Reality-Based Thinking, An Antidote for Relativism

Reality-based thinking is a term that CCGI uses to describe having an awareness of the absolute indisputable reality of God's plan for creation and the reality of what it means to be human. We live in a culture of relativism characterized by such statements as "what is true for you may not be true for me," or "that is your reality, but my reality is different." By living in the culture, everyone is unconsciously influenced by this kind of thinking to varying degrees. This can cause people to unwittingly accepts false premises that actually may conflict with what they know to be true or have negative influences on choices they make.

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” --Matthew 18:3

We think of reality-based thinking as an antidote for relativism. It requires humility in accepting that we are all products of the culture. As Archbishop Chaput has said, rebuilding a Christian culture starts with our own conversion.

Reality-based thinking is an awareness of reality that can transform our relationship with God and with other persons. It also enhances the ability to resist the temptations of following false "realities" (illusions) that impair our relationship with God and others. Having this awareness of reality also helps us talk to children and others about the reality of love, marriage, family and human sexuality in secular language compatible with the teachings of the Church.

Reflections on the Method of Blessed John Paul II

Pope Francis' Principles for Cultural Change

Taking the Risk of Faith, Finding the Fullness of Faith

All reality comes from Christ,
but understanding reality does not require faith

People of faith trust sacred scripture and the teachings of the Church, and believe things are true because they are in the Bible, or because the Church teaches them. That confidence is good because what the Church teaches is true, but that does not lead to the ability to defend truth (reality) in secular culture.

Revelation is critical, because there are some things that cannot be known without the benefit of it. This includes things like the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, grace, and the Kingdom of God. But there are some things in scripture or the Church's teaching that can be known without the benefit of revelation -- like good and evil, and  God's plan for creation. Some people call this natural law, but Catholics for the Common Good Institute takes a little different approach to this using the theology and method of John Paul the Great.

What CCGI calls reality-based thinking is a way of becoming aware of the reality of God and his plan for creation in a guided way drawing on common sense (common human experience). To start with, think of these statements that can help shape the way we think about revelation and our faith:

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will."-- Luke 10:21


Things are not true because they are in the Bible ...

they are in the Bible because they are true.

Things are not true because the Church teaches them ... 

the Church teaches them because they are true.

Reality came before revelation ...

The Reality (God), the reality of his plan for creation, and the reality of the human person came before revelation — before the Bible, before the Church

Revelation does not create reality ...

it provides a deeper understanding of it.

In the work of Evangelization of Culture, starting in one's own family, it is important to ground ourselves in reality in the age of relativism -- real reality, reality that can be observed with enlighted observation confirmed by experience common to each and theirfore to all without exception. An important part of this is to ground ourselves in Christ, the ultimate Reality. All reality points to God, points to Christ.

To be able to do this, we ourselves must overcome the influences of the culture of relativism that have obscured reality from us, and in many cases unwittingly cause us to accept false premises or illusions.

Important questions must be answered. What does it mean to be made in the image of God, the Trinity? How does one find true love, true freedom, and true happiness? Again, reflecting on the method, the philosophy, and theology of Blessed John Paul the Great, we can not only learn the answers to these questions, but can learn to express the reality of God's plan for creation, the reality of the human person, the reality of love in secular terms that all can understand.(1) This leads to the ability to defend what is true in a culture that is hostile to religion. This is particularly important for helping children stand up against peer pressure and resist temptations to be deceived by false "realities" or illusions that promise but never deliver.

Digging Deeper on Marriage

Social Doctrine Related to Marriage, Family and Children from the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church

Other items of interest:

Fruits of Reality-Based Thinking

With reality-based thinking we can move from believing to knowing. Faith is indirect knowledge. Believing is indirect knowledge based on a trusted source. When we know a fact or a reality based on enlighted observation that correlates with common human experience, scripture and the Catechism read differently. They confirm what we know to be true and provide a deeper understanding of reality.

Again, all reality points to God, to Christ. Reality-based thinking and developing an increase awareness of reality, aided by scripture, the Catechism, and social teaching leads to a deeper understanding of the God (The Reality), leads to the very center of the Trinity, and leads to our Destiny, participation in the inner life of the Trinity. Everything is interlinked. Understanding what the consequences are of being made in the image of God, the Trinity helps us develop a deeper understanding not only ourselves but a deeper understanding of the Trinity, and the intimacy of communion in Christ.

What Catholics Know to be True

We believe that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist because Christ told us in scripture, the apostles and the Church Fathers knew this to be true, and it is the consistant teaching of the Church from the begining. We trust Christ, we trust the apostles and we trust the Church, but how aware are we of His physical presence? Meditating on this reality increases our awareness of this reality and helps move us from believing to knowing, a kind of knowing that changes behavior. Where the Blessed Sacrament is, there is another person in the room, always there, always present, always attending. And where he is, so is the Father, and so is the Holy Spirit. And where he is, so is his mother in perfect communion. And so are we -- in communion with each other through him, although imperfect, no less intimate, bound together through his love -- or using Pope Benedict's beautiful metaphor of the "we," the Church, roped together like a mountain climbing party.

This is reality-based thinking.

See also

(1) See an example of the use of this method in celebrating and discussing the reality of marriage.

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