Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Essays about Orthodoxy


Who is the Truth ?

Man's Personal Relationship with a Personal God

Source:  "St. Silouan the Athonite" by Archimandrite Sophrony,  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (p. 111-113)



The Lord said to Pontius Pilate, 'I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth', to which Pilate replied skeptically, 'What is truth?' and convinced that there could be no answer to the query, did not look for one, even from Christ, but went out to the Jews.

Pilate was right. There is no answer to the question "WHAT is truth?" if we have in mind the ultimate truth at the root of the whole existence of the world.

But if Pilate, meaning Primal or Axiomatic Truth, had phrased his question as it should have been phrased - if he had asked "WHO is truth?" he would have received the answer that, a little while previously, Christ, foreseeing Pilate's query, gave at the Last Supper to his beloved disciples, and through them to the whole world" 'I am the truth.'

Science and philosophy set themselves the question, WHAT is truth?, whereas Christian religious perception always considers truth as 'WHO'.

Scientists and philosophers not infrequently look upon Christians as unsound daydreamers, whereas they themselves stand on firm ground and so label themselves positivists. In a curious way they do not realise all the negativeness of truth as "WHAT". They do not understand that authentic Truth, absolute Truth, can be only 'WHO', never 'WHAT', since Truth is not some abstract formula, some abstract idea, but life itself.

In fact, what could be more abstract, more negative than truth as "WHAT"? And we notice this tremendous paradox throughout the history of the human race, starting with Adam's fall. Enchanted by his reasoning mind, man lives intoxicated as it were, so that not only 'positive' science and philosophy, like Pilate, pose the question, 'WHAT is truth?' but even in the religious life of mankind we find the same great delusion, with people continually seeking truth as 'WHAT'.;

They reason that if they can arrive at the truth they seek as WHAT, they will be possessed of magic power and become unrestrained masters of being.

If man in his religious life adopts the course of rational research, his approach to the world will inevitably be pantheistic. Every time the theologizing mind essays of its own strength to know the truth about God, whether or not it understands, fatally it falls into the same error in which science and philosophy and pantheism are sunk - intuiting truth as 'WHAT'.

Truth as 'WHO' is never arrived at through reason. God as 'WHO' can be known only through communion in being - that is, only by the Holy Spirit. Starets Silouan constantly emphasised this.

The Lord Himself spoke of it thus:
'If a man loveth me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him... The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things.'

Orthodox ascetic experience rejects the course of abstract contemplation. Whoever restricts his thinking about God to abstract contemplation of Good, Beauty, Eternity, Love and so on, is on the wrong road. The one who only strips himself of all empirical forms and conceptions has also not found the true path.

Orthodox contemplation of God is not abstract contemplation of Good, Love and the like. Nor is it a simple withdrawal of the mind from all empirical forms and conceptions. True contemplation is given by God through His coming into the soul. The soul then contemplates God and beholds that He loves, that He is good, magnificent, eternal; sees Him celestial, ineffable. But in the abstract nothing can be contemplated.

Imagination plays no part in true spiritual life, which is wholly concrete and positive. Genuine concourse with God is to be sought solely through personal prayer to the Personal God. Real spiritual Christian experience is communion with God absolutely free, and so does not depend only on man's efforts and will, as is possible in non-Christian (pantheistic) experience.



Source:  "St. Silouan the Athonite" by Archimandrite Sophrony,: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (p. 111-113)

Article published in English on: 13-4-2009.

Last update: 13-4-2009.