Did the monk and philosopher ever meet?

Over 50 years ago, the English Benedictine Bede Griffiths included a theme in his autobiography, The Golden String, which would be echoed in the Vatican II documents a decade later, namely that all authentic religions contain elements of truth. Speaking of the entire human race since the dawn of time, he writes that the Word of God “enlightens them through their reason and conscience and prepares them for the revelation of himself.”He goes on to say, “All men, therefore, who are guided by their reason and conscience and follow the light which has been given them, are truly by their implicit faith and desire disciples of Christ and vitally related to his Church.”

Father Griffiths also condemns as suicidal the modern materialist mindset in which faith and reason are considered inimical and where science is deified and philosophy abandoned. To limit one’s study of human nature to discoveries made by the physical sciences yields a grotesquely impoverished and deformed semblance of reality.

For him the rediscovery of religion is the great intellectual and moral adventure of our time. But, he counsels, “We have to make the discovery of God in light of modern knowledge…we have to see the significance of Christ in relation to the whole of that vast sphere of time which history and anthropology now open to us.”

Bede Griffiths died in 1993. One wonders if he ever crossed paths with George McLean.

Father McLean, now in his 80s, is a member of the Order of Mary Immaculate and a retired professor of philosophy from Catholic University. A quarter of a century ago, Father McLean founded the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (www.crvp.org) the goal of which is to understand and appreciate the cultures and values that shape the aspirations and motivate the actions of difference peoples.

The Council does this by mobilizing research teams of scholars around the world to study the nature, interpretation and development of cultures and to apply them to the challenges of contemporary change. These teams, which comprise serious thinkers in the major monotheistic religions and in Buddhism and Hinduism, hold highly organized symposia on relevant topics in university settings and then publish the results of their research and critical reflection.

Over 220 such volumes have been published and distributed to 350 universities worldwide so far. Regional coordinators and members of the Council’s advisory board consist of scores of scholars in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe.

From a Christian perspective, Father McLean explains that the Council’s work is to learn from (and teach) the interaction that occurs in different cultures between the initiative of the Holy Spirit and the response of mankind.

This global philosophical collaboration embraces many topics including such subjects as: faith in a secular age, globalization and intercultural philosophy, religion and the public sphere, the dignity of the person in the age of globalization, living faithfully in the face of change, and the relation of reason to wisdom. The breadth and depth of the Council’s work are astonishing.

In the early centuries of the Church, a giant stride in understanding the faith was made when Hebrew revelation encountered Greek philosophy, when Jerusalem met Athens. It would not be a stretch to suggest that centuries hence students of ecclesiology will recognize this groundwork laid by Father McLean’s Council as the platform for another major advance of the Kingdom.

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