For starters, who made him a minister? By what authority? We can see where he gives that authority; in Acts 26:16 he says "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of things which I will yet reveal to you."
Benedict writes that this is a question that confronts any reader of the Gospels: that is, where did he get this stuff? "The reaction of his hearers was clear: This teaching does not come from any school. It is radically different from what can be learned in schools."
And yet, it is taught with great authority. Which doesn't automatically mean it's true. But it does raise a second question: how is it that he is so eerily -- one might say charismatically -- confident about what he professes?
How does one ever attain certainty on any matter? Schuon writes that it is not a question of mere logic, since logic can only deduce proof from premises that must be furnished by another source. He says that certainty is actually "an aspect of knowledge," somewhat like an attribute of the truth it confirms:
"It is situated beyond the domain of the sentiments but on the individual plane it nonetheless possesses a perfume which allows us to look on it as a sentiment. One can likewise speak of a sentiment of doubt; doubt is nothing else but the void left by absent certainty..."
Of course, we can always be certain of error and doubt the truth, or Obama would have no explanation. How then to discern the difference?
I would say that if you read and understood what Schuon said above, then you are well on the way to understanding where real certainty comes from. Conversely, if you have no earthly idea of what he's talking about, then -- among other problems -- you will be insensitive to the perfume that attends Jesus' ministry (or better, Jesus himself).
Jesus is truth and presence, or the presence of truth. "Thus," writes Schuon, "Christ is essentially a manifestation of Divine Presence, but he is thereby also Truth."
One might also say that he is the manifestation of the metacosmic Center at the cosmic periphery. Importantly, this is both a spatial and temporal center, or the axis of history. Jesus is both "the Word which manifests itself in the Universe as the divine Spirit," and "the Real Presence affirming itself at the center of the soul..." Or in other words, the metacosmic and microcosmic personal centers.
I am reminded of how neurologists say it is possible to diagnose incipient senility: don't panic, but if you hold a jar of peanut butter a few centimeters from your nose, and can't smell it, then you may be developing Alzheimer's. I suppose something similar must occur to the spiritual olfactory system to cause spiritual dementias such as atheism.
As to the ultimate source of his certainty, Benedict writes that "Jesus' teaching is not the product of human learning," but "originates from immediate contact with the Father" -- whatever that means.
What it means is that it is grounded in the ultimate principle, except that this principle is not an abstraction, but rather, a concrete person. Thus, it is grounded in relationship and in dialogue, which are prior to any specific content.
For Jesus, it appears that "prayer" is the name for this dialogue. "Again and again the Gospels note that Jesus 'withdrew to the mountain' to spend nights in prayer 'alone' with his Father." To con-verse is to flow-with, so we are talking about a mysterious spiral of communion.
Now, it seems to me that the (or a) deeper meaning of baptism is a radical reorientation to the metacosmic center: "it is meant to be the concrete enactment of a conversion that gives the whole of life a new direction forever" (ibid.). It is to simultaneously turn toward, to be in, and to be drawn toward, this Center, so it embodies both the already and the not yet: real change and real hope.
You are now on the vertical path, which consists of many roads all leading to the same place. Unlike profane philosophy, which consists of many roads leading from nothing to nowhere, here all roads lead from anywhere to everything (or from anyone to the One and back again, in a round trip of ascent and descent).
But one still has to give up the Nothing (which resembles the "false plenitude" alluded to above), or in other words, die to death, so "immersion into the waters is a symbol of death." Water always has two symbolic meanings; on the one hand, it can be "the annihilating, destructive power of the ocean flood," "a permanent threat to the cosmos, to the earth..." At the same time, "the flowing waters of the river are above all a symbol of life" (ibid.).
So, while you can't fight fire with fire, I suppose one can vanquish water with Water, so this post ends not with a bang but with a groaner.