Carol Platt Liebau: "The Dictatorship of Relativity"

Monday, April 18, 2005

"The Dictatorship of Relativity"

According to RomanCatholicBlog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, delivered a homily to the cardinals entitled "The Dictatorship of Relativity".

There was a fascinating discussion about the phrase this afternoon on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. It seems to me that the phrase speaks to the tyranny of "political correctness" in all its forms, insofar as the heart of political correctness is the desire to ignore or shade the truth (or even deny there is a truth) so as to avoid offending anyone -- even those, perhaps, whose conduct is offensive to standards of religious morality. With relativity, of course, there is no truth (and no Truth) -- and therefore, no right and wrong, and therefore, no objective morality. Precisely what anti- or areligious forces are pushing for.

It's always a delicate mission for a church to fight the forces of relativity. It does tend to give offense.

The difficulty is exemplified by John 14:6, where Jesus says: "No one comes to the Father except through Me." What does this mean? And how does one reconcile the plain words of the text with what would seem obvious: That a loving God would include people of all faiths in His embrace?

But if that's true, aren't we back to "The Dictatorship of Relativity" -- where "your" Truth is as good as "my" Truth, and there is no "one" Truth? On the other hand, if the words of the Bible as quoted above are true, isn't that rigidly exclusive, very anti-PC, and somewhat discomforting?

This is a hard one to figure out (luckily, I'm not in charge of who goes to Heaven). If there are any theological experts out there reading this, please comment and enlighten. Maybe (probably) there's something I'm missing.


Blogger Marshall Art said...

I don't think you're missing anything. I'm no theologian, though I like to read theology, but it seems to me that when the Truth is spoken, someone's offended. Too bad I say. The Truth hurts because it can't be denied.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Patrick O'Hannigan said...

Hi, Carol,

I'm no theologian, either, and by the time I research the Catholic interpretation of John 14:6 thoroughly I'll be an old man, but this is what I remember, based on lifelong Catholicism, 16 years of Catholic school, and an interest in theology sparked in part by our new pope, whose book "Introduction to Christianity" I recommend as both accessible and profound:

1. Catholicism always says that "proof-texting" from particular scriptural verses can be misleading, because scripture must be considered as a whole, and together with the preaching of the apostles and thc church fathers. For us, scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority or "magisterium" together form a single "deposit of faith." We're big on triune unity across the board, as it were.

2. "No one comes to the Father except through Me," appears midway through a chapter of John that starts with "Let not your hearts be troubled."

3. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit joins Christians to the Body of Christ, which means that Catholicism (both Roman and those branches united with Rome) recognizes the validity of baptism in various Christian denominations like your own.

4. Where non-Christians are concerned, Jesus' words still hold true, but remember that God reads hearts and sees what we do not see. Some speculate that adherents of other faiths who seek truth -- by virtue of doing just that -- may gain entrance to heaven through Jesus even without realizing that Jesus is the gate through which they've entered the sheepfold, so to speak. No guarantees (we argue with the presumption behind Calvinist interpretations of the so-called "assurance of salvation"), but reason to hope.

5. When Jesus said, "I know my sheep, and my sheep know me," it wasn't contradicting what Paul, I think, says elsewhere about how all of us people are presents from the Father to the Son.

I know that doesn't answer your qustion definitively, but I hope these points are food for thought.

I'm glad you posed the question, and made me think.

9:12 AM  

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