Someone recently said to me “The truth is unchanging.” This was intended as a reproach against same sex marriage. Nevertheless, the statement merits serious consideration. An old philosophy professor of mine once stated in a lecture “we need to define our terms.” The term in question, here is “truth.”
This term may mean many things. There are many truths. At one time Newtonian laws of physics were considered “the truth” until, they were replaced by Einstein’s understandings of physics, which then, became the “truth.” We could go on in every other field of human knowledge and find many other such examples where the “truth” is no longer the “truth” and has been replaced by another “truth.”
If by the “truth” one means God, then that is another story altogether, this understanding of truth requires a radically different approach. First, we must distinguish between the “Truth” (God) and our understanding of the Truth. The traditional definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” This implies that although the subject, God, may be unchanging, perfect, etc, we are not any of those things.
Another professor of mine once listed the various attributes of God, namely: Omniscient, Omnipotent, Eternal, Perfect, and Immutable (unchanging), Immortal, etc. He then asked us to define those terms. We were ultimately, of course, unable to do so. Because, as our professor pointed out none of these terms is within our human experience. No human “knows” what it is to be immortal, perfect, etc. so these definitions are all negative definitions. I am mortal; therefore, God, who is unlike me has no limitations, is immortal, etc.
As our professor pointed out, this means that we know very little about God. Aristotle probably went as far as the human mind can go with respect to speaking of God. He referred to the “uncaused cause” something which always has existed and which caused all else to come into existence. This Aristotelian notion of the uncaused cause so paralleled the “Big Bang Theory” that it caused the Communist Party of China to forbid it being taught in the People’s Republic of China, it smacks of theism, they observed.
So, how can we know the uncaused cause, God, the Truth? We can only know God if God reveals himself to us. However, this revelation is conditioned on our ability to both grasp and comprehend what is revealed. The reality, both on a personal and on a collective level, is that our understanding of God/the Truth changes, not because God changes, but because we do.
When the subject in question moves from God to say morality, what God expects of us, the subject becomes even more nuance. Abraham, whom we call “our father in faith” fathered a child, not by Sarah, but by Hagar and this was not considered a sin. Solomon and David both had myriads of wives and this was not considered a sin. Eating shellfish was once considered a sin and today it is not sinful. What constitutes the sin of usury has changed over the centuries. All of this can seem disquieting to many.
Voltaire once quipped, “God made man in his image and man has never ceased to repay the compliment.” Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” [John 16: 12-13] our understanding of revelation is incomplete, it is in process. We are growing.
The Bible is not a book on psychology, astronomy, biology, physics, etc. How the inspired authors of the bible understood the natural sciences is not inerrant. The bible is a book about spirituality and our relationship with God. All of those human sciences can contribute to our understanding about our selves, creation and God. This too is part of our growing process.
The insight of psychology as well as the statement by the Church that homosexuality is an orientation/innate, represent an insight that St. Paul writing in the first century did not possess. This insight causes us revisit how we understand homosexuality since, the Creator made people as homosexuals. It therefore becomes the duty of God’s ministers to offer reasoned and reasonable explanations for this act of the Creator. It becomes the duty of the God’s ministers to provide spiritual guidance and support to homosexual persons.
No the “Truth" does not change, but we mere mortals do. Thankfully, the Truth is not merely an intellectual abstraction but a very loving and compassionate being. I hope that we will become more like the Truth and that is certainly the goal of the spiritual process.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight