Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pope Benedict: Faith, Reason and the University

Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason edited by Bainard Cowan. South Bend, IN: ST. Augustine's Press, 2011. 128 pages ISBN 978-1-58731-325-7.

Pope Benedict delivered a lecture at the University of Regensburg on Faith, Reason, and the University on 12 September 2006. It became quickly controversial because he reflected on some comments made by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paeleogus. Muslims reacted violently because of remarks made by the Byzantine emperor and reflected on by the former pope. Basically, the comments had to do with Muslims and spreading the faith by violence. The offensive words was: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was knew, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" (112). The pope's point was that spreading the faith by violence was unreasonable. In addition, "violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the soul." The main point was that acting in violence was acting against reason which was contrary to God's nature. The Muslim teaching taught that God was transcendent, and that His will "was not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality'(113).  The pope is using this historical event to lead into his address about the relationship between faith, reason, and the university. He ties the nature of God with logos-reason. He believes that the university and modern culture must broaden their concept of reason. It must discover the breadth of reason. Modern man's view of reason is too limited. The pope argues there is a real harmony between the best of Greek thought and the Christian faith. He discusses three different stages of dehellenization: the reformation; liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the separating faith and human reason.

Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason is a collection of essays that responds to the Pope's lecture. The contributors addressed the lecture from their different disciplines: philosophy, theology, political thought and literary criticism. It analyzes the "broader nature of reason" and the modern forces that work against it in "politics, culture, and education." Some of the leading thinkers are represented in this volume. Jean Betheke Elshtain states that the God approachable by reason is the source of rulers being subject to laws. Peter Augustine Lawler discusses human and divine reason as expressed by the American founders. Marc Guerra discusses how reason and faith was mutually nurtured in the Western Tradition. Nalin Ranasinghe argues that reason as developed in the Greek tradition is an "essential" part of Christianity. It cannot be de-hellenized without harm. Bruce Fingerhut states that voluntarism addressed in the lecture was a source of the violence that reacted to it. However, the greater impact was the voluntarism  in Western theology beginning with nominalism in the Middle Ages. Glenn Arbery shows how people are imprisoned in theory in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. R. R. Reno criticizes the modern university because of a lack of ambition in regards to reason. He shows how Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were defenders of reason. Mary Mumbach discusses the courage shown by Benedict in his lecture. The book contains the complete lecture delivered by Pope Benedict in the appendix. Both the pope's lecture and the essay responses argue for the importance of reason and its harmony with the Christian faith.

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