Further Reflections on Cardinal Ratzinger’s Truth and Tolerance
I neither endorse nor reject the position articulated by the eminent evangelical theologian Carl Henry as summarized in this brief article, which does, however, crystallize some of the issues involved in claims of Christian truth: http://defendinginerrancy.com/biblical-inerrancy-orthodoxy/
Here also is a statement by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religion. I believe the statement below is an important one, but neither proves nor disproves unequivocal claims of truth:
"Christianity’s claim to be true cannot correspond to the standard of certainty imposed by modern science, because the form of verification here is of a quite different kind from the realm of testing by experiment, because the kind of experiment demanded—pledging one’s life for this—is of a quite different kind. The saints who have undergone the experiment, can stand as guarantors of its truth, but the possibility of disregarding this strong evidence remains" (p. 226).
At least in any penultimate sense, the issue is an existential one grappled within and throughout the crucible of human history—past, present and future within the context of the Kingdom of God. In my view, there’s much merit in the quest for certainty (but it is a quest). Even still, there is also the problem of the quest overextending its reach, which is ultimately a discernment that requires what can only be, fallible, finite, human judgment.
Nonetheless, any seriously committed value system requires an ultimate faith in its core principles, which serves as an axiomatic platform for the construction of its beliefs. In Christian parlance, the quest is that of faith seeking knowledge, with faith remaining axiomatic (often in a matter that can assimilate at least a certain degree of doubt) as long as one remains within the circle of faith as one’s own grounding point. Traditions are resources, and they can be very profound, but in themselves are not the carriers of the truth, but of the possibility of truth. And even though the question of what is truth is often raised, there is something core about the concept itself which human beings have a feel for even in their full capacity to complete embrace or know it. I deal with some of these issues in another context in a paper titled Postpositivist Scientific Philosophy: Mediating Convergences: http://www.the-rathouse.com/Postpositivism.htm
Reflecting once again on the quote by Ratzinger, I may not know God as truth in the scientific sense of the term, but I know God to be truth in the existential bones of my existence, and upon that hermeneutical basis I can engage the world and even engage in evangelism and missions on the basis of my claims. Also, while the depths of the Judeo-Christian God are unfathomable (and it is important to know something of the heights and the depths of the Story,) the truths of other religions are neither denied, nor accepted dogmatically as equal. With Ratzinger, I believe in the continued importance of the Christian experiment, even among those of us who are not saints.