Truth and Tolerance

I am re-reading one of the most formative theological works I ever studied, Ratzinger's Truth and Tolerance. Fundamentally, the work considers whether truth is knowable, and, if we know the truth, whether we must then hide it in the name of tolerance? 

In the book, Ratzinger outlines the timeless teaching of the Magisterium in language that resonates with our embattled culture. A work of extreme sensitivity, understanding, and spiritual maturity, this book was essential in helping me understand the value and contribution of other faiths and cultures in the context of belief in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation for the world.

Just picking up the book and reading the preface reminded me of how important this work is and how much I need to re-read it now. A quote from the preface might help you to see for yourself:
The question of the peacefulness of cultures, of peace in matters of religion, has also moved up to become a political theme of the first rank. Yet it is nonetheless first of all a question directed to the religious themselves, how they relate to one another peacefully and how they can contribute to the "education of the human race" in the direction of peace. This complex of problems applies especially to the Christian faith, in that from its very origin, and in its essential nature, it claims to know and to proclaim the one true God and the one Saviour of all mankind: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved", said Peter to the rulers and the elders of the people of Israel (Acts 4:12). Can this absolute claim still be maintained today? How does it relate to the search for peace among religions and cultures? When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the declaration Dominus Iesus, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, in 2000, a cry of outrage arose from modern society, but also from great non-Christian cultures such as that of India: this was said to be a document of intolerance and of a religious arrogance that should have no more place in the world of today. The Catholic Christian could only, in all humility, put the question that Martin Buber once formulated to an Atheist: But what if it is true?
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ
Preface to Truth & Tolerance, San Francisco, Ignatius, 2003.

These are vexing questions for anyone who has lived and traveled in a modern world. Tolerance of diversity is a hallmark of intelligence. The realisation that we are all formed, to a greater or lesser extent, by our environment and culture. How then can we reconcile this reality with a belief that all men must embrace Christ to be saved? This book helped me to understand how God reaches out to all men, through all history, but He is most fully revealed in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I highly recommend you read it and I may well post any major insights I glean as I read over the next few weeks.


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