Speaking of our beloved former colleague, Ryan recently wrote a review of Christ Our Joy: The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI in Christianity Today. Here are a few paragraphs to whet your appetite:
Nietzsche’s attack on Christianity’s “slave morality” paved the way for modern rejection of objective standards of goodness, truth, and beauty. But by making ourselves the measure of everything, we have lost a shared measure of anything. Having shrugged off Christ’s yoke and with it our moorings to God’s truth and goodness, we know of no excellence for which to strive, only arbitrary tastes and their pointless pursuit: the “escapist pleasure of the consumer economy” and the “exploitation that increasingly marks human relationships.” What was to be our liberation has become our enslavement.
But we need not remain slaves forever. As Benedict sees it, we can regain joy by participating in loveboth giving and receiving. Thus, Benedict invites modern man to rediscover his lofty vocation as a beloved child of God, for “one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved.” This divine love cannot be a noble fiction meant to keep us from despair; as Benedict writes, “Only when love and truth are in harmony can man know joy.” The question, then, is whether the gospel is true.
From here Benedict launches his fight against the “dictatorship of relativism.” While many commentators focus on relativism’s moral and political implications, Benedict probes its spiritual consequences. Modern scientific rationalism has so neutered reason that, though useful for solving technical questions, it is impotent to address major questions about life’s origins, meaning, or destiny. As Benedict puts it, “[K]nowledge of the functional aspect of the world . . . brings with it no understanding of the world and of being,” since what is immaterial “cannot be approached with methods appropriate to what is material.” The scientific method can never establish or discredit Christianity, he argues, “because the kind of experiment demandedpledging one’s life for thisis of quite a different kind.”