Saturday, November 12, 2005

Truth: Conquering the Dictatorship of Relativism

...Catholicism is not based upon our opinions. Rather it is something we must conform to.

With these words from Kevin‘s post, I’d like to jump into what I feel to be the focal point that all Catholics must embrace if we are to be effective in bringing others to Christ. That focal point is the question of truth.

Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke vehemently against the ’dictatorship of relativism’ in the days following Pope John Paul II’s passing, has aptly written:

Beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question about truth. Can truth be recognized? Or, is the question about truth simply inappropriate in the realm of religion and belief? But what meaning does belief then have , what positive meaning does religion have, if it cannot be connected with truth?” (emphasis mine)

When it comes right down to it, this one little word - Truth - needs to become the most important word in the vocabulary of the Christian today. In response to this statement you might be tempted to say, “But isn’t love the most important aspect of the Christian life? Shouldn’t love be our number one priority? Well, yes. Love is the summit of the Christian life, as the Catechism so aptly says. But, we would do well to direct our attention to two of the ways the Catechism says we arrive at this Love:

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. (emphasis mine)

The Catechism says that there are two things that direct us toward Love, namely, doctrine and teaching. It is the aim of Catechetics - as well as theology and apologetics - to lead us toward our goal of being fully-formed in Love. Without the doctrines that teach us about God, Who is Love, we have no knowledge of Him other than the superficial; our knowledge of Him becomes nothing more than a vague ”inner sense” of who He is and what He expects of us - a “Subjectivist’s Cathechism.” as I like to think of it.

Therefore, the question of truth reaches paramount importance. Knowledge cannot be effective in saving souls if it is not grounded in truth. One can indeed have great love for others, but know nothing more than a lot of untruths and/or half-truths as regards how to save one’s soul and the souls of others. This is definitely a situation in which one can’t use the excuse, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.” Leading others to God is serious business; one needs to “do theology on their knees.” If we want to get others to Heaven, we need to be grounded in the truth if we’re to be effective and honest in our carrying out of the “Great Commission.” Genuine Love is always grounded in Truth, not in mere fuzzy-feelings about Jesus or in a spirit of timidity that avoids witnessing to the faith because, it is believed, truth is too “difficult to define.” Too often in our day, the handing on of the faith is done with the subjectivist and relativistic spirits mentioned above, and we need to begin to look closely at how we as Christians can effectively fulfill our mission to bring to Christ’s Love to the world without sacrificing the truth.

Fortunately for us, we have a Pope who has addressed this exact problem. Pope Benedict XVI, while still in his position as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released a book titled, “Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions.” This book is essentially a collection of essays, lectures, articles, etc. that Cardinal Ratzinger compiled for the sole purpose of addressing the problem of The Truth of Christianity vs. World religions and the modern viewpoint on religion and it’s purpose. Though a lot more could be said about this book, I would like to just briefly point out the implications the idea ‘truth’ has on the meaning of being Catholic. Our final aim as Catholics is He who is the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Those in our society don’t have much qualms with words “Way” and “Life,” but “Truth” is not a popular one. Before anyone will be able to accept Christ in totality, they will need to be able to accept that truth not only exists but is objective as well. Without this groundwork, any progress in evangelization is impossible because anything that is to be believed about Christ and our relationship with Him is leveled to the status of “opinion.” To become effective Catholics we must embrace the battle to stand up for truth, and live that truth as well.

God Bless,
Patrick Morris