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Friday, May 22, 2015

One Mountain. Many Paths?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

I saw this on Facebook recently:  a meme which said "One Mountain.  Many Paths."

If this meme suggests that all religions are true, then we as Catholics cannot embrace this.  It supports a heresy called Syncretism, which attempts to accommodate all religious traditions as being equally true.  This is in contrast to the words of Jesus which state, "No one comes to the Father except through me"--John 14:6. There may indeed be many paths, but there is just ONE PATH in which God came DOWN to show us the way, the truth and the life. 

Truth matters. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, "Love without truth is blind".

A corollary to the "One Mountain. Many Paths" concept is that "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are good, kind and happy."

However, what different religions proclaim matters.  It's simply not enough to embrace a belief that makes us good, kind and happy.  Imagine if an adult believed in Santa Claus, and this belief made her good, kind and happy.  We would not endorse this belief, even if it made her want to be a good person and served her happiness.  It calls to mind the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes.  His belief made him happy--he thought he was parading around in the finest vestments...but the truth was that he was buck nekkid!  

We can observe how untenable this "One Mountain.  Many Paths" position is when we see the various teachings which are proclaimed by differing religions.  Some are more obvious than others--for example, the Westboro Baptist Church pickets the funerals of US soldiers because of their belief that God hates homosexuals.  Clearly a vile and false doctrine.  Some are more subtle, such as the Buddhist belief that the cause of suffering is desire.  And while it may not seem to be such an inaccurate doctrine, this Buddhist belief necessarily denies the concept of Original Sin, which necessarily denies the concept of our need for salvation, which necessarily denies the concept of the atoning death of Christ, which is the central tenet of Christianity.  

To embrace one seemingly small thread of falsehood can sometimes unravel the entire garment of Truth.

Yet!  It is also important to stress that almost all religions express some truths, some teachings we can embrace and ponder and learn from.

As the Catechism states:  The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."
However, the "One Mountain.  Many Paths" paradigm can also ring true for Catholics.  There are many different spiritualities--Ignatian, Dominican, Franciscan, etc etc etc.  One may be right for me that doesn't appeal to you.  There are many different prayers, forms of music and worship, ways to celebrate the sacraments, various approaches to reading Scripture that are all different "paths" up to the Mountain.  

Thus, one ought not take a fundamentalist approach to the "One Mountain. Many Paths" concept and reject it outright.  There can be many paths.  But as Catholic Philosopher Peter Kreeft says, "There is no human way up the mountain.  Only a divine way down!"

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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