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A Context for Questions

Read John 3:1-21. "You are Israel's teacher," Jesus said, "and do you not understand these things?   I tell the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? [. . .] Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:10-12, 20-21)

Credo, ut intelligam.   " I believe in order to understand."  Such a sentiment challenges our accepted notions.  We have to accumulate enough evidence in order to believe.   We have to be convinced first before we put our trust in something.  We have to have all our questions answered in order to act.  Don't we? 

Jesus understood Nicodemus' questions.  He also fathomed what kept the Pharisee from seeing and understanding the answers.  Knowledge is not independent of our outlook. Every idea we encounter, we encounter with our worldview in place.  In fact, we need something like preunderstanding in order to make sense of the information we confront.  Think about trying to make sense of a baseball game for the first time.  You have to go with certain knowledge in order to understand it all.  Now, imagine you are a cricket fan attending a baseball game without any prior knowledge: not only will you not understand what's happening, you may judge the player at bat as engaging in a very bad show of wicket.

In the same way, we come to see and understand certain matters because we are prepared to.  Nicodemus could not make sense of Jesus' language of new birth because he was unready to truly perceive its implications.  Belief is what prepares us to grasp and comprehend the truths that are there.  Without it, we will not perceive them at all.  Unlike the cricket fan, however, more is at stake.   We must dare to pay the cost for such truth, for it may cut us to the very core and leave us exposed in all our hypocrisy and vanity, startled by the light of judgment.

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding