Possessed of Both Reason and Revelation: Revisiting Regensburg | Brian Jones, MA | Ignatius Insight | September 13, 2011
On September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address at University of Regensburg, where he was once a distinguished professor and scholar. In the days and weeks that followed his lecture, outcries began to surface, and many commentators misinterpreted not only what the pope actually said, but also missed the heart of the lecture. Quite a few felt (notice that I said "felt" and not "thought") that the pope negatively criticized Islam, and this was clearly seen in the riots that broke out in some Muslim countries. Other commentators (such as Fr. James V. Schall, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, George Weigel, and C.S. Morrisey) noted how greatly the message of the Holy Father was distorted and misunderstood, especially by many in the Western world.
Although Benedict did discuss a few issues regarding Islam, this is not his main focus. His reflections were meant to challenge us to ask the most basic and fundamental questions about faith and reason: How are we to understand the two: as united, or as entities that must be separated? Is reason more itself with or without the aid of knowledge outside of itself? The great inheritance of the Catholic intellectual tradition reveals that faith and reason can never be separated, but must be harmoniously united so as to uphold the full dignity of each.
According to Benedict, if faith and reason are mutually exclusive, then they become distorted and susceptible to a widespread confusion about their true purpose and nature. By establishing a correct understanding of faith and reason (along with their proper integration), Benedict gave the world "an interreligious and ecumenical vocabulary by which Muslims, Jews, Christians, adherents of other world religions, and non-believers can engage in genuine conversation."  In his book, The Nature and Mission of Theology, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that men are capable of reciprocal comprehension in truth so that "the greater their inner contact with the one reality which unites them, namely, the truth, the greater their capacity to meet on common ground."  Without this understanding, dialogue would merely be spoken on "deaf ears."
This essay will elaborate upon this ever-present dismantling of the unity of faith and reason, by first examining the idea of God as Logos (Reason) versus the idea of God as purely "will," and then explain the consequences of separating God from reason, what Benedict calls the "dehellenization of Christianity." If man is capable of seeing why this synthesis of faith and reason is so vital for every culture, then their proper reconciliation can be achieved. This achievement will also enable faith and reason to remain intact, and prevent politics from becoming that science most proper to man, namely, metaphysics.