Snippets from exchanges with various atheists on a forum recently:
The Proximity of Truth (Can atheists know the truth?)
While the Scripture you speak of exists (“No one approaches the Father but through me.” (John 14:6) St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, quoting St. Ambrose, “All profound truth, no matter where it is found, has the Holy Spirit for its author.”
Again, St Justin stated: “God is the Word of whom the whole human race are partakers….” and (Meister) Eckhart spoke of an ancient sage in the following terms: “Our most ancient philosophers found the truth long, long before…ever there was a Christian faith at all as it is now.”
Thomas of Villenova taught…. “Our religion is from the beginning of the world….if you saw Abraham, and Moses, and David alongside Peter and Andrew and Augustine and Jerome, you would observe, in all essential things, a perfect identity.”
There’s a profound principle in these words of great Christians, one that can allow a level of proximity (instead of exclusivity, which you seem to be preaching here) between different faiths even if they hold doctrinal differences.
When Jesus says “No one approaches the Father but through me”, he refers to those whose hearts are on his path, whose beings have a resonant identity with his, whose spirits are congruent with his – they are the ones who approach God through Jesus, even if they have never seen or heard Jesus (They could even be atheists).
They cultivate an essential identity which connects and accords with the spirit and truth of his teachings though they may know little or nothing about Jesus himself. It is a person’s inner reality (and the actions which spring from it) that is the deciding factor.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven…. And every one that heareth these sayings, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.” (Matthew 7:22-27)
The Scandal Of Neutrality (The Agnostic)
I think you may have a very puerile understanding of what “the Church” means, perhaps some sort of social organization or people sitting in the pews of a building. Catholics are “ecclesial” and think of “the Church” as the “mystical body of Christ.” In the words of a lovely hymn I sang yesterday:
“We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts.
Living, now we remain with Jesus, the Christ.
1. Once we were people afraid,
lost in the night.
Then by your cross we were saved;
dead became living,
life from your giving.
2. Something which we have known,
something we’ve touched,
what we have seen with our eyes:
this we have heard;
life giving Word.
3. He chose to give of himself,
became our bread.
Broken, that we might live.
Love beyond love,
pain for our pain.
4. We are the presence of God;
this is our call.
Now to become bread and wine:
food for the hungry,
life for the weary,
for to live with the Lord,
we must die with the Lord.”
It is Church’s monumental answer (No!) to that piece of popular secular advice: “Get over it!”
We have “killed the author of life.” [Peter in Acts 3:15] And our lives need to be rededicated to Him. And anything worth doing is done in relationship with others, based on love. That is what the Church is and the whole purpose of our Catholic faith is to be a part of that.
My suspicion of you and others who “choose not to choose” is that you advocate the “square circle,” a neutrality that is not there. Your god is Neutrality and you refuse to commit much to anything. In certain intellectual regions your God travels under other names such as Autonomy and Rights. To recap a bit from an essay by J. Budziszewski, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas and a specialist in ethical and political theory:
“We meet this jealous and negating god on the philosophic right, where conservatives like Michael Oakeshott tell us that the specific and limited activity of “governing” has “nothing to do” with natural law or morals. We encounter him on the philosophic left, where liberals like John Rawls and Marxists like Jurgen Habermas invent devices like the Veil of Ignorance and the Ideal Speech Situation to convince us that if we wish to understand truly the principles of justice, we must pretend to forget not only who we are, but also everything we ever thought we knew about good and evil.
We meet this god in law, where many jurists treat ethical distinctions such as “family” vs. “non-family” as “invidious classifications” that deny citizens the equal protection of the law. We meet him in education, where elementary school children are offered books like Daddy’s Roommate, Heather Has Two Mommies, and Gloria Goes to Gay Pride.
In fact, we meet this god everywhere: in the university, in the movie theatre, in many churches and synagogues, and, it goes without saying, on the even more ubiquitous altar of the television.
It might seem remarkable that people who insist that tolerance means moral neutrality should themselves be so earnest in ridiculing those who aren’t neutral. But of course, they themselves aren’t neutral either.
The scandal of Neutrality is that its worshipers cannot answer the question “Why be neutral?” without committing themselves to particular goods-social peace, self-expression, self-esteem, ethnic pride, or what have you-thereby violating their own desideratum of Neutrality. Yet even this is merely a symptom of a deeper problem, namely, there is no such thing as Neutrality. It isn’t merely unachievable, like a perfect circle; it is unthinkable and unapproachable, like a square circle. Whether we deem it better to take a stand or be silent, we’ve offended this god in the very act of deeming.”