Friday, September 15, 2006

Papal Remarks

http://www.chiesa.espressonline.it/dettaglio.jsp?id=83303&eng=y

Here is the full, unedited speech given by Pope Benedict titled Faith, Reason, and the University.

It was not an address regarding Islam. The actual remark concerning Islam was part of a larger point about faith, reason, the path of philosophy from Plato to Kant, and the differences between the scientific method and philosophical inquiry.

The entire passage regarding Islam, with the prepartory context follows:
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 scepticism 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 (M√ľnster) 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-controversy, 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 threaten. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without decending 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". 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...". 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 practise idolatry. "

I did a quick word count on it, and out of a 3,750 word address, appx. 560 dealt with Islam.
After re-reading this several times, I think I grasp the point Benedict XVI was trying to make.
The Byzantine emperor was writing about the contradiction between the passages in the Koran, and the philosophical mindset which did not sense tension between seemingly mutually exclusive ideas. To draw from Chesterton, I believe that there is a great deal of time spent in his bio of St. Thomas Aquinas on this very same point. In Islamic philosophy, including Averroes, faith can contradict reason. In St. Thomas, truth cannot contradict truth.

To add further items of interest to this subject, I googled Theodore Koury. He seems like a solid academic, respected in both Catholic and Orthodox circles. He also comes up on several websites about the purported Stigmatist from Lebanon.

Just for the sake of inducing frustration:
http://www.zaman.com/?bl=international&alt=&trh=20060914&hn=36518
Look at this press article reviewing the lecture......International Herald Tribune ran the headline “Pope Criticizes Western Secularism and Islam’s Jihad.” I try to maintain some diginity and composure when I feel like I am doing apologetics or speaking about the Church, but it is hairpullingly aggravating to see someone in the media come up with a headline like that in response to the full speech..........ABOUT THE NATURE OF REASON IN ACADEMIA!!!!

Either the media is really that dumb, or they wish to incite violence and discord.

Edit: Upon further consideration, I totally disagree with the Pope. He spent 45 minutes trying to argue about the rationality of the human person...........the ensuing days have totally demolished his point.

3 comments:

Trubador said...

"Upon further consideration, I totally disagree with the Pope. He spent 45 minutes trying to argue about the rationality of the human person...........the ensuing days have totally demolished his point."

Yeah... they kinda proved Manuel II Paleologus' point, didn't they.

The ending of slavery and segregation in the South didn't happen overnight. 'Tis be true for the ingrained mindset in the Middle East, as well. Hard as it is to believe, we must have faith.

Alan said...

Edit: Upon further consideration, I totally disagree with the Pope. He spent 45 minutes trying to argue about the rationality of the human person...........the ensuing days have totally demolished his point.

The point he made was this
"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."
It is a point now being proved in flames and explosions

Don Kenner said...

Thank you for defending the Holy Father. There are precious few Catholics (among the leadership, anyway) doing this, even as Pope Benedict XVI is now marked for death by some Muslim fanatics.