I could write all day long about Pope Benedict's recent lecture at University of Regensburg, Faith, Reason, and the University. More accurately, I could write about other peoples' analyses of the Pope's brilliant lecture. Lee Harris wrote a goodie for The Weekly Standard this week, Socrates or Mohammed? Joseph Ratzinger on the Destiny of Reason. Harris' essay was dedicated to Orianna Fallaci, the beautiful and brilliant Italian journalist who died last week, and it contains a few of my favorite memes:
- On secular Westerners who neither know nor appreciate from whence they came: "....Benedict argues that the "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." For Benedict, however, this event is not mere ancient history. It is a legacy that we in the West are all duty-bound to keep alive--yet it is a legacy that is under attack, both from those who do not share it, namely Islam, and from those who are its beneficiaries and do not understand it, namely, Western intellectuals."
How moral relativism is rendering modern Western society unable to defend itself: "From the point of view of modern reason, all religious faiths are equally irrational, all systems of ethics equally unverifiable, all concepts of God equally beyond rational criticism. But if this is the case, then what can modern reason say when it is confronted by a God who commands that his followers should use violence and even the threat of death in order to convert unbelievers? If modern reason cannot concern itself with the question of God, then it cannot argue that a God who commands jihad is better or worse than a God who commands us not to use violence to impose our religious views on others......modern reason may be modern, but it has ceased to be reason."
On modern Western culture, with its concepts of reason and free will, which evolved in Christendom: "For Herder, modern scientific reason was the product of European cultures of reason, but these rare cultures of reason were themselves the outcome of a well-nigh miraculous convergence of traditions to which Ratzinger has called our attention as constituting the foundation of Europe: the world-historical encounter between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry, "with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage." Thus, for Herder, modern scientific and critical reason, if it looks scientifically and critically at itself, will be forced to recognize that it could never have come into existence had it not been for the "providential," or perhaps merely serendipitous, convergence of these three great traditions. Modern reason is a cultural phenomenon like any other: It did not drop down one fine day out of the clouds.....Rather, it evolved uniquely out of the fusion of cultural traditions known as Christendom."
The Christian concept of God and science in the West: "Modern scientific reason says that the universe is governed by rules through and through; indeed, it is the aim of modern reason to disclose and reveal these laws through scientific inquiry. Yet, as (19th-century German philosopher Arthur) Schopenhauer (himself an atheist) asks, where did this notion of a law-governed universe come from? ...scientists must begin by assuming that nature is rational through and through: It is a necessary hypothesis for doing science at all. But where did this hypothesis, so vital to science, come from? The answer, according to Schopenhauer, was that modern scientific reason derived its model of the universe from the Christian concept of God as a rational Creator who has intelligently designed every last detail of the universe ex nihilo. It was this Christian idea of God that permitted Europeans to believe that the universe was a rational cosmos. Because Europeans had been brought up to imagine the universe as the creation of a rational intelligence, they naturally came to expect to find evidence of this intelligence wherever they looked--and, strangely enough, they did."
Harris ends his thoughtful essay with this:
"In his moving and heroic speech, Joseph Ratzinger has chosen to play the part of Socrates, not giving us dogmatic answers, but stinging us with provocative questions. Shall we abandon the lofty and noble conception of reason for which Socrates gave his life? Shall we delude ourselves into thinking that the life of reason can survive without courage and character? Shall we be content with lives we refuse to examine, because such examination requires us to ask questions for which science can give no definite answer? The destiny of reason will be determined by how we in the modern West answer these questions."
The "I Support the Pope" banner came from Kenneth Kully, via Relapsed Catholic. More banner designs there too. May God and his angels keep Papa Ratzi safe.