Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The recent ire that the Muslim world has exhibited in these past few days since the address of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to the academics at the University of Regensburg only exhibited a grave response of a deep problem inherent within the divide between our brother Muslims’ faith and the Christians view of his religion. I think what is the most fundamental relevance and difference between these two monotheistic religions is in its own concept of God. For our Muslim brothers, God is completely transcendent. A being absolutely incompatible with our own categories. What do I mean by this? God for an Islam believer cannot be in any way characterized by any of man’s conception of God. He cannot explain God’s being by his own terms and language. God is so separated from His creation that even His own prescriptions, he is not bound to follow. Contrast this one with the concept of God among Christians in which a Christian believer believes of the Logus, who has perfectly personified Himself in Jesus Christ through Incarnation. Through HIs birth and presence temporally, perfect revelation of the unseen God becomes manifested. That is why in Christian theology, Christianity has employed the agency of reason, which is in itself a gift of God too, to explain through the best of man’s finite ability this God who has become Man. Why? This is because the Logus is reason in Himself. Jesus Christ gaps the wide breach between Creator and creature that only a God-incarnate can undo, thereby revealing not only God-made-man but reason Himself. Seemingly, this difference indeed becomes more evident in the speech of the Holy Father who underscored the relevance and compatibility of faith and reason and how faith devoid of reason can be a justification for violence.
Just to make an appropriate fixed point to begin his discussion of the natural cohabitation of faith and reason and how illumination of reason with faith creates a profound culture that is inherently Western, the Pope posits an example of a dialogue between Michael Paleologus, a 15th century Byzantine emperor and a Persian scholar. Though the conversation was long as transcribed by a scholar, Prof. Khoury, the pope picked up the central theme of the interlocution that has become the source of incendiary reaction of the Muslim world: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman”. Though the Pope puts these words inside his speech, it does not mean that, one, this is his opinion, and two, that this should be interpreted outside from the text of the speech. Clearly, he set examples of why reason without faith is disastrous as exemplified by Europe and the West, and on the other hand, an equally nefarious effect of faith without reason can lead to blind profession of religion and confusion of interpretation.
But the majority of the media agencies have failed to note that the greater part of the speech is mostly directed to the schism of faith and reason in the contemporarry Western civilization of which the Chuch itself is suffering from within and without. That the separation of faith and reason has bred severally antagonistic approaches — a kind of nihilism against anything pertainig to faith. It should be noted that this has indeed weakened current European and Western societies where relativism is palpable from all phases of life, and where a shared common values that has been manifested, inculcated, and inculturated among Western and western-oriented nations like the Philippines has come close to extinction.
What sort of relevance does it make with us Filipinos?
The answer to that is on what influences the Filipinos have most. The grip of American and Western culture among us comes as no surprise considering our history. Sooner or later the redefinition of our values which have been cherished to some degree by our age and the generations before us may come as no later in a generation or two, taking always into account the prevalent effects of cyberspace into our homes and communities.
Thus, the address of the Holy Father shows a timely wisdom at this precise moment of this age and a diagnosis of insidious symptoms that have been formenting for years. What he is concretely talking about is his own insistence of returning to our roots and discover the richness of our heritage that formed us as a nation and as a Church. This is truly indispensable in a world where currents of thought comes coupling with the zeal of change. We cannot dialogue with the world if we fail to instill that which has formed and breathed our being. We cannot bridge authentic relationships of things foreign to our own if we do not know ourselves. Though the Pope has spoken in the name of his faith to redirect Europe in particular, we too as Filipinos may transpose the idea of the pope to ourselves to help us form our identity and consciousness, which we badly are in need of.