Here’s an ancient puzzle with a modern twist:
a real brain teaser. Take an envelope and write on one side,
Whatever’s written on the reverse side of this envelope is true.
And, then turn it over and write, Whatever’s written on the reverse side of
this envelope is false. It doesn’t take many seconds to realise
this creates an A-grade problem. It’s impossible to determine the truth or
the falsity of that particular situation.
It was Jacob Bronowski, a marvellous philosopher, outstanding mathematician,
who put this alongside the classical form of the problem.
Epimenides was a Cretan who liked telling tall tales. A lot of them.
He wanted to preserve his reputation, however, so one day he declared, All Cretans are liars.
Once again, it’s impossible to determine whether he’s telling a truth
or a falsehood. I don’t know whether he did preserve his reputation
� or not – but his saying famously became known as the
Liar’s Paradox. Now all this seems trivial enough,
harmless enough. It doesn’t have any practical effect,
or so it seems, on the real world. Yet, the more we think about the world,
the more science and mathematics probe it for underlying truths,
strangely the more paradoxes emerge. In 1931 the mathematician Kurt G�del
published The Incompleteness Theorem. This deonstrates that no system of rules
can ever capture the extraordinary complexity of mathematics.
In a nutshell, he proved not every well-formed formula
is provable. Around the same time,
the 20s and 30s of last century, physicists were starting to say similar things
about the world of matter. Quantum physics revealed paradoxes
in the sub-atomic world, and we use those in technology today.
Nature itself supplied the riddles. The more we probe,
the more abundant the supply of riddles becomes. Ancient religions,
such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism, also concentrated on paradox.
The koans of Zen are short and pithy, just like the Liar’s Paradox,
and they invite an active reflection on your part.
This might lead to resolution, and that’s the ability to live within
and beyond the paradox. Christianity has had similar developments,
even from its outset. But they’re ignored.
St Paul struggled with the inadequacy of language, of words, concepts
to describe the living reality of Christ’s presence.
So, he too famously said, it’s like seeing through a glass, darkly.
That is, the image we have of anything,
all things in the cosmos, are only very, very, very dim reflections of its underlying
reality. Maybe another way of saying that is
we know more than we can say. But St Paul found that the Way,
the journey through the paradox and contradiction, could be resolved into the three foundations
which he called faith, hope, love.
The greatest resolution, he declared, was love.
That’s what many Christians continue to yearn for:
the day when we will hear preached from all the pulpits of all the churches around
the world – all the pulpits of any religion around the
world – not messages of hate and division,
but much rather reports of everything
that is true and lovely from the whole world that God created.
I’m David Bell for kiwiconnexion.nz Subscribe for more videos like this
and thanks for watching.