Getting Religion Gradually: The Anti-Trend

The fourth possibility is the Catholic view, which might be called Gradualism. This makes an exclusive truth claim for its religion, but acknowledges all that is beautiful, good, and true in other religions as a pointer or prophecy toward the fullness of truth in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The exclusive claim is there, as it must be, but this is not the radical exclusivism in which all others must convert or die. Instead gradualism allows not only for tolerance of other religions, but of real appreciation and a desire to learn and adopt elements of those religions that are beautiful, good, and true without falling into weakened syncretism or a flaccid, relativistic tolerance.

If the modern multicultural world is to be understood, then the world's religions must be understood, and the only way forward for those who are enlightened, and who are seeking the way of peace, is to reject religious exclusivism wherever it appears and also reject the spineless way of tolerance or syncretism, and to embrace gradualism—an approach to interfaith dialogue that respects and admires all religions while calling all to come "further up and further in" to the fullness of God's truth as revealed in Jesus Christ. Catholics should offer this invitation with joy and zeal—never seeking to convert by use of physical, psychological, intellectual, or emotional force, but always seeking to live out that fullness of truth so that others might see in them Jesus Christ, the fullness of truth alive in the world today.

This kind of witness in the world is not only a way of peace and respect for others, but Catholics also understand that this approach is, in itself, a gradual prospect and a very long-term project. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a tiny seed planted in the world, and it takes a very long time to grow. However, the promise is that eventually that seed will grow into the great and glorious tree that will offer refuge for all the birds of the air.

8/26/2014 4:00:00 AM