How do we know that we know? All human insights have to be verified

How do we know that we know? All human insights have to be verified

Matthew 16:13-19. Who do you say that I am?

(Note: This is Matthew’s version of the same gospel from Mark 8:27-33)

Peter’s understanding of the real identity of Jesus is said to be an example of divine revelation, characterized by God choosing to reveal Himself to humans. A somewhat frustrating takeaway from this is that human understanding is always fallible and limited; and we can never fully understand the ways of God.

At the same time, this truth can be liberating in a way, because we can then devote our stamina towards being truly good and virtuous, rather than fixating on “fully explaining God” which is an impossible task. Our insight of God can deepen, but can never fully suffice.

As a side note, the Catholic Church and even different Christian sects have discussed divine revelations in terms of private and public revelations: An interesting takeaway from this is how the Catholic Church evaluates revelations: the default is a healthy form of skepticism.

We are familiar with the story of Doubting Thomas after the resurrection. I’m not too fond of the interpretation that it was wrong for Thomas to doubt that Jesus had indeed risen. Current believers have the benefit of hindsight, but imagine yourself in the shoes of Thomas: you heard a very extraordinary claim from friends you trust. Isn’t it natural to be incredulous first?

Frankly, I am empathetic to Thomas. And in a sense, maybe the reason why Thomas had to doubt was because he knew his limitations and inferiorities. Nevertheless, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to Thomas, and mentioned that those who have faith even without sense-seeing are more blessed. But I don’t think Jesus necessarily chastised Thomas for seeking evidence first; perhaps He knew that Thomas had to discern much more before Thomas can acknowledge the Truth revealed before him.

If any, this is a sign of love and peace from Christ.

Even if I have gained three higher education degrees already, I do not fashion myself as a “gifted genius” ala Einstein. I am not the fastest and most accurate when it comes to logic and puzzles, but I know I have a strong desire to know, to inquire, to pursue eureka moments. Maybe my love for writing has allowed me to develop a sort of intellectual grit and stamina. I may not be as fast as a rabbit, but I surely will do my best to march like the turtle.

In a sense, Peter was “more” blessed because he gained divine revelation about the real identity of Jesus. Yet, Peter denied Him more out of fear than doubt. On the other hand, Thomas had his doubts and required a sort of evidence so as not to succumb to blind faith nor simply be fooled; Thomas knew that human insights are fallible. Therefore, Jesus revealed Himself to Thomas; a divine revelation.

Only He is perfect. We can only strive to be excellent because we can never be perfect – we can never be God. Still, Jesus loves us for who we really are — virtuous, curious, and thirsty for what is truly good.


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