Nostra Aetate 2

Nostra Aetate, by its nature being a “decree,” is more of a collection of affirmations rather than religious criticism.

From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.

The arguments I’ve seen printed lately along the lines of “The Muslim God is not the Christian God,” etc. are not supported by the Catholic acknowledgement of the Supreme Being, and the notion that the search for God–the one God, as we believe–is universal.

Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language.

Then the two major Asian religions:

Hinduism: (People) contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.

Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which (people), in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.

What NA does not do is endorse the “advanced culture” hierarchy of religions. It gives nod to “other religions,” inclusive of paganism and other less mainstream systems:

Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites.

A worthy quote:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”

… suggesting that the proper focus is on Christ, on the building up of the Christian way, and not on the tearing down of others. Critics of non-Christian religions strike me as being among the most faithless of Christians. Lacking the ability or imagination to present Christianity in an attractive way to non-believers, they focus their energies instead on tearing down the beliefs of others. Clearly, Vatican II condemned such an approach:

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Nostra Aetate 2

  1. Joseph Anthony says:

    The Muslims err about who God is. Though they acknowledge with us one true God, the creator, yet they deny that this one God is a Trinity of persons; they deny that Jesus is this God incarnate. Those are severe errors about who God is. I would not tend to phrase it as saying that the Muslims worship a different God from us; I would tend to phrase it more that the Muslims make drastic mistakes about the nature of the one God whom they want to serve. It is not a small thing to deny that God is Triune, and, since salvation comes only through faith in the only beggotten son of God, it is not a small thing to put into Jesus’ own mouth a claim that he is not God. You speak of the “search for God”, but Islam is a religion of revelation, God’s search for man, and that revelation is erroneous. God revealed Himself in Jesus, becoming man to find man and to show man the way to the Father that he could not discover on his own. The pretended revelation of Islam denies the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. That makes it much more than a natural religious attempt to find the unknown God with all the limitations of natural religion. It means that within it is false revelation that obscures the truths of faith. Nostra Aetate assuredly was not meaning to minimize the importance of faith in Jesus, the second person of the Triune God. Acknowleding that rays of the light of truth in Islam can’t make us blind to the fact that it misses the boat about who God is by denying God’s self-revelation.

    • Todd says:

      What you write is not untrue, but Christians also make errors, some severe, about who God is. We fail quite often in our duties to cooperate with the revelation of Jesus Christ in the world.

      I think it incumbent on Christian believers to show, not tell, non-Christians the truth of Jesus Christ. Attempting to persuade through human knowledge and cleverness might itself be an attempt of a “limited natural religion.”

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