Adult -- Truth and Tolerance by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
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Title: Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions
Author: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, translated by Henry Taylor
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Date Published: October 2004
Comments: Written by the future Pope Benedict XVI
The Theology of the New Pope, April 19, 2005
Reviewer:Robert W. Kellemen (Taneytown, MD United States)
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a precursor of his
Papacy in "Truth and Tolerance." A deep thinker, he maintains a zeal for
enforcing Catholic Orthodoxy.
Even as the cardinals who elected him prayed before the conclave, Ratzinger
urged them to cling to church tradition and warned about the dangers of
"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled
today as a fundamentalism," he said Monday. "Whereas relativism, which is letting
oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the
only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize
anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and
one's own desires," he warned.
"Only someone who knows tradition is able to shape the future," said the Rev.
Thomas Frauenlob, who heads the seminary in Traunstein where Ratzinger
studied and regularly returns to visit.
These are the views, presented in philosophical and theological language,
found in "Truth and Tolerance." If you are looking for a post-modern book
suggesting that all ways lead to Christ, you will not find it here.
Instead, you will find a well-reasoned, respectful Catholic examination of
what truth one finds in Scripture and what truth one finds apart from Scripture.
And you will find a prominent Catholic view of how those holding to the
Catholic faith ought to view and interact with those outside the church.
Reviewer: Dr. Robert W. Kellemen, author of "Soul Physicians" and "Spiritual
What is truth and why does it matter?, February 1, 2005
Reviewer:Glutton for books
I bought "Truth and Tolerance Christian Belief and World Religions," because
I thought that since it was written by Cardinal Ratzinger, who is Prefect of
the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome, that it would be an
articulation of the Catholic Church's position in regard to the relevancy of other
religions for helping people along the path of salvation. If that is what you
are looking for, don't buy this book, because it does not focus on this type of
doctrine and will not help you. Francis Sullivan's book "Salvation Outside the
Church," is probably still the best book on that subject, even though it is
more than ten years old and many papers have been presented by the Vatican
since its publication. This book instead explores the role of what an individual's
concept of truth should play in society.
By "truth," Ratzinger refers to the values that an individual holds as
reference when making decisions. He states that "heaven begins on Earth." And he
does not confine the people who are able to realize "truth" to Christians, nor
even only believers in any sort of Divinity; agnostics and atheists are capable
of this discernment to a degree too.
Being Christian, he believes that Christianity embodies truth in the fullest
sense; that God is love and we are all called to know God as love and to
spread His love. But he admits that no approach is perfect, since only God is
capable of perfect knowledge of truth and love, and people are unable to understand
God perfectly. He concedes that Christianity has been susceptible to
"diseases" in the past, such as the mentality that allowed to Crusaders to shed so
much blood in Jerusalem.
The book is not an easy read. It is very philosophical and written in a style
that is a cross between a philosophical text book and legal writing. The
first section of the book briefly outlines and seeks to categorize different
approaches of faith. The majority of the essays are from lectures that he has
given, and the thoughts are not outlined as clearly as they are in most works
presented as papers.
First, he outlines three ways of moving beyond myths, which have been
observed in human history as schools of faith: mysticism, monotheistic revolution,
Monotheism is further divided into three models: spiritual monism of India,
universal Christianity, and Islam. I am not quite sure why or if he decided
that Islam's approach is separate from Judaism, in the model. Judaism's place is
not well articulated. Islam is introduced as having a different concept than
universal Christianity because Islam believes itself to be the final revelation
"beyond Judaism and Christianity;" and that there is one God. But
Christianity believes in a Trinity. According to this logic, I would think Judaism would
be closer to Islam. Perhaps, it is the finiteness of the plan that leaves
Islam unto itself. The model is not mentioned again, ad this was the biggest lack
of clarity I found in the book. It did not impact my comprehension of the rest
of the book, because the book is a collection of related topics, rather than
a study based on incrementally important chapters.
Next, he discusses a little bit about approaches universal Christianity used
as frameworks for validating (or invalidating) the elements of truth that are
inherent in religions. These include: inclusivist, exclusivist, and pluralism
He spends much time defining the terms he talks about, which makes the book
dry, but for the persevering reader, deeper insight is introduced for concepts
such as truth, democracy, freedom, and responsibility; words that have become
over used and empty by society at large, in the second part of the book.
An individual or society's collection of religious beliefs are referenced in
the word "truth." He posits that people who have more freedom, have more
responsibility to make decisions with reference to truth in their life, in order to
make the world a better place. He does not believe that it is possible to
create a utopia, but that we actively seek to make the world better in relative
to its current state.
The book occasionally mentions Christian teaching, but not any more often
than it pulls from examples of Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, as well as
from philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Hegel, Kant, Marx, and many
others. He emphasizes the importance of not only reading "empty philosophy,"
but to study the issues that matter in life: such as concepts of truth that
explore the meaning of life and that help us to better discern the consequences
of our decisions. Rather than promote any one perspective of values, Ratzinger
uses the book to exhort the reader to acknowledge whatever values s/he has
that are true and to implement them in society to improve the world, with as
much freedom as our lives give us the ability to do.
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