Nov 23, 2017



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Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions
Ignatius Press
Amazon Review/s
Synopsis: This book by Cardinal Ratzinger, the new pope Benedict XVI, is an exploration of the philosophy of religion. First, he outlines three ways of moving beyond myths, which have been observed in human history as schools of faith: mysticism, monotheistic revolution, and enlightenment. 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, Judaism would be closer to Islam. Cardinal Ratzinger not only treats a huge and extremely diverse collection of works (Ranging from Hindu writers to Muslim and Jewish scholars, to dissenting and Orthodox Christian theologians) with more charity and respect than readers of "the Catholic Church's Rottweiller" might expect, but he weaves them into a strong narrative as to what really separates the great religions of history - their dogma, their impact with other cultures, their approach to Reason as well as their fruits. What seems to be his arch-enemy, Relativism, is left limbless and defeated, and those who would defend this lie are left intact, but chastened. 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 approaches. He looks at the different ways in which Christian perspectives of the idea of philosophical and theological truth are seen in other religions, including perspectives that can lead to the idea of the anonymous Christian (a Rahner-ian concept, often termed inclusive or pluralistic, depending upon the details), as well as an exclusivity standpoint - this is not where Ratzinger ultimately comes down in terms of philosophy. He disproves as utter nonsense any presumption the reader may have of a closed-minded doctrinaire theologian forcing his viewpoint. 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 philosphers such as Platao, Socrates, Aristotle, Hegel, Kant, Marx, and many others. He empasizes 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 decisons. 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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