Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Faith, Reason and the University"

Pope Benedict gave a remarkable speech at the University of Regensburg yesterday about the relationship between faith and reason that touches on violence and Islam. “As we've come to expect from his homilies, speeches and messages, this speech vividly illustrates how powerfully the professor resides in this Pope.”
Here are a few excerpts:

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.

Once a semester there was a "dies academicus," when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university. Despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, sharing responsibility for the right use of reason -- this reality became a lived experience.

This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when a colleague 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 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.

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 the seventh conversation 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. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

The emperor 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 why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.

"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.

Read the rest of this remarkable speech at RomanCatholicBlog. Then go read what
this hysterical New York Times article by one Ian Fisher has to say.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.


4:31 PM  

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