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Benedict XVI and the Search for Truth

Robert Tilley
Published by Gracewing in the UK
and St Pauls in Australia
ISBN 978-0-85244-163-3

Australian Publisher

Australian Book Launch Review

Amazon (for UK edition)

Review by Pravin Thevathasan

Pope Benedict has "taught consistently that the path of truth leads to love, and love is the perfection of what it is to be human. Such perfection can come only through communion, a fact that is expressed in the very nature of God, the Holy Trinity." We find this quote on the back cover of this utterly compelling and readable book by Robert Tilley.

We cannot discuss truth without metaphysical certainty. As Pope Benedict told us so eloquently during his visit to the UK, without belief in objective truth, we succumb to relativism, utilitarianism and, ultimately, totalitarianism.

The first part of this book examines the nature of truth and how our contemporary understanding of truth has changed. Relativism is seen to be the denial of absolute truth and, for Pope Benedict, cultural relativism is one of the gravest threats of our time.

The second part of the book examines why our understanding of truth has changed and it flows naturally from the conclusion of the first part. Although there are certain elements of truth to be found in other belief systems, it is Christianity that gives us the perfection of reason and morality that is required to develop an authentic culture. In other words some cultures are better than others and Christianity gives us the best possible foundation for culture. If we fail in right doctrine we "
slide into a vague mysticism"and this Gnostic path leads us to becoming ever more self-absorbed. In contrast true Christian mysticism is concerned with our relationship with another, that is to say, a personal God. Gnosticism and Eastern spirituality do not provide for this.

When we reject true faith, argues Pope Benedict, we will look to technology and this liberation from God leads to a liberation from reason and morality. This in turn leads to the world of injustice and exploitation. A true liberation theology for Pope Benedict is one that opposes this technological fundamentalism.

The third part of the book is about the hierarchy of love and is, in the opinion of this reviewer, the best part of a very good book. How do we return to the truth? For Pope Benedict there needs to be a return to the visible institutional Church. Pope Benedict has a profound knowledge of and has respect for the Protestant tradition. However, as Tilley observes, he is also aware that "
the logic that flows from Luther's personal salvation not only makes communion secondary to salvation, it also makes the church a positive impediment to freedom." The logical outcome of this revolution is surely to be found in our generation of "spiritual" but non-Christian people. Tilley has a splendid chapter reflecting on Pope Benedict's first encyclical "God is love" to end his book. Perhaps the later encyclicals could be incorporated in a future edition.

All in all, this is a well argued, well written work and there is a certain light hearted approach that is highly appealing.

Copyright ©; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2010

Version: 23rd December 2014

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