By Mark Tooley (follow on twitter @markdtooley)
IRD emeritus board member George Weigel in a recent commencement address has an excellent insight about true pluralism in God’s order of creation versus the incoherent, post-modern, discordant pluralism that plagues secular society and much of the liberal church.
Truth is symphonic. Fragmentation and disintegration are among the chief characteristics of our intellectual life today: Everything is in bits and pieces; nothing fits together; there is no “frame” in which the parts can be composed into a whole. Little wonder that cynicism, skepticism, and irony are prominent features in our 21st-century Western culture. In the face of all that, the Catholic intellectual tradition insists that, amidst real plurality, there is also pluralism: a symphony of truth in which the various instruments by which we apprehend what is true and good and beautiful play together melodiously, not in a cacophony of dissonance. And that which forms plurality into pluralism, individuals into community, fragments of intellectual stone into a cosmatesque mosaic of symphonic truth, is love: the love which is the basis of the unity of the Church; the ecclesial love, itself an expression of Trinitarian love, in which the world may glimpse the unity for which it yearns, but which it never finds on its own.
In contrast to this harmonious symphony of truth that Weigel identifies, the liberal church often celebrates a “cacophony of dissonance,” in which each individual or interest group demands affirmation of his/its own self understanding, politically, theologically, sexually, socially, etc. The only instrument banned from the discordant symphony of liberal post modernism is the one that heralds a universal truth that unifies the whole. That truth, from the church’s orthodox, apostolic perspective, also redeems the whole, and is modeled, as Weigel notes, by the symphonic pluralism of The Trinity, whose Three Persons are distinct, separate and vocationally unique, yet in complete accord within the Godhead.
Maybe it’s no accident that the liberal church often defaults toward an unconscious Unitarianism. Liberal church pluralists too frequently cannot conceive of a divine harmony embodied in the authentic pluralism of The Trinity. Maybe orthodox believers need to cite Weigel’s description of this Trinitarian vision and expression of love. And maybe we should even exploit his wonderful citation of a “cosmatesque mosaic of symphonic truth.”