What is truth?

 — Oct. 10, 199610 oct. 1996

by Paul Hanley, for “Urban Banter” in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix

What is truth? The question has been around for a long time, but finding an answer isn’t getting any easier.

The question, which was put to several speakers at an interfaith symposium at the University last Saturday, becomes more difficult to answer as society becomes less religious religion being the usual source of such answers. Meanwhile, the religious response that remains is more diverse in character, as a result of ongoing immigration.

Perhaps the most salient response to the question came from Rabbi Roger Pavey. While I hesitate to paraphrase what he said, I can say that I took away the understanding that the truth worth seeking is the truth about how to live. It is not really that important to nail down a “correct” theology. It is more important to know that we live in the presence of a great and mysterious reality and to respond to this presence by the way we live, by the ethical quality we give to our lives.

If truth involves finding out how we should live, we can look for such guidance from our religious tradition. And, as the Rabbi pointed out, we can only shape an ethical life for ourselves by living in communities, through consulting with others and by walking the ethical path together.

Although discovering an ethical path is not necessarily easy, the consultative aspect seems at least possible within a community of faith, where everyone draws from the same source of inspiration.

Where determining the truth becomes more complex today is in defining the scope of our community.

Back in the “good old days,” non-Christian religions were barely part of the picture in a community like Saskatoon. And what’s more, their perspective was seen as wrong, which simplified things. The truth was the Christian truth and that was about it.

Now, as we come into contact with Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims in our day-to-day life, it becomes increasingly difficult to disregard their perspective as a matter of course. Meeting someone from another faith tradition and finding her or him to be a perfectly reasonable person undermines the tendency to discount their truth.

While we can still retreat to our faith community from time to time, our larger community is no longer restricted to a single faith or to a few similar cultures. Nor is it restricted to our city, or even to the boundaries of our national community. So who do we walk and talk with in determining the truth. Certainly, it will have to include people who have very different perspectives of truth than our own.

It is no longer possible for a community to make decisions based on a single religious or cultural concept of truth. Our community, quite simply, is no longer Christian. As a mix of religions and cultures and with, quite possibly, a majority of people with no particular religious convictions, it can no longer expect to be guided by one common source of truth.

Fortunately, multi-faith forums such as the one I attended at the university demonstrate that there is a lot of commonality of perspectives from various faiths. But the fact is that at such forums, people are deliberately seeking unity. Not every coming together of religions or cultures is so high minded. Just as we can find unity if we seek it, we can as easily discover highly conflictual differences.

After all, most faiths have a fundamentalist element, an element that seeks division.

If the truth can be found in our ethical response, perhaps the most important truth to be lived in the era of global community is the ethic of unity, a unity above and beyond religious traditions, cultures, or ethnicity. It is a recognition of our unity as human beings first and foremost, with all the other things that we are coming second. Of course, this unity ethic is impossible without respect for the diversity of our religious and cultural traditions.

With unity as our primary ethic, we can at least be sure that there will be people around to discuss the meaning of truth.

Posted: Oct. 10, 1996 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6193
Categories: OpinionIn this article: dialogue, interfaith, truth
Transmis : 10 oct. 1996 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6193
Catégorie : OpinionDans cet article : dialogue, interfaith, truth

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