The Regensburg Lecture Hardcover – Apr 30 2007
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The uproar over the supposedly anti-Islamic quotation in it occluded the meaning of Pope Benedict XVI's September 12, 2006, University of Regensburg lecture. Including its full text in an appendix, Schall expands upon its themes. Thirteenth-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus' "offensive" words concern the first, religiously motivated violence and the nature of God. The second theme is the loss of European Christian identity; the third, the "dehellenization" of the West. Benedict frames all three issues as matters of reason and religion. Crucial to his argument is the realization that, because of the Incarnation, Christianity doesn't conceive of God as dealing unreasonably with humanity, and as it is unreasonable to force religious belief, violence for religious ends is proscribed. Making the other themes urgent is the educational practice of reserving reason for secular disciplines only, which is why, Schall thinks, the pope made his remarks where and to whom he did. The university and professors can help reverse dehellenization by reconnecting reason and religion in teaching. Ray Olson
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Fr. Schall really unlocks the genius of the Pope's address and really gets to the reality of what the Pope was saying and at the same time shows the incredible neglect by the media in the recent past in it's treatment of what the Pope "said".
This book is a must and a challenge for anyone in higher education who thinks that the Roman Catholic Church and her teachings about reality, God, and man are outdated. Fr. Schall demonstrates with certain clarity that Pope Benedict XVI clearly understands the current cultural problems and makes them clear in this work, namely the abandonment of the objective rational world in religion and politics. Also given in this wonderful work is the foundational answer to getting our culture back on track in order to realize the true good for you and all peoples.
Benedict opened this talk in an academic setting with reference to a similar dialogue, between a Byzantine and a Muslim, centuries ago. It posed a question, and not an unfamiliar one, to the Muslim world from the Christian concerning religion and violence--not necessarily an answer. It moves quickly to an exploration of concepts of the Godhead and rationality, Muslim and Christian, which apparently only the pope, out of all the Western world, is these days willing to publicly address. That this talk was mis-translated and lambasted is perhaps a more astonishing and baleful sign of the times than that of certain Muslim militants who reacted violently in the days following the speech. Can the heirs of "the Enlightenment" any longer even tolerate the mere posing and exploration of large questions in an academic setting, supposedly one of the Enlightenment's most important institutions? The English speaking mass media (which Christians Catholic or non-Catholic should not mistake for the legitimate heir of anything) has answered no. Thus the Regensburg lecture has already, among other effects, oddly posed questions concerning societal order to the present West at least as pressing as they do to the Muslim world. That political correctness spells the end of liberty, in the classic American sense, has never been more dramatically demonstrated.
Fr. Schall quickly moves into a full exploration of all resonances of the Regensburg address, particularly as they relate to what is popularly called "terrorism" and its consequences for what remains of the Western political order. For the posing of the ancient question about an arbitrary diety, as opposed to a God self-limiting in His loving rationality, is double-edged. Fr. Schall brings in Benedict's concerns with the dissolution of European and Western culture generally, a de-hellenization which, undermining the church's embracing of classical era rational thought and natural law, leaves the West at present particularly vulnerable. This is finally seen to occur as much because of the West's own, mysterious inner breakdown as due to any outside threat.
This book is an indispensible guide which takes up Benedict's challenge at Regensburg--namely to articulate an ageed protocal at the highest levels of both Western culture and the Muslim world, so as walk both slowly backwards from an abyss.
Schall who is Professor of Government at Georgetown University is also a Catholic cleric and as such has insight into Benedict's thinking.
Some critics have suggested that had he removed the reference to Mohammed then the lecture would have passed unnoticed. Schall argues that to have left out such a reference would have restricted the purpose of the lecture and the Muslim reaction could not have been altogether unexpected. To have left it out would have restricted the purpose of the lecture. By using a medieval Byzantine Emperor in the C14th he raised an issue that still exists and there has been a failure to confront Islam on an intellectual basis. "Is violence justified on grounds of religious purpose? ". The internal problem for Muslims is that that some Muslims say that there is no relation between Islam and violence while others do claim that violence is used to foster their cause. Benedict apologised if his words offended anyone but he did not withdraw his basic comment. Schall suggests that 15- 25 % of the total Muslim world population support the notion of the legitimacy of violence both in principle and in the Koran. It is not enough to repeat endlessly that Islam is a religion of peace while not explaining the the violence that comes from the depth of their faith.
Benedict's thesis is that the rapprochement of the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance and was Divinely intended. Acts 16:6-10 describes how St Paul who was commanded to preach to the gentiles saw the roads to Asia blocked and in a dream saw a Macedonian who pleaded with him "to come to Macedonia and help us". The rapprochement of Biblical faith and Greek inquiry is linked in St John's Gospel which opens saying "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". The Greek for Word is logos that also means reason. Paul in Romans 12 :1-2 speaks of worship in harmony with the eternal Word and reason. This is not a new construct but represents the Old Testament revelation of God as " I am". In a footnote Benedict refers to a chapter in a book where he elaborated on this point. (Introduction to Christianity, London 1969, Chapter The Biblical belief in God).
Schall argues that it is important to face up to the distinction between God as being logos - reason and the Muslim view that god is governed by action - sola voluntas. This term implies that God's power is not limited by even by the principle of contradiction and it becomes blasphemy to even imply otherwise. This is a transcendent god that transcends reason makes reason subservient to the will.
Having reached this point of a universal voluntarism (the will rather the intellect is the ultimate principle of reality) Benedict goes on to look at ways Europe has moved away from reason. This he calls dehellenisation. This characterises the systematic effort to remove Greek philosophy, that is reason, from the requirements of the mind.
Benedict lists three stages of dehellenisation.
The first was the Reformers detachment of philosophy from faith. The sola scriptura sought a "pure faith detached from philosophy. [In the writer's view this is less of a British problem as the British tradition does not have Luther's bible. Luther inserted alein - alone into Romans 3 :28. This is not found in the Wycliffe bible of 1382 or Tyndale in 1526 , or Douay in 1582 or KJV in 1611 which all say the same thing.
Luther Bible 1545
27 Wo bleibt nun der Ruhm? Er ist ausgeschlossen. Durch das Gesetz? Durch der Werke Gesetz? Nicht also, sondern durch des Glaubens Gesetz.
28 So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. ].
Kant took this approach even further and set aside thinking to make room for faith and anchored faith in "practical" reason. In doing so faith has "no access to the whole". Thinking and faith are unrelated. Kant's moral principles become postulates not principles grounded in a nature that is itself the result of eternal law. Kant asks us to be "moral" without asking whether in reality "moral" is true or not. Kant, reduces religion to a system of conduct. He defines religion as "the acknowledgement that our duties are God's commandments". He then describes the essence of religion as consisting in morality. Christianity is a religion and is true only in so far as it conforms to this definition.
The second stage of dehellenisation is associated with C19th Adolf Von Harnack. The Harnack message was that Jesus was said to have put and end to worship in favour of morality. Christianity was liberated from theology and philosophy. Christ was no longer divine or part of the Trinity.
This thinking is based on Kant's "Critiques".
Benedict then goes on to discuss the meaning and function of science. He regards only the interplay of mathematics and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Hence social sciences and history attempt to conform to this scientific approach. When this approach excludes God making it appear to be an unscientific question to discuss God we are faced with a reduction in the radius of both science and reason which needs to be questioned. These being attempting to construct ethical rules from social science end up being inadequate.
The third stage of dehellenisation is multiculturalism. The main focus here is the exclusion of religion from philosophy. The West has long been averse to the questions which underlie its rationality. Benedict does not specifically mention Islam in this section having opened his lecture on that subject but he does close again quoting Manuel II saying not to act reasonably is contrary to the nature of God.
Schall deals with Islam at length and this is perhaps why most people would buy the book.
On politics Christianity, unlike the Old Testament and Islam which are both law states, does not have a political programme and political things are rightly the work of reason.
If the voluntarist Allah is the true conception of God then Christians and Jews do not worship the same God that is.
Schall has a chapter under Appendix II on Islamo-fascism. He traces the term to an editorial in the Washington Times Aug12 2006. The editorial concludes "that this is not mainstream Islam it is a corruption of the faith". The Washington Times was among the first to use this designation in relation to a German born Muslim scholar Kalid Duran in an interview about his book An Introduction to Islam for Jews. Despite Muslim protests about the use of the term they stuck to their guns on the subject. Schall maintains that that description does not adequately describe what the bombers were. They are in fact missionaries and their approach is to threaten and conquer. Why they want to do it he concludes we cannot answer is because of our philosophy. That was written a month before Benedict's lecture.
Rev. Schall's book expertly cracks open the Pope's key themes, and frames them in relation to today's world -- both religious and secular. At the core -- the relationship of reason and faith -- lie the conflicts between both traditional religious and modern secular, and traditional religious and Islamic fanaticism. Has science advanced so far as to obviate the "need" for "god"? If so, what are the implications for an orderly, just society. On the other hand, is "god" wholly capricious with no connection to reason? And those implications?
After reading this book, I have begun to see a web of connections between this topic and many events, current and past. It is marvelously well written. It also includes the Regensburg Lecture itself, wisely at the back of the book. While reading the lecture I smiled to realize how little I would have understood it without Rev. Schall's explication. The book also helped me to realize the extraordinary beauty and power of the Pope's actual lecture.
This is a very important book about an extremely important lecture. I could not recommend it more highly.