There are a lot of “isms” in the world today: capitalism, socialism, conservatism, liberalism. All these philosophies have their strengths and weaknesses, and philosophers and everyday folks can spend hours upon hours debating their relative merits.
But two “isms” seem to stand out from the rest as being both the most prevalent and the most threatening to our life of faith: relativism and subjectivism. Relativism holds that there is no absolute truth, that all philosophies are equally valid. And subjectivism says that an individual’s personal experience is all that matters—there is no external truth. Both of these philosophies are rooted in the belief that there is no firm, absolute basis for reality.
These two philosophies stand in direct contrast to the truths that are the foundation of our faith. Where the gospel reveals to us the one true God and his Son Jesus Christ, adherents of relativism would say that all religions are basically the same. At the same time, people holding subjective beliefs would have no problem accepting or rejecting these truths based on their experiences. Both subjectivists and relativists end up reducing the glorious truths of Christ that have been revered for centuries to matters of personal preference and cultural norms.
How different are these views from the teachings of Blessed John Henry Newman! Newman, a brilliant Anglican scholar, converted to Catholicism to a large degree because of his search for truth. He didn’t convert because it felt like the right thing to do or because he thought Catholicism was better suited to his tastes. No, he converted after years of prayer and study. He converted because he had found the truth.
The Quest for Truth. Newman’s search is our search as well. Whether we know it or not, we are all looking for happiness, peace, and love. And whether we know it or not, we will find ourselves most fulfilled when we find Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Sometimes we settle for just a portion of this truth, and we accept a lesser level of happiness as a result. Sometimes the path seems so difficult that all we can do is take a break and hope for a better start tomorrow. But when we do connect with the Lord, we experience a deep sense of fulfillment. We know how much he loves us. We know that we are on the right path. We sense the Spirit encouraging us and strengthening us to run the race.
This month, we want to take a look at Newman’s quest for truth. And we are blessed to have Benedictine Abbot Jerome Kodell as our guest author. Abbot Jerome, a respected biblical scholar, has spent nearly fifty years studying and reflecting on Newman’s life and teachings. In his articles, Abbot Jerome introduces us to Newman and tells us about the profound impact that Newman has had on his own life.
I hope these articles inspire you to hold fast to the truths of Christ. I also hope that when you feel called to hold fast to the truth, these articles will help you do so in love, gentleness, and compassion.