We read in many Christian texts about the one God, which is the same for everyone.

Once a truth is set – our own – it is believed to be unique. Not only it is believed, sometimes we claim to impose it universally. For example, we can read the following sentence in the Qur’an, presumably addressed to Christians:


⟪Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .”⟫ (Qur’an 3, 64-65)


To get out of these dilemmas, which have created so much suffering, we need a system to manage identity. “Own” and “identical” mean the same as the Greek word “idios”. From that word comes also the Italian «idiot». But if we go back to the Greek, the term “idiotes” denote “property”, something that is owned. Everyone cares a lot about his identity. And they’re right. As long as you do not stop there.


Identity is a guaranteed right to every person, regardless of any other characteristic that a person has. As we deal with inalienable human rights (which remain in despite of all circumstances), as well we should also speak about identity that everyone can bring in public and in private, with manifest pride and complacency. Naturally, as for all things, there is a limit here too. All rights are sacrosanct but subject to limits in practice, as well as identity is. Everyone can bring is identity with pride. Anyway, sometimes we need to ask ourselves if we should not accept some limitation; limit due, as Kant says, not as a tribute to the privilege of others, but because the thing itself is reasonable, for everyone.


Therefore, is there something universal, alongside something special? We think so. The function of the universal is to guarantee, first of all, the particularity without including it in a preventive unit. Universality is not something that is above everyone, but something that is in everyone.

Identity is a strength that holds people together; sometimes it is a necessary defense of each one’s individuality.


Everyone is entitled to his own characteristics. At the same time, there are valid criteria for everyone: universal scientific knowledge. In this context it is necessary to legitimize the particularities, without completely denying the universality. The law of gravity exists and it’s the same for everyone. Scientific medicine is universal. We can respect those who feed in a particular way, or who live according to their beliefs, or who are treated according to their own customs. But humanity has soon discovered the universality of knowledge and behavior. If no one has to lose his right to identity or to negotiate in order to retain a part of it, everybody should at the same time move a further step towards a universal society. This is human society, the one and only. In this society as well as we protect the particular, the universal must be protected too. Universality is part of my identity.
If particular identities are often passed on the basis of rules that are handed down from older people to younger ones, study and culture can instead open the mind to aspects where everyone can recognize themselves: recognizing themselves and at the same time learning to recognize others. Universality consists in this double recognition.


In conclusion, the interaction between different cultures is desirable, to share particularities, but also in perspective of a common world, to preserve the particular and, at the same time, to raise awareness that unity will not be given by uniformity, but by the presence in everyone of the same truth of human being.


So the key question of the relationship between Truth itself and the criteria that are necessary to identify and preserve it. We give only a brief reference, returning to the point from which we started.


What is the criterion of Truth if not the Truth itself? This is the well-known definition of identity. But how do we manage our relationship with identity? With blind obedience or an open mind? How can a criterion be introduced if not within the Truth and its identity? This is a difficult task for jurists, philosophers and religious. What does Truth teach us? Surely that mankind does not remain outside, but learning how to manage differences with a dimension that is not uniformity neither simple individuality.

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Sergio Rostagno (1934) is professor emeritus of Systematic Theology of the Valdese Faculty of Theology in Rome. He is part of the Direction of the magazine "Philosophy and Theology" (Italian Scientific Editions, Naples) and of the Italian Theological Association.
Among the publications: Le tesi de homine di Lutero, Torino, Claudiana, 2018, Etica protestante. Un percorso, Cittadella Editrice, Assisi 2008, I predestinati. Religioni e religione nel protestantesimo, Claudiana, Torino 2006, Karl Barth, Morcelliana, Brescia 2003.

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