); ”To have seen me is to have seen God” (John 14.9) “Receive me, receive God” (Matthew 10.40),” Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8.58). This statement refers to the Jewish idea that the creator was too great to be called by name, He was referred to as the Great “I AM”. To any Jewish person of the time, it meant he was claiming to be God Himself.
He claimed to forgive sins—all sins against other people (Mark 2.5) His followers insist that the only person who can forgive all sins is God. Jesus was either a liar, deluded or actually God when He said this.
He claimed to judge the world (Matt 25.31).
Further, He did many miracles for all people. His character was perfect. He conquered death.
What is the evidence of the resurrection? He was definitely dead when the soldiers took him down from the cross and even thrust a spear into his side from which flowed a clot and serum only seen in dead bodies. The absence of His body from the tomb, is a further proof. It cannot be argued that he could have escaped death and come out of the tomb himself. The tomb was guarded around the clock by Roman soldiers. Neither the authorities nor the Jews would have had any reason to steal the body and create a problem for themselves. Some have suggested that the disciples stole the body. This is improbable as they were depressed and disillusioned at the time of the crucifixion, but soon after they became powerful preachers. When you consider how much they had to suffer for their beliefs, it is inconceivable that they would have gone through with it if they knew it to be untrue. Over 500 people saw the risen Jesus at different times and different places. He cooked, ate with them and touched them, all things not possible if he was a ghost or hallucination. Finally, the effect of his rising from the dead changed a handful of uneducated, poor fishermen and labourers, into powerful evangelists; and swept the whole known world in the next 300 years. This is a peaceful revolution that has no parallel in history.
In the Greek language, there is a concept of AGAPE, self sacrificing love that expects nothing in return. This is the love of God for humanity and all His creation.
Taking all the evidence seen above there is little doubt that Jesus existed, He was believed to be the Son of God, and by some followers, even as God himself, and He declared that He was the Truth. Also, his death in agony to save us, show that God is Love. Jesus came to earth to sacrifice himself as a lamb to the slaughter to free us from our guilt, our sins.
Love in Christian philosophy
\No human is perfect, we all are less than what we could be, our punishment is lifted because Jesus suffered and died in our place. Jesus came to reveal the truth about God’s intent in creating us.
You cannot say that it is fine for other people but it doesn’t apply to me. If Christ is the Truth it is applicable to all humans. If not, Christians are deluded people. It is not possible to hold Him as a great teacher and deny His Godhood or deny the things he taught.
When Christians say, in relation to their faith, that I know that Jesus is the Truth, it isn’t just an intellectual knowledge, it is a deep connection, a personal friendship, an emotional and soulful tie.
When Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, he was asked what he was. In reply, Jesus said I was born and came into the world for one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to me. Pilate asked “What is truth” (John 18 28- 38) when Jesus replied that He was the Truth, the Life and the Way.
People are made in the image of God and there is nobility about every human being. We are all loved. God is truth and our purpose is to love him as He loves us. Jesus reveals the truth of God’s love and purpose in the world.
Why do we need Jesus and why are we the way we are? In the Bible, which is the inspired word of God, there is the story of the Garden of Eden where Man and Woman lived in perfect harmony with God and nature and talked to God daily. But because of their disobedience, both Truth and love of God were withdrawn and humans were banished. This act of our progenitors is what separated us from the love of God and is in our fundamental nature to yearn for return to the presence of God.
The truth of God is called the Holy Spirit, and it is only by the intervention of this part of God which allows us to have faith. A Christian can only witness to the good news to others. It is not possible to force or induce someone to believe in Christ, any attempt to do so is a mere sham. To be a Christian means to have a personal relationship with God, and to believe that He is the Truth and that He is love. To love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself are two cardinal messages of the New Testament which were in conformity with the commandment of the Jewish Torah. The Christian apostles delineated the above concept of love in various ways. In the words of Apostle John: “Let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4: 7-8, NIV). According to Saint Augustine, God is the only one who can love you truly and fully. Love between humans is flawed with jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger and contention. To love God is “to attain the peace which is yours” (refer St. Augustine’s confessions).
Love in non-christian traditions
Judaism that preceded Chritianity and belonged to the same Abrahamic tradition uses the word ‘Ahava’ to connote love between the humans as also between humans and God. The commandment “Love your neighbour as yourself” was incorporated in the Tohra (Leviticus 19:18) long before Jesus said it. The Tohra also included the commandment: “Love God with all your heart, soul and might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The ‘Song of Solomon’ in fact goes beyond the metaphoric love between God and His chosen people and stands out for its romantic character.
Hinduism made a distinction between ‘Kama’ or sexual love and ‘Prema’ or non-sexual mental attachment. ‘Bhakti’ or devotion to God has been distinguished from ‘Prema’, even though the concept of ‘Bhagavat Prem’ or Divine Love is prevalent in Hinduism. Love for God has been classified into several forms such as ‘Dashya’ (Master-servant relationship), ‘Sakhya’ (friendly relationship), ‘Vatsalya’ (father-son or mother-child relationship) and ‘Madhur’ (blissful union with God).
Buddhism, like Hinduism, made a clear distinction between ‘Kama’ or sexual love and ‘Advesa’ or ‘Metta’ which implied benevolent and unconditional love. Buddhist concept of ‘Karuna’ or compassion is founded on this benevolent and unconditional love for self-seeking humanity.
The Greeks used following five words for love of different sorts: ‘Philia’ (dispassionate, virtuous love), ‘Eros’ (passionate love), ‘Agape’ (pure, ideal love), ‘Storge’ (natural love such as paternal/maternal or fraternal love) and ‘Xenia’ (friendly love like the one between the host and his guests). The words ‘Agape’ and ‘Philia’ have been used in contemporary Christian writings while other three words viz. ‘Eros’, ‘Storge’ and ‘Xenia’ are found to be missing.
The Chinese concept of love was influenced by the Confucian tradition that used the word ‘Ren’ for love in the sense of being benevolent love focusing on action, like the action of a parent to his or her child and vice versa, loyalty to the king, etc. In the 4th century BC, the Chinese philosopher Mozi developed the concept of ‘Ai’ in the sense of universal and unconditional love not bound within any relationship, in reaction to the Confucian concept of benevolent love. Later the Chinese Buddhists interpreted the term ‘Ai’ both as passionate love driven as also selfless love.
The Persians used the word ‘eshgh’ (most likely derived from the Arabic word ‘Ishq’) for love. In the hands of Rumi, Hafiz and Sa’di, the word ‘eshgh’ took passionate form to begin with and later was used in the sense of Divine Love as well.
In Islam, God or Allah is described in the Quran as ‘Ar-Rahman’ and ‘Ar-Rahim’ meaning the ‘Most Compassionate’ and the ‘Most Meciful’, and full of love. The word ‘Birr’ is used in the Quran to mean love and kindness that children must show to their parents. In the hands of Sufi saints, the word ‘Ishq’ took the form of Divine Love. Sufism as a sect of Islam developed into the Religion of Love.
The Turkish word for love is ‘Ask’ and the state of beiing in love is ‘Asik’ which is used in romantic sense only.
In modern time, writers and poets have romanticized the concept of love in a secular sense, emphasizing inter-personal or to be more precise, man-woman relationship, rather than Divine Love. The following lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 are a case in point:
“Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom,
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
Tagore, however, romanticized love between man and God and took it to a new level when he wrote:
“Thou have come down
As Thy joy is upon me.
If I were not,
O the Lord of the Three worlds,
Thy love would have been meaningless”.
The question that we posed in the Introduction was whether Truth or God could be equated with love. That God is all love is the standard refrain of Saints and sages of all ages. At the same time, we have also been warned from the time immemorial that if we defy God or commit sin we will be punished by God and consequently will be deprived of His love. We have also been told by those wise persons that the prime objective in our life is to love God. The question may arise how do we love someone we do not know and cannot see with our naked eye, merely in the belief that He exists, He has created us, and He loves us unconditionally. Undoubtedly, the love that does not arise spontaneously is a strained, forced and artifical love. But that is besides the point as the question confronting us is whether Truth is love. As we have already defined Truth as a phenomenon that is ever-lasting and non-transient, the question that falls for determination is whether love can be non-transient and ever-lasting in order to be equated with Truth. Without quibbling in sophistry, one can of course conclude that the emotion or feeling that is transient and not ever-lasting is not love. The contra proposition that since man himself is not ever-lasting, his love cannot also be ever-lasting is equally valid. However, our proposition is not that man is Truth. It is precisely the reason why Christian philosophers have held that inter-personal love cannot be Divine or the Truth as such love cannot be ever-lasting and unconditional. The Divine love is essentially what emanates from God and, therefore, Divine love is Truth.
The Vedanta, notably the Brihadaranyaka Upanishada, has gone to the root of the phenomenon called love, primarily to settle the issue whether love can be equted with Truth. Sage Yajnavalkya while explaining the mystery of love to his wife Maitreyee (ref. Chapter 2, Brahmana 4, Brihadaranyaka Upanishada) states that we love our relations, friends and aquaintances, not because of our present worldly relationship, but because we love the Soul that pervades the whole world. That soul is me, you and all of us. That soul gives us the sense of unity and draws us toward others. That soul is the root of our existence and also the root cause of our love for one another, which in reality is love for ourselves, sans any duality of existence. Only a man with Divine perception envisions this eternal Truth. And love is this eternal Truth.
If that all pervasive soul of the Upanishada is called Biblical God, the ever-lasting love as a phenomenon can be reasonably sourced to IT, thereby validating the proposition that Truth is Love.