St Andrewís Croydon
27th August 2006
True or False?
Listen carefully to the following statements:
The earth turns round once in every twenty-four hours;
The earth goes round the sun every 365 days;
The sun is closer to the earth in summer than in winter.
In fact only one of these three statements is true. Of the others, one is nearly true; the other is seriously false.. If you donít already know which is which, donít worry: you will find out in a few minutes.
Now consider three reactions typical of those who havenít ever given the matter of sun and earth five minutes serious. They something like this:
ĎI donít understand what you meaní; or
ĎIím not interestedí; or
ĎI donít believe thatí; or
ĎThat is true (or false)í
Their replies are of two quite different kinds. Only the last pair Ė thatís true/thatís false has anything to do with the facts about the sun and the earth. The first three replies Ė I donít understand/Iím not interested/I donít believe it Ė are mostly about their feelings.
The two sorts of reaction have different names, objective and subjective respectively. Being objective about statements is about whether they are true or false. Being subjective about statements means describing how those statements Ďstrikeí us Ė in other words how we feel about them and not whether they are true or not. How we feel about them is likely to differ from person to person, so there may be a thousand and one subjective reactions, none of which tells us whether the statement being reacted to is true or false. They are like ideas which some people find helpful in their everyday lives and others donít. So it is perfectly acceptable to say about these subjective statements ĎIím not interestedí or ĎI donít understandí or Ďyou may feel that way, but I feel differently about ití.
Many people today suppose (wrongly) that the Christian faith, and the Creed in particular, fall into the second, subjective, category Ė in other words ideas which some people find helpful and others donít. But the Christian faith, has always claimed to be about objective facts.. Every one is a statement to which the only proper answer can only either be Ďthatís trueí or Ďthatís falseí Ė like those statements about the sun and the earth we started off with this morning.
If they are true the number of people who believe or donít believe them This means that the number of people who believe in them it doesnít make them any less or more true or false; if nobody believed them. They would still remain as true (or false) as they were two minutes, two days or two thousand years ago.
Thatís why learning to distinguish between truth and falsehood is so important. If what we believe in is true, then our lives will make sense; if our beliefs are based on how we feel about things then sooner or later they will lead to confusion and misery. Exactly how disastrous it will prove depends on how seriously mistaken our beliefs turn out to be. Having mistaken beliefs about the sun and the earth wonít make much difference to our lives unless we want to study astronomy. Whilst the earth does indeed turn round once every twenty four hours; it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.51 seconds to go round the sun.(so every four years we have an extra day, February 29th ); and the sun is more than three million miles further from the earth in summer than in winter, itís warmer because the sun shines more directly down on the earth in summer than in winter.
But the statements made in the Creed are no less objective than the those about sun an earth. If we are wrong about them (either because we believe in them if they turn out to be false, or deny them if they prove to be true) it will affect our entire lives not only on earth but for ever and ever Amen!
Given that believing the truth about God is so important letís now sum up what the Creed claims to be true and which we as Christians are bound to try live our lives by: Here are the seven most important facts.
In the beginning God created all that there is. In particular he created the human race in order for it to glorify Him and enjoy Him for ever.
All men have sinned and fallen short of that glory which means that mankind, by his own efforts cannot make himself worthy to stand in the presence of God.
However, in the fullness of time, God the Son became Man in the person of Jesus Christ. So God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
Jesus Christ was born (in about the year 3BC) in what we now call the Holy Land; his motherís name was Mary; he had no human father; he was unjustly put to death by crucifixion in the time of Pontius Pilate, in the year 30AD. By dying innocent of all sin he paid the price of our sins, thereby offering the perfect sacrifice of Himself, on our behalf, to His heavenly Father. After three days in the tomb He was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven; in due course he will return to judge the world.
There is no other name given to men by which we can be saved but that of Jesus Christ. No-one in the end can come to the Father except through Him.
In every Mass we take part in His life-giving sacrifice and receive His life-giving Body and Blood.
Jesus created his Church on earth to continue his ministry of preaching salvation through faith in him and administering the Sacraments to those who will receive Him. That ministry continues today through you and me.
Such a faith which is based on facts has little to do with our feelings, but everything to do with our wills. In other words our faith is objective. So someone who sincerely believes it to be untrue may be far closer to the truth than one who says ĎI donít understand thatí or ĎI am not interestedí and walks away without trying to understand what it is telling him about reality.
The sincere unbeliever may come to faith, in due course, if he continues to think about it,. The person whose beliefs depend what they are feeling is like the person who says to their doctor Ďyou tell me Iíve got cancer; but Iím feel perfectly well so I am not going listen to your adviceí..
For believing in a falsehood is to harbour a spiritual cancer: as Saint Paul tells us, Ďthe wages of sin is death Ė but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.í
Is Earth closer to the sun in the summer than it is in winter?
While it would seem so, the opposite is true. In January, the earth is nearest the sun, while in July itís farthest away. But why, then, is it warmer in July? The heat of the summer is not due to the proximity of the sun, but rather to the fact that the sun is more overhead in the northern hemisphere during the summer season. Its rays fall on the earth more vertically and are more concentrated than they are in winter, when the sun is not vertically above us. During the winter, the rays of the sun strike the ground at an angle that spreads them out more.
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