Today’s secular society operates on an array of levels when it comes to belief, truth, and moral relativism. For this reason, it becomes necessary to examine these entities in our world to provide an adequate response to moments when their meanings become convoluted.
Belief and truth can convey deeply held convictions of an individual or society. However, the sad reality in our day is that when they lead to moral relativism, they create a slippery slope that provides an avenue for misguided views, values, opinions, and ideals. The goal of apologetics is not just to defend and provide answers to these circumstances, but to offer hope for those still searching for truth. Real truth stands the test of time and is found in Christ, and His Church.
What Do You Believe? Why Do You Believe It?
Everyone holds a belief about something or someone. Whether it is religion, the environment, politics, or a fellow human being, we all compile a collection of ideas based on our experiences and perceptions. These establish a foundation upon which we further build. Things begin to collapse, however, if we have chosen a weak foundation.
Many in our society hold on to certain beliefs based on a weak or one-sided perception of reality. They may refuse to relent, or admit that they acted prematurely or without sufficient reflection and knowledge when arriving at these standards. Major reasons for the problems concerning belief are pride and the ever-changing social climate. This is evidenced in Gaudium et Spes, “A change in attitude and in human structure frequently calls accepted values into question,” (GS 7). This constant shifting contributes to this dismantling of long held objective moral norms, which leads to moral relativism.
For an apologist, religious beliefs make sense since they have stood for over 2,000 years (and counting). Their consistent teaching provides both logic and clarity. Furthermore, these beliefs become ever more valid when encountered in our Creeds. A sense of duty and encouragement soon begins to strengthen these absolutes when one encounters an experience with those who chose personal sacrifice over temporal reward. Their free acceptance of their fate in order to follow Christ and His Church forever inspires us with the zeal to continue this battle for truth.
What is Truth?
As we continue, we soon confront the elements of truth in our society. Here, we are often inundated by the constant criticisms of those who feel it is their duty to question the truths of the Church. The more authentic and noble, the more wildly critiqued and doubted. This is highly rampant due to the increased uprising within our secularized culture that lives to undermine the truth, along with the goodness and beauty of Holy Mother Church.
The Church has properly articulated through Her teachings and doctrine, that real truth exists, and that it is objective. This does not sit well with those who feel it can be interpreted (and re-interpreted) based on numerous factors, including personal opinions, emotions, and popular culture.
It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3
According to Catholicism and Reason, establishing objective truth within the realm of religion consists upon “three all-important realities: God, Jesus, and the Church.” A misunderstanding or unwillingness to deeply and honestly discern any of these will obscure the lens of reality for present and future generations.
As an apologist, it becomes important to address this and confront the dangers posed. One is always to be mindful not to ridicule or condemn, but rather shed light on the fallacies that exist within. We bear in mind, as Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli reflected on in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, that apologists are called to convince those who have chosen not to believe, while at the same time, strengthen the convictions of those who do. (It can be just as much a search and rescue mission as a rescue and recovery one.) The key is to engage in dialogue based on objective reasoning that leaves no room for relativism.
Though religion involves mystery, it is still believable. Faith is pertinent. Faith makes sense in our lives, and of our lives. All who search for truth are looking for guidance, regardless of background, language, or culture. Truth can be understood as that which lies in union with reason. Real truth can neither be divided nor denied. Faith allows one to believe without seeing, and to persevere without ceasing.
Making Relativism Irrelevant
Moral relativism has its own way of interpreting truth. “Laws” used to be the standard term for objective reality. However, as Kreeft and Tacelli warn, we now have “values,” which are nowadays subjective and determined by a society’s viewpoint. Furthermore, they are liable to change from time to time. That is why it is imperative to engage in dialogue with those within the facets of society where “values” play a primary role.
From the standpoint of religion, one can easily accept the laws enacted by God. They make sense and can be applied by any society at any time period, and in any situation, all for the good of humanity. This is especially important when addressing “situation ethics,” where one attempts to allege that certain actions (normally considered wrong) are deemed acceptable based on specific circumstances. Here, one’s “belief” distorts “truth” through a process that manipulates reality and perpetuates “relativism.”
In conclusion, subjective forms of belief and truth can easily misguide if one does not examine the motives behind them. It is important to inquire not only what one believes, but why they believe it in the first place. We must speak more to the hearts of others rather than to their minds, and allow ourselves to be open to taking the same leap of faith taken by our holy martyrs who came before.
Those who refuse will deprive themselves of a sense of reality that offers confidence, comfort, serenity, and peace. (St. Augustine encouraged the world to revel in such moments.) It is the job of the apologist to foster dialogue and be willing to provide evidence for the “hope” that lies within (1 Peter 3:15). Our success will be determined by our will to believe, our desire to know truth, and our convictions to live in accordance with the “three all-important realities.”