Friday, September 15, 2017

Truth and Tolerance: Catholicism in an age of relativism (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Talk to the Seniors of GFCCHS)

This is a talk given to the seniors at Great Falls Central Catholic High School, during their senior retreat this year (15 September 2017). It's a very casual setting and a very casual talk.

What is truth?
We can see truth either after the analogy of a river or a tree. The river: All the streams start in different places, but flow to the river which itself flows to the ocean. All belief systems and claims ultimately lead to the same truth.

The tree: The trunk starts as one, but the branches go off in every direction and end up in very different places. Man begins with the same search for truth, but the different belief systems and claims ultimately lead to very different places and do not converge into a single truth.

Christianity proposes that only the teachings of Jesus lead ultimately to the truth. Only through Christ is there salvation. Different religions and different beliefs really do lead to different places -- Christianity leads to heaven, every other belief system ultimately leads only to hell. However, non-Christians can be saved, not through their gods or their own merits but through the grace of Christ and the Catholic Church.

What is tolerance?
This claim seems arrogant to modern man -- even more, it seems intolerant to claim that Christ is right and everyone else is wrong. But what is tolerance?

Tolerance can only exist when we have different beliefs in contact (and conflict) with one another. If we all believe the same thing, that isn't tolerance it's agreement. If all beliefs ultimately lead to the same truth, there isn't room for true tolerance - because really we are all in agreement. Likewise, if we don't allow for real discussion and debate, we don't have tolerance we only have separation.

Christianity believes in true tolerance: Allowing different ideas and beliefs to be discussed and debated. And Christianity affirms that the truth is itself compelling to the human mind. We do not use power or external force to compel a man to accept the truth - we use discussion and debate, to allow the splendor of truth to shine forth.

The dictatorship of relativism
Joseph Ratzinger, just prior to be elected Pope Benedict XVI, stated that there is a growing "dictatorship of relativism" in which any claim to possessing absolute truth is cast aside or even persecuted. The relativistic age in which we live has no room for real discussion or debate, but rather forces all to accept the doctrine that truth is relative -- what is true for me, is only true for me and not for everyone else.

But we believe that there is absolute truth, and that this truth will appeal to all people, if only we present it in love. That's our job: To spread the truth, and trust that God will make the seed of truth grow.

Listen online [here]!


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