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Muslim Leaders Condemn Pope's Speech, Want Apology

Reuters 15sep2006

[Complete text of Pope's address below]

 

Muslim Leaders Condemn Pope's Speech, Want Apology - Reuters 15sep2006

Mindfully.org note:
Many historians recorded the Crusades as massive campaigns of excessive violence on the path to spreading Christianity. Please read Charles MacKay's account of the Crusades written in 1841.

CAIRO — Muslim leaders on Thursday condemned Pope Benedict over comments he made about Islam on a visit to Germany and demanded he apologise.

The head of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood called on Islamic countries to threaten to break off relations with the Vatican unless the pontiff withdrew his remarks.

A top religious figure in Turkey suggested the pope should reconsider a trip he is planning to Turkey later this year.

The Vatican issued a statement to say the Pope had never meant to offend Islam.

In his speech at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, Benedict quoted criticism of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who wrote that everything Mohammad brought was evil and inhuman, "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

Benedict, who used the terms "jihad" and "holy war", repeatedly quoted Manuel's argument that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable, adding: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mahdi Akef, whose organisation is one of the oldest, largest and most influential in the Arab world, said the pope "aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world and strengthened the argument of those who say that the West is hostile to everything Islamic".

"The general guide (Akef) expressed his surprise that such comments should come from someone who sits at the summit of the Catholic Church and who has an influence over public opinion in the West," said a statement on the Muslim Brotherhood's official Web site, www.ikhwanonline.com.

The Vatican press office said in a statement the pope had not intended to carry out an in-depth study of jihad (holy war) and Muslim thinking about it, "even less to offend the sensitivity of the Muslim faithful".

"It is clear that the Holy Father's intention is to cultivate a position of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, and that clearly includes Islam," the statement by chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

He said a careful reading of the Pope's lecture would show that "what really matters to the Holy Father is a clear and radical rejection of religious motives for violence".

In Turkey, the Anatolian state news agency quoted Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Ankara's Directorate General for Religious Affairs, as describing the Pope's words as "extremely regrettable".

"I do not see any use in somebody visiting the Islamic world who thinks in this way about the holy prophet of Islam. He should first rid himself of feelings of hate," NTV's Web site quoted Bardakoglu as saying.

Bardakoglu, whose directorate controls all imams in Turkey and sends prayer leaders to Turkish communities abroad, recalled atrocities committed by Roman Catholic Crusaders during the Middle Ages in the name of their faith against Orthodox Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.

Benedict is due to visit Turkey, an avowedly secular state whose population is predominantly Muslim, in November at the invitation of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

In Qatar, prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi rejected the Pope's comments and said Islam was a religion of peace and reason.

"Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity," Qaradawi told Al Jazeera television. "We ask the pope to apologise to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its Prophet and its beliefs."

source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/9/15/worldupdates/2006-09-15T032522Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_-267636-1&sec=Worldupdates 14sep2006


Pope Assails Secularism, Adding Note on Jihad 

IAN FISHER / New York Times 13sep2006

 

REGENSBURG, Germany, Sept. 12 — Pope Benedict XVI weighed in Tuesday on the delicate issue of rapport between Islam and the West: He said that violence, embodied in the Muslim idea of jihad, or holy war, is contrary to reason and God’s plan, while the West was so beholden to reason that Islam could not understand it.

Nonetheless, in a complex treatise delivered at the university here where he once taught, he suggested reason as a common ground for a “genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”

In all, the speech seemed to reflect the Vatican’s struggle over how to confront Islam and terrorism, as the 79-year-old pope pursues what is often considered a more provocative, hard-nosed and skeptical approach to Islam than his predecessor, John Paul II.

As such, it distilled many of Benedict’s longstanding concerns, about the crisis of faith among Christians and about Islam and its relationship to violence.

And he used language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims, at a time of high tension among religions and three months before he makes a trip to Turkey.

He began his speech, which ran over half an hour, by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, in a conversation with a “learned Persian” on Christianity and Islam — “and the truth of both.”

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread the sword by the faith he preached,” the pope quoted the emperor, in a speech to 1,500 students and faculty.

He went on to say that violent conversion to Islam was contrary to reason and thus “contrary to God’s nature.”

But the section on Islam made up just three paragraphs of the speech, and he devoted the rest to a long examination of how Western science and philosophy had divorced themselves from faith — leading to the secularization of European society that is at the heart of Benedict’s worries.

This, he said, has closed off the West from a full understanding of reality, making it also impossible to talk with cultures for whom faith is fundamental.

“The world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion from the divine, from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions,” he said. “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.”

Several experts on the Catholic Church and Islam agreed that the speech — in which Benedict made clear he was quoting other sources on Islam — did not appear to be a major statement on, or condemnation of, Islam. The chief concern, they said, was the West’s exclusion of religion from the realm of reason.

Still, they said that the strong words he used in describing Islam, even that of the 14th century, ran the risk of offense.

Renzo Guolo, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Padua, who often writes about the church and Islam, said he was struck by the suggestion of Islam as distant from reason.

“This is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn’t speak of fundamentalist Islam but of Islam generally,” he said, “Not all Islam, thank God, is fundamentalist.”

The Rev. Daniel A. Madigan, rector of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, said the central point was that “if we are really going into a serious dialogue with Muslims we need to take faith seriously.” But, he said of the quote from the emperor, “You clearly take a risk using an example like that.”

Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, said that “the text reveals his deep mistrust regarding the aggressive side of Islam.”

“Certainly he closes the door to an idea which was very dear to John Paul II — the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same God,” he said.

The speech was a central moment in Benedict’s six-day trip home to visit Bavaria, where he grew up, became a priest, a prominent theologian and, finally, a cardinal. Earlier in the day, at an outdoor Mass here attended by some 250,000 people, he expressed similar concerns as in the speech, urging believers to stand up against the “hatred and fanaticism” that he said were tarnishing the image of God.

Again, this critique seemed aimed as much at secular Western society as at any other threat.

“Today, when we have learned to recognize the pathologies and life-threatening diseases associated with religion and reason, and the ways that God’s image can be destroyed by hatred and fanaticism, it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe,” the pope said.

“Only this can free us from being afraid of God — which is ultimately at the root of modern atheism,” he said. “Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life.”

The speech at the university was the only significant secular event in a schedule packed with Masses, evening prayers and other religious occasions aimed at Catholics in Germany, where regular Mass attendance has fallen to under 15 percent.

That low number is connected directly to many of Benedict’s long-expressed concerns about Islam. He often urges people not to forget the Christian roots of a Europe with fewer practicing Christians and more Muslim immigrants, over four million here in Germany alone.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, said that Benedict’s comments were not meant as any statement on Islam, but only as a small example, at the beginning of four tightly packed pages of text, of his argument of the dangers of the separation of reason and religion.

“I believe that everyone understands, even inside Islam, there are many different positions, and there are many positions that aren’t violent,” Father Lombardi said. “Here, certainly, the pope doesn’t want to give a lesson, let’s say, an interpretation of Islam, as violent.

“He is saying, in the case of a violent interpretation of religion, we are in a contradiction with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,” he said.

In the weeks after John Paul’s death in April 2005, Islam and how to confront terrorism seemed key issues in the selection of a new pope. As a candidate, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict after his election, embodied the more skeptical school inside the Vatican.

Unlike John Paul, Cardinal Ratzinger did not approve of joint prayers with Muslims and was skeptical of the value of interreligious dialogue, with a faith of many shadings and few representative leaders to speak with.

In 2004, he caused a stir by opposing membership in the European Union for Turkey, saying that it “always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe.” He has not repeated this opinion since he became pope, and he is scheduled to visit there in November.

Once he became pope, Benedict’s new approach was apparent quickly: in his first trip outside Italy, he met with Muslim leaders in Cologne, Germany, and politely but clearly told them they had the responsibility to teach their children against terrorism, which he called “the darkness of a new barbarism.” He said Catholics and Muslims had the obligation to meet and to overcome differences.

At the end of that summer, he devoted an annual weekend of study with former graduate students to Islam. In that meeting, and since, he has reportedly expressed skepticism about Islam’s openness to change, given its view of the Koran as the unchangeable word of God.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/13/world/europe/13pope.html?ei=5087%0A&en=254709633383586d&ex=1158379200&pagewanted=print 14sep2006


"Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization"

Papal Address at University of Regensburg 12sep2006

 

REGENSBURG, Germany, SEPT. 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to scientists at the University of Regensburg, where he was a professor and vice rector from 1969 to 1971.

This is the version the Pope read, adding some allusions of the moment, which he hopes to publish in the future, complete with footnotes. Hence, the present text must be considered provisional.

* * *

Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections

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.

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 (Muenster) 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 Koran, 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 Koran.

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 ("diálesis" — controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 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]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, 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."

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 ("syn logo") 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 practice idolatry.

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. 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 St. 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, already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates' 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."

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. Psalm 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.

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.

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. Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreía" — worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Romans 12:1).

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.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a de-Hellenization 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 de-Hellenization: Although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

De-Hellenization 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.

The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of de-Hellenization, 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.

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 de-Hellenization. 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. 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.

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.

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. 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 de-Hellenization, 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.

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. 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. 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.

[Translation of German original issued by the Holy See; adapted]

© Copyright 2006 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Code: ZE06091209
Date: 2006-09-12

source: http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=94748 14sep2006

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