Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope Thing

I did a post about this last night, and woke up this morning and pulled it. This one is better.

I get the sense that not one of the protesting Muslims has any idea of the context in which the Pope uttered those words (indeed there were questions on the UAE Community blog as to where and when these words had come from).

Well, he was not standing on his balcony or at a pulpit. The offending words were said as part of a private lecture at a University - they were quoted from an historical source and were not intended to represent the thoughts of the Pontiff himself. The lecture is densely theological, and I've included the full text of it below. If you can understand it, good on yer!

As I understand it, El Papa is arguing for rationality and reason in religion, as opposed to blind faith and authoritarianism. He also spends quite a lot of time slagging off the Ancient Greeks, but I'm not hearing any protests from them. I will admit that his first example was a very bad choice (he would, perhaps, have been better off citing the Spanish Inquisition - the Catholic Church has not exactly been squeaky-clean throughout the centuries).

But here's the point. If an academic cannot be free to expound, explore and explain controversial ideas in the context of an institute of learning, where can he do it? Every day, throughout the world, words are written and spoken in the name of learning that will undoubtedly cause great offence to someone, somewhere. It's that old freedom of speech thing again.

Here beginneth the lecture...

Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections

Your Eminences, Your Magnificences, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. That 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 - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact 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 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 (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 presumably 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 those of his Persian interlocutor. 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 between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - 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 (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this 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 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 addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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, after having expressed himself so forcefully, 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", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably.

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.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. 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, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the [word?] ". 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 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 simply declares "I am", 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. 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. 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 really 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, in its later developments, 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 - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. 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, as Saint Paul says, "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, again to quote Paul - "8@(46¬ 8"JD,\"", worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 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 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 programme of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth 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 programme 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 nineteenth and twentieth 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 programme 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, and I do not intend to 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 favour of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. Fundamentally, Harnack's 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, as he saw it, 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.

I will 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: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then 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", so understood, 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 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 marvellous 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 - as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. 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 programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act 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.

*** NOTE: The Holy Father intends to supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes. The present text must therefore be considered provisional.

© Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

So now you know.



Blogger La La said...

Well done.

8:29 pm  
Anonymous persian architect said...

I somehow agree with you.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous A world of Symphony said...

After reading yours and 'La La land's' post, I came up with my own. Thanks.

Unfortunately, being a Beta-user, I can't post at her site - friggin conflicts.

11:10 pm  
Blogger programmer craig said...

Well, i response to your previous version of this post :)

We've just about got over the Danish cartoons debacle

No we (you) haven't. People have longer memories than you think. I was 15 years old when Iran took the US embassy and the staf hostage in 1979. I was 17 when the hostages were released. I recall every grievance I have against muslims (see, I don't even say muslim extremists anymore) and I don't think I'm the only one.

You won't ever get over the cartoon crisis. Victims do not like being coerced into apologizing for being victims. They never forget it. They will never forget the Pope Crisis either, no matter how many times the Pope apologizes. Every time the one billion Catholics see their Pope apologizing for stating his opinion, they will remember the humiliation against their religious leader.

You aren't ever going to get over these things, until it is you who apologizes for your own transgressions against others, instead of demanding people apologize for having the audacity to complain about your outrageous behavior.

11:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your effort, Keefie, but considering that the average Arab can't read a two-word headline without losing interest, you're probably wasting your time.

They're happy to maintain their perpetual victim complex, which means that they never have to take responsibility for their failings.

12:34 am  
Anonymous Markus said...

@ Anon,

Why is it that some people love to pigeonhole Arabs into a narrow, limited scope. Why is it ok to assume and be ignorant about them? Your statements are indicative of your own failing that many people, specifically the west refuse to acknowledge when it comes to understanding the Arab world's grievances. As a first, what does this story have to do with Arabs? Its a Muslim-Christian issue, do you realize that not all Arabs are Muslims? I am an Arab, but I am not Muslim, I still believe that the reason the Pope singled out Islam as an example in this case has political connotations, its not purely innocent, and I feel it was a bad choice on his part, granted it does not merit a violent backlash, nevertheless, Anon, need to look at yourself in the mirror, how has the church handled its own failing? Its perversions in the middle ages, its prosecution of everyone who opposes its political agenda, how has the west handled its failure in managing its empires, the roman slavery, the Spanish inquisitions, the British mandate of Palestine, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if the Arabs have a victims complex, its not without a legitimate claim, the west has its own complex, its called self "righteousness"

9:04 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@Progammer Craig...
instead of demanding people apologize for having the audacity to complain about your outrageous behavior.

I'm very confused by your comment - who is it addressed to?

9:19 am  
Blogger programmer craig said...

I'm very confused by your comment - who is it addressed to?

Why are you confused? I re-read it and it looks pretty clear to me. Perhaps you just like to misunderstand people?

The offending words

There were no "offending words" - period. No matter what the context. How about that? Clear? Every single act of violence that occurs as a result of this "incident" is a criminal act of religious/racial bigotry. Clear?

I hope so. Because I can't make it any clearer.

10:06 am  
Blogger kaya said...

I have the attention span of a hummingbird. So to move on to something lighter....So lets go play.

U just been TAGGED again.

(Whereas I do appreciate your effort to throw some light on the matter, the fact is, there was no way someone like me was going to read that whole doc.)

10:07 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@Craig: perhaps you think I'm a Muslim?

10:32 am  
Blogger programmer craig said...

KeefieBoy, I don't really care if you're muslim or not. If you aren't then your post is even more offensive, to me. Why are you trying to justify something that doesn't need to be justified? It's the insane reaction that requires that amends be made.

Just like the cartoon crisis that you claimed "we" weer just getting over. By "we" you mean non-muslims? To hell with that, man! We better not ever "get over" having our basic values and beliefs coerced into submission. A more aggressive stance is called for, by every non-muslim. Not a less aggressive stance. If muslims want to draw another crusade from the west, then let them have what they want. In full measure. I personally will not be listening to any whining and crying about muslims being the victims of westren aggression at any point in the future for the rest of my life, though. The aggressor in this case, and in every other case that I know of, is clear. Muslims are not teh victims, they are the perpetrators.

1:02 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@ Craig: did you actually read my post? I was criticising the reaction of certain Muslim leaders to the Pope's lecture. I was supporting the right of the Pope to say what he said in the context that he said it. So to that extent I actually agree with you.

However, I do live in a Muslim country and I know very well that that most Muslims here are extremely moderate in their views and have no time at all for the horrible acts of violence that are perpetrated in their name. I don't know where you get your views of Islam from - unfortunately I don't think that Western, especially American, media present anything like a balanced picture.

@ Kaya: is the attention span of a hummingbird more or less than that of a goldfish? Whatever, it is a deeply dull lecture to wade through.

1:50 pm  
Anonymous oink oink said...

It's evident, Keefie, that Craig completely misunderstood your perspective. I think his point is very clear though.

As for anon, it was an error to substitute "Arabs" for "Muslims". The reaction is by Muslims the world over.

Not that they will even bother reading through the speech, they've been offended, they heard it on the grapevine, and offended they are. That's it. Time now to burn a few cars, unless, or even if, "that thing in the Vatican" apologises.

Many thanks for posting the transcript. I read through about half, then scrolled own to the conclusion. It's very clear the Pope was using his lecture also to call for a dialogue of cultures, and what did he get--a completely opposite reaction. In castigating the employment of violence in religion, he was as much talking about his own relgion (the Crusades etc.) as anyone else's.

What level of IQ does it take to see that?

1:59 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

What level of IQ does it take to see that?
Clearly much more than has been employed in this case.

2:20 pm  
Blogger DesertNorm said...

For hummingbirds and goldfish here is the headline.

Pope quotes link between Islam and violence.
World media shows images of Muslims burning pope effigy and firebombing churches.
Pope shrugs, says 'actually thats not what I meant but, er...'

4:31 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@DesertNorm: Way too many syllables to be a haiku! BTW: love your blog.

5:03 pm  
Blogger kaya said...

@ desertnorm
Well, thats so much better. Thankyou.
Storm in a d cup. hmmmm...

7:20 pm  
Anonymous tommy said...

One of the reasons you will not see the Pope citing the Inquisition is that he is trying to make a point about a rational versus nonrational (or superrational) conception of God and its relation to human faith.

Christianity has been closely wedded to Hellenic thought almost since its inception. You can see this in the writings of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas which frequently attempt to reconcile Aristotle and Plato with Christianity. The Inquisition itself was irrational, but it didn't stem from the concept a God who was beyond rationality.

In the West, in Christianity, in the battle between a nonrational and rational conception of God, the rational God won out.

In the East, in Islam, during its Golden Age, there was substantial debate about this concept among Islamic philosophers. Ultimately, the conception of a God who was beyond rationality won the day. Scholars ultimately rejected attempts to reconcile Greek philosophy with Islam and argued that God transcended any rational thought.

I can't help but wonder if the conception of a natural world governed by a rational God didn't ultimately help the West advance.
Similarly, I can't help but wonder if the idea of a world that was governed by a God who could not be rationally understood didn't help cause the decline of the Golden Age of Islam and the Islamic world's stagnation.

The Western conception of God lends itself to the idea that the natural world can be understood and the idea that investigation is worthwhile. The Islamic idea of God reinforces the idea that the natural world cannot be understood and that investigation may be useless. The Western way of thinking lends itself much more naturally to a spirit of scientific investigation.

5:02 am  
Anonymous Barsawad said...

"If an academic cannot be free to expound, explore and explain controversial ideas in the context of an institute of learning, where can he do it?".

Keffie - the Pope is not an ordinary academic; as much as I have high regards for the papapcy, he shouldn't have presented his speech with that inflammatory inclusion. He, being THE Pope should have been wise enough to think of that, and realise that part on Islam - though a quaotation - would create some reactions.

4:03 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

@Barsawad: it's too late for 'should have'. Apparently the Pope is a little bit clueless about the real world (although by no means clueless about Islam). Once again this comes down to the extreme hyper-sensitivity of some Muslims, who either have skin about one micron thick, or who seize on every opportunity to burn a few effigies.
Followers of other major religions do not fly off the handle like this - for sure Catholocism has been involved in some nasty stuff during it's history, but it is possible to discuss this without risking bringing about a war.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous AngloBaptist said...

Interesting thread, K. Thanks for posting it. I found you through itoot.

The context issue is the true issue. I wonder if the Pope could have found a less potentially inflamatory quotation. This is a world where intentions matter little. We can pull quotations out of context so easily, reinvent them, and send them about the ether. Saying anything about anything is now dangerous.

6:07 pm  
Anonymous AngloBaptist said...

Interesting thread, K. Thanks for posting it. I found you through itoot.

The context issue is the true issue. I wonder if the Pope could have found a less potentially inflamatory quotation. This is a world where intentions matter little. We can pull quotations out of context so easily, reinvent them, and send them about the ether. Saying anything about anything is now dangerous.

6:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the entire lecture, we could not find it anywhere else. The reactions are unfortunate.

5:29 pm  
Anonymous Mira Al Hussein said...

Good post. Your efforts are appreciated.

I would like say - as an Arab, who reads more than two-lines and loses no interest - thank you!

3:57 pm  
Blogger s said...

i seriously doubt that the people who are burning churches are literate (or even employed). the mullah at their local mosque must have told them that the pope said this and that (no context) and sent them out to burn everything down. this is coming from someone who grew up in pakistan (and is a muslim - according to her passport at least), there's a whole lot of idiots out there with nothing much to do during the day - they need a cause, ANY cause.

to consider that lot reflective of muslims on the whole is pretty silly as well. i agree, reacting to a statement or cartoon that portrays islam as violent, WITH violence is pretty irrational but the sad fact is that these people are not capable of rational thought. they have no work, no education and no money and they need to blame someone for all of it. and yeah, their IQ is probably in the double digit region. or not even.

5:22 pm  

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