Transcendent Truth

During my six month sabbatical from College Church (May – Nov) I have two primary writing projects: Journeys of Faith (Zondervan), a book on conversions written by a Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Evangelical. The other is a book on the lessons that we learn from death (it’s not as morbid as it sounds, trust me). The following quote presents a worthwhile insight relating to the second of these projects.

Less well-known as a Benedictine monk than as the father of English history, Bede (c. 673 – 735) was a prolific Bible scholar, scientist, author, and the only English doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. In his best-known work, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People), Bede recounts the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity in 627 A.D. In this excerpt, an advisor to King Edwin describes something important about Christian revelation, teaching us a lesson about the compelling nature of transcendent truth:

“Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a lone sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you sit in the winter months to dine with your thanes and counsellors. Inside there is a comforting fire to warm the room; outside, the wintry storms of snow and rain are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the darkness whence he came. Similarly, man appears on earth for a little while, but we know nothing of what went before this life, and what follows. Therefore if this new teaching [Christianity] can reveal any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”1

Footnotes:

1 St. Bede, A History of the English Church and People, trans. Leo Sherley-Price (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1955), 124-125.

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