Skip to content

God as Logos, Allah as Will

Father James Schall on Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 5, 2006 (Zenit) - The "unreasoned" reaction to Benedict XVI's recent speech at the University of Regensburg has proved that his point needed much attention, says a U.S. scholar.

Jesuit Father James Schall, professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, is author of "The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking".

He shared with us why he thinks the Regensburg lecture was liberating and imperative, and how the reaction to it highlighted the modern disconnect between faith and reason.

Q: At Regensburg, Benedict XVI highlighted the Christian understanding of God as Logos. How does the idea of God as Logos differ from an Islamic conception of God?

Father Schall: The Holy Father posed the fundamental question that lies behind all the discussion about war and terror. If God is Logos, it means that a norm of reason follows from what God is. Things are, because they have natures and are intended to be the way they are because God is what he is: He has his own inner order.

If God is not Logos but "Will," as most Muslim thinkers hold Allah to be, it means that, for them, Logos places a "limit" on Allah. He cannot do everything because he cannot do both evil and good. He cannot do contradictories.

Thus, if we want to "worship" Allah, it means we must be able to make what is evil good or what is good evil. That is, we can do whatever is said to be the "will" of Allah, even if it means doing violence as if it were "reasonable."

Otherwise, we would "limit" the "power" of Allah. This is what the Pope meant about making violence "reasonable." This different conception of the Godhead constitutes the essential difference between Christianity and Islam, both in their concept of worship and of science.

Q: Your newest book is entitled, "The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking." In what way is the life of the mind a participation in the Logos of God?

Father Schall: Aquinas says that truth is the "conformity of the mind with reality." This means that a reality exists that we do not ourselves make. It is a reality that cannot be "otherwise" by our own will. It also means that God established what is, not we ourselves.

Thus, if we are to know the "truth," which is what makes us "free," it means that we know what God created, is what it is. We rejoice to know the truth that we did not make. The wonder of what is, elates us.

If Allah is pure will, then anything that is, can be the opposite of what it is, so that nothing really is what it is. It can always be otherwise.

Q: Is Benedict XVI's discussion of "faith and reason" different from John Paul II's encyclical "Fides et Ratio"?

Father Schall: I am not aware of much difference. "Fides et Ratio," as I tried to show in my book, "Roman Catholic Political Philosophy," is itself a defense of philosophy. But it recognizes that faith is also a guide to philosophy. Not all philosophies reach the reality that is.

Both Pontiffs are concerned that faith directs itself to reason and that reason is a reality that is not invented by the human mind. We did not fabricate the mind we have that thinks. We are to use it. We invent neither it nor reality.

Both Popes hold philosophy to be possible and available to every person. But they also recognize that some philosophies cannot defend either faith or reality. This is the problem with the "voluntarism" of classical Islamist philosophy. This same philosophy exists in the West, as Benedict indicated.

Indeed, the Regensburg lecture was directed as much at the West as at Islam on this score. Those who justify abortion follow the exact same philosophical position that the Pope saw in the medieval Muslim thinker from Cordova.

Q: Benedict XVI argued that the synthesis of Hellenistic and Hebrew thought is present as early as the Old Testament wisdom books, but reaches its fullest expression in the Gospel of John. Why is this position important for the Church in what Benedict XVI calls the "dialogue of cultures"?

Father Schall: The fact that Benedict referred to a "dialogue of cultures" shows that he had more than the West and Islam in mind; China and India are also in his scope. The Pope is clear that the command to Paul to go to Macedonia was itself providential.

Indeed, like John Paul II's trip to Poland, Benedict's visit to Regensburg is providential. Both aimed at the crucial problem of our time. We forget that the papacy is not just another human power, though it is also human. It is uncanny how the contemporary world, to its own surprise, continually finds itself watching the papacy.

The Pope says that reason is now also an element of faith. He does not mean that it ceases to be reason. That is why he, as a Pope, gave a "lecture," whose only public claim was its own intrinsic reasonableness. Of its very nature, a lecture demands not passion but reason to grasp what it says.

When within days after the lecture, storms swelled all through the Islamic world, with lots of objections in the West -- including in Catholic circles -- it was clear that Benedict's address was not read for what it said.

It was not translated immediately into Arabic in leading Muslim papers. Most read only snippets in the West. The spirit of an academic lecture, to present the truth of what is, was violated.

The Muslim world, I suspect, is beginning to have second thoughts about its unrestricted reaction to this address. Its actual reaction did not prove the Pope was "insensitive" or "insulting." Rather it proved that his point needed much attention, just as he intended.

Q: Benedict XVI's speech was also a criticism of the Western world; it should have found many receptive ears among Muslims. Yet, the speech has been widely criticized and denounced, proving the point the Pope was trying to make about reason for the dialogue of cultures. Does this spell doom for Benedict XVI's project?

Father Schall: My own opinion is that Benedict was not surprised by these reactions. Indeed, I suspect it is precisely this unreasoned reaction that has made his point so clearly that no sane mind can deny it. It was a point that had to be made.

It could not have been made by the politicians, who in fact did not make it even when they needed it. Politicians talked about "terrorists," as if a more fundamental theological problem was not at issue. Until this deeper issue was spelled out, which is what the Regensburg lecture was about, we were doomed.

This address is probably one of the most liberating addresses ever given by a Pope or anyone else. As its import sinks in, those who were unwilling to consider what it was about will find themselves either embarrassed -- if they are honest -- or more violent, if they refuse the challenge of reason.

Make no mistake about it: This address illuminated, more than anything that we know, the problems with a modernity based on an explicit or implicit voluntarism that postulated that we could change the world, our nature, our God according to our own wills.

Q: The Western media have often taken Benedict XVI's words out of context and stoked the flames of Islamic aggression. How does the cultural dominance and hostility to the Church by the mass media affect its ability to participate in the dialogue of cultures?

Father Schall: There can be no "dialogue" about anything until the basic principles of reason are granted both in theory and practice. Chesterton remarked on the fact that those who begin to attack the Church for this or that reason, mostly end up attacking it for any reason.

What is behind the attack on reason or the refusal to admit that God is Logos is already a suspicion that the Church is right about intellect and its conditions. We have no guarantee that reason will freely be accepted.

Von Balthasar said that we are warned that we are sent among wolves. We are naive to think that Christ was wrong when he warned us that the world would hate us for upholding Logos and the order of things it implies.

But Benedict is right. He has put the citizens of world on notice that they are also accountable for how they use or do not use their reason. No one else could have done this. The fact is, the world has wildly underestimated Benedict XVI precisely because it would not see the ability he displays in getting to the heart of intellectual things.

In the end, all of this is about "the life of the mind." Both reason and faith tell us so.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

God, Allah, Catholic, Muslim, Islam, Schall, Regensburg

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.