Report of Meeting 12th November 2013
A personal view
We were not very many on this evening, but that probably made for better discussion. Everyone contributed to an evening of Scriptural Reasoning on the account of the Coming of the Magi (the 'Wise Men' from the Christmas story) from St Matthew's Gospel, chapter 2, verses 1-12.
In fact we quickly left the detailed account of the Magi for a discussion of whether it mattered if the story was historically true or not, and indeed whether religious truth should ever be dependent on the accidents of history. Gandhi said that he admired the life and teaching of Christ, but that it would not matter to him if it could be proved that Christ never actually existed. What mattered was the values that his story taught us. The meeting was divided over whether they agreed with Gandhi or not. Most seemed to agree with him.
It is in fact a very old debate, and philosophers of various sorts have commonly taken Gandhi's line. But it seems to me that the Semitic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all take human history very seriously indeed, whether we are talking about the escape from Egypt in about 1200 BCE celebrated by the Jews every year at Passover, the death and resurrection of Jesus in about 33 CE celebrated by Christians every Sunday, or the sending down of the Qur'an from 610 - 632 CE which Muslims mark with a month-long fast every year. History is also very important to the Baha'is, as we noted at our meeting that it was Baha'ullah's birthday (1817 CE). Would any of those believers say that it didn't matter if these events could be proved not in fact to have happened?