OK now I'm going to revert. The reason is because in about 90 seconds, on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Father Richard John Neuhaus has not only clarified the entire context of Benedict's Regenberg Lecture, but demolished a fallacy I thought Christians in America have obsessed over for years.
The kernel of this axiom asserted by the Pope is this:
To act against reason is to act against the nature of God.
And Neuhaus continues..
That religion and particularly Christianity presents itself on the basis of reasonable truth claims that are to be engaged and to be presented as persuasively as possible in a reasonable manner. His lecture at the Regensberg University was directed chiefly against ideological secularists on the one hand who want to radically divide faith and reason and directed against Christian thinkers who want to assert a kind of pure Biblical Christianity against the great achievement which is the synthesis of Greek philosphy and revealed truth. So those were the primary audiences. Along the way, and this is what got all the news attention, he asked the question whether or not there is not a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam on precisely this point. Whether Islam's understaning of God who is a god who is disengaged from what we mean by reason. A god who is radically sovereign, radically transcendent and whose will is exactly what he declares his will to be no matter how arbitrary or capricious. That Allah could even command that you worship idols and you would be obliged to worship idols.
So he is asking a question whether there is a difference and is it an insurmountable difference...between the Christian understanding, that as the first verse of the prologue to the Gospel of John says: en arche en logos in the Greek. In the beginning was the logos, in the beginning was the word, and logos means also reason, and therefore there could be no place in religion, in authentic religion, Christian, Islamic or other for the use of violence.
That was the question he was posing. And of course unfortunately, the response, the reaction of much of the Islamic world simply confirmed the worst of the possible answers to that question. Namely, you say we're violent and we'll kill you for saying we're violent. This I think means that this statement in Regensberg, will in retrospect be looked back upon as a benchmark in which certainly in the most important statement by a world figure since 9/11 with regard to what may be the biggest single question facing Western civilization in the next century. And it turns out finally to be a theological and philosophical question about the nature of God.
Just wow. I came out of college as one of those ideological secularists (thanks to Ayn Rand), which I remained until I came to understand religion as a fundamental civilizing pedagogy thanks to Ishmael Reed. At that point I claimed polytheism in order to embrace the multiple sources of moral agency across human history. I did so not realizing that the theology of Christianity had resolved this (or even addressed it). Nevertheless, later in reading Cornel West's "American Evasion of Philosophy", I came to recognize the nexus of what he calls 'Emersonian Theocidy' and agreed that some very fundamental ideas about God and America were self-reinfocing, and thus began a new level of patriotism. But Neuhaus cites the opening of the Gospel of John, one of the only passages of the Bible that I've ever really made an attempt to memorize. And yet in all that memorization, I failed to understand the implications. I have to say this is truly a remarkable day for me in faith because for so many years I have been engaged in debate about faith vs reason.
This is fabulous and timely. I wonder what it is I need to do to be able to get to this kind of theology on a regular basis. I'm completely jazzed. For me it goes back to what I've been asserting, and by doing so thinking I have been angling away from Christianity as preached here. Here's the best way I put it before:
The priesthood has a very difficult task, which is to reconcile their interpretations of the divine with their understanding of human needs. How do you dumb down the Infinite and put human beings into the middle of it such that their core moral values are lined up with what any priest or Church says is God's Will? Very difficult indeed, especially when human knowledge ebbs and flows.
If you take it as a given that God is indeed Infinite, then you have embodied in the mind of God, all the laws of the Universe - the very order of everything, whether or not we humans are able to understand it. God is purpose. God is the purpose of the universe. God is the source of human capacity to understand the Universe, such as we can, such as it is. So loving God is a difficult proposition. Unless you anthropomorphize God, you cannot 'love' God in anyway like you would love a human being.
Of all the jobs the priesthood has, invoking God's name to call the people to worship seems like the easiest. What is entailed in worship... ah there's the rub. If one worships God by serving his purposes, there are certainly different abilities of humans to do so which other humans (and presumeably God) is aware. If God's purpose, as described by The New Covenant of Jesus, is transparent to humanity, then it is very unlikely that you could fool humans and decieve God at the same time. In other words, since we are commanded to love our neighbor, we could not love them falsely. Our neighbors would be able to correctly percieve our love with the same facility as God would judge our love of them. This is a very key thing. If love was embodied in the gift of a red rose, then it is important that God gave us all equal facilities to see that the rose was indeed red. Otherwise how could we spread the Gospel? My entire point here is that I am asserting that human beings must have the same facility for interpretation of love and good and evil as God would have. We couldn't arrive at different conclusions; this is utterly fundamental and the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge which kicks off Genesis. We do know.
Neuhaus also says the enemy is Jihadism, and he recommend some books. This is absolutely amazing stuff. The synthesis of Greek philosophy and revealed truth is a fundamental element of modern Christianity. I should know this, but I've never heard it said that way. The implications are enormous, but most importantly and most directly Neuhaus is dead on with regard to what Benedict has put out there. Where muslim clerics stand on this is going to be telling for a long time to come. This, plus a better understanding to the two streams of Jihadism, the Salafist and the Khomenist will go a long way in determining the proper shape of this ideological conflict.
But do you think it will stop Lefties from blaming everything on Bush? Hmmm.