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Easter Meditations

Next week will be Holy Week in the Christian calendar. Hundreds of millions of Christians will pay some heed to Good Friday (the day of Christ’s crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (the day of his resurrection.) Many non-religious people will mock or pity these “superstitious worshipers.” We investigate this with some imaginary interviews.
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“Now, here’s John Smith. Thank you for agreeing to see us, Mr. Smith. Now I understand that you are an atheist.”
“Well, yes I am. You understand that that’s not like being a Catholic, or a Jew, or a Presbyterian, or a Muslim. I don’t believe in any of this gobble-de-gook. I believe in nothing.”
“I see. Nothing. You know that this is the Easter season? There are hundreds of millions of believers in Jesus?”
“Oh yes. Stupid people. They believe in the Virgin Birth, and holding back the waters of the Red Sea, and stopping the rotation of the earth for a day, the resurrection! Ridiculous. Things like this are scientifically impossible!”
“Now Mr. Smith, it’s not my role to argue with you. I’m just a reporter. But do you really have no beliefs at all?”
“None.”
“How about believing that all mater is composed of atoms.”
“Oh that’s not a belief. That’s a scientifically proven fact.”
“Have you yourself proven these facts.”
“Well… no, not myself. I’m not a scientist.
“I see. But you are prepared to believe what recognized scientists tell you.”
“Of course.”
“But not what recognized theologians tell you?”
“Now hold on a minute. You’re trying to trap me.”
“Not at all, Mr. Smith. I’m trying to reconcile your statement that you don’t believe in anything with your belief in recognized scientists.”
“It’s not the same thing at all!”
“So how is it different?”
“Well, scientist deal in ‘hard’ facts, scientifically proven hard facts. These priests, ministers, Imam’s and such talk about ‘soft’ facts, that simply can’t be proven and therefore don’t exist.”
“That’s a very interesting difference, Mr. Smith. May I take a moment to examine what you call ‘soft facts.’ What would you include in this category? Perhaps human emotions such as: love, hate, appreciation, humour, sympathy, and faith, to name but a few?”
“Yes, things like that.”
“Now do these emotions not exist?”
“Of course they exist. But they’re not measurable.”
“And therefore don’t count?”
“Well, they’re not scientific.”
“So let’s take a moment to look into some of these scientific facts. Early scientists believed that the world was flat And so proclaimed it. So scientists can sometimes be wrong?”
“Well, of course. They’re human just like the rest of us. They do their best but sometimes they develop theories before all the facts are available to them.”
“And then they can be wrong?”
“Yes… but that’s rare.”
“It was said of James Clerk Maxwell in the late 1800s, that his electromagnetic theory pretty well put the roof on the house of knowledge.”
“Yes, I believe I’ve heard that.”
“But a great deal has been discovered since then?”
“Of course, scientific knowledge will always be reaching out into the future. The search will never be finished.”
“And in the course of that search, they will frequently tread the wrong path, and maybe even proclaim it as ‘scientific fact?’”
“Well yes, I suppose so.”
“Thank you Mr. Smith. I’m glad to have your point of view.”
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“Ah, here’s Bill Jones. He’s a staunch Anglican, though simply a layman in the hierarchy of the church. Ah, Mr. Jones, I’m delighted you have time to see us.”
“Not at all. What can I do for you?”
“Easter is approaching. Just what does it mean to you?”
“It’s a very important time in the church’s calendar. It’s a time of renewal.”
“Could you explain what you mean by ‘renewal.’”
“Renewal of one’s faith. We believe certain church doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, because that is our faith. In this scientific world such beliefs are constantly being attacked by the non-believers. From time to time we believers need a reinforcement of our faith. Easter is a wonderful time for that.”
“We’ve just been talking to Mr. Smith. He says that a virgin birth is impossible and that that is a scientific fact. What do you have to say to that?”
“You’ve just hit the nub of today’s problem, with religion and science apparently head to head in some kind of a battle. That’s not the case at all. We are looking at the same event from two different points of view. One is scientifically factual the other is through human faith. The scientist needs to measure everything and subject the results to scientific proof. A human can accept something on faith alone and it becomes just as real. Take the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Catholics believe that common bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood of Christ. Those outside the faith, laugh at this ignorant superstition. However, for those who believe, it IS really true. For them it IS the body and blood—and who can deny them this belief. Everyone of us believe in something that other people ridicule. That doesn’t make it wrong. It just means that the believer sees it differently than the non-believer. And both can be right.”
“But that seems very contradictory.”
“Life is terribly contradictory, as we all know. But life is also very real. Maybe there is no such thing as a ‘proven fact.’ Just consider: A fact all by itself (if such could exist) only becomes REAL when a human being takes it in! It’s the old enigma: ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?’”
“Are you asking me? I would say it does make a sound.”
“‘Sound’ is what you hear when certain pressure waves hit your ear drum. So if no eardrums are present to receive these waves, then no sound is made.”
“I’m afraid we drifted off topic.”
“Not at all. This is simply an illustration of the part that the observer plays in an event. If indeed an observer is an important part of that event, then an “event” does not happen until an observer is there to observe it! And each observer will interpret the event according to his/her understanding of it. If you really believe that an event happened in a certain way, then that interpretation is your representation of reality. That’s why there are two versions of the Virgin Birth. Some say it happened, some say it couldn’t have. Two different points of view. Who has the temerity to say, ‘Mine is the right one and yours is wrong?’ Are you God?”
“I won’t answer that question. I’m not part of the event, I’m just the reporter. Thank you Mr. Jones.”
“Not at all. See you in church on Easter morning?”
“Perhaps… I’ll have to check my point of view.”

9 Responses to “Easter Meditations”

  1. Fran Deacon says:

    Mr. Jones’s views I respect, as he seems
    to be a gentleman who doesn’t want to
    proselytize, but rather to affect by his
    personal actions.
    Like you Lyman, I’ll be in Church, Easter
    morning.

  2. David Giles says:

    Lyman, Yes truth is always interpreted by an observer. Captured only by the witnesses of the event. A great example is the 1950 Japanese movie Rashomon. Three witnesses to the murder. Three different stories. Even interviewing the victim, through a medium reveals a fourth version. Leaving the audience wondering. “What is truth?” Truth is what you believe.

  3. Rose says:

    Happy Palm Sunday. Happy Easter Lyman. Thank you.

    Rose

  4. lynette logue says:

    Thank you Lyman. This is a story that has played itself out for 2 thousand year.

    I will be in church on Good Friday & Easter Sunday.

    Thanks for all your writing, I’m definitely a fan!

    Lynette

  5. Libby Buchanan says:

    Thank you Lyman. This is a story that we find around us all too often. We will all be in our beautiful Norman Church at Easter. With loving Easter wishes. Libby

  6. Jack Long says:

    Thanks Lyman:
    It does get you thinking doesn’t it?
    Jack.

  7. Jim OBrian says:

    Thanks Lyman
    We’ll be at our St.Simons — ritual,
    music , friends , heart uplift .

  8. charles kirby says:

    Lyman: I am reminded about the question:
    If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there is no one around to hear it hit the ground ! Deep…but so is Faith !
    Easter Wishes from Charles

  9. Dear Lyman,

    I love the classic Platonic discourse format. It reminds me very clearly of Plato’s discussions with Meno and his slave; as well as the parable of the cave.

    Weel done, good take on the exegesis process put into a contemporary process.

    Congratulations,

    Mike

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