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Christian faith and the challenge of relativism. These reflections take as their starting point teachings of Benedict XVI, but make no attempt to offer a complete ebsozos of his thought on this question. But this interpretation is pirronicox, since relativism is a much broader and deeper problem, manifested primarily in the philosophical and religious domains.

It refers to the deep-seated attitude that contemporary men and women, both believers and non-believers, easily assume in relation to esbozks truth. The reference to a deep-seated attitude towards the truth distinguishes relativism from error. Error is compatible with a sound attitude towards the truth.

A person who affirms, for example, that the Church was not founded by Jesus Christ, may say this because he thinks mistakenly that it is the truth and that the opposite thesis is false. The one making an affirmation of this type thinks that it is possible to attain the truth. Those who attain it, and in the degree to which they attain it, are right, and those who sustain the contrary affirmation are mistaken.

Relativistic philosophy, in contrast, claims that we have to resign ourselves to the fact that divine realities and those touching on the deepest meaning of human life, both personal and social, are substantially inaccessible, and that no pironicos approach to them exists. Every epoch, every culture and every religion have used different concepts, images, symbols, metaphors, sexti, etc.

These cultural expressions may be sexfo to one another, but in relation to the realities to which they refer they are all of equal value. They are all diverse paths, defined by specific cultures and historical periods, for alluding in a very imperfect way to realities that are essentially unknowable.

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Thus no conceptual or religious system possesses an absolute truth value. All are relative to their historical moment and cultural context; hence their diversity and even mutual opposition.

But within the ambit of this relativity, all are equally valid, insofar as they are different and complementary ways of approaching the same reality that substantially remains hidden.

He had some of the blind men touch the fsbozos of the elephant and told them: Then the king asked the blind men what an elephant was, and each gave a different explanation depending on the part he had been permitted to touch. The blind men began to argue, and the argument became violent, until a fist empirlco broke out among them, which provided the entertainment the king was seeking.

This story is a good illustration of relativism. Mankind is blind and runs the danger of absolutizing partial and inadequate knowledge, unaware of its intrinsic limitation the theoretical foundation of relativism.

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When we fall into this temptation, we are prone to violent and disrespectful behavior, incompatible with human dignity ethical foundation of relativism. The logical approach would be to accept the relativism of our ideas, not only because this corresponds to the nature of our limited knowledge, but also in virtue of the ethical imperative of tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect. The relativist philosophy presents itself as the necessary requirement for democracy, mutual respect and coexistence.

But it fails to take into account that relativism makes possible mockery and abuse by those in power: In present day society, we can find the same abuse in those who promote their own interests, whether economic, ideological, political, etc. What does all this have to do with the Christian faith? For it is essential to Christianity to present itself as religio veraas the true religion. The Christian faith, first of all, communicates the truth about God, although not exhaustively, and the truth about man and the meaning of his life.

Rather it affirms, as a true claim, that God created heaven and earth and that we are all equally children of God.

esbozoa We should stress here that coexistence and peaceful dialogue with those who do not have faith, or who sustain other doctrines, is not opposed to Christianity; rather just the opposite is true. What is incompatible with Christian faith is the claim that Christianity, the other monotheistic or non-monotheistic religions, the monistic oriental mysticisms, atheism, etc. That is to say, the Christian faith would dissolve if on the theoretical plane one were to lose the perspective of truth according to which those who affirm and deny the same thing cannot be equally right, or be considered as complementary visions of the same reality.


The strength of Christianity, and its power to guide and heal personal and collective life, consists in a close synthesis between faith, reason, and life. Thus relativism has become the central problem that evangelization has to confront in our day and age. For relativism brings with it esvozos deeply disordered stance with regard to truth, manifested in all facets of life.

In the first place we find today a relativist interpretation of religion. God is seen as positively wanting non-Christian religions as different paths by which men and women can unite with him and receive salvation, independent of Christ. Christ at most has a position of special importance, but he is only one of many possible paths, and therefore neither exclusive pirronicis inclusive of the rest.

All religions are partial ways to God; all can learn from the others something of the truth about God, and in all or in many of them one finds a true divine revelation. The universal salvific action of God is realized through various limited forms, according to the diversity of peoples and cultures, without identifying itself fully empirici any of them.

The absolute truth about God cannot have an adequate and sufficient expression in history and in human language, always limited and relative. Christ does not have an absolute and universal value, since nothing that happens in history can have such value. Also in this case a theoretical dogmatic relativism is to a great extent dictated by a practical imperative that of dialogue. We should clarify here that what we have just said in no way prejudices the salvation of those without faith in Christ.

Non-Christians who live an upright life in accord with their conscience are also saved by Christ and in Christ, although they do not know him here on earth.

Christ is the universal Redeemer and Savior of the human race.

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He is the salvation of all who are saved. We will now go on to consider ethical-social relativism. This explains both the ease with which it has spread and the ineffectiveness of certain attempts to combat it. Habermas formulates an ethical-social justification for relativism in the following way.

In present-day society we find a pluralism of conceptions of and ways of living the human good. This puts us before a clear alternative: This can be clearly seen in the way a relativistic mentality attacks its adversaries.

To those who affirm, for example, that heterosexuality is of the essence of marriage, the claim is not made that this thesis is false. Rather those who hold it are accused of religious fundamentalism, intolerance, or an anti-modern spirit.

Much less is there any attempt to defend the contrary thesis. The characteristic of the relativist mentality is to say that this thesis is one that happens sxeto exist in society, together with its contrary, and perhaps with others, and that all of them in the prironicos are of equal value and have the same right to be socially recognized.

This is the same reasoning used to justify the legalization of abortion and other attacks against the human life of persons who, because of their situation, plrronicos actively vindicate their rights and whose collaboration is not necessary to us. No one is obliged to have an abortion, but those who want to should be able to attain one. The relativist mentality is open to emppirico different criticisms.

That is to say, whoever attacks relativism should never give the impression that he is disposed to sacrifice freedom on the altar of truth. Rather one should make clear that one is very aware that the move from the theoretical perspective to the ethical-political perspective has to be done with great care.

It is one thing to refuse to accept that those who affirm and deny the same thing can be equally correct; quite other is the thesis that only esnozos who think in a emoirico way should enjoy all the rights of civil freedom under the law.

All confusion between the theoretical plane and the ethical-political plane should be avoided. The relationship of conscience with truth is one thing, while empirixo among people is something quite different.

Following this logic one can then show, in a credible way, that in regard to an affirmation that tries to say how the world is, that is, in regard to a speculative thesis, one can only say that it is true or false.


Speculative theses are neither strong pirdonicos weak, neither private nor public, neither cold nor hot, neither violent nor peaceful, neither authoritarian nor democratic, neither progressive nor conservative, neither good nor bad.

They are simply true or false. Pirromicos would we think of someone who, when explaining a mathematical proof or giving a medical explanation, would begin by saying that this scientific knowledge only has a private validity, or that it represents a deeply democratic theory? If there is complete certainty that a particular medicine will stop a tumor from growing, one is dealing with a medical truth, and there is nothing more to say. In contrast one can view a way of pirrinicos civil rights or the structure of the state as authoritarian or democratic, as just or unjust, as conservative or reformist.

At the same time, there are realities such as marriage which are both an object of true knowledge and of practical regulation in accord with justice.

In his address on December 22,Benedict XVI distinguished very clearly between the need to defend the truth and the need to seek justice among men and women. Here is a very significant pirronucos Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.

It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction. The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern state with the Decree on Religious Freedomhas recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church.

They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history.

Anthropological problems of relativism. We have said that relativism in the ethical-social terrain stems from a practical motive: But the relativistic mentality brings with it a deep anthropological disorder, with steep personal and social costs.

Here I will mention only two aspects of this complex problem. The intellect forms concepts, discovers relationships, recognizes the order of things, etc. Thanks to this function of the intellect the objects and forces of nature become objects that we can control and manipulate for our own benefit.

From this perspective, to know is power: The sapiential function of the intellect, in contrast, seeks to understand the meaning of the world and human life. It develops concepts not for the purpose of controlling but to attain truths about the world that can give a sound answer to the question of the meaning of our existence, an answer that in the long run is as necessary to us as bread and water. The systematic flight from the plane of truth, which we have termed the relativist mentality, brings with it an imbalance between these two functions of the intellect.

The predominance of the technical functions means the predominance at the personal and cultural level of impulses towards the values of pleasure, well-being, possession, absence of sacrifice, etc. The suppression of the sapiential function of the intellect brings with it the inhibition of the social and altruistic tendencies, and above all a diminishing of the capacity for self-transcendence, as a result of which the person becomes enclosed within the limits of egoistic individualism.

The second problem is closely linked with the first. It is no surprise that social and legal expressions of lifestyles congruent with this anthropological disorder are always based on a call for freedom, a reality which is certainly sacrosanct, but which has to be understood in its true meaning. All this also has many negative implications for the Christian faith.

Anyone who thinks that truth exists, and can be attained with certainty even in the midst of many difficulties; anyone who thinks that our capacity to culturally model love, marriage, life, the order of coexistence in the state, etc. The relativist thinks the contrary. Relativism is like agnosticism. Anyone who follows it to the end will find himself much closer to practical atheism. It seems to me that the conviction that God created man and woman is incompatible with the idea that marriage between persons of the same sex is possible.