When a German professor gave a lecture in Regensburg, he had no idea that his speech would shake the world. Riots would break out; Christian churches would be attacked. That an Italian nun would be killed by terrorists.
The scandal was caused by the fact that Benedict XVI quoted a Byzantine emperor who criticised the violence that was often used to facilitate conversions to Islam. However, the speech in Regensburg was not about Islam, but about the relationship between faith and reason. Benedict argued that faith and reason are not contradictory but compatible.
The Christian faith says that God is a rational being, and even embodies intellect itself, in Greek – the Logos. It follows that he who acts meaninglessly acts against the nature of God. The Christian faith is therefore a rational faith.
However, Islam differs from Christian teaching, and cannot handle the tension between faith and reason. One of the most prominent Muslim thinkers, Ibn Hazm, believed that God was not bound by his own word. If Allah wishes, He could command others to commit idolatry.
Europe is built on the Christian approach. European culture was born from the faith of Jerusalem, the philosophical reasoning of Athens, and the legal thinking of Rome. According to Benedict, this is the true identity of the continent, to which Europe has not always been faithful.
An essential element of the Christian faith is that God created man in his own image and likeness. Man is therefore a reasonable being. And his mission is to know and love His Creator so that he may reach eternal happiness. God has given him revelations and revealed truths about himself that are not meaningless but transcend the meaning of man. Such is the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Greek philosophy and Roman law focus on the importance of philosophical reason. Aristotle teaches that the rules of right action can be learned through logical thinking. Hence the idea of natural law, which is compatible with Christian teaching. This recognises that one does not have to open the Bible for one to realise that stealing or killing innocents is meaningless, i.e., morally evil.
If the relationship between faith and reason is harmonious, then faith can enlighten the mind in the discovery of moral rules and intellect plays a clear role in faith.
Now let us look at what happened in Europe when the reconciliation of faith and reason was successful?
The first universities were established. The foundations of the scientific revolution were laid. They created unsurpassed beauty in the fields of literature, music and architecture. Europe gave the world the ideas of responsible freedom, the rule of law, constitutional governance and human rights, the masterpieces of Raffaelo, Newton and Bach.
But what happened when faith and reason were completely separated? The slave trade flourished, and religious wars erupted within the Christian world. Then in the twentieth century, totalitarian ideologies laid the foundations for the horrors of the Gulag and Auschwitz.
If we reject the Christian faith, the scope of our knowledge diminishes. If God did not create rational man, we will sooner or later reject theology and philosophical reason and recognize only a modern conception of reason.
But what does that mean?
According to the modern conception of reason (positivism), certain knowledge can only be mathematical and experiential. This view allows only opinions to be expressed in the world of religion and ethics. Therefore, there is no universal truth in this area. Only my truth and your truth.
What is the purpose of life? What happens to us after death? It is no longer possible to give a definite answer to the fundamental questions of humanity.
If morality is completely relative, then nothing is final, only an ego held in the chain of emotions. This results in the stronger’s truth. He who tyrannically enforces his will and thus abolishes freedom.
This is how we arrive at the dictatorship of relativism that dominates Western culture. We see this when Europe mixes good and bad. When he does not protect the lives of the innocent. If Europe sees beautiful in the ugly, and he does not even know if he is a boy or a girl anymore.
If Europe wants to restore its true identity, it must hear the real message from that German professor.
Faith and reason need each other.
Click here to watch the associated Axioma video.