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The Truth About Truth

- Dan Shea, EGL 2

Christ said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thomas a’ Kempis added these thoughts. “Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living.” These words often pass over the lips but rarely settle into the mind’s eye. The simplicity of truisms is often lost on subsequent generations and they fail to recognize what is happening in the current culture.

Traumatized by the vaunted precepts of modernity, the authority of truth has been eroded as a result of the ongoing assertion there are no unchangeable truths. This leaves changeable truth, a rather disfigured concept endlessly rewritten to accommodate personal preferences. Methodist theologian, Thomas C. Oden, believes, “Modern life feigns always to be original, yet its originality is tired and jaded. What is lively and not jaded is the new light that shines radiantly upon our pretenses.”

Much of modern moral beliefs are simply a massive collection of works that are emancipating and easily altered musings presented as serious thought. There seems to be an unsettling dialectic between realism and idealism. There is, however, an explicit level of intellectual vulnerability due to the secularist agenda that is overwhelmingly Christian doctrine. Fulton Sheen pointed out, “The intelligentsia always knows enough about religion to distort it.”

Consider G.K. Chesterton’s observation, “America is the only country ever founded on a creed." Today moral judgment has been degraded into moral posturing through an insidiously planned myopia for those who equivocate between moral reasoning and their propensity to foster relativism. This loss of insight cuts a wide swath across Christian thought in America. Ultimately, good Christians will do the right thing once the miasma of experimentation evaporates. These pendulum swings have been shaped by a flawed understanding of how moral truths bear on the rise and fall of the culture.

A significant part of the problem is that a nation with high moral expectations and profound moral promise lacks adequate public support to translate moral truths into a framework for a cultural philosophy to preserve the common good. Thus, an unresolved tension exists between moral man and an immoral society. There remains a huge chasm between the interpretations of what is good and what is evil.

Christianity’s self-defense is imperiled by the impotence of indifference coupled with unmet challenges by the laity and unfilled expectations of the hierarchy. Contemporary reform is often intellectual shallowness driven by the insistent manifestations of the dictatorship of relativism. Much of morality is concerned with man’s obligation to his fellow man and often demands one resist favoring himself to the determent of others. Reason is insufficient to keep men moral without a commitment to personal integrity and a deep sense of compassion. Knowing what is good and doing it are two different things. All too often individuals genuflect to the spirit of the age.

America needs to reflect on the founding principles rather than the disposition of modern society, which relies on the commonality of interest of the prevailing majority. Fulton Sheen echoes this thought saying: “The masses of people are generally inclined to equate morality with the general level of society at any given moment.” Left to the vagaries of the ambivalent majority; cultural immorality has brought about the cancer of reason.

Richard John Neuhaus leaves us these thoughts. “As modernity advances, religion retreats, the truth is that we do not judge the truth, the truth judges us, and finally, the truth is that truth obliges, and sometime, truth divides.” It should not be surprising truth divides since it is well known; Truth wears a crown of thorns. 

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