Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth

By David Brown | Go to book overview

7 Posing Pilate's Question: Truth and Fiction

“ 'What is truth” said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer;' thus the familiar opening words of the first of Francis Bacon's essays. 1 Quoting from John's version of Jesus' trial before Pilate, he ends with a ringing endorsement of the value of truth, but not before he had conceded some of the counter-attractions. So, for instance, though 'poesy . . . filleth the imagination . . . with the shadow of a lie', 'a mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure'. Had he been more self-reflective, he might also have seen some parallels to Pilate in the pragmatism and deceptiveness of his own life. 2 Bacon's response to Pilate's question is set at the beginning of our final chapter, however, not because of any specific interest in Bacon but rather because of the way in which his treatment of Pilate is so effective in exposing the major issues that must now be confronted, as I seek to draw together the argument of my two volumes as a whole. Essentially, these are of two kinds. First, there is the question of what we are to make of non-historical narratives and images. In common with many others, Bacon denies that 'poesy' can lay claim to truth. But is he right, and, if not, what sense of truth attaches to the various developing narratives that have been defended in earlier chapters? Then, secondly, there is the question of criteria for legitimate developments. Bacon talks of a 'jesting Pilate', and there are some who would follow him, but there is also an alternative tradition that has resulted in Pilate's

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Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Discipleship and Imagination iii
  • Preface v
  • Abbreviations vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One Appropriating Christ for the Present 5
  • 1: Valuing and Prostituting Women 11
  • 2: Pattern and Particular 62
  • 3: Heaven and the Defeat of the Beast 102
  • Part Two the Impact of Changing Experience 173
  • 4: Job and Innocent Suffering 177
  • 5: Mary and Virgin Promise 226
  • Part Three Truth and Authority 289
  • 6: Apostolicity and Conflict 293
  • 7: Posing Pilate's Question 343
  • Index 425
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