By John Hofmeyr
“We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?”
The American author Kurt Vonnegut referred to himself as a Christ-worshiping Agnostic. I like that phrase because it allows me to take what mankind wrote in the Bible with a pinch of salt while striving (but frequently failing, I acknowledge) to live by Christ-like principles.
About twenty years ago, there was a fad for young folk to wear a wrist-band bearing the letters “WWJD” – “What Would Jesus do?” I believe that Jesus would consider it most honourable to doubt the veracity of much of what’s written in the Bible while trying to answer that question and to live by its answers. Two thousand years ago He did exactly that with the conventional wisdom of the time.
Will I be condemned if I eschew the blood sacrifice and the cannibalism of the Eucharist yet cherish and strive for character traits such as honesty, compassion, equity, honour, love, working hard, working smart, adding value, integrity, respect for humankind and for nature? My answer to that question very simple: “Certainly I shall not be condemned!”
Yet I acknowledge that others have an equally deep conviction that the answer is: “Absolutely yes; you’ll burn in hell!” They are entitled to their view; I shall not fight them. We both have truths; their truth is not my truth.
Be not surprised that dualityoccurs also in the sciences. Consider two examples of theories derived to explain observations:
- Wave-particle duality in electromagnetic radiation
- Theories of gravity – gravitons versus curvature of time-space.
All four of those theories exist because they can describe and predict (reproducibly and ubiquitously) what actually happens. That’s a necessary and sufficient condition of a scientifically-sound theory. That leads me to the following question: How do these theories differ from parables? Let me demonstrate by means of two sentences of similar construction with just two words changed:
- A parable is an idea used to describe desirable outcomes
- A theory is an idea used to describe observed outcomes
The consequence of that similarity is simply this: For those who believe I’ll burn in hell, the ‘Real Presence’ in the Eucharist is absolutely genuine. For me it’s simply a reminder of the tragic consequence of Christ’s upsetting of the status quo; of bringing to the centre those who were traditionally the ostracised and those on the fringes of society – outsiders – especially women and children. And a reminder to do the honourable thing no matter how difficult, irrespective of taboos, conventional wisdoms and convenient excuses not to.
I wish it were that easy.
(c) John Hofmeyr, 2018. All rights reserved.
 Pilate’s question to Jesus – “Jesus Christ Superstar”. (Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd-Webber.)
 The term ‘duality’ is used for convenience. The intention is not to exclude the possibility of more than two theories.