Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Muslim Reactions to Regensburg

Sandro Magister makes available two Muslim reactions to the Pope's Regensburg address. Both are very interesting. The first is short, and agrees with the Holy Father to the greater extent. The second is very much longer, and very critical, but honours the original intention of the Holy Father by entering into a serious dialogue with the points the Holy Father made, especially in regard to his comments on reason.

Gradually, at some point, we need to start to talk about the real claims of the Regensburg lecture, especially the way in which Benedict holds the contingency of the marriage of Hebrew and Greek thought in Christianity to be a divinely providential event resulting in the culmination of both reasoned philosophy and revealed faith. These are issues that are raised in the second Muslim paper linked above, but also by Richard Gaillardetz, the Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo, on John Allen's page (scroll down a bit to find the full comments). Gaillardetz writes:

Particularly disconcerting is his account of the third stage of the process, in which many scholars have differentiated between the inherent revelatory and salvific significance of Jesus of Nazareth, and the ways in which the Christ event was quickly inculturated in a Hellenistic milieu. He describes this approach as "coarse and lacking in precision." He then suggests that the early adoption of a Greco-Roman world view is an essential and providential development in the history of Christianity. This assertion constitutes a huge theological leap that is in no way substantiated through careful theological argumentation. Nowhere does he justify why this moment of Hellenistic inculturation transcends the realm of historical contingency to enter into divine providence. In the pope's encomium to the "Greek spirit" one almost forgets that the Word became flesh as a Galilean Jew and not a citizen of Athens!


My provisional response that criticism is that Gaillardetz makes too sharp a distinction between that which is "contingent" and that which is "providential". In a recent conversation with Professor Neil Ormerod of ACA, he pointed out St Thomas Aquinas' dictum that "If God foresees that this event will be, it will happen … But it will occur in the way that God foresaw that it would be. Now, He foresaw that it would occur contingently. So, it follows that, without fail, it will occur contingently and not necessarily” (SCG, 3, c.94). He offered Lonergan's summary of this idea: “What providence intends to be contingent will inevitably be contingent.”

While we're at it, I don't think I linked to another Magister offering, this time by Fr Christian Troll SJ, on "progressive Islam".

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