Blog # 463 Lent
Just imagine living in a house where the temperature was thirty seven degrees night and day. That would be cold, right? Well, that would depend upon whether you were in New York City or in Paris. In New York it would be cold. In Paris it would be hot even though it would be thirty seven in both places. What kind of conversation is this? Does it make any sense? Sure. In New York the temperature would be measured on the Fahrenheit scale, where water freezes at thirty-two. so the house would be cold at thirty seven. In Paris the temperature is measured on the Centigrade scale, where thirty-seven degrees equals more than ninety-eight on the Fahrenheit scale, and that would mean the house would be hot.
The moral of the story might be that we should always be ready to ask questions before we start arguing over what is true. Actually 37C and 98.6 F are the same temperature, though the scales we use to measure them in New York and Paris are different and the sounds we use to express the same temperature come out differently in French and English. Our spoken identity of the temperature in English and French on one scale or another would come out differently even though the actual temperature would be the same. We have no problem agreeing with that once we find out a few words in French and English and then which of the two scales we are going to use to make our measure.
There is another scenario regarding the temperature of a place that comes out differently. Here we are in church, in the same place, at the same time. One person might say it is warm in here today. Another person might say it is cold in here today. Is one of these persons right and the other one wrong? Not necessarily. Can both be speaking the truth? Yes.
How do we explain it? It is easy. To begin with, the temperature might not be the same in all areas of the room. One person might be sitting near a heating vent and another person might be sitting in the draft of a doorway. Perhaps the problem of securing their comfort and permitting them to get back to the task at hand of prayer need not go further than to have them exchange seats. The
temperature in each place would not change, and could be measured as different in each place, but the people involved would now be satisfied. This would be so, not totally because of the temperature in itself, but also because of the personal preference of each one as to the temperature perceived and desired by that person as a comfortable one.
What we have been considering is easily understood by all of us and probably has been the experience of some of us at one time or another. Applied on a higher level, it can perhaps be useful as we enter more deeply into the season of Lent 2015. What we have been considering is the question of truth, objective truth, that is truth in itself, as it is, independently of whether we are aware of it or respond to it, and subjective truth, as we see it and understand it, and are aware of it, and respond to it. Objectively the temperature is what it is whether I am aware of it or asleep, whether I like it that way or not.
All that we have said so far applies to the field of philosophy, the field of natural human intelligence reason and experience. It also applies to the field of faith where claims are made not in contradiction to our human intelligence or reason, but beyond their competence and beyond our natural experience of truth. Since we are dealing with truth in both instances what we experience in philosophy can be significant and helpful in our experience of faith.
Here are a few examples. Always and everywhere, in every room and on every mountain there is a certain temperature. I can gauge various temperatures in more ways than one, approximately by the effect of the temperature as I feel it on my body, and more precisely by the use of a thermometer. Though the temperature is always real, I am not always consciously aware of it, certainly not when I am sleeping and most of the other times of the day as well. I may have a thermometer permanently attached outside the window of my office, but only look at it once or twice a day. I may have an oral thermometer in the medicine cabinet over my sink in the bathroom but only refer to it when I think I may have a fever. For comfort some people prefer warmer or cooler temperatures than others.
Applying this to faith we have some interesting parallels. As the temperature, God is real, in every room, on every mountain. We can be confident we are in the presence of God in more than one way. First by the fact we feel or are emotionally drawn to God's reality and presence. We have a bias in favor of God's presence. Second is through the acceptance of the reality and presence of God by faith. The first is like the temperature gauged by our skin. It could be perfectly true, but tends to be approximate. The second way is precise. The danger here is like the danger of reading a thermometer wrongly, the danger of interpreting the revelation of God in a wrong way. We may have a bias against the realty and presence of God as we can have a bias in God's favor.
Our faith in the identity and presence of God is something like the thermometer outside my window. It I always there, night and day, though I may be sleeping and unaware of it, 'working' for me by providing the correct temperature. Like the thermometer outside the window telling the true temperature , God is real and present always and everywhere even though I may be 'sleeping' and unaware of Him, 'working' for me not in some small way like telling me the temperature but willing that I continue to live, giving me everything that I am down to my very existence! Without God I would not only have nothing, I would not even be!
Lent has traditionally been a good time for me to check on the reality and quality of my awareness of God' presence in my life. A daily recitation of the prayer we learned in early grade school entitled An Act of Faith still is a source of joy for me. A question I have found effective is : Am I happy because of my faith in God's presence? I think this is a good question because I am convinced the closer we are to God and God to us the happier we should be.