Pope Benedict XVI and the Koran

Peter Brown, The Catholic Thing, Jan. 10, www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2011/elizabethmccoy2002.html

After reading the pope’s famous Regensburg lecture for the umpteenth time, I am ready to conclude that if one were to excise paragraphs 2-4, which concerned Islam, what we have is Benedict boilerplate. Here we find the repetition of themes that pervade Benedict’s writings in his long career. He reminds us of the early “decision” of Christianity to accept dialogue with and critique from philosophy and that Christianity never sought immunity from rational analysis.

And by the time the Quran appeared on the academic horizon in the late twentieth century as a yet largely unexplored frontier, the paradigm for religious study had shifted drastically.   The Muslim faith could be studied under the rubric of “Islamic studies,” “comparative religion,” or as a socio-political phenomenon. The purpose of these approaches was fostering understanding and the dispelling of Western misconceptions and stereotypes – desirable goals, of course. But Benedict’s real complaint is that Western academics have punted on the more fundamental question of whether Islamic beliefs are actually true – thinking it to be above their pay grade. He wants this question asked so that truth seeking remains the goal of inter-faith dialogue.

Implicit in Regensburg is Benedict’s big bet is that Western-style reason summed up in the Eternal Logos will prevail – even among non-Western religious traditions like Islam. By this time next century, if a lot of Muslims have embraced the Eternal Logos made flesh, we’ll know that he was right!

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