The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Another Must Read

[This time from Pope Benedict XVI.]

I, like all nosy people, like controversy. So when I saw that Pope Benedict's speech at a German university caused controversy due to some perceived anti-Muslim remarks, it encouraged me to actually read the speech. I'm glad I did: it clarified a lot of things that have been swishing about in my head for a long time. The speech can be found in PDF format here. I make here a special acknowledgement to the Conservative Blog for Peace for leading me to it.

The controversial stuff we already know about and do not need to delve into it in any depth. Islam has taught that their faith should be spread by the sword. There is a more pacifist side as well, but the militant is not negated. What fascinated me about the lecture was the broader point, which can be summarized by a quote from the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II:

"Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God."

The context of the controversial remarks was a recorded polemic between the emperor and a Persian. Many Isalmic thinkers, according to Benedict, do not think that God is bound by reason, nor is He even bound by His own words. To the question, "Can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?," many Muslim philosophers have said through the centuries that He can, because He is God and can do anything (?). God can even order something like the worship of false gods in idolatry. The main problem here is the problem of analogy and the problem of human knowledge viz. the being of God. Is any reasoning in relation to God absolutely null and void? Is there an absolute difference between the God of philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as Pascal thought? What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?

The question is not entirely abstract confessionally. Aside from Pascal and Kiekegaard, even some venerable figures in Church history have come close to a destructive and illogical agnosticism. Did not St. Gregory Palamas say that not only was God beyond all knowing, but also beyond all unknowing (whatever that is supposed to mean)? Stressing that God is a Person and not an Essence is a key point in starting to think about God in our own small way. God, however, is a Person in all respects, which means He is "reasonable" in a very real sense. His ways may not be our ways, but they are logical ways nonetheless. Apophatic theology, however, even under Pseudo-Dionysius, does not mean that we should never try and think about God, but rather that any light we do obtain is meager compared to the Uncreated Light that we will see in patria. It is Light, Precious Light, nonetheless, not to be rejected or belittled.

That is all for now on this subject, though I might have jumped the gun a bit on these particular thoughts. In the next few weeks, I will be posting some more clarifications about what I mean precisely.

Read, however, the whole text of Pope Benedict's speech. It is well worth it.


At 8:13 PM, Blogger Ochlophobist said...

Because of this post I went and read the speech. I offer a theory regarding the Pope's possible intent on my blog. Love to know your thoughts.

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