Faith and Reason: May 2008 Archives

Schall on Rowland on Ratzinger

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James Schall, Jesuit professor at Georgetown and mightily prolific author (most recently of The Regensburg Lecture, has a brief review of Tracey Rowland's new book, Ratzinger's Faith, at First Principles, the excellent web journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

On almost every page of this book we find issues of the highest import. I will indicate a few in these comments. In his Regensburg Lecture (text in Appendix of this book), Benedict traced the history of western thought. It went back through the Old Testament. It pursued the affirmation: Deus Logos Est. The Apostles were in fact first directed toward Greece, the land of the philosophers, not to the lands of mystery. This turn, if we are to understand our universe, was providential, not accidental. But, as Rowland points out, granted this emphasis on reason, Benedict’s first encyclical is not Deus Logos Est, but Deus Caritas Est. This concentration on love, on agape (caritas), phila, and eros, was not intended to deny the Word, the Logos, but rather to emphasize the relation of “reason and love.” We do not love the act of loving, but what is, what is true.

Behind this emphasis on love, no doubt, is Benedict’s long-standing interest in Augustine, who reminded us that “two loves built two cities.” We have to be sure that what we love is loveable. This interest, as Rowland insists, is not to be seen as being anti-Thomistic. St. Thomas, after all, was one of the greatest readers of Augustine, ever. Rowland explains that Augustine’s famous maxim, that “faith seeks understanding,” establishes the interest of faith itself in philosophy and points us toward the “necessary prerequisite for the pursuit of understanding.” The pope wrote that “just as creation comes from reason and is reasonable, faith is, so to speak, the fulfillment of creation and thus the door to understanding.” In this context, Roland shows that Ratzinger not only wrote on Thomas from the beginning of his own studies, but has needed him to complete his own (Benedict’s) overall approach. That approach, as Rowland shows us, is harmonious with, and not antagonistic to, Augustine. In fact, Augustine may be the more useful in a post-modern, Nietzschean world.

Later:

The final thing I would like to indicate about this excellent and readable book is that it finally addresses the central place of beauty in our lives. In many ways the real battles of our time occur over the liturgy and not over politics. “The emphasis given by Benedict to ‘an intellectual affirmation by which one understands the beauty and the organic structure of the faith’ means that the primary task of the church in this era is one of catechesis and healing rather than accommodation and assimilation.” It is the culture itself, as Rowland delineates in the second chapter of the book, that has embodied principles that lead to its death. We have already accommodated and assimilated; what is now needed is to heal and to purify.

Rowland remarks that “Ratzinger describes history as a whole as the struggle between love and the inability to love, between love and the refusal to love.” This too is something that begins in beauty, for it begins, as Plato taught us and as Augustine reaffirmed, in our very souls where we all must begin to see the reality and beauty of what is. Ratzinger’s Faith is the real introduction to what is most needed in our times. It understands both that Deus Logos Est and that Deus Caritas Est.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Faith and Reason category from May 2008.

Faith and Reason: May 2007 is the previous archive.

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