“Without Logos, the West is over.” A conversation with Dr. Samuel Gregg

“Many of our present problems,” says Gregg, author of a new book on faith, reason, and the West, “reflect what I call pathologies of reason and faith. … A pathology is a sickness, and the West is awash with sicknesses of faith and reason…”

Samuel Gregg, Research Director at the Acton Institute, is the author of numerous essays and 15 books. He has written works on political economy, economic history, the papacy, ethics in finance, and natural law theory; he is also a regular contributor to Catholic World Report. His most recent book, titled Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization (Regnery Gateway, 2019), has been praised by the late Fr. James Schall, Roger Kimball, Daniel J. Mahoney, and others.

Gregg recently corresponded with CWR about his new book.

CWR: Your book is bracketed by reflection on two major addresses by Benedict XVI. Why is his thought so important to the book? Specifically, how does his Regensburg Address set the tone and context for some of your essential points?

Dr. Samuel Gregg: The Regensburg Address’ significance goes far beyond the question of the cause of jihadist violence. It’s really an extended reflection on how the West’s particular integration of reason and faith gradually developed before eventually becoming undone. That wasn’t so well understood at the time, but careful reading of Benedict’s text makes this crystal clear. When you examine the history of Western culture, you quickly see that the expression and makeover of different ideas about reason and faith by figures like the Hebrew Prophets, Socrates, Paul, and Aquinas, but also Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Nietzsche have contributed to civilizational growth as well as regression in the West.

Many of our present problems reflect what I call pathologies of reason and faith. The expression isn’t mine. It’s Joseph Ratzinger’s. A pathology is a sickness, and the West is awash with sicknesses of faith and reason: the sentimental humanitarianism that’s corrupted large segments of Jewish and Christian opinion, the scientism that infects so many of our universities, the mixtures of Marxism and Nietzscheanism that permeate considerable portions of our public discourse, and the authoritarian relativism that’s used to shut down any contribution to public life which affirms that there is more-than empirical truth. Each of these phenomena are marked by distorted conceptions of reason, or faith, or both. Taken together, they are crumbling the West from within and weakening its ability to defend itself from those who would like nothing better than to see the West disappear.

CWR: Speaking of “the West,” the phrase is often mentioned in scholarly and public conversations, but it is also often left undefined and is rarely brought into focus. You, however, do so in your first and second chapters. What is so unique about the West?

Gregg: Many people think of the West in geographical terms, as North America, Western Europe, etc. But that’s obviously misleading. Australia and Israel are unquestionably Western nations, but they are in neither of these parts of the world. We get closer to the meaning of the West when we look at certain conceptions of liberty and justice and the particular ways they assumed institutional forms in the West. Rule of law is a good example. Yet non-Western countries that arise out of very different traditions, such as India and Japan, have adopted similar political and legal arrangements.

In some respects, we can identify the West through certain representative figures and even works of art. Michelangelo’s “David” isn’t Arabic or Hindi. No one would call it anything else but a product of the West. Likewise, Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral is plainly Western rather than Central Asian in design. Winston Churchill was a man of the West rather than a man of Chinese culture.

But if you want a more specific definition, I think that the West is ultimately about reasoned inquiry in search of truth, and its way of searching for truth has been profoundly shaped by the manner in which Judaism and then Christianity affirmed the idea that God of the Bible is a rational being—the Logos. That understanding of God made all the difference, not least because it rescued the Greek and Roman world from the nonsense of pagan religion and fit well with emerging Hellenic insights into disciplines like mathematics and the natural sciences.

CWR: You just mentioned reasoned inquiry. Plenty of people today associate the flowering of reason with the Enlightenment. That itself is a large topic and a complex era, much of which is explored in your book. Is it accurate to say that you neither embrace nor damn the Enlightenment, but rather see it as possessing positive and negative qualities?

Gregg: Yes, that’s an accurate assessment. It is partially thanks, for example, to the Enlightenment’s focus on specialized inquiry and insistence on submitting everything to critical analysis that we have developed greater comprehension of the natural world as well as fields of human endeavor like the economy. Nor am I sure that we would have developed rich concepts of religious liberty or economic freedom without the forays of Enlightenment minds into these areas.

We should also recognize that, contrary to what we’re often told, most Enlightenment thinkers weren’t hostile in principle to orthodox religion. Plenty of them were believing Jews and Christians. On the religious side of the equation, many religious believers were interested in and impressed by Enlightenment accomplishments, and had no difficulty reconciling these discoveries with their religious beliefs. That includes, by the way, many 18th-century Catholics who were perfectly orthodox in their faith.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that certain Enlightenment thinkers set in motion some dangerous trends. One was the notion that, just as the natural sciences had helped us attain enhanced mastery over the natural world, you could likewise reshape human nature through the same methods. Another Enlightenment-inspired idea with long-term negative consequences was the belief that human beings are essentially blank states. That clashed with the Jewish, Christian, and natural law conviction that knowledge of the truth about good and evil was imprinted into human reason itself.

The point is that engaging in blanket condemnations of everything to do with the various Enlightenments is as ahistorical and frankly ideological as those who think that everything in the medieval period was wonderful. Any serious discussion of the relationship between reason and faith has to avoid such stereotypes if these conversations are to bear fruit.

CWR: You draw particular attention to two pathologies that do seem to have come out of the Enlightenment. One of these is scientism, which asserts that the natural sciences and empirical method of verification are the final (or even sole) authorities on what is good and true. The other is a Prometheanism which effectively deifies man into a being able to alter everything and anything that he chooses to change. How do these manifest themselves in our post-Enlightenment world?

Gregg: We know we’re confronting scientism whenever we hear someone in a debate say, “The science says…”—as if only the natural and social sciences can provide us with information that is decisive for moral and political decision-making. Our societies are neck-deep in such claims. Obviously the information yielded by these disciplines can help us make wise decisions. It’s good to know, for instance, that incentives matter and shape behavior in the realm of the economy, or that certain drugs have specific effects upon people. But such information can’t tell us by itself that it is morally good or politically wise to choose X rather than Y.

As for Prometheanism, this is especially widespread among intellectuals. The very idea of the intellectual emerged during the Enlightenment to describe those who not only thought about the world but who wanted to use ideas to change society. That turned out to be a double-edged sword. It allowed 18th-century Westerners to start grasping the inefficiency and injustice of the mercantile economic system and begin dismantling it. But intellectuals also drove some of the very worst political experiments of the 20th century.

CWR: I suspect that you especially have Marxism in mind here. In your book, you argue that Marxism amounts to a type of religion. Can you expand on this argument, especially how it might help explain the current revival of interest in socialism and communism?

Gregg: It was the Jesuit historian of philosophy Frederick Copleston who maintained that Marxism outlasted so many other 19th-century philosophies partly because it was a kind of faith. After all, Marxism has dogmas, sacred texts, prophetic figures, theorists, an entire eschatology of history, and even its own “saints” like Che Guevara. Marxism also commanded a type of religious-obedience that led many Communists to kill millions of people or even meekly accept their own destruction at the hands of other party members. Above all, Marxism offered an all-encompassing ultimate explanation of everything that aped the claims and forms of the Jewish and Christian religions.

Is this driving the renewed interest in socialism and communism today? Yes and no. Plainly the renewed interest has some contingent causes. I’m very much an advocate of free markets. The case for the market economy was, however, especially damaged by the 2008 financial crisis. This contributed to some people, especially those with little memory of communism, asking whether some form of economic collectivism might be a way forward. At the same time, man is homo religiosus. We can’t help but ask religious questions. Who am I? Where do I come from? Is there a God? If there is, who is he and how do I know him? Marxism provides quasi-religious, albeit false, answers to such queries.

CWR: We’ve seen many times over in recent decades that democracy and constitutionalism have achieved limited to no-success in Islamic countries. What are the theological reasons for this? Why do so many Western intellectuals and politicians refuse to see the theological underpinnings involved?

Gregg: Many Western political and religious thinkers and leaders—including some prominent Catholics—have bought into the proposition that the problems facing Islamic nations are essentially material in nature. That in turn reflects a rather materialist conception of what matters in life. Such people consequently conclude that if poverty goes away, majority-Islamic nations will become just like us.

This view of the world, however, runs into some significant problems concerning facts. If poverty was the primary cause of terrorism, then India and Africa would be overrun by terrorists. But they aren’t. Nor does the materialist explanation account for the fact that most jihadists terrorists come from affluent and educated backgrounds.

In my book I maintain that the workability and sustainability of political frameworks like constitutionalism depends a great deal on the type of understanding of the nature of human beings—and therefore the nature of reason, and thus the nature of God—which exists in a given society. In the long-run, constitutionalism collapses into mere proceduralism in the absence of a strong commitment to natural law. But natural law is premised on a certain understanding of reason, one which isn’t presently widespread, as plenty of serious Muslim believers will tell you, in the Islamic world.

Let me state it this way: if you have a voluntarist view of God and the world—that God’s essence is pure Will (voluntas)—then a concern for the reasonability of God, and therefore for human rationality, becomes unimportant if not irrelevant. And that has consequences for political order.

CWR: In a chapter entitled “A Way Back,” you reflect on the need for a return to Logos and natural law in order for the West to not only survive, but thrive. How realistic is such a return? What are some practical ways that it can be accomplished?

Gregg: One reason for optimism is the sheer implausibility of the alternatives. If there is no Logos, then it is very hard to sustain, for instance, the coherence of the scientific enterprise. The natural sciences assume many things which suggest that there is a Rational Creator: that, for example, there is order in the world that has to come from somewhere and which is knowable to reason. Absent that presumption—which is a far more reasonable claim than the position that the belief that everything begins in a void—the foundations of the natural sciences start to look very shaky indeed.

In terms of practical steps, I suggest that Jews and Christians need to purge their minds and institutions of all the emotivism and sentimental humanitarianism that has turned many of them into mere political activists, and reduced many religious organizations to mildly-spiritual versions of otherwise completely secular NGOs. Christians and Jews need to insist that they take reason very seriously—far more seriously than those secular-minded people who have assumed that they have a monopoly on rationality.

This implies taking natural law seriously—as seriously as Saint Paul did, as seriously as Maimonides did, and as seriously as Augustine and the entire classical tradition of Western thought did. If you take natural law seriously, it’s hard to avoid concluding that the God of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is indeed the Logos: a God of Love who is also Divine Reason itself. On that foundation and potentiality lies the key to the West recovering the truth about itself.

CWR: Switching gears, let me ask a question about a different subject. As you know, there has been much debate recently over the relationship between Catholicism and liberalism. Acknowledging how difficult it can be to define “liberalism”—a word with many different shades and meanings—what do you make of that debate? How can your book help in understanding the context and stakes?

Gregg: I’ve been involved in that discussion for about two years. Most of my focus has been on those dimensions which touch on matters of political economy as well as the American Founding.

Broadly-speaking, I’ve offered a qualified defense of Catholicism’s ability to engage constructively with what’s often called “liberal order.” I also think that the American Founding is worthy of support and even advocacy by Catholics. It’s not that present-day Catholic critiques of contemporary Western liberalism are without merit. But I also think that some of that critique involves endless attacks on strawmen and ignoring some important economic and historical facts. In some instances, it’s an argument which has collapsed into ideology.

Putting all that aside, my book suggests that the core ideas associated with the Anglo-American Enlightenment are essentially friendly to the claims of natural law and the careful integration of reason and faith forged by Judaism and Christianity. That’s one reason why I think that the dismissal of the American Founders as “Enlightenment rationalists” is simply polemics.

Leaving aside the fact that few of America’s Founders actually meet that description, there are enormous differences between, for example, the Anglo-American Enlightenment and various strands of Continental Enlightenment thought. It’s not a coincidence that the American Revolution never took on an anti-Christian dimension—unlike the French Revolution from 1790 onwards. No less than Joseph Ratzinger has highlighted this precise contrast on numerous occasions, a fact that those Catholics hostile to the American Founding studiously ignore.

In the end, I hold that many of the beliefs and institutions associated with “liberalism” today would function in a very different way if the view of God and humanity underpinning them was rooted in the idea of Logos, as described by both the first century Jewish thinker Philo of Alexandria as well as the Apostle who authored the Gospel of John, and a robust conception of natural law which goes along with that. It’s our view of God’s nature which makes all the difference, including to the Catholicism-liberalism discussion.

Without Logos, the West is over. But I don’t think that decline is inescapable. A free choice for Logos, and thus for reason and faith, is never beyond us. The inner yearning for justice, truth, and freedom really is part of who we are. To give rational form to these human desires is consequently to make choices which are truly enlightening and fully consonant with the two faiths of the West. That’s what enables the West to envisage a possible future firmly rooted in the certain knowledge that it’s the truth which sets us free.


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About Carl E. Olson 1113 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.

24 Comments

  1. “Australia and Israel are unquestionably Western nations, but they are in neither of these parts of the world. ”

    Australia, yes, Israel no.

    The West = Christianity + the European peoples and their cultures

    • SOL
      The West = Christianity + the European peoples and their cultures”

      ************

      Well that’s mostly true, but historically Judaism has been in some parts of Europe longer than Christianity has been in others.

          • We can refer to christian and jewish culture and civilization. If we restrict yourself to christian culture and civilization, the key principle is this: it was created with knowledge of transcendent Truth. And it collapsed in the 17th century (Thirty Years War and lately anti-trinitarian Deism, Tahiti paradise myth). Today, christian culture remains in form of small fragments only, surrounded with postmodern desert.

            Modern and postmodern civilization is immanent with some additional “spiritualization” – cosmo-pantheistics myths, etc. It is closely related to ancients cilizations – ancient Egypt, India, China. But unrelated with christian civilization (or with Old testament Israel) – and it is so precisely due to missing transcendent bound. Postmodern era no longer knows about analogia entis.

            SOL makes interesting point: “Who originated the term and why? It’s a 20th-century invention.”
            The answer is simple: The contemporary usage of the term “Judeo-Christian” draws from modern and postmodern immanence. It can be used in a continental manner: Judeo-Christians as opposed to Africa, Asia. It can be used instead of centuries: Judeo-Christian as Europe of second millenia. It can be even used to contrast Judeo-Christian Hitlerism with some buddhistic state. But the modern and postmodern immanence is unable to distiguish on the basis of relation to analogia entis.

        • Have you considered the European literature,music and plays written by Jews?
          Or films? Not to mention cuisine…

  2. Gregg accurately contrasts the Logos IN the West with Islam and the arbitrary Willfulness of God: “But natural law is premised on a certain understanding of reason, one which isn’t presently widespread, as plenty of serious Muslim believers will tell you, in the Islamic world.”

    The obstruction within syncretic Islam is the theological/historical DEFAULT KEY that disallows the coherence of human reasoning toward reality and received Revelation. Islam, instead, a closed labyrinth with no breathing space for created love to touch—and be touched by—Uncreated Love.

    Yet, within the HADITH (the sayings and works of Muhammed), there is still such as this:

    “O People! Listen to my words…Be humane and just among yourselves. The life and property of each are sacred and inviolable to the other. Render faithfully everyone his due, as you will appear before the Lord and He will demand an account of your actions. Treat woman well; they are your helpmates and do nothing by yourselves. You have taken them from God on trust. O people! Listen to my words and fix them in your memory.”

    Natural Law? While the Classical West discovered distinct Natural Law before the distinct and divine self-disclosure (within history, the Incarnation), Islam cherry picks the later and easily blurred menu in mixing-zone 7th century Arabia. It assembles a monolithic monotheism—no Natural Law accessible to reason, no Triune Oneness and Logos, and no Redemption from a God who, in the Incarnation, transcends His own transcendence—and who, by revealing Himself, also elevates and reveals us to ourselves (Lumen Gentium, n. 22)!

    Instead, Classical or even interior hints of universal Natural Law are submerged simply as PROTO-ISLAM, within the “uncreated” Koran, and all now in the hands of the “executors” of engulfing Sharia Law. A “congregational theocracy”—a megatribal, fractious and sectarian culture that enables (does not exclude) self-contradictions. Jihad and peace—a single work in progress.

    QUESTION: In what meaningful ways—if any—is the historical artifact of Islam unlike the invention of an historicist, nationally-fractured, synodal “new Church,” also ambiguously dismissive (?) of Natural Law and even reasoning’s elementary first-principle of non-contradiction?

    • In response to your question, while I have seen two reasonable people come to different conclusion in the Triune God vs. Indivisible God question, here is the logic behind the Indivisible God: Islamic Monotheism.

      From the Quran (as well as the Gospels) we learn that Jesus’ (pbuh) life was in service of the Mighty One. The Holy Quran ascribes the miracles performed by the Messiah (pbuh), such as curing death, as having been done with the permission of the Eternally Holy.

      In addition, from history we see that God tries to meet us where we are: for example, Moses (pbuh) was sent to Pharoh when Egypt was immersed in sorcery and provided power in his staff. Similarly, Jesus (pbuh) was sent to people at a time when they were looking for miracle men.

      Moreover, God tells us that if He Himself were to come down, there would be clarity for believers and dis-believers alike. The skeptic would have certainty handed to them without having to look for God’s signs. But, because of the bargain between accountability and free-will, God sent us his agents from our “own people” to point back to Him and call the people to Him. God nudges us towards him with signs because he is both a Personal and a Transcendent God. Ultimately the decision is ours and ours alone on the most important relationship we have.

      Do you disagree?

  3. The good of order is the root of ethics (Lonergan in Insight). Allah must be a conflicted god though he exists not in ethereal heights but in the minds of men. Nevertheless Islam made up of men created in God’s image can’t help itself in marked evidence of rational beauty, science, literature. Except morally. The Logos God’s Word evident in creation and the natural order reflects eternal law, truth permanent by nature. Arabians rediscovered Aristotle became scholars were brought to the West by Frederick II Sicily to lecture at the royal court compelling Frederick to institute the U of Naples where Thomas Aquinas first learned Aristotle. Ibn Rushd born in Islamic Spain proposed rational revision of the Koran exiled to Morocco. Reason in Man as well as the will has the inherent tendency to seek truth. Irony of ironies with the West returning to paganism the Logos made Flesh there remains hope that the inherent rational nature of Islamic men may find renewal in Christ.

    • Yes, there is always such hope for the “inherent rational nature of Islamic men” and for an epiphany, especially in dialogues between the witnesses to Christ and the individual followers of Islam.

      But as for Islam itself, still a heavy lift. While Christ is already mentioned favorably some twenty-two times in the Koran alone, sometimes at great length, this is only as a prophet prior to Mohammed, the last prophet.

      Even Christ’s reference to His sending of the Holy Spirit (of the Triune Oneness), the Paraclete and the Comforter (Jn 14:15-17, 14:26, and 16:12, 13, 17), is understood/absorbed by Muslim scholars as referring, instead, to the coming of the final Prophet Mohammed (messenger of Unitarian monotheism)…

      Where Christ promises the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a bit of interpretive editing closes the gap. The Greek term “Paraclete” (Holy Spirit) is substituted by Muslim commentators with “Periclyte,” the Greek form of Ahmad or Mohammed. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary” [Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1938/1983, Q 7:157, fn. 1127.)

  4. Agreed it would take a miracle. Peter in your reference to Periclyte as the Gk form of Ahmad did you mean παράκλητος? Returning to miracles you’re likely familiar with the saga of captured Muslim Princess Fátima later Catholic bride Oureana. Fátima receives large numbers of Muslim pilgrims devoted to the Our Lady. “Why the Blessed Mother, in this twentieth century, should have revealed herself in the insignificant little village of Fátima, so that to all future generations she would be known as ‘Our Lady of Fátima.’ Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as ‘Our Lady of Fátima’ as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too” (Venerable Fulton J Sheen in Aleteia). Yes we can hope as remote as it seems for occurrence of that finesse of details.

    • Sheen’s quote on Muslims is from his book The World’s First Love, with an entire chapter called Mary and the Muslims. It is brilliant and hopefully prophetic. His view is something to think of when you consider Our Lady of Vilankani in SW India; her shrine is swamped with Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim worshippers. And that validates Sheen. Our Lady will not forsake them.

  5. I do not read Greek, so I imagine your first remark is exactly right. Thank you. Now some additional response, admittedly too long, but here it is for those interested:

    First, on Bishop SHEEN. In the 1950s, Sheen referred in writing to enthusiastic modernday reception—by Moslems—of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. He witnessed these in Africa and India and especially in Mozambique. In Mozambique onsite conversions were reported.

    Sheen also suggested that lines in the Qur’an referring to the birth of Mary from a sterile mother indicate a careful Muslim reading of the apocryphal gospel of the birth of Mary: “O Lord, I vow and I consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me” (Q 3:35). The apocryphal gospel reads: “And I consecrate her with all of her posterity under thy protection, O Lord, against Satan” ( Bishop Sheen in Jomier, The Bible and the Qur’an, 1964/Ignatius 2002, p. 123).

    So, the Moslem scholars are very well-read.

    Second, the naming of FATIMA in Portugal goes back only to 1492. At this final expulsion of the Moors from Iberia, the prince of that town was thankful that his treasured Moslem wife then converted to Christianity, and he named the principality after her. She, or course, was named after Mohammed’s favorite daughter. He had two daughters, plus four sons all of whom died in infancy (the historic problem of Islam, once the question of succession came up; Sunnis versus Shiites ever since!).

    Third, coming from an intense tribal background, Muhammed could not conceive of (Christ’s) Sonship except in carnal terms. And, how could Allah have a consort! But, nevertheless, in the Koran, and probably in the last year of his life, MOHAMMED is recorded as saying, “If the Merciful had a son, I would be the first to adore him” (Q 43:81, a middle chapter but much of the Qur’an is not sequential).

    When Mohammed captured Mecca (the loss of life is much exaggerated) and absorbed pagan migration and even the destination Ka’ba itself into his own religion, legend has it that he surely destroyed all of the contained depictions of the hundreds of pagan deities within (one for each day of the year), but that he did not destroy the depiction of Christ nor of Mary. With grace anything can happen, and in earth-time some conversions take only a second.

    A hopeful, scholarly and very informative book on the central role of Mary for the future is the Lebanese Rev. Nilo Ceagea’s dissertation (b. 1908, and translated by Rev. Lawrence T. Fares) “Mary of the Koran: A Meeting Point Between Christianity and Islam” (Philosophical Library, 1984). In his lead-in, Fares proposes “common sense, good will, and a little faith.” Perhaps 911 and all the rest has not yet succeeded in erasing this longer-term path.

    I am not a credentialed expert in these matters, but neither is my thinking confined to flat-earth multiculturalism. The religious questions are much more interesting than any such kitchen-blender swill served up by many self-appointed oracles of academia. My work, such as it is, appears in “Beyond Secularism and Jihad—A Triangular Inquiry into the Mosque, the Manger & Modernity” (University Press of America, 2012, with some 100 pages of fine-print footnotes). An author interview with Catholic World Report appears here:

    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/5602/The_Mosque_the_Manger_and_Modernity.aspx

    • In my opinion, given the fact that the real history of the first two centuries of Islam, going from the supposed death of Muhammad in 632 on is covered in mystery. eE don’t know almost anything about Muhammad other than what is in the Qurán, the Hadiths and the Sira, mostly myth. It does seem that there is a Christian substratum in the Qurán, as postulated by German scholar who calls himself Christoph Luxenberg for fear of being killed by Muslims. There is another theory based on certain documents that Muhammad was seen by Palestinian Jews as an eschatological Messiah. In my opinion, there is a lot more similarity between Rabbinical Judaism based on the Talmud and Islamic Sharia than possible Christian elements in the Quran, although they seem to be there also.
      The rational interpretation of the Qur’an proposed by the Mu’tazila sect (8th to 1oth century) was definitively defeated by the rival faction led by Al-Ashari who is the one who introduced the concept of “inshallah” or God willing into Islam which is an everyday saying of most Muslims. The Asharites worked Sunni Islam into a corner out of which they have never been able to free themselves. If the Mu’talizite sect had won that debate, their history would be very different from the backwardness which characterizes the Muslim world. I don’t see how they can reform Islam and get Logos into it, as it would be a matter of “the operation has been a success, the patient is dead”. Besides, at present they are facing another problem which is the fact that the official narrative of the origins of Islam and particularly the thesis that it began in Mecca is being heavily challenged by recent studies by Westerners.
      St. John Damascene considered Islam as a Christian heresy, and that is partly the case, but I don’t see that Fulton Sheen’s thesis is very convincing. The Qur’ considered Mary either the sister of Moses or the Holy Spirit, the Trinity being Allah, Jesus or Isha as they call him, and Mary. Since it seems impossible for to to reinterpret the Qur’an as that would endanger the very existence of Islam, after 1000 years, it is not likely that there will be much movement.

    • Dr. Beaulieu, for your comment above: “Third, coming from an intense tribal background, Muhammed could not conceive of (Christ’s) Sonship except in carnal terms” , please consider that both the Quran and the Gospel have an exact conception of nature of Christ, in comparing his creation to Adam:

      Quran 3:59
      “In God’s eyes Jesus is just like Adam: He created him from dust, said to him, ‘Be’, and he was.”

      Luke 3:23-38
      “Jesus was son of God {in one reading, ‘supposed son of Joseph’ in others}. ……the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

  6. Hmmmm, the West is, likely, over. The West, as another article here stated, is a pornified culture. Our clergy, it seems, is a pornified clergy.
    God will not be mocked. Justice this way comes. Bet on it.

    • I agree. but, it’s a good interview nonetheless. Here is a book I recently came across which does a very good job of explaining the western traditions of logic and also compares it with Islamic intellectual life.

      The book is by a non-Muslim, John Walbridge: “God and Logic in Islam”, Cambridge University Press. For example, for “Logos”, Dr. Walbridge’s observations seem to be in alignment with the interview: “Logos, The Western ideal of reason derives from ancient Greece. No other ancient civilization in the greater Mediterranean region developed anything like it. The practical and spiritual accomplishments of the Mesopotamians,the Egyptians, the Jews, and the Iranians were enormous, but they were certainly not based on reason in as we understand it. They were all religious and authoritarian cultures.

      “The Greeks associated the rationalistic project with the word logos, a term of protean ambiguity derived from the verb legein, “to speak.” It famously occupies several pages in the largest Greek-English dictionary and bears meanings such as word, argument, speech, principle, logic, inner nature, and theory, among others. The English word “logic” is derived from it; the Arabic mantiq, logic, is a literal translation. In philosophical contexts, logos tends to be used in three senses: first, for the inner nature of something; second, for the theory explaining it; and third, for the verbal exposition of its theory.”

      He covers the areas: “I consider six conceptions of reason that seem to me to have operated in Western civilization – the logos doctrine of the Greeks, medieval scholasticism, scientific reason, Enlightenment reason, Utilitarian reason, and relativism – and two antirationalist reactions, Protestant textualism and Romanticism. I then discuss some of the conflicts between these conceptions of reason in Western intellectual history. I close with some suggestions about how these varying conceptions of reason and the tensions and conflicts among them might relate to the Islamic experience.”

  7. SOL:
    “You are referring to works of mass culture produced when? As Christendom was falling apart?”

    **********

    I’m referring to Jews like Maimonides, Spinoza ,Mahler, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, Halevy, Schoenberg, Proust, Heine, Molnar,Pasternak, Pissarro, Chagall, Modigliani, etc, etc. And Strauss- at least in part.The list of Jewish performing artists like Sarah Bernhardt is a mile long. Ditto for musicians.

    Not to mention fish & chips & Curious George (written by Hans Augusto Reyersbach, a German Jew ).They’re important Jewish additions to mass culture, too.
    🙂

  8. In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God…and the Logos became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” ~ Gospel of John

  9. Some of the commentators here and Muslims as well are not fully aware of reason based on Natural Law in Islamic tradition. Please see: “Islamic Natural Law Theories.” Emon, A. Oxford University Press, 2010.

    Book Abstract:

    Islamic Natural Law Theories offers the first sustained jurisprudential inquiry into Islamic natural law theory. It introduces readers to the central figures in the Islamic natural law tradition and their canonical works, analyzes the historical development of Islamic jurisprudence and explains the major contrasts with Western traditions of natural law.

    In popular debates about Islamic law, modern Muslims perpetuate an image of Islamic law as legislated by God, to whom the devout are bound to obey. Reason alone cannot obligate obedience; at most it can confirm or corroborate what is established by source texts endowed with divine authority.

    This book shows, however, that premodern Sunni Muslim jurists were not so resolute. Instead, they asked whether and how reason alone can be the basis for asserting the good and the bad, and thereby justifying obligations and prohibitions under Shari’a. They theorized about the authority of reason amidst competing theologies of God and their implications on moral agency. For them, nature became the link between the divine will and human reason. Nature is the product of God’s willful creation for the benefit of humanity. Since nature is created by God and thereby reflects His goodness, nature is fused with both fact and value. Consequently, as a divinely created good, nature can be investigated to reach both empirical and normative conclusions about the good and bad. They disagreed, however, whether nature’s goodness is a result of God’s justice or grace upon humanity, thus contributing to different theories of natural law.

    By recasting the Islamic tradition of jurisprudence, the book sheds substantial light on an uncharted tradition of natural law theory, and on the proper understanding of Islamic faith.

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