The truth is quite simple

Really great and true things are always simple and humble Leo Tolstoy

FOR most of his extraordinary life, Albert Einstein hung portraits on his wall of two scientists, Newton and Maxwell, as role models to inspire him.
Near the end of his life, Einstein replaced them with portraits of Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi.
Einstein said he realised he needed role models, not of success, but of humility.
Humility is one of those words — like grace, sacred and holy — that seem to be archaic and somewhat embarrassing in this market-driven age. The meek might inherit the earth — eventually — but not right now.
Many of the thousands flocking to New Age faiths to channel their goddess, their inner child, personal angel or the shaman chief they were in a previous life are searching for consumable spirituality — a quick guru fix.
They are merely trying to elevate their ordinary narcissistic impulses into a religion when they really need to discover their own insignificance in the universe, and be humbled.
The poet William Stafford said successful people do not write poems. The poet has to kneel down for them, he said.
Writer Louise Rafkin went further. She wrote of indulging in the Japanese practice of cleaning communal toilets as a way to self-knowledge and discovering that the best writing, like the best music and art, is grounded in ordinary experience.
We do well to repeat Galileo’s modest “I do not know”.
The 19th century Christian William Temple counselled his congregations to avoid the sort of obsessive religious humility that “consists in being a great deal occupied about yourselves”.
“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people. It means freedom from thinking about yourself, one way or the other, at all,” he said.
For Temple, there was no greater example of humility than Jesus Christ who “although born rich, became poor”.
Born amid the dung in a stable, a humble carpenter for most of his life, homeless during his ministry and dying naked on a cross, he placed himself on a very human level.
He expressed, in human terms, the stress he faced via his temptation in the wilderness, and his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The lesson is that sometimes one must go as low as possible to find God.

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36 thoughts on “The truth is quite simple

  1. Just a question that occurs to me after reading certain of the comments in your column Bryan,
    to what sort of an extent should a sincere saved devout Christian be prepared to say simply –
    ‘I dont know’.? Is it permissible about anything much in his understanding about his faith?
    Rian

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m quite happy with saying I don’t know. I’ve said it plenty of times. What about you? You seem so certain of some pretty weird concepts. But of course I could be wrong. Most Christians I know are not afraid to say “I don’t know”.

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      • I am often found saying I do not know. Although I suspect that Rian would see many not doing that as his comments come across as very incorrect on a regular basis being at best a “liberal Christian”. As far as a tool to analyse a Christians faith I am fairly certain it says nothing about it.
        But now I am wondering what will come behind the asking about not knowing?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bryan, I’m not asking you to argue with me here. but could you kindly advise me of any literally weird concepts that I appear to be so certain of?

        Reincarnation is not a weird concept. It is a very ancient and respected theory. I’ve stated that I am attracted to it, and find it more reasonable than other spiritual theories. But I am not committed to it.

        I am something of a Pantheist. and that is a concept which has a very ancient and profound history behind it. But I am not finally certain or dogmatic about it. I dont think it’s weird to be a Humanist. Maybe when I claim to be something of a Pagan, that might be a bit weird to you.

        I am quite open to being convinced about there having been huge numbers of Christian martyrs under Rome, so long as anyone can point me to reputable historians who maintain the idea.

        Some of my takes on Biblical details and whole books are really no more weird than those held by many scholars about the world. My recent comments on the Book of Job just repeat ideas that I’ve seen from many researchers and scholars. The same applies to my views on the Garden of
        Eden.

        I dont claim to KNOW anything ‘weird’ about Jesus. I spend some of my research trying to learn more and more about him.

        Now my Gnostic tendencies. Some of the most brilliant and influential minds of the early Christian period were Gnostics, and that is hardly weird. And strictly speaking, what I’ve read on Gnosticism indicates that they were rarely dogmatic or over-certain about anything. I’m not, I can assure you. I quote again a Gnostic motto in one of my books. ‘Certainty divides us, while Doubt unites us.’ (That latter I DO feel dogmatic about!)

        That I hold an elementary conviction of an all-embracing and loving deity behind all things in the Cosmos, does not appear to me to be particularly weird.

        I believe in the fundamental goodness of most people, and in Original Blessing, as (who was it?) Matthew Fox said. Nothing weird there. Oh sure, I do reject with a great sense of conviction, the concept of the total corruption that Original Sin brings. But I share that with our brothers of the Orthodox Church; and they go back to earlier times than dear old St Augustine, dont they? Are they weird?

        Nah, tell me what my weird convictions are. I need to know.

        Looking at the writings on this blog, I think I can see loads of certainties being expressed by the Christian posters. Do you say that Faith is the same as certainty? Is the expectation of Heaven, which simply cannot be demonstrated or proven, something of a certainty? That the Bible is literally true and accurate has to be a major certainty among many of our posters here. Heck, if our posters were not so desperately certain about so many things, surely they would not have passionately debated with me at times, or condemned my suggestions.

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Professor of History and theologian John Dickson of Macquarie University came at all these questions from a slightly different perspective, and I’m indebted to him.
        If Jesus’ resurrection is a fact then it’s an historical fact and can be examined as history with a forensic lense. The apostle Paul’s smoked glass statement actually correlates with Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. The Truth takes on Physics, History and Religion and wins. Human fig leaves of understanding yield to facts or the Truth crushes you like all of yesterday’s chaff to the wind.
        Einstein’s very meager contributions weren’t anyone’s road to Damascus, including his own life when self reviewed.

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      • Alexie,
        The reason I asked the question was simply that I see loads of the Christians on this blog stating their absolute convictions over and over again about all sorts of matters of faith. They appear to know an awful lot.

        Interesting, but I recall good old Prophet HUP being absolutely certain on knowing some rather curious things that he claimed with certainty as being what all Christians believed. Then I notice that Dom also knows a heck of a lot that strangely disagrees with so many of the things that the rest of you know. Monica knows things that most of the Christians I’ve known in my life didnt know. davinci similarly ‘knows’ things about the absoluteness of the Commandment concerning the keeping of the Sabbath Day, that the rest of you simply dont know. (And that particular bit of knowledge and the strict obedience to it, is absolutely crucial to one’s salvation according to him.)

        Oh, by the way, when I asked you if you considered Bryan to be a good faithful Christian (or however I put it) I was not casting aspersions at our faithful moderator. But since some of his views just dont seem to coincide with yours, I was interested to see if he was from your point of view ‘in’ or ‘out’.

        From my point of view i have always considered Bryan, regardless of my differences with him, as being a very legitimate, devoted and faithful Christian. I admire his toleration and insights (most of the time).

        Rian.

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      • “Now my Gnostic tendencies. Some of the most brilliant and influential minds of the early Christian period were Gnostics”

        Nope, wrong.

        “And strictly speaking, what I’ve read on Gnosticism indicates that they were rarely dogmatic or over-certain about anything.”

        Well, that would be true. Less than certain about so called brilliant and influential minds is not a great thing.

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    • Wee can swap our uncertainty for certainty, now and in the future. Follow Someone. Hebrews 11:17-40 gives examples of people who replaced their human uncertainty with a certainty based on faith in God. They were able to live with confidence knowing that the God they worshipped and served does what He says He will do.
      Faith is easier for us. We have thousands of years of history and the entirety of Jesus’ ministry to look to for evidence of God fulfilling His promises. We look to Jesus when seeking certainty.

      Amen

      Liked by 1 person

    • How can you have doubts if you believe God’s Word to be true? You simply can’t! We as Christians are so blessed to be given this assuredness that God is not a man that He should lie; that the truth of the Gospels can be taken to heart, believed in and relied on till the day comes for each of us to meet Him face to face.

      So why does this irk you so Rian? Sure, we all have doubts at times, particularly during difficult times that sorely test one’s faith, but these doubts resolve themselves in time, when we come through those adverse periods of our lives, because it’s during those times that the God of love shows Himself to be faithful to His word.

      I am certain about so much in Christ, praise be to God! I can confidently say that I am no longer tossed back and forth like a reed in the wind, or sailing aimlessly like a boat without a rudder because I know that God’s promises are true and He can be depended on.

      Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

      • HA! I thought I had lost it! It didn’t show on my iPad that it had gone through to the blog…..so I penned another version, just in case. 🙂

        How can you have doubts if you believe God’s Word to be true? You simply can’t! We as Christians are so blessed to be given this assuredness in the Scriptures that God will not lie.
 His decisions will not change.
 If he says He will do something,
 then He will do it! 
If He makes a promise,
 then He will do what he promised. We are assured that the truth of the Gospels can be taken to heart, believed in and relied on till the day comes for each of us to meet our Maker.

        So why does this irk you so, Rian? Sure, we all have doubts at times, particularly during difficult seasons that sorely test one’s faith, but these doubts resolve themselves in time after we have come through those adverse periods in our lives, because it’s during those times that the God of Love shows Himself to be faithful to His word.

        But not everything in life and in our Christian faith is crystal clear, or provides us with definitive proof. There are many unknowns. And neither am I afraid to say that I don’t know. In fact, I’d be suspicious if a Christian claimed to have all the answers. And in case you weren’t aware of this fact Rian, it’s not Party policy to be a know-it-all. In fact it’s quite the opposite!

        Nevertheless, I am certain about much in Christ, praise be to God! I can confidently say that I am no longer tossed to and fro like a reed blowing in the wind, or sailing aimlessly through life like a boat without a rudder, because I know that God’s promises are true; that He can be depended on to make things happen according to His plans, and that His words are never empty, but instead, produce results.

        Love you!…..Rian, Bryan, Alexie

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Galileo’s modest “I do not know”.

    Why did he say this. As a scientist, a naturalist he was saying this as an opposition to dogmatism in science. Kepler, Newton and Einstein also prescribed to “I do not know”. They were against what is today called scientism. But the idea of Truth is important for the theory of knowledge. Science is searching for “the truth.” This is different to certainty but when Truth is known then one cannot but be certain. This springs true for believers of Jesus as Christ. We may have some doubts, but what we know to be True, we can be certain about.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Alexie you can make any claim .
        You are just one of billions.
        And every claim is not the exact same to any other.
        There will always be a divergence of belief for everyone is separate .
        As for this what you claim is exactly my position :-
        In your universe nothing really exist or can be known.

        let,s clarify exactly my position .
        “”NOTHING CAN BE KNOWN AS WHAT IS OUTSIDE THIS UNIVERSE””
        Do you remember the post I placed a sentence that ended with this a under score ______
        You can place anything upon the under score as to what this universe is EXACTLY and what is outside the universe.
        For no one will ever know .

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      • Same inside the universe as everything must be proven to the nth degree and so nothing is actually proven for you.
        Plus your philosophy you have sprouted elsewhere is for inside the universe. Remember Kant the philosopher.

        Like

      • you just contradicted yourself.

        “You can place anything upon the under score as to what this universe is EXACTLY and what is outside the universe.
        For no one will ever know .”

        Is not “what the universe is” in fact inside the universe. And then state no one will ever know.

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    • So Alexie are you claiming that Homo sapiens have absolute proof of even just one particle within this universe .
      All man has is just theories.
      And those theories are the construct from a way of thinking tied to just three dimensions.
      As for even those dimensions all are twisted and one only appears to go in one direction [time] and man does not even know what they are let alone the possible other six dimensions.
      As for the smallest possible distance the “THEORETICAL ” Planck Length the experiment to study it would be a particle accelerator the size of our solar system and the energy supply “GREATER” than our SUN.

      So go on Alexie declare you know the real truth.
      You are no were near the first to state that over the past fifty thousand years.

      Like

      • “So Alexie are you claiming that Homo sapiens have absolute proof of even just one particle within this universe.
        All man has is just theories.”

        So in fact you saying anything is but a theory, nothing, no proof. (Inside the universe not outside)

        “And those theories are the construct from a way of thinking tied to just three dimensions.”

        It is actually four with time as the fourth. But this is nothing as all is theory or nothing, an illusion.

        “As for even those dimensions all are twisted and one only appears to go in one direction [time] and man does not even know what they are let alone the possible other six dimensions.”

        You are correct that there may indeed be ten. How do you know they are twisted? One Direction? Heard they quit.

        “As for the smallest possible distance the “THEORETICAL ” Planck Length the experiment to study it would be a particle accelerator the size of our solar system and the energy supply “GREATER” than our SUN.”

        Everything you have said is swept away by your own beliefs of nothingness, no proof, no known and no proof.

        “So go on Alexie declare you know the real truth.
        You are no were near the first to state that over the past fifty thousand years.”

        What I sau or do not say is but an illusion. Who are you really? Do you even exist?

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    • Alexie
      Theory of something is not a ABSOLUTE proof .
      A theory is there are SIX extra dimensions.
      Can a mind in a three dimensional existence along a forth dimension that being time comprehend the other six dimensions !
      Of course not.

      That,s why I say you could place any words upon that under line .
      No one could definitively prove you wrong or right.

      And that carries to what could be outside what,s outside this universe.
      Could continue ad infinitum.
      Why not ???

      Like

  3. Hey Rian – not only do some Christians know what they know with unshakeable faith, they also make an opportunity out of what the non-believer doesn’t know. It’s the most fertile ground the god-of-the-gaps has.
    eg:
    – How did the universe start ?
    – I don’t know.
    – If you don’t known then it must be God how else can you explain (whatever)

    Like

    • HeyAlexie,
      Since you are just so certain about what constitutes Christianity, can you tell me this.

      Were (and are) Arians Christians? Were Monarchians Christians? What about Pelagians, Sabellians, Nestorians?

      Was it significant if any of these despicable Heretical sects still actually had faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Or did you just have to believe precisely in the sole teachings of the orthodox? Were all these guys just so wrong, when the orthodox definitions were not decided upon and enforced, until Nicaea and other Councils in the early centuries?

      (that brigand on the Cross of course, knew nothing of the Holy Trinity or of the Incarnation, or of Paul’s extraordinary doctrine of Grace, or for that matter, of the infallibility of the text of the New Testament.)

      Rian.

      Like

  4. Question: “What is Christian Gnosticism?”

    Answer: There is actually no such thing as Christian Gnosticism, because true Christianity and Gnosticism are mutually exclusive systems of belief. The principles of Gnosticism contradict what it means to be a Christian. Therefore, while some forms of Gnosticism may claim to be Christian, they are in fact decidedly non-Christian.

    Gnosticism was perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries. Influenced by such philosophers as Plato, Gnosticism is based on two false premises. First, it espouses a dualism regarding spirit and matter. Gnostics assert that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.

    Second, Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plain of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

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    • From a comprehensive gnostic website.

      This is in their first page.

      “Although the Gnostics were prolific writers, most of their works have been burnt or lost in favor of proto-orthodox writings.”

      Basically, nothing!

      “Some scholars have theorized that Gnosticism has its roots in pre-Christian religions, instead of being merely an offshoot of Christianity.”

      This is correct.

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      • Bryan,
        All the experts make it plain that Gnosticism goes back well before Christianity. Some roots of it can definitely be found in Plato, and that is not at all difficult to demonstrate. Stoic philosophy and Buddhism show great similarities. Even the Hindu Vedas convey many similar messages.

        You are showing yourself there to be rather too literal. Just because the earliest documents that have been labelled as ‘Gnostic’ by Christians of the early days stand out, you think it was invented then.

        Just for once I think Alexie hit on the head there with a correct assessment.

        Pity that pre-Christian religions and philosophies are damned by Christians so heavily. As we’ve said so often, one major reason that Gnosticism as a major movement died out, was simply because in contrast to Christianity and most other approaches, the Gnostics were pacifists, and did not go out to enforce or push their views onto others.

        Rian.

        Like

      • HI Brian,

        An historian nope, but I can state the obvious with the best of them.

        Judaism would be pre-Christian would it not ?

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    • That Alexei is a common misconception. The ‘knowing’ is knowing God’s presence. The only exclusivity was if you didn’t know God in your heart, if you imagined there was some secret knowledge and it was not imparted to you, you would see yourself as excluded.

      The main-stream church on the other hand did not require this, but a profession of faith, and although for some that might be just empty words, it allowed for complete participation. The Church was practical in evangelising, saving souls, missions, outward activities.

      Gnostics on the other hand were more inward looking, though also did a great deal to help others, but not in a missionary sense, and were very orientated towards peace, not holy war.

      Like

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