Thursday 21 December 2023

What is Truth? Evangelising the Post-Modern World - Joshua Madden - CTS Explanations

What is Truth?
Evangelising the Post-Modern World
Joshua Madden
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784697594
eISBN 9781784697105
CTS Booklet Ex67

What is Truth? Evangelising the Post-Modern World - Joshua Madden - CTS Explanations

I have now read seventeenth booklets in the CTS Explanations series from the Catholic Truth Society. The series spanned decades. And has had books come in and out of print. This volume was just published in 2023, and the print and eBook edition released just days apart. It was a fascinating read.

The description of this volume is:

“Intended as an apologetic foundation for anyone attempting to evangelise a postmodern neighbour, this book explains that to share the joy of the Gospel today, men and women must rediscover that it is possible to know objective truth about ourselves and the world around us.

Modern philosophy has limited the understanding of reason, resulting in a radical scepticism concerning our capacity to comprehend reality as it truly is and fostering an atmosphere of nihilism and uncertainty. 

In What is Truth?, Joshua Madden presents a compelling case to address these concerns and provide a solid basis for those who wish to spread the Gospel to their postmodern neighbour.

To effectively communicate the Gospel's joy in today's context, Madden suggests that individuals must rediscover the potential to know objective truths about themselves and the world. Madden concludes that this groundwork, known as the preambula fidei, makes it possible to truly know the living God, who has revealed Himself in Christ.”

The chapters and sections in this volume are:

The Contraction of Reason
The Roots (and the Flowering) of Modern Nihilism
Recovering the Breadth of Reason
The Preambula as Foundationalfor the New Evangelisation
Conclusion: The Importance of the Preambles for Evangelising the Culture
Prayer Before Study by St Thomas Aquinas

About the author we are informed:

“Dr Joshua Madden is Lector in Catholic Theology at Blackfriars Studium at Oxford University. He teaches and writes primarily on the topics of biblical theology and the thought of St Thomas Aquinas, and is a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology.”

I highlighted a number of passages while working through this vomune, some of them are:

““Although Cardinal Levada goes on to develop new aspects of evangelisation that he believes will be necessary in the modern context ( focusing on the beauty of creation, for instance ), he nonetheless grounds his reflection on the need to recover a genuine presentation of what are known as the preambula fidei – certain truths known about the world by natural reason that help lead to faith – in a climate wholly saturated by postmodern doubt: “ The spirit of contemporary society is sceptical of truth, of the claims to know truth, even – or especially – of truth revealed by God. “ 4 It seems necessary, therefore, not only to call modern man to “ repent and believe in the gospel “ ( see Mk 1: 15 ), but to remind the men and women of today of their power to reason and to know the truth.”

“In the pages that follow I will argue the following: ( 1 ) that modern philosophy has contracted reason, leading to radical scepticism of the human person’s ability to access reality as it is; ( 2 ) that this philosophic dead end has led to a climate of nihilism; ( 3 ) that a recovery of the true breadth of reason – and from there the preambles of faith – is needed to lead modern man out of the nihilistic dead end in which he finds himself; and ( 4 ) that a recovery of the truth and usefulness of the preambula is necessary for the new evangelisation.”

“Men and women of today need to know that it is possible to access the reality of the world around them, and that it is possible to know objective truth, before they come to know that it is possible to gain access to the living God who has revealed Himself in Christ.”

“The third stage, in which we now find ourselves, takes the de - Hellenisation of Christianity as a given. It argues that the Gospel and practice of religion must be newly enculturated independent of the history of Christianity and according to one’s own particular history and worldview.”

“Benedict goes right to the source by singling out John Duns Scotus, a fourteenth century Franciscan scholar, as the tipping point in late medieval thought that would break from the intellectualism of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas and would sunder the Divine Will from the Divine Wisdom, producing the plague of voluntarism and nominalism which continues even to this day.”

“In the voluntarist mode of thought, however, concepts precede understanding, and the outer world is conformed to our ideas. Taken to its unavoidable conclusion, voluntarism terminates in the view that statements about the world can only ever truly describe the speaker’s own beliefs, not reality itself.”

“A useful preliminary [ in coming to understand how the intellect comes to know things ] is to note that animals know, not mere phenomena, but things: dogs know their masters, bones, other dogs, and not merely the appearances of these things. Now this sensitive integration of sensible data also exists in the human animal and even in the human philosopher. Take it as knowledge of reality, and there results the secular contrast between the solid sense of reality and the bloodless categories of the mind. Accept the sense of reality as criterion of reality, and you are a materialist … Accept reason as a criterion but retain the sense of reality as what gives meaning to the term ‘real, ’and you are an idealist … Insofar as I grasp it, the Thomist position is the clearheaded third position: reason is the criterion and, as well, it is reason – not the sense of reality – that gives meaning to the term ‘real.’ The real is what is; and ‘what is ’is known in the rational act, judgment.”

“Only the realist position ( i.e., what Lonergan dubs the Thomist position, and what I take to be the authentically Catholic position ) affirms the human person’s ability to use reason in the act of truly knowing ‘what is ’.”

“At the present there seems to be no hope in anything higher than ourselves, or in any guiding principle or end to human life. It is rather shocking that the Church of the twenty - first century finds herself in the unusual position not only of defending the faith, but of defending reason itself.”

“It is indicative of the modern atheist project to proclaim, without qualification or justification, that faith and reason are intrinsically opposed. One is either an adherent to a particular religious superstition through the blind ( and likely fearful ) obedience of faith, or one is brave enough to live by science and reason alone.”

“The system espoused by the New Atheists does not allow for faith and reason to coexist; if one has faith, then one cannot engage in rational discourse that a priori excludes recourse to anything but empirically verifiable data.”

“Nearly two centuries ago, Pius IX issued the encyclical Qui Pluribus which contains a statement so apropos to the current climate that it could be issued as an indictment against the rationalists and other postmodern sceptics tomorrow and be taken as perfectly directed:”

“The simple takeaway is that the problem which the Church is facing today is not new. What is new, however, is the depth to which an anti - theistic worldview has sunk into the very core of modern thought. No longer is the existence of God seen as an acceptable thesis, nor even a possible one: the man on the street is convinced that God can only be known by faith, and ( as everyone knows ) faith is opposed to reason. How is one to approach this misguided way of thinking ? What is needed is a cultural and philosophical “ reboot”, as it were, as it appears we must retrace our steps and go back to the beginning.”

“It is the teaching of Scripture, the teaching of St Thomas, and the consistent witness of the magisterium of the Catholic Church that God can be known by reason alone, and that this knowledge is, in fact, salutary.”

“As can be clearly seen, divine revelation confirms mankind’s ability to have some knowledge of God through created effects; the passage from Wisdom even comes close to a rather developed and nuanced concept of the analogy of being when it claims that a “corresponding perception” ( ἀναλόγως ) of the Creator is known from creation.”

“If the Church is to be successful in her efforts to preach the Gospel to a world and culture that has stopped up its ears and plucked out its eyes and claims to already know that there is no God, then the importance of the preambula cannot be stressed enough. Attempting to win an argument about the existence of God when one’s interlocutor cannot even accept a basic notion of objective, knowable truth as apart from a limited, scientific version is not just putting an apologetic cart before the horse: it is trying to drive the cart without the horse hitched on at all.”

“To show that it is proper to human nature to have true knowledge of universals, of objective truth and of reality is an act of great charity. Those who would preach the truth of Christ must also preach the truth that is to be found within the created order itself; if man is to come to know that it is reasonable to believe in God, he must first come to know that it is reasonable to trust his reason to begin with.”

This volume was an excellent little read. I hope those quotes give you a feel for this book. It is a great tool for growing in knowledge of the faith, and in being able to use that knowledge to defend the faith, and to evangelize. It is a book any Catholic would benefit from reading. From those in secondary school to those who are retired. A great volume from the CTS and one I can easily recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Explanations series click here.

Books by Joshua Madden:
Slicing Through the Fog

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

What is Truth? Evangelising the Post-Modern World - Joshua Madden - CTS Explanations

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