Summary of today’s show: In his new book “Jacob’s Ladder: Ten Steps to Truth,” Dr. Peter Kreeft sets forth a narrative with which most Americans can relate, talking to a young skeptic about truth, absolute truth, the meaning of life and where that ultimately leads: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Scot Landry talks with Dr. Kreeft, walking quickly through many steps on the ladder from the need for a passion for the truth to why love is the meaning of life and how that truth leads to acknowledging the existence of God and to acknowledging that we accept that either Jesus is God or he is a madman, with no alternative possibility.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Dr. Peter Kreeft
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Dr. Peter Kreeft’s new book “Jacob’s Ladder: Ten Steps to Truth”
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and introduced today’s guest, Dr. Peter Kreeft, and his new book “Jacob’s Ladder: Ten Steps to the Truth.” He’s written more than 70 books. Dr. Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and continues to teach there. Scot noted that Dr. Kreeft has written a wide variety of books, including books on surfing, theology, philosophy.
Scot said Jacob’s Ladder is a book of philosophy written around a fictional narrative of two people from Nahant discussing the important questions of life. These questions are the ladder and going up the ladder gets more and more specific to higher and higher truths.
Dr. Kreeft said the two characters are taken from his novel “An Ocean Full of Angels” which is situated in Nahant, one of his favorite places in the world. He said these characters have occurred in some of this other books as well. One of them is Mother Kirk, a large, benevolent, multi-racial women who is clever and has all the answers and represents Mother Church and the other is called Seeker.
He said dialogue is the best way to learn philosophy as Plato discovered. Each of us talks to ourselves in our minds in dialogue. We can all identify in ourselves the believer and non-believer, optimist and pessimist and so on.
Scot said the character of Libby is in her mid-20s, a college graduate who worked in social work, but recently left her job because she was disillusioned. He asked f Libby represents the kind of students he’s met a Boston College. Dr. Kreeft said Libby is a sympathetic character. She’s skeptical, but has reason to be skeptical. You need a skeptical character to keep things moving.
The idea of ten logical steps isn’t original. One question comes before another logically. Scot said he never thought another entry point for the pursuit of the truth was to ask whether someone has a passion in pursuit of truth. He said plenty of guys he knows can have instant recall of the minute stats of their favorite athletes and can spend hours on fantasy sports leagues. Yet it’s rare to know someone who has a passion to know the most important things in life.
Dr. Kreeft said he uses a long quote from Paschal who says if you don’t have a passion in knowing what happens after death, then you aren’t living, you’re a wet noodle. You need passion to understand anything. Passion comes from the heart and that drives the head. The main reason people don’t find the truth is because they don’t have much passion for it. He said he finds that less brilliant students to find the truth because they care more than the brilliant ones.
Scot said you don’t have to be Christian to care about what happens after death. Dr. Kreeft said you have to overcome relativism to come to the understanding that there is an absolute truth. Dr. Kreeft said everyone wants to know life’s ultimate meaning. Science and the scientific method gives you provable answers and we want to do that with the big questions, but you can’t; not because the answers aren’t there, but because the method doesn’t work. Science starts with skepticism, but that doesn’t work with everything.
On the perception of the heart, it can know things that can’t be proven, like the fact that love is better than hate. He said the meaning of life is an easy question to answer: It’s love. But when asked to prove it, you can’t do it very easily or well. So skeptics have to suppress that perception.
Scot said the next part of the book shows that when you think deeply about, people can agree that love is the meaning of life, but not everyone would define love as willing the good of another person. Dr. Kreeft said that too we intuitively know. We know you can’t run your life on feelings. Love has to be a work, it has to do something. It has to change people. If you know that, does it follow that God exists? Most people argue from the other direction. arguing for the existence of God and then saying God is love. Dr. Kreeft argues that love is the ultimate meaning and if that is so, how far up the ladder does it go? Does it go all the way up to God?
Scot noted that the book shows that philosophy as a science, just different from other sciences. Dr. Kreeft said art and science are different in that art is something we create. We create our own truth in art. In science, we discover the truth. The ancient meaning of science isn’t what moderns call it. Science is an ordered body of knowledge that seeks the truth by reason. He said it’s a natural result of the success of the hard sciences in understanding and conquering nature and controlling time and space. Compared to the soft sciences, we say the latter must be weaker. But just because you don’t come to agreement doesn’t mean there isn’t truth.
Philosophy is the science of life. You don’t want to get A’s in all your subjects and flunk life. The final exam of life is how did we love and we don’t want to flunk the exam.
Dr. Kreeft said when we understand the true nature of love, we are much less comfortable with our lives because we realize that it’s work, not just a feeling. Your fundamental attitude toward another human being if based on feelings is going to be unreliable and based on the whims of our feelings. It has to be based on something fundamental like a choice to value a person because they are fundamentally valuable. You use objects and you don’t worship objects. You have to adore God and nothing else. You use objects and nothing else. You love and don’t use people because they aren’t God and aren’t objects.
Love says to another I love that you exist. The world is a beautiful place because you are in it. The world is a wonderful place because you are in it, which is a quote from an Elton John song.
He asked how we come to the understanding that love is the purpose and meaning of our life. Dr. Kreeft said most things we know not from proof or philosophical experiment, but from experience. If we live a day without love, then everything falls apart. If you live a life of love for a day, you say you didn’t know how happy you could be before. Prove that love is the meaning of life by living it. He said you’d rather be poor and in love in Detroit, rather than wealthy and alone in Hawaii.
Scot said the book also looks into how we know good laws from bad laws. We need good laws that allow love to flourish. Some of the reasons for conflict because there are bad laws that hurt the exchange of love. Dr. Kreeft said laws and love go together. People usually think love and laws are opposites. Without principles, then love can’t flourish. Laws are the skeleton of the body. Laws of human nature are always in favor of love, while manmade laws sometimes aren’t. Natural laws aren’t arbitrary. They’re based on human nature.
Scot said many people think of the Church as a system of rules and they think of rules as cold and inhuman. Dr. Kreeft said rules don’t have to be cold. A skeleton is cold because it has no flesh around it. Scot said the Ten Commandments were written for love. You could read it by putting love in each one. “Love doesn’t bear false witness. Love doesn’t kill.”
Dr. Kreeft said it’s impressive that the religions of the world pretty much agree on morality. They differ on theology, but not on morality.
2nd segment: Scot said the second half of the book begins by asking the question How can we know how God exists. Dr. Kreeft said we can ask from the outside: “How did the universe begin? Is there a mind behind the intelligence of the universe?” Or from the inside, our own experience: “How can I love? Why am I bind to my conscience?” If you’re open-minded, you can find the answers from the clues. But it’s not guaranteed that you can find them. You have to seek them. Once you understand how authoritative love is, you want it to go up to the ultimate reality. you don’t want love to die when the human race is dead and gone.
God is a real presence in our lives. Not just like the moon, cold in the sky, but like the sun, which touches the earth and warms it.
Libby says in the book that if I invite God in, I lose control and thus being scared of the unknown creeps in. How much does being scared of that prevent people from asking the key question because we’re not able to take the leap. Dr. Kreeft said the ultimate sin is pride, which means playing God, always wanting to be in control. That’s deadly. Handing over the reins to God takes trust and love. If you know God as true love, you want to trust him.
Jesus is the definitive revelation of God. The Father isn’t different from Jesus. There is no more to reveal. If you know Jesus you know the Father.
Before that point in the book, Mother Kirk leads Libby through the ladder of religions and talks to her about Judaism. Scot noted that he never knew that religion means relationship. He said Judaism is a different relationship with God than any religion that came before.
Dr. Kreeft said Judaism is different because it’s historical. There is a universal search for God in the human heart, but in Judaism, God comes down in search of us. Most religion searches for God, like those airport paperbacks. Judaism on the other claims to be the one road down the mountain, unlike all the others that go up. You can learn good stuff on the roads up, but if God says this one road is the best way, you can’t ignore that. And Jesus was a Jew. That’s a historical fact. The character of Mother Kirk explains how Jesus came from that faith and how we can’t get to Christ without understanding God’s revelation.
Dr. Kreeft said we can understand a lot why people resist converting to Christianity by looking at why people are anti-Semitic. The attitude toward the concrete, historical claim of the Jews is similar to the attitude toward the concrete, historical claim of Jesus. You can’t relativize him. You can’t just say Jesus is a good man. Either he is who he says he is or he’s one of the biggest liars of all time.
Either Jesus is who he says he is or he is not. Christians believe Jesus is God. If Jesus isn’t God, he’s a blaspheming insane liar who wants you to trust him and put your life in his hands.