On a Theme of Mendelsohn: Relativism, Truth and the Need for Love

Unless you’re a cynic or a relativist, or my niece, truth counts. Not, though, all the time; for example, if I asked you, a stranger, “How are you?” Would you have the chuzpa to reply with the question, “Have you got an hour?” or with something deep: “Don’t you mean, ‘Why are you?’” Unless someone has just bought you a new car or you’ve won the lottery, or had a great meal and/or drunk yourself under the table, you’ll probably trot out something trite like “fine.” But, in most situations, the “How are you? Fine” inanity has nothing to do with getting close, and everything to do with staying closed.

Ok; we all lie. But I don’t want to talk about lies but about truth. In my first line I lumped together the cynic, the relativist and my niece as those who believe – deep down in their tripes – that “truth” is not on their radar.

By “truth” I mean something that doesn’t depend on how I feel about it; something that really exists; that originates outside of me.  But aren’t feelings – which are, by nature personal to me –  also real, and therefore true? Yes they are true, but the question is whether what I am is what I ought to be. For many, “ought” is at best a figment, at worst, an insult. I once had a phone conversation with one of my nieces. She was having a bad time where everything seemed to be going wrong. I broached the topic of the Christian faith.  She responded, “It’s not MY truth”. She was using “truth” to mean the way she feels. (See my “Biography of truth”). She’s a relativist.

I began by saying that relativists don’t believe in “truth.” I should have said that relativists don’t believe in objective truth. Of course, practically, they can’t live without it. (Supermarket: “What should I eat tonight, sushi or beans?) But when it comes to things such as values, the relativist speaks of “My truth, your truth”. Truth is what “I” feel it to be. Contrary to the relativist, I believe that meaning does exist outside my “I” (From the practical point of view, everybody, including the relativist, must agree that meaning must exist outside his eye). Indeed, it is the meaning that exists outside my “I” that gives my “I” meaning. “My eye!,” responds the cynic/relativist. Here’s  the paradox: I have a point of view. “Point of view,” by definition, is self-centred, in the sense that, among millions of other self centres, it radiates out from the centre of an individual self. This description of self-centredness is about how we know things, and not about how selfish or selfless we are.

There’s inside and there’s outside. How do we distinguish what comes from inside ourselves and what comes from outside? To ask the question another way: how much of the smell is in the nose, and how much in the rose? How much comes from inside, how much from outside. I’d like to consider this question in terms of the following short discussion, which followed the posting of a video by Bob Mendelsohn on his conversion to Yeshua/Jesus. All the participants are ethnic Jews.

Lwetter  (A Messianic Jew): “The man (Bob Mendelsohn) seems earnest to a point. I myself flipped over for need of love I never had. If you came from the family that I had you might consider that as my reason. His, well I haven’t heard the whole story. It was his choice. It was also my choice to finally love, respect and observe my Jewish roots by forgiving my long since dead family. Finally seeing that resentment of my family was a huge part of my reason for switching faiths. It’s a balancing act but for me accepting both is my only way to feel at peace and love with my God.”

Bubby (an ex-Messianic Jew): “Lwetter, you flipped to jesus because you had a need for love? I am sorry to tell you that you flipped for something that is not relevent to jews. Lwetter, I suppose you think that christians don’t have any dysfunctional family lives? Plenty of people have horrible family lives; not a good reason to choose a false deity.”

Me  (Bography – my user name): “Good point Bubby. Lwetter, peace and love are universal desires, across all religious and philosophical systems.”

Gev (to Bubby): “In any case he found something that was true & worked for him in the worst of times & continues to be true & work for him in the best of times.”

Gev sounds like my niece (above): “your truth,” “my truth.” And if it works for you, (I left Gev long ago) I’m very happy for you; as long as you don’t try and worm your way into my  innards (inner space).

As I said in my discussion of the psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky’s “Love is letting go of fear,” the source of love, for Jampolsky, resides within the eternal inner man, and when you discover that source – through transforming your consciousness, through switching on your inner light – your fear will cease to hold you hostage. For Jampolsky, the “common Self” (we all share) is the light, which, for those with an untransformed mind, lies obscured under the dysfunctional covers of resentment and fear.

What is the source of light in the Christian world view?

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:21-23).

In Christianity, the source of true light comes from outside, from the Saviour, the Son of God. And so, if your eyes are clear (alive to light), the Saviour will fill your  inner man with that light. If, however, you have the chuzpa to think you, yourself –  your inner man – is the source of that true light, you are deceived, because this “inner light” is nothing but darkness, a darkness that your  fallen consciousness transforms into deep darkness. But there is more, which is not spelled out in the above passage: all men are born blind.  It is the Saviour, Jesus the Christ, who opens the dead eye that it may see – and believe. Jampolsky’s Yogic “transformation of consciousness” is called the “renewing of your mind” in Christianity, which occurs only after the regeneration of the deadened soul (dead to God):

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5).

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

The Torah Jew and the Christian are both enemies of relativism. They differ in this: The Torah Jew says he doesn’t need to believe, because he knows. How does he claim to know? He says that the whole Hebrew nation witnessed God at Sinai. He, of course, wasn’t at Sinai, and so has to believe that the national revelation at Sinai really happened.  Although, there was,  of course, no national Christian revelation, there were many witnesses to the words and deeds of Jesus.  But now I am straying into the  topic of the nature of faith, which I dealt with elsewhere.

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2 thoughts on “On a Theme of Mendelsohn: Relativism, Truth and the Need for Love

  1. That is why Jesus said I am the TRUTH the light and the Way and nobody comes to the Father but through me, because you have to sacrifice the I self nature to achieve this and only then can one experience feel and live the TRUTH……..the way God proclaims it and wants it.

    • Yes, Tanya, that is so. Jesus shows us the Way to salvation, but he also shows us the way to knowledge, whether it be religious knowledge or world knowledge. I was reading a review of “As a driven leaf” by Milton Steinberg. The reviewer said: “we learn that truth, due to its ephemeral nature, must be a constant revelation renewed every day in order to hold value.” This is not the Christian view of religious truth. Having said that, all knowledge is only possible if God exists. This is so, because we can never be sure how much of what we believe is “out there” (whether physical or mental or spiritual) and how much is merely our own creation. In a nutshell, we must have faith in our reason. That kind of faith, as with saving faith, is a gift of God. But, as I said, our knowledge of the world may change but the knowledge of God – from the Christian point of view – is entirely based on the Bible.

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