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The real question for me in this context is - who first missread the context and put words from a quote into the mouth of the pope as his own words and opinions.

Who is interested in antagonising the Pope and the Islamic world?

by PeWi on Thu Sep 14th, 2006 at 10:08:21 PM EST
Juan Cole attacks the substance of Ratzinger's statements about Islam thus:

The address is more complex and subtle than the press on it represents. But let me just signal that what is most troubling of all is that the Pope gets several things about Islam wrong, just as a matter of fact.

He notes that the text he discusses, a polemic against Islam by a Byzantine emperor, cites Qur'an 2:256: "There is no compulsion in religion." Benedict maintains that this is an early verse, when Muhammad was without power.

His allegation is incorrect. Surah 2 is a Medinan surah revealed when Muhammad was already established as the leader of the city of Yathrib (later known as Medina or "the city" of the Prophet). The pope imagines that a young Muhammad in Mecca before 622 (lacking power) permitted freedom of conscience, but later in life ordered that his religion be spread by the sword. But since Surah 2 is in fact from the Medina period when Muhammad was in power, that theory does not hold water.


The pope was trying to make the point that coercion of conscience is incompatible with genuine, reasoned faith. He used Islam as a symbol of the coercive demand for unreasoned faith.

But he has been misled by the medieval polemic on which he depended.

In fact, the Quran also urges reasoned faith and also forbids coercion in religion. The only violence urged in the Quran is in self-defense of the Muslim community against the attempts of the pagan Meccans to wipe it out.

The pope says that in Islam, God is so transcendant that he is beyond reason and therefore cannot be expected to act reasonably. He contrasts this conception of God with that of the Gospel of John, where God is the Logos, the Reason inherent in the universe.


As for the Quran, it constantly appeals to reason in knowing God, and in refuting idolatry and paganism, and asks, "do you not reason?" "do you not understand?" (a fala ta`qilun?)


Another irony is that reasoned, scholastic Christianity has an important heritage drom Islam itself. In the 10th century, there was little scholasticism in Christian theology. The influence of Muslim thinkers such as Averroes and Ibn Rushd reemphasized the use of Aristotle and Plato in Christian theology. Indeed, there was a point where Christian theologians in Paris had divided into partisans of Averroes or of Ibn Rushd, and they conducted vigorous polemics with one another.


The Pope was wrong on the facts. He should apologize to the Muslims and get better advisers on Christian-Muslim relations.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 04:33:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I should probably have made this a reply to the thread initiated by Colman...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 04:34:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
unfortunately, Juan Coles hasn't gotten my comment up yet, and I did not make a copy...

But basically all the things Cole quotes are summaries made by Ratzinger of positions of other people. "The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes", "According to the experts".

he uses "us" (as we, including himself) only to mark his critizism of the brusque words he quotes and "I" only when he draws his own conclusion about what he speaks about. And what is that: "I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God."
Where does this give a personal criticism of Islam, especially if the line of thought then only deals with the relationship of Hellenism and Christianity?

Two more things. The whole speech has also to been seen in the context of the ongoing discussion in Germany, namely the place of Theology in the University. There are many voices, both on the secular and on the christian front, that do not want Theology being tought inside a "scientific" institute. The Pope is very much in favour. He does not want to go back before modernity. He seeks the (intellectual) confrontation with the scientific community.

by PeWi on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:30:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why shouldn't Theology be taught in universities?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:33:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, it must!
From a simplified secular point: State pays for the education of missionaries.
From a simplified christian point: "They are thinking to much, they should belief more. All this historical critical stuff makes my head spin. God verbally inspired both contradictory creation stories in Gen 1 and 2  and anybody that tells me differently is not strong of faith."

while I have some sympathy with the first I have none with the second...

by PeWi on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Question: if you study theology at a public university are you authomatically ordained?

I am not sure that theology must be taught at universities, but I don't see why it should be abolished as an academic discipline where it does exist.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not in Germany. Your final exams are also taken by a group consisting of members of your regional church  (where you will later want to work) and university staff. You will then also have to have two more years of "Seminary, in job education" have a second exam now purely consisting of Churchy types, before they will consider your ordination.
But in order to be eligible for your first exam you have to have spend at least 2 years at a University (average! education of a German Theologian before first degree is 7  1/2 years)
You can also sit your universities exam, but then you will not be eligible  (or only under difficulties) to join the "Seminary" or in its propper word, Vikariat, which would lead you to the second exam.

Regionality is important as each region in Germany has its own little quircks (lutheran, calvinistic and so on tendencies) which means that a move from one town to the next can be very difficult, if this town is in a different "Landeskirche" You will always need a special dispensation from your Bishop (this has to do with your pension as well as with their tradition...)
This is of course different, if you are a Catholic.

by PeWi on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:06:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afaik, it is similar in UK universities. A Theology degree doesn't automatically qualify you for the orders.

I'm surprised (see this UCAS search result) to see how many courses in Theology are still offered in UK universities.

You can do Theology and Gaelic at Aberdeen, PeWi (Colman will envy you ;)). Or Theology in Welsh at Lampeter (perhaps ceebs would be interested...)

Oxford says in this booklet (pdf) that, of 80 Theology graduates in a year, about 6 "eventually" end up in the Church. Here's their chart of what Theology grads do:

Those who go into orders are probably in the first group or more likely "Other Study".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 08:37:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and to make this really clear. It is the way the emporer draws the conclusion, not the conclusion itself that is importent for the further development of the thought. Because in the way the emporer draws the conclusion he displays reason. Ratzinger might also agree that violence is not the right way to convince someone, but that is not why he brings this problem up.
by PeWi on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:35:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Ratzinger realize that he speaks to a global audience and not to a seminar of academic theologians?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 05:39:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that I subscribe to the criticism implied by Migeru's reply, but I have another quibble: if there is a tendency in what is quoted from others, one unrelated to the structure of the argument, then the quoter is culpable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:17:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To large extent. To me it looks like the classic problem of not what you say, but the way how you say it. Heaven knows (sorry, pun) I've been guilty of that so often.

The pope would have been walking a fine line past two pitfalls if Pewi's explanation was indeed Ratzinger's motivation. On one hand criticizing the blindness of Enlightenment & Reason (but he has done that before on a plenty of occassions so nothing really new there), and on one hand the tender issue of Islam today. Guess he fell into the Islam pitfall (kettle?) today.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:39:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, it's not what the emperor said but how he formulated it. Mr. Ratzinger could just as easily have explained what the quote was meant to illustrate in clear, concrete language. He is a very smart man. Can you believe it: a fifteenth century BYZANTINE emperor! He knows that as 'the representative of god on earth' his every word is examined. He also knows that by hiding behind a distant political figure he can make a statement which appeals to the basest instincts of his base while not being directly responsible for it. He throws up balloon: will it float? Evidently it does. Ratzinger very cheekily excuses himself for such a 'brusque' remark which he has very carefully considered and weighed for content and effect. Make no mistake about it, he says nothing lightly and casually. This man has always walked away from the light at the end of the tunnel.
by Quentin on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:44:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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