Is Lessing also among the gnostics?

Lessing’s famous dictum that the accidental truths of history cannot prove the universal truths of reason summarizes the epitome of critical scholarship.   Stated another way, “how can an accidental and contingent particular, say the Resurrection, establish a universal truth like Christianity?”

The Common-Sense believer will say that’s stupid, and it is.   But, there is a sense in which Lessing has some force.  If you prize the “universal timeless truths” over history, then you really can’t avoid his charge:  are you really saying the ultimate truth of Jesus depends upon historical verification in the Resurrection (Paul evidently thought so in 1 Cor 15).

I think there is a response to Lessing, and that is to cut it off at the knees.  Lessing’s statement is a refined, modern version of Platonic dualism:  an antithesis between the One (universal truth) against concrete particulars (history).  If you accept this Platonic dualism, it’s hard to avoid Lessing’s charge.

One comment on “Is Lessing also among the gnostics?

  1. John Bugay says:

    You nominalist!

Comments are closed.