Michael Dodds, OP
Professor of Philosophy and Theology
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
THE TRUTH ABOUT GTU
When Dr. Uriah Kim invited me to give these remarks some weeks ago, I was very honored but also a little nervous. I suppose I felt a bit like a doctoral student, dissertation proposal in hand, waiting outside the Dean’s Office to appear before the dreaded Doc Council. You graduates may remember that moment. Like one about to appear before the Inquisition, you await the dire decree of the Council, certain that it’s going to sound something like this:
We thank you very much for your careful work…
But, unfortunately, your dissertation proposal has no thesis statement.
Furthermore, your methodology section lacks any hint of method.
Finally, your bibliography shows no trace of Turabian.
Nevertheless, the Council, in its magnanimity and wisdom, has decided that you…
… pass (with minor revisions). –Congratulations.
When Uriah first asked me to give this talk, I pictured myself standing in front of a crowd of graduates surrounded by their families and friends, but the world has changed a lot since then, so here I am, sheltering in place, talking to you on my laptop, all by lonesome, in all my academic finery.
I’m a professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and a member of the Order of Preachers, whose motto is “Truth” (veritas). So, in this talk, I thought I’d to tell you the truth about GTU, sort of lay it on the line– not to say what’s true about GTU, but rather to describe how we find the truth, here and there, around and about GTU, as we enter into dialogue with one another.
Truth seems to be in short supply these days as we wallow in the misinformation or disinformation of what some have called the infodemic that confronts us in the present pandemic. Yet, still we long for truth and search for it in our various religious traditions here at GTU. It’s a curious sort of searching since, in many ways, we’re convinced that we already have the truth, that’s it’s been given to us, passed on to each of us, in our own particular religious tradition.
How is it that we can possess the truth and yet still search for it? It think it’s because, even though we have it, we don’t get it. We don’t fathom its depths. We see it only in part.
Some years ago, the Dominican Cardinal, Christoph Schoenborn, spoke at the DSPT graduation and recounted how he’d once given a talk to university students in Tehran and received challenging questions from them. In response, he told them something like this: “Your tradition says that you have the truth; my tradition says that I have the truth. So, why should we talk to each other? It’s because we don’t see the fulness of the truth that we have. We don’t get it. So, we need the perspectives of other traditions to penetrate our own.”
In each of our traditions at GTU we encounter a transcendent mystery, and we need one another to penetrate that mystery– whether it be the mystery of Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism. For that reason, back in 1962, the GTU was formed as a consortium of Christian schools, coming together in ecumenical dialogue. Now, the dialogue has broadened into an interreligious conversation, while the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences brings science into the discussion, and the Center for Arts and Religion invites broader communication through the visual arts, dance, and music.
As a model for such broad dialogue, I think of the example of St. Thomas Aquinas, a major figure in the Dominican tradition. Aquinas not only searched Sacred Scripture, patristic writers, and church councils, but also turned to Islam in Avicenna and Averroes; to Judaism in Moses Maimonides, and even to the pagan philosopher Aristotle, in his quest for divine wisdom. So, we at GTU, and our graduates as they move on to new adventures, continue to listen to one another in our desire– you might even say, our vocation– to find the fullness of truth.