The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. […] There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32, 34, 35)
Conservatives descry “redistribution of wealth,” but on the surface, this certainly appears to be an apt description what’s going on here. Many commentators have noted the sharing involved in the early church, and this sounds positively communistic.
What’s the difference? On the face of it, the voluntary nature is the most obvious. There’s no indication that anyone commanded these believers to surrender their relative wealth. Further, there’s no indication that the Apostles used guilt as a motivator. This is in clear contrast with what many televangelists have done throughout the years.
Knowing and knowledge appear twice in the same week. Perhaps that’s intentional?
The Gospel reading for today was the story of Nicodemus. In the midst of this story I’d heard so many times growing up, something new: “[W]e speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.” It’s interesting that Jesus presents a dichotomy: “what we know” is not necessarily “what we have seen.” Reliance only on the latter to inform the former is the materialism I’ve embraced for so many years. They’re not necessarily the same, and to insist that they are identical is limiting.
It all calls to mind, once again, the division William James makes about those who seek truth versus those who avoid error. In being a strict materialist, I felt I was avoiding all error because I was relying on my senses or others’ senses. Yet in relying on others, I’m essentially relying on their testimony. Granted, with many matters (particularly science), I can verify what others testify by observing things in question for myself. But in reality that only represents a small fraction of knowledge available.
This is essentially what I’m wrestling with: can I trust the testimony of the authors of scripture? I don’t yet have an answer for that