Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Monday, September 18, 2006 :::

The Pope gave an interesting speech about the place of reason in theology. He's for it, and sees it coming into Christian thought by way of the Greeks:
Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria — the Septuagint — is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.

A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, [Byzantine emperor] Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.
Divinely inspired mistranslation doesn't seem that surprising an idea to me, but his take on the Reformation does:
Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system.

The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself.
I'm aware that Martin Luther was a fundamentalist, but what I think of as his lasting legacy is the democratization of the religion: the idea that your religion didn't have to come filtered through priests. This was very much in the spirit of "Priests are capable of corruption, and where they disagree with the bible, they are wrong," but the idea of personal revelation was in there as well, which seems to me to open the door wider to reason, rather than to close it. This is something that is going to require more thought and probably research on my part; he's painted the Reformation in a very different light from the way I view it — perhaps that's why he's Catholic and I'm Protestant — but I don't think we aren't necessarily both right, just looking at different pieces.

Toward the end he seems to express concern that science and reason have become conflated (if I read him correctly), and worries that this narrows the subjects to which we're willing to apply reason to those that are scientific.

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.

A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.

It's long, but it's worth reading, possibly more than once.

þ That class of Muslim that works itself into a hissy fit over the thought that someone, somewhere, may at some point sneeze in the general direction of Mecca. A small, largely irrelevant quote of that fourteenth century Byzantine emperor mentioned Mohammed's "command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" as a "thing[] only evil and inhuman" to note the style of the communication in which it was contained — a communication from which the Pope then drew more directly for illustration of his points — and various people wishing to remind us that the west has no monopoly on the victim culture managed to get themselves quite offended by this, even, in the case of Ayatollah Khamenei, responding by calling the Pope a Crusader — without apparent intentional irony. While it's hard to take such people seriously, if they hadn't responded in the way they did I would have completely missed this speech. So a special thanks to the nutcases.

::: posted by dWj at 10:11 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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