The Road from Regensburg

FAITH Magazine September-October 2008 s

Ecumenical and inter-religious developments in the search for a modern apologetic


Pope Benedict: New Realist Vision of Man Urgently Needed.

Last June Pope Benedict suggested that, in response to modernity’s “prolonged crisis” and posing of “an ‘anthropological question’” Catholic thought must take account of modernity’s “more exact understanding of human nature”. We should recognise modern thinkers’ “sincere desire to move away from the self-sufficiency of philosophical refection”.

Drawing on Spe Salvi he affirmed that “ Christian faith cannot be enclosed within an abstract world of theories, but it must descend into the concrete historic experience that reaches man in the most profound truth of his existence. This experience, conditioned by new cultural and ideological situations, is what theological research must evaluate and with which it is urgent to initiate a fruitful dialogue with philosophy. The understanding of Christianity as a real transformation of man’s existence, if on the one hand it impels philosophical refection towards a new approach to religion, on the other, it encourages it not to lose confidence in being able to know reality. (our italics).

Not only should we “encourage new lines of theological and philosophical thought, but” also foster
“ a new openness to the reality in which the human person in his uni-totality finds himself, rising above ancient prejudices and reductionisms, in order to be open to a true understanding of modernity. The desire for the fullness of humanity cannot be ignored, it awaits appropriate responses.

“ ... The new dialogue between faith and reason, required today, cannot happen in the terms and in the ways in which it happened in the past. If it does not want to be reduced to a sterile intellectual exercise, it must begin from the present concrete situation of humanity and upon this develop a refection that draws upon ontological-metaphysical truth.”

To the Vaticans 6th Symposium for European University Professors, June 7th, 08,

Translation by the editor.

The Faith Suggestion

In our May 2008 editorial (as in our current editorial) we acknowledged the need to take account, within philosophy of religion, of modernity’s ‘turn to the subject’ whilst maintaining confidence in the human subject’s ability to know reality (i.e. ‘realism’). We pointed out that:

“ Holloway suggests that the concept of environment is a helpful way in which to preserve the relevance of the subject without losing its realistic objectivity because a subject is inherently related to its environment whilst at the same time distinct from it … We would propose it as a sort of medium between … (the fairly uncritical) adoption of the post-modern subject and … ‘scholastic rationalism’ …If then we further understand the human person as being within a personal environment, that of the living God … We can affrm that human nature is intrinsically ordered to God” (page 4).

We went on to affirm that “The evangelisation of modernity calls for a realist reclamation of the concept of human nature, fulfilled in Christ” (page 6). Faith, May 08

Spe Salvi and The Need to Refect More Upon the Impact of Science

On June 28th last, in response to the 2007 Papal Encyclical Spe Salvi, LOsservatore Romano published a piece by Ernesto Galli della Loggia. He is a historian and editorialist with Corriere della Sera, who described himself in the piece as “devoid of faith.”

We recall that in his encyclical the Pope pointed out that “it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love – a Person” (n. 5). Despite this fact, and following the inspiration of Bacon, modernity began to interpret the advance of science so as to foster an illusion of self-sufficiency, whereby “a totally new world (should) emerge, the kingdom of man …” (n.17). This involved “the two key concepts of ‘reason’ and ‘freedom’, (being) tacitly interpreted as being in confict with the shackles of faith and of the Church.” (n.18). These insights should be the basis, the Pope indicated, of a “self-critique of the modern age” which should be matched by “a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding settingout from its roots…” (n. 22). The Pope went on to suggest foundations for these two self-critiques. It was “wrong to believe that man would be redeemed through science. … On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that modern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation.” (n. 25)

In his response Ernesto Galli della Loggia states that the Pope “identifies with conviction the terms theoretically crucial for Christian refection on modernity as, no longer, as Vatican II had done, ‘justice’, ‘peace’ and individual and collective self-determination, but ‘reason’ and ‘science’ (the latter of these in particular is essentially absent from conciliar expression).”

The encyclical contains a “recognition, in the feld of the history of ideas, of the causes that led to the expulsion of Christian history from the world, especially through the infuence of the pairing of science-freedom … neither science nor the always partial political realizations of freedom will ever be able to satisfy the need for justice and love stirring in each human being.”

We are still left with the questions: “Why did the story of the Christian West go this way? Why does it seem to have concluded with the entrapment of the religion so deeply involved in its creation? The answer can perhaps be found in what … the encyclical itself calls the necessary ‘self-critique of modern Christianity”.


The Need for a New Philosophy of Science

Massimo Pigliucci, associate editor for Biology & Philosophy and member of the Philosophy of Science Association has, in his Philosophy Now column, emphasised the philosophical incompatibility of the success of scientific method with a priori, transcendental metaphysics (e.g. of Kant), whilst acknowledging the general lack of a coherent philosophy of science. He begins his piece with a tacit acceptance of the Pope’s highlighting, at Regensburg, of the modern philosophical crisis, whilst also exhibiting what the Pope, in his June 7th speech as noted above, called modern thinkers’ “sincere desire to move away from the self-sufficiency of philosophical refection”:

“ Unfortunate it may be, but despite the spectacular successes of modern science, there is no ultimate foundation for our knowledge of the world…

“ (And so) there is now a small but vociferous group who claim that philosophy of science should take Kant more seriously, in particular that it should admit that its unabashedly naturalistic take on science is deeply flawed. ... Kant teaches us that ‘it is impossible to objectively understand the essence of the living.’ Ergo, scientists are embarked on a hopeless quest, marred by their blind commitment to naturalism.

“ ... The problem ... is that both science and philosophy have moved on since Kant’s insights. After all, the guy wrote before Darwin, quantum mechanics and Quine, to mention just a few. Modern philosophers of science are very aware of the impossibility of a God’s eye view of the world. On the other hand, I’m not aware of a single transcendental insight that has illuminated anything at all about science, its operation, or its products. In other words, transcendental philosophy hasn’t given us any answers we can use in this area – it has simply told us (in rather vague and quasi-mystical terms) that we can’t do what we are, in fact, doing.

“ ... In the meantime, analytical philosophers like me are more than happy to keep thinking about science from within the deeply flawed naturalistic framework.”

Philosophy Now, April-May 08

The Relevance of Cosmic Unity

In the lead letter of the same issue of Philosophy Now the prominent anti-reductionist philosopher of ethics and of science Mary Midgely makes a point often made by Edward Holloway (though he might not have used the word ‘choice’), namely that “simple logic surely shows that natural selection cannot be the universal explanation because ‘selection’ only makes sense a clearly specified range of choices – an idea to which far too little attention has been given.” She also labels Michael Behe of the Intelligent Design school a Creationist, given his apparent affirmation of the distinction between ‘direct’ creation of some phenomena and the “autopilot” mode of others.

Philosophy Now, April-May 08

Pedigree of Atheistic and Creationist Philosophy of Science Ambiguous

A very positive review in the science journal Nature affirms that the new book Worlds before Adam, by the “influential historian of Earth Science” Martin Rudwick, “challenges the view that geology’s development is a story of secular progress. He shows that the founders of geology were almost all men of faith. Yet they often engaged in fierce debates with pseudo-scientists who ascribed absolute authority to readings of the Bible.”

Nature, 24th July 08


Saudi Organised, Papal Encouraged, Forthright Dialogue

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Holy See’s Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, has described a three-day July Interfaith Conference in Madrid as “an act of great courage” by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who convened it.

In his address, the French cardinal said that the Pope believes “that dialogue between believers, based on love and truth, is the best way to contribute to the harmony, happiness and peace of the peoples of the earth.” The Cardinal spoke forthrightly on the theme of religious liberty, which had not been discussed at the conference, saying that “the need to have places of worship, … is the least one can hope for.”

Arab News and

Islam, the West and Truth

The Venice-based Oasis Centre, which promotes mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims, held an international colloquium in Amman last June on the relationship between truth and religious freedom. The Centre’s founder Cardinal Scola said that in the West:

“ … freedom of conscience and the freedom to convert coexist with a paradox. They are certainly recognised in Western legal systems and … worldview(s); however … (human) consciousness ... cannot itself actively determine what is good and what is evil (and) … these freedoms are essentially thought of as mere individual prerogatives.”

This all contrasts, the Patriarch of Venice continued, with Muslim cultures where, for example, “when Muslims want to convert to another religion it is perceived as a threat to their collective identity.”

Oasis website

Fostering the Reclamation of Islamic Reason

The prominent American Catholic journalist John Allen recently interviewed the influential Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, 80, senior research fellow with the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. Arkoun suggested that the Pope, at Regensburg, had been “right” to affirm that today “an intimate relationship between reason and faith does not exist in Islamic elaboration and expressions”, but that it was unfortunate that he had not mentioned the very different situation that prevailed “before the death of the philosopher Averroes in 1198”. Muslims need to be educated about this history Arkoun emphasised.

National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe, May 08

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