The old monk was enjoying the cool air. It had been mild lately and rather enjoyable. It made walking a bit easier. Nevertheless, he carried his staff with him, carrying a perpetual tune in his mind.
The boy was following directly behind the monk, attempting to step in the monk’s footsteps – having to stretch his legs to their fullest in order to maintain pace. The child also had his own staff, really a limb that had fallen from a tree.
The boy was having a bit of difficulty stepping in each step left by the monk and he finally said, “You step too long.”
“Step too long? What do you mean? I just walk.”
“Your steps are too big for me. I can barely make it from one step to the other. Can we rest?”
The monk stopped, surprised, “Stop? Why, you’ve never wanted to stop before. Are you feeling well my child?”
“Yes. I’m not tired or anything.” The monk rolled his eyes thinking, “Of course, he would never be tired.” The child continued, “I have a question.”
“I should have known. How many questions do you have in you?” The monk was smiling.
“Depends on what?”
“That depends on how many answers you have.”
The old man sat down and laughed. “Well, I am not certain I have too many answers left in me. But go ahead, ask your question.”
“I want to know, what is truth?”
“Truth? What is truth?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Truth, hmmm…,” and the old man pondered wondering how to answer a child, then said, “Truth is something you recognize.”
“Something I recognize?” The child peered at the old monk, head tilted, and absorbed what he’d been told. Then he added, “Can we make truth…like we make bread.”
“No my child, no one can make truth. It simply is…it exists.”
The child looked suspiciously at the monk still attempting to grasp what he had heard. After a moment, the child continued, “If truth is, then what is prag-ma-tism?” Sounding out each syllable, apparently for the first time, it became evident the young one had been listening to someone else’s conversation. “I heard one of the students say that if we were prag-ma-tic Christians, we could, together, arrive at the truth.”
At this the monk sat up and became visibly upset. He had to take a deep breath to control his emotions lest he scare the child. Even so the child noticed the old man’s emotions and opened his eyes a bit wider than normal and uttered, “Uh-oh.”
The monk caught but could not fully contain himself, “Pragmatic Christians?!” His voice was reaching a peak, “Pragmatic Christians?! There is no such concept…no, no, there is no such person or belief. Pragmatic Christians?” His anger was no longer containable, “Who? I want to know who said this ‘pragmatic Christians.’ This cannot be. No, no. Pragmatic Christians?! Lord have mercy!”
The old man had to stand up. Sitting down was only confining his emotion. As he raised himself up, he did not bother to dust off the grass stuck to his cassock; there was no time for looking clean when a crisis such as this was in his head. He paced back and forth, thinking, rapidly stamping his staff into the soil, as though killing ants – one at a time.
Finally, “My child, our faith is not about prag-ma-tism or about being pragmatic Christians. We have a faith rooted in reality, not ideas…certainly not pragmatism! Our faith is rooted in historical reality – the historical reality of our Saviour and the truth. He is the Truth. He is. That is why God said, ‘I am.’”
Still pacing, but not seeking to get too overwhelmed with emotion, “Our faith resides in our ability to recognize truth – its very existence.” Shaking his head the old man continued, “There can be no consensus of man regarding what is or is not true. The truth simply is. Pragmatism is a dangerous concept, a very dangerous concept in religion; it is rooted in the belief that man must be satisfied and man determines what is possible – not God. This cannot be faith. This is not our faith.”
Looking at the child once again, this time with firmness and a grip on his wooden staff, the old monk said, “Let’s walk a bit, I must give my blood something to do before I explode.”
The child raised his eye brows in surprise, then laughed and said, “That would not be prag-ma-tic.”
The monk could only laugh.