There is a widespread view in the Western world that only the concept of positive reason, and forms of philosophy derived therefrom, can lay a rightful claim on universality. The profoundly religious cultures of the world, however, vehemently reject the attempt to exclude the aspect of the divine from a universal concept of reason. A form of reason blind and deaf to the divine – the kind of reason that considers religion as one of many subcultures – would be useless as a tool of inter-cultural dialogue. As I have attempted to demonstrate, modern scientific reason, with its inherent Platonism, poses questions that point beyond itself and its own methodological boundaries. Scientific reason is forced to accept as a “given” the rational structure of its subject matter. A further “given” is the correspondence between the rational, or logical, structures observed in the natural world and our human mind. The scientific methodology is based on these “givens”. But why these “givens” should be taken for granted is a question natural science is incapable of answering; that question must be referred to other levels and forms of reasoning – to the fields of Philosophy and Theology.”
(Pope Benedict XVI)
picture-alliance / dpa / Matthias Schrader
Benedict XVI dedicated his historic address at his former institution, the University of Regensburg, to the topic of "Faith and Reason".
Pope Benedict XVI’s lecture on “Faith, Reason, and Academia” at the University of Regensburg became a “Manifesto for Religious and Cultural Dialogue” – based on reason and with faith in God as the horizon.
Faith is neither an alienating projection nor a useful piece of fiction. Faith is in its origin and essence a process of enlightenment through the self-awareness of God in his eternal Word. That is the Word which became man in Jesus Christ (Jn. 1,14).
Relativism leads inevitably to a dictatorship of thought
The light of the Divine Word makes it possible for us to enter into a fruitful dialogue both with the natural sciences and with the various schools of philosophy and world religions with their contributions to exploring the meaning of human existence. God speaks through his Logos (=word and reason) when he addresses us human beings at the level of our reason. “Faith is spiritual worship” (Rom. 12,1)
It is false to assume that Christianity could exist without dogmatic claims to truth in the encounter with enlightened reason and modern science. Relativism leads inevitably to a dictatorship of thought. If all people are no longer invited into a common quest for, and love of, the truth, then the vacuum must be filled by the truth claims of the ideologies of totalitarian world views and regimes suppressing the people.
Wherever man – ideologically motivated – attempts to build a paradise on earth with no reference to God, all he succeeds in doing is opening a Pandora’s box or the gates of hell.
In any case, it is quite clear that the modern phenomenon of international terrorism cannot be countered solely by an appeal to reason, tolerance and fraternal co-existence understood in purely secular terms. Such a strategy, stemming from a naive worldview of constant progress, fails to recognise this terrorist movement as a pseudo-religious phenomenon. Approaches void of reference to God are meaningless.
It would be the domain of the learned Muslim scholars to offer an interpretation, in their historical context, of the Surahs of the Koran describing war and violence in matters of faith and conscience. It would, however, appear that systematically considered the first Surah provides the key to interpreting all the following verses.
Irrational actions contradict the nature of God
For “in the Name of God, the Merciful” (Surah 1) no crime against humanity can find its justifications. “God has no thirst for blood, and to act irrationally, without the Logos, would contradict the nature of God.” Thus spoke [the byzantine Emperor] Manuel II – enlightened by his Christian view of God – when countering his [Muslim] dialogue partner.”
It is true that we human beings are incapable of creating for ourselves the peace which only God can grant. But we are nevertheless called to co-operate in creating a society based on the fundamental dignity of the human person.
Prolonged applause after Benedict XVI's speech.
God is glorified principally through love of truth and service of neighbour. That is – in spite of the profound differences of creed – the distinguishing feature between true and false religion.
Jews and Christians, Muslims and people belonging to other religions acknowledge God as Lord and Creator of all human beings. It thus follows that the basis for a common life in a pluralist society must be this realisation: God is glorified principally through love of truth and service of neighbour. That is – in spite of the profound differences of creed – the distinguishing feature between true and false religion.
The author, Gerhard Cardinal Müller, was Bishop of Regensburg 2002-2012. He was called to Rome by Pope Benedict the XVI in 2012 and appointed Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He held this office until 2017.