Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From Fact to Law to Truth

Acquiring knowledge follows a certain process that is intuitive or innate to the workings of the human mind. By this, we mean that the mind is able to discern a process or a fact of nature – like gravity, for example. Newton made observations regarding the phenomenon and from there laid down the Law of Gravitation. And so, after centuries of knowing how, more or less, gravity works, we know it to be a universal truth.

But let us consider a more tangible example; for instance, the wetness of water as perceived by the sense of touch and of sight. When water adheres to our hands and fingers, we get that feeling of “wetness”.

That reality or fact becomes a habitual or constant stimulus for as long as the senses and the mind can validate it as the “wetness” previously observed. The reality then – or the fact – assumes a status of being a law or a characteristic of nature that applies wherever or whenever one encounters the fact. Water in the North Pole, though frozen, will have “wetness” once it melts into liquid. And so will water vapor when it condenses on windows and walls.

The fact has now become a law or rule of nature that forms a small part of what we perceive as the reality of nature or life itself. Hence, with or without science, humans can come to the same conclusion that certain substances appear or behave in particular and established ways. The law or rule of nature eventually assumes a quality of universal truthfulness – in space and time. Thus, the “wetness” of liquid water has always been that way and will always be that way on Earth or anywhere else in the Universe, given the same conditions.

Science, however, through Mathematics can provide us with certain criteria as to the physical attributes of liquid water. At certain temperatures, water will be liquid. It can be cold or hot to the touch but the quality of wetness will remain. The density of water may also vary at certain temperatures and pressures. Still the “wetness” – which is actually an inherent physical characteristic of water’s being liquid – would not have changed at all.

Some would say, “wetness” is not a scientific or precise term to describe water’s liquidity. We would have to establish all the physical conditions within which water is found to describe exactly how water behaves, what its precise state is and how it affects our environment. Science then brings fact, law and truth to a level of sophistication or accuracy that is beyond our common view or normal use.

When someone jokes that the “rain is wet”, we laugh because we already know that. It is a fact, law and a truth we take for granted. On the other hand, meteorologists would not be satisfied with such a simple description of rain. They would need to know the atmospheric pressure, temperature, amount of rain and exact weather conditions that brought about the rain in the first place. All for the purpose ascertaining that the present conditions are measured accurately in order to be able to predict possible weather conditions in the future. Wetness then, to scientists, is a subjective quality and has no quantifiable and unique value to scientific observation. In fact, they would prefer to use the term “viscosity” or “fluidity” and proceed to measure it according to certain parameters. Such matters should not be left to unreliable and subjective standards.

Truth then can be seen both in terms of complex science and of simple human awareness. Science emphasizes the utilitarian value or the practical usefulness of knowledge. For many of us, truth or anything close to it (that the latest blockbuster movie currently showing must be worth watching) allows us to make decisions that affect our lives, if not to raise our existence to a higher level, then to simply amuse us.

When Moses wrote his five books, we presume that the things he wrote down were facts, in the first place. He could not have been writing as a fictionist or a mystic speculating on certain things or events. (No truth to the rumor that he got so bored with tending sheep that he thought of forming a new religion.) Having learned from the Egyptians how history is stringently recorded and how precise measurements are used to build structures, he could not have shifted to a sloppy form of thinking and writing that would only confuse his readers. Of much greater value than any scientific or even mere literary usefulness, his stories carry life-preserving and life-enhancing benefits. Hence, from those facts, we are able to derive the laws of God as delivered to Moses and as received and practiced by the Israelites. And as we delve more deeply into the study of the Torah, we are then led to accept – by enlightened faith – that what Moses wrote were true and therefore established the Truth that God wanted for humans to appreciate and acknowledge, as far as His dealing with the Israelite nation was concerned and as far as we Gentiles are able to discern some use from it.

How those facts were used or applied by their receptors in the time of Moses, teaches us how we can also react to the same historical facts. (Although science would readily deny their validity for the lack of measurable evidences, their truthfulness remains valid because of the testimonies of those who witnessed and wrote those facts and are therefore no less reliable than scientific facts. Why should modern science have exclusive right to the reliability of observations?) We may accept them as laws – or mere guidelines – to help us live our lives. We may even reject them as mere suggestions or even impractical ethics that have no use for our times. But certainly, the fact that Adam and Eve died because of sin gives us the first and only reliable teaching or law on why humans die. The fact that they died and the fact that we will also die confirms the law that came from God’s mouth. On the day you eat thereof (Because of sin), you will surely die.” Moses told it as it happened and we know from his testimony that the law was and is sure. The truth applied then and it applies now. (Perhaps, if we could measure sin and death, we would find out they are equivalent in weight or value to the infinite decimal-point. Remove one and you remove the other. No sin, no death. In death, there is definitely no sin. Hence, no death (that is, eternal life in Christ), no sin.)

And so it is with other Old Testament facts that have the potential to become laws; not ceremonial laws like the Passover or burnt sacrifices, for those were “true” or applicable only to the Israelites. We refer to facts that apply to all humans, Jews or otherwise. For instance, the law against murder -- or, as it is put under a new and better law: Love one another. But we have jumped to the New Testament, which is an entirely different matter. Or is it?

(Photo above: Modern Philippine political history began with violent uprising against imperialistic powers. In the late 1900's, military leaders led battles atop horses just as Pharaoh and his soldiers rode in horse-drawn chariots when they chased the Israelites. Simple facts that tell us not much has changed in how humans think and behave.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007


What power has light to overcome the darkness? What blinding attractions to imbue us with bliss?

In the beginning, light dispersed the chaos and the gloom. Tonight, it illumines the thick swathe of endless space with its piercing gaze. A star may be a tiny glint in the sky but it holds the secrets to the Universe and the portals to eternity. Put up a thousand in the vaults of heaven and behold an array of jewels to make the peasant a king and the king a pauper.

Who thought of light that it should keep us spellbound? What mind could fathom the complexity of its essence?

In the beginning, light began its journey. Now, it moves along as before, bringing us all through space and time and showing us a glimpse of what everlasting life must be. This moment may be but a glimmer of cosmic reality but it joins with infinite others to form a string of one living continuum.

The Star of Bethlehem: Was it an angel’s torch to guide shepherds and scholars or an angel’s mirror for the Light Incarnate?

In the beginning, light dispelled fear and death. Today, it emboldens the spirit still through the errant ways that have enslaved and afflicted the many who are lost. A soul may be a small gift everyone possesses but it carries the seed of Divine Life and the hope of Eternal Reunion. Call up a thousand around the Majestic Throne with their heavenly songs to make the sorrowful jubilant and the arrogant humble.

Who then sees the light and remains blind forever? Who then lives and belies the goodness of all creation.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.