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Pope's speech at University of Regensburg
Pointing to the False Islamic View of an Irrational & Arbitrary Allah (God)
See What I Learned about Islam Yesterday

[COMMENT:  I have placed my commentary bracketed below in the relevant text.  Brief though it may be, this article points toward the high level of Christian apologetics toward which we all ought to aim, forcing the discussion onto the key issues.  There is much more which can be said on faith and reason and epistemology, but this is a very good start.  The Pope goes right to the heart of some essential issues.  He is obviously not trying to be pathologically "polite", but honest, candid, and graceful -- the only way to have a dialogue. 

I disagree with the implications of some of his remarks, spelled out below, but he is carrying on the classical tradition of reason and apologetics in a powerful way. 

The Pope is no fool, and he has for sure thought out very carefully what he said and the consequences which would follow.  He knew the response he would get, and I believe we will find him ready with more.  Let the rest of us stand up likewise.  We may not face Islam directly, but we face entrenched evil at every level of American life, beginning right in the Church of God. 

See here for other commentary.  And here for response in Germany.  Here is the Pope's "apology".  See also Battle of Lepanto on irrational Muslim carnage, and the 800 Martyrs of Otranto.  See also, Islam, Epistemology, & the Koran

See also critique of Pope's lack of leadership in this area.   E. Fox]

Sep. 14, 2006 (CWNews.com) - Editor's note: The following is the prepared text from which Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) spoke as he addressed an academic audience at the University of Regensburg on September 12. As he actually delivered it, the speech differed slightly. Because the speech has aroused an unusual amount of debate -- particularly regarding the Pope's references to Islam and to religious violence-- CWN strongly recommends reading the entire text.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves.

We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas: the reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason-- this reality became a lived experience.

[COMMENT:  An excellent description of what a "university" should be...    E. Fox]

The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the whole of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on-- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara-- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.

The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

[COMMENT:  The "early" and powerless Mohammed  spoke for mutual respect and acceptance among religions, but when he got sufficient power, he turned to violence as THE way for propagating Islam -- suggesting his motives were dishonest from the beginning.  One can argue either way, for the early or late Mohammed.  But the late Mohammed has consistently won in the Muslim community because of the principle of "abrogation", that the later word from Mohammed overturns any conflicting earlier word.  The problem is that there seems to be no way for a clear resolution, leaving Islam open to the terrible behavior we see. 

And that intransigent attitude in favor of violence is related to their view of the Koran and Mohammed himself.  Their creed is,  "Allah is God and Mohammed is his prophet."  To ask, "How do you know?" is to find yourself stigmatized as one worthy of rejection and abuse.  The ethos of Islam does not readily support open honest discussion, because such discussion requires the participants to admit that they just might be wrong, and to place their views at risk to the truth as the evidence of fact and logic might lead. 

A deity which has the arbitrary and totalitarian character as Muslims attribute to God is not likely to produce a people open to honest dialogue.  They will have to be right at any cost to... the other person, and none to themselves.  Their paralyzing fear of the disapproval of Allah as they conceive Him kills any possibility of open truth-seeking. 

The Pope's description of the university must, therefore, strike panic into Muslim hearts.  God, as they describe Him, could not stand in such a climate. 

But that, again, comes not from the majesty, sovereignty, or transcendence of God, but from a deeply mistaken understanding of God, one which has passed the North Pole, and his heading down south again. 

Judeo-Christians must hold the feet of the Muslims to the fire on this point.  They are terribly vulnerable on truth issues.  And as a result produce people who have lost all sense of moral obligation other than proving their worth before a tyrant posing as God.  We must be constantly challenging them to honesty, true courage (the courage to share in the process of truth-seeking), and the nature of love and grace.

On our side of the issue, we do not need to get into what the "real"  Islam might be, violent or peaceful.  We need only to concentrate on what *this* Muslim might be and challenge him.  "Are you courageous enough to submit your view to open, honest discussion in the public arena?"   That is the issue.  "Are you a truth-seeker?"    

See What I Learned about Islam Yesterday -  E. Fox]

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

 [COMMENT:  In other words, the "new" teaching was the violent teaching.  It would be interesting to know how the Muslim responded.  With threats of murder?  Or was the Muslim willing to engage those issues based on the evidence?    (I have made the relevant "offensive" text red and bold.)   E. Fox]

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

[COMMENT:  This gets right at the heart of the difference between Biblical religion and Islam.  We both share a theology of a creator ex nihilo, but the personal character of God is very different, as current events show.    E. Fox]

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

[COMMENT:  I think - if I may be so bold - the Pope's argument goes off track theologically here.  There is no moral authority by which God can be bound.  The word of God, our purpose for existence, is the very foundation of all moral authority, a purpose which God freely chooses.  The Pope seems to imply that God could not hate us.  That, I think, takes away God's freewill, which cannot be done.  That would also take away His sovereignty because a being with no freewill can exercise no sovereignty for the same reason His creatures could not obey.  Sovereignty and obedience both require freewill.

We thus live by grace, but grace is neither a predetermined event nor a random or chance event.  A decision by God is the most rock-solid thing in all existence, but it is freely chosen.  We depend on that, not on God being frozen into loving us, not even by "His own nature".   Freely given love is grace.  If God were not freely choosing to love us, that would not be love and it would not be grace.  The love of God comes from the same almighty power which created the cosmos.  It is not weak, spineless, wispy, changing with the wind.  It is decided with all the determination of the almighty freewill.  That is dependable grace.  

Christians must learn how to deal with this Muslim notion of "transcendence", which gives evil an aura of untouchable goodness, that God is above all our intellectual categories.  We must expose the works of darkness, not allow them to dominate the public arena. 

Thus, it is wrong to allow Muslims to say or imply that God is above criticism, beyond even our categories of truth and morality.  To say such is to allow charlatans and cowards to get away with deceit and manipulation.  Either we insist on honest debate, not only with each other, but with God, or truth loses the debate.  If that seems like being irreverent and cheeky against God, read Job 13:3-12, or Genesis 18:25, or Isaiah 1:18, or John 8:31 ff.   God does not, if Scripture be accurate, refuse us an honest working through of our issues with Him. 

We cannot obligate God to do anything, but we can ask Him, and He gracefully agrees.  Why, otherwise, would Jesus tell us to bang on God's door in the parable of the unjust judge.

There is no possible way to "transcend" truth.  Either God is loving or He is not.  Only empirical evidence, the proof of living relationship, can tell.  And we rightly ask Him about that.  He wants us to ask Him.

So transcending reason or truth is bogus.  You can no more transcend reason than you can transcend the North Pole.  You cannot go further north than the North Pole.  If you go further, you only end up going south, not transcending north.  If you think you are transcending truth, you are only heading back south into ignorance or lies, i.e., untruth. 

God knows that, and being honorable, as He asks us to be, He honors our requests for reasonable discussion.  WE are the problem in being reasonable, not He.  "Come, let us reason together..."   He is calling us long before we are calling Him.  But we do not show up because we know that we risk a discussion of our own lack of honesty, truth, righteousness.  As in Genesis 3, and John 3:19, we head for the bushes because our deeds are evil.  God lives in the light of truth, the only possible common ground upon which any two persons, including God and man, can communicate.  So God offers to meet us on that level playing field of truth.      E. Fox]

As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: In the beginning was the logos. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos.

[COMMENT:  The gift of Greek (Hellenic) philosophy was the technology of reason and thinking, the techniques of logical and empirical reasoning -- science.  But it came loaded with the Greek worldview, which is in very essence impersonal and abstract.  The early Christians rightly signed on with reason, but they wrongly imported the Hellenic worldview, and so Christians tend to apologize for the personhood of God ("Oh, that's just anthropomorphic...). 

For the Bible, personhood is the primary ontological concept.  God is a Someone, not a Something, no matter how exalted the Something might be.  It has taken another 15 centuries or more for Christians to come again to grips with this problem (see Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy).  We are slowly factoring out the real Hellenic gift of the technology of reason and thinking from the dysfunctional pagan (essentially Platonic) worldview.  And much of that with the unwitting help of logical analysts and other secular folks.    E. Fox]

Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.

The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: Come over to Macedonia and help us! (cf. Acts 16:6-10)-- this vision can be interpreted as a distillation of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is, is already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates's attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: I am.

[COMMENT:  There were powerful expressions of God as creator of all things already in OT literature long before the Exile (ca. 590-520 BC).  Job 38, many Psalms, etc., testify to that.  But the notion certainly got a strong boost for those who had any doubts.  God was revealing Himself in a foreign land, which typical theology of the day did not allow.  The land which was defeated suffered also a defeated god.     E. Fox]

This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

[COMMENT:  The understanding was not all that new.  Four or five centuries before any Greek philosophers were to be seen, on a windy mountaintop, Elijah challenged his own people to logic (how long will you go limping on two opinions.  If Baal be God, go with him, but if the Lord be God, go with Him).   And then an empirical experiment to see who was in fact God -- the one who would show up to prove His own case.  Logic and experience are the two foundation stones of all science and philosophy.  Other examples in Scripture can be cited.  Isaiah 1:18, "Come, let us reason together..." is the standard strategy of God with His people.  That is necessarily so because God is inviting us into a freewill covenant.  That requires reason on both sides.  God is not the problem when it comes to reasonable discussion, we are.   And so it always leads to the crucifixion.  And if we allow ourselves to be crucified with Christ, to the resurrection -- onto the Ground of Reality, the place of intellectual, moral, and spiritual High Ground.  Heaven.    E. Fox]

Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria-- the Septuagint-- is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act “with logos” is contrary to God's nature.

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

[COMMENT:  Voluntarism (unbridled freewill in God), I think, is not the problem.  God has ultimate and unbridled freewill.  But God has chosen the path of love and grace.  Not the path of weakness.  Love is tough.  Grace has a discipline.   But it always respects, aims at, and builds freedom -- freedom ordered by the law and grace of God.   God not "bound" to truth or goodness, but that is His choice

God does not take away our freewill in order to control our behavior, and we ought not take away His in order to nail Him down either.  Love and grace are freewill decisions.

Our problem lies in thinking of choice as random, chancy, arbitrary.  There is no more dependable being in the cosmos than God who, omnipotently, omnisciently, and with full reason (considering all the possibilities and potentialities), has decided to be loving and graceful.  That is amazing grace.   E. Fox]

As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV). God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love transcends knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).

[COMMENT:  The "analogy" exists because personhood is the most appropriate and literal concept there is between man and God.  There is no higher concept, no more rich or full concept.   We are made in the image of the personhood of God.  Godly voluntarism is not "impenetrable" in the sense that Islam suggests.  God, who could indeed be impenetrable, freely makes Himself known.  Grace.   E. Fox]

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history-– it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

[COMMENT:  There was indeed a convergence, a "fullness of time" at which God made Himself known in Christ, personally visiting the earth and mankind.  Hebrew, Christian, Greek, and Roman elements all came together.   But the commitment to reason was already long embedded in the Biblical story (I Kings 18:19ff; Isaiah 1:18, 43:-; Job 13; 2 Corinthians 4:1-3; John 8:31 ff.).  Christians recognized reason among the Greeks because of their prior commitment.  But the Christians had not worked out the worldview issues, and so were unaware that they were importing Hellenic impersonalism, and thus compromising the Biblical personalist understanding of God.     E. Fox]

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity-– a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

[COMMENT:  Dehellenization need not scuttle the real Greek gift, the tools of intellectual and reasonable discourse.  What needs to be done is the clarification of the Biblical worldview over against the secular/pagan (e.g., Hellenic) worldview.  Then all the tools of logical and empirical science and discourse remain intact, and are only deepened by their employment in the Biblical worldview which focuses primarily on relationship, not abstractions or essences or good feelings.     E. Fox]

Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this program forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.

[COMMENT:  The Pope's critique of the Reformation is correct, I believe.  It set the stage for the descent into relativism by its compromise of reason and isolating Scripture from its historical roots in Israel and the Church.  We do not defend the objectivity of Biblical faith by making the Bible itself the unchallengeable standard, but rather by learning how, objectively and gracefully, to defend truth itself -- any truth.  And in that respect, learning those Greek tools of reasoning are absolutely essential.  Any good course on grammar or logic will teach the basics of reasoning.   

It needs also to be said that the pressures which caused the Reformation were a terrible lapse of reason within the Roman Catholic tradition.  There is not much to choose between us when it comes to sin and error. 

We must first learn how to defend the Biblical worldview, showing that it is the only logical worldview, which then gives us the foundation for talking of such a God as we see in the Bible.  If we live in a cosmos in which a Biblical God makes no sense, there is no use appealing to the authority of the Bible.   E. Fox]

The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this program was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal’s distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

[COMMENT:  By 'dehellenization', the Pope seems to mean the abandonment of reason.  And indeed, that happened.  But all sides of the debate were making the same error, failing to distinguish between the rightful tools of logical and empirical reasoning (apriori and deductive reasoning) from the worldview in which the Greeks used those tools.  Hopefully we are getting past that error, and Judeo-Christians will be able to embrace reason again in its rightful form, within the Biblical worldview framework.     E. Fox]

In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue. I will not repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack’s central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of hellenization: this simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favor of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ’s divinity and the triune God.

[COMMENT:  Harnak et al were abandoning the whole worldview discussion, and trying to be radical empiricists.  It cannot work, not for them, and not for present day naturalist or atheist philosophers.  But we must be able to show the reasonableness of the spiritual world, not, as in the Hellenic tradition (and all secular/pagan traditions), where the spiritual realm is antithetical to the realm of time and space.  A the Biblical sacramental world weds spirit and matter.  The material reveals the spiritual.  

To accomplish this, we need a top to bottom restructuring of Biblical theology, which has failed us for the last several centuries.  That has been the result of our own lack of faith, not the fault of pagans or secular folks.  The new version, I predict, will be rooted right in Genesis 1 and 2.   See Epistemology and Worldview Libraries for starters.   E. Fox]

In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament restored to theology its place within the university: theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university. Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant’s “Critiques”, but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature’s capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.

[COMMENT:  The Pope, wrongly I think, sees science and theology as opposed.  Yet he also hints that true science is really much broader than "naturalism" as the West has wrongly come to think of it.     E. Fox]

This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

[COMMENT:  This reductionism was wrong from the start.  See definition of 'science'.  Science is not inherently naturalistic.  Science does not ask whether a claim can be naturalistically proven, but whether it is true -- two very different questions.  We are limited to naturalism if and only if naturalism is in fact true.  That has not in any sense of the word been proven.   E. Fox]

We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be “scientific” would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by “science” and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective “conscience” becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter.

[COMMENT:  Exactly.   E. Fox]

This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application.

While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

[COMMENT:  Exactly.  Theology is still the Queen of the Sciences.  Truth-seeking is the precondition for being a follower of Jesus.  That does not require intellectual expertise, it requires honesty about whatever issue is at stake.  Science is simply common sense honed to a fine edge, common sense paying attention to the details.  It puts the generic questions to us all, to which we Judeo-Christians should be giving the Biblical answers. 

In the end, reason cannot survive the loss of God.  Truth becomes just another tool in the universal and compulsive power struggle of the Fallen world -- from which we are set free only by the law and grace of God.    E. Fox]

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology.

[COMMENT:  I think the answer lies not in Platonism, but in a better understanding of the Biblical roots of reason.  The Pope is certainly right that a culture deaf to the divine will be unable to deal with cultural dialogue.  It will resort to force or mind-control.  We see that both in Islam and in secularism.     E. Fox]

Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology.

[COMMENT:  I hope to publish Personality, Empiricism, & God, my D. Phil. thesis at Oxford, sometime in 2007, which will deal with many of these issues.   E. Fox]

For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss”.

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

[COMMENT:  Amen!   This closing invitation by the Pope is exactly where Judeo-Christians must be.  Gracefully confronting the other side, but always open to talking with them on the basis of truth and righteousness.  Those who refuse this invitation are enemies of God and of mankind. 

See here for other commentary.     E. Fox]


[COMMENT: This is not exactly an apology.  He does not retract his words.  It was perhaps on the spur of the moment, perhaps to protect those who are put at risk to violence by his words.  But we must stand firm against evil or many more will be killed. 

I hope that the Pope, who has given us perhaps the first intelligent Christian public leadership response to Islam will hold firm, and continue to force the real issues to the fore, force Islam to fess up to what it really is about, and force a choice among the "moderates" to stand up and be counted against terrorism. 

We need not debate whether Islam can become a rational member of the world community.  That is up to them.  But we can make it clear that we will not have it otherwise.   E. Fox] 

Text of Pope's apology  

The following is the text of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks regretting causing offence to Muslims in his 12 September speech in the Bavarian city of Regensburg.  

Dear Brothers and Sisters,  

The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.  

I thank God for the interior joy which he made possible, and I am also grateful to all those who worked hard for the success of this Pastoral Visit.  

As is the custom, I will speak more of this during next Wednesday's general audience.  

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.  

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.  

I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect. 

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