Maol Iosa – Diary
For an explanation of the title and why we are publishing this diary, please see the first entry (27/3/13). Maol Iosa = servant or follower of Jesus. Every day before I publish the diary I read the entry to my better half, to make sure she approves. I would hate to publish anything which would upset her. The only problem is that a lot of my ponderings are just a load of old rubbish to her! I read her today’s entry (which I wrote 9 months ago) and she said “There’s the word again, ‘existential’, what’s that mean?” And “It’s like a sermon.” O dear, I’m in trouble again. When I explain that the question of suffering involves ‘truth’ as well, she just looks at me blankly. But I know she’s right. The following musings are just like a sermon, not a diary. Anyway, here’s a summary, it will help one to decide whether to read it or not! Summary: What the minister said – God’s hidden will – the Bible as existential truth – the choices we make – the essence of life is existential – propositional truth compared to existential truth.

Servant of Jesus
Wednesday 11th July 2012

Again a quiet day. I went to Portree for some messages in the morning and went to the prayer meeting in the evening. The message was from Acts 21:14, “The Lord’s will be done.” It’s the story of how Paul on his missionary journeys reached Caesarea and stayed in the house of Philip the evangelist. Agabus, a prophet who had come down from Judea, warned Paul that if he went to Jerusalem he would be seized by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. His Christian brothers and the people pleaded with him not to go when they heard this. But he was determined to go and he said, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And we know what happened to Paul. He did go to Jerusalem, was made a prisoner by the Romans and, after appealing to Caesar, was sent to Rome where he was a powerful witness to the Jews and the Gentiles. The minister’s message for us was that God’s will is revealed clearly in the Bible, but there is also the hidden or secret will of God and we have to accept that as well, though it might not be easy.

I have been musing about the whole question of the truth of the Bible and I have realized something very, very important. I have known this truth before but today it has dawned on me with peculiar force. The truth of the Bible is an existential truth. Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish philosopher, is credited with having laid the foundations of modern existentialism. Perhaps, but Jesus was an existentialist long before Kierkegaard. Existentialism tells us we must face the raw fact of our existence, as it were, and make life choices. He confronted people at the most basic level. He said things like, “But unless you repent, you will all perish.” Luke 13:3 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” Luke 13: 24 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Mark 9:43

The parables such as the parable of the prodigal son, of the lost sheep and of the good Samaritan are all about how the individual should act, and how a person should choose. They are about our relationship with God and other people. We are thrown, as it were, into the middle of existence. At every moment we have to make choices. The choices accumulate and help to create the soul or heart we have within us. What happens at death depends on the choices we have made in life. Some choices are stark. Believe in God or not. Serve God or not. Love and serve other people or not. Choose a life of self-gratification or not. The list is endless.

But the important point not to miss is that when we talk about truth, we are talking not about language or reasoning or logic or even the evidence of science, although the truth can be mediated through language. Millions of words have been written about interpreting the sensible world. But at the end of the day science, art, philosophy and interpretation are all irrelevant. For all such interpretations can never approach the life lived. The essence of life is existential and spiritual. St. Augustine said, “Radiant in his light, yet invisible in the secret place of the heart, the Spirit is the supreme abode wherein dwells all that moves and breathes and sees. Our whole business, therefore, in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”

What is existential truth and what is propositional truth? The first is the person being caught up in the mess of life facing the interior, and often agonizing, nature of choice. The second is a description of something external to the person. The first is secret, the second public. A world separates the two. But by our choices in this internal world we can affect the exterior world, the world of other people.

Jesus confronts us with the question, “Who do you say that I am?” To believe that he is the crucified and risen Son of God, the revelation of God’s nature, is the Christian way. Jesus had an existence like us and after his resurrection the Spirit was sent to believers. Christians have an existential relationship with God through Jesus and by the Spirit. That is the mystery Augustine speaks of.

Considering all this, we can see that those who interpret the Bible literally have caught the wrong end of the stick. They confuse propositional truth with existential. The most important fact about the Bible is that it is existential truth; that Jesus is the resurrected Lord of all life and that a person can have a living relationship with this living Lord and that relationship is the most real kind of relationship. O, yes, the Bible is Spirit breathed and is full of truth. But it is a truth of the lived life. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus said. He demands that we choose, that we treat him existentially. What matters most is the interior life of the heart.