On September 12, 2006, almost five years to the day from 9/11, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a watershed lecture at the University of Regensburg. He argued that Islam and the modern West hold a significant tenant in common: a voluntarism that puts will above reason. For classic Islamic thinkers this meant that Allah was not bound by any restraints of reason, including the principle of non-contradiction, and for modern philosophers it led to a division between faith and reason and eventually to relativism.

Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Church has called consistently for dialogue with Islam (see the Council’s declaration, Nostra Aetate). Fr. James Schall, in his recent book On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018 (Ignatius, 2018) notes the difficultly of such dialogue, building upon the claims of Benedict’s address at Regensburg and the clash of cultures that has been unfolding since 9/11. Schall notes two fundamental difficulties that impede effective dialogue. First, the Church has never released an authoritative statement on the theological claims of Islam, even though they arose in close conjunction to Christianity and Judaism, and secondly Westerners tend to interpret Islam through their own lens of reason, freedom, and rights rather than by entering into Islam’s own self-understanding.

Dialogue is about conversation centered on sharing ideas in hope of fostering greater cooperation. Schall points out the difficulty of such a conversation with Muslim leaders given the fact that we do not share a common revelation—Muslims reject the Trinity and the divinity of Christ—and, unlike the Church, there is no central authority in Islam. Even more crucially, it is difficult to find common ground in the natural law. Major strands of the Islamic theological tradition eschew the philosophical study of nature by attributing the causality of all things to the direct will of Allah (which led some Islamic philosophes to posit the double truth theory). Therefore, it is hard to establish a philosophical bridge of common terms to address basic issues such as human rights. The most basic human right according to the Church is religious freedom, but Schall convincingly argues that full religious freedom does not exist in many Islamic countries, which only tolerate Christians to different degrees, under the constant threat of persecution.

These incompatible concepts of religious freedom reveal even deeper divisions, such as two radically different understandings of common words such as martyrdom. The Christian view of martyrdom acknowledges those who die by suffering violence from others who seek to restrict their faith. Some Muslims would honor terrorists and suicide bombers as martyrs, because they died seeking to spread Islam. Fr. Schall reflects on the absurdity of having to make the argument against the claim that murder is holy. He also notes that we cannot stop suicide bombers without engaging the theology that motivates their action. Rather than responding to such attacks with Western-inspired platitudes, Schall encourages us to scrutinize the views of these radical groups. We cannot evaluate their claim that they follow the Koran and the life of Mohammed faithfully if we are ignorant of the Islamic tradition.

Schall also speaks at length of the amazing expansion of Islam following the death of Mohammed in 632AD. The original Christian heartland of Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain were quickly overrun, with conquest of Christian Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and Southeastern Europe following. Although many Christian lands were converted through conquest, Schall, following Belloc, speaks of Islamic lands as nearly inconvertible by Christians. Although these lands have proved quite impervious to missionary efforts, I should note my own experience of friends and acquaintances who have quietly converted to Catholicism from Islam, though at the risk of their own life. Furthermore, I have been following a growing occurrence of Muslims have dreams of Jesus and Mary, which have led them to learn more about the Christian faith.

Schall also encourages us to learn more about Islam and highly recommends Fr. Samir Khalil Samir’s 111 Questions on Islam. Fr. Samir is an Egyptian Jesuit and expert in the Islamic tradition. Islam is in the news frequently and many conflicting claims are made about it. Increasing our religious literacy will help us to make sense of the news for ourselves and prepare us for dialogue, both with Muslims and confused Westerners. The desire to understand Islam in the West began in earnest with Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny’s request for the first translation of the Koran into Latin, completed in 1143. Aquinas also wrote his Summa Contra Gentiles to help his fellow friars to enter dialogue on the Christian faith with Muslims. Schall encourages us through study and honesty to move beyond the platitudes that dominate responses to terrorism.

Many Catholic thinkers and leaders are afraid to address the challenges of dialogue with Islam, for fear of offending others or even inciting additional violence (as occurred after the Regensburg Lecture, for instance). However, Schall’s collected reflections should inspire us to seek the truth in our dialogue and to assess honestly the threat of Islamic terrorism throughout the world. I have been learning about Islam for over 20 years and found fresh ideas in the book. Schall demonstrates the philosophical, political, and theological precision needed not only in learning more about Islam, but also for assessing the Church in our own society. Dialogue also requires a proper understanding of one’s own tradition. Christians need to return to a stronger relationship of faith and reason in order to purify the stagnancy of the Church and society.

  • The thing about Islam is that it has not only been impervious to to conversion, by and large, but it’s also been isolated within itself to a high degree.

    Islam is not unique in this fashion. There are other religious groups that share that, and they likewise are fairly resistant to conversion. But this cannot continue in the modern world, due to the Internet amongst other reasons, and the lack of knowledge on other faiths and the outside world will cease. Indeed, it is ceasing which is part of the reason for the dramatic increase in violence by the “fundamentalist” as they seek to counter that.

    I’ve long thought that women would be the downfall of Islam, as they’re so looked down upon inside that faith. They’ll either leave it or change it. And the evidence of a change coming on is already there. According to some, converts from Islam are starting to fill the pews in European churches where our own faith has grown weak. And the number of Muslims in well educated Iran who have converted to some branch of Christianity or who have simply left Islam altogether for nothing else apparently numbers in the millions.

    The irony of all of this, I suppose, is that at the same time this is happening in the Islamic world there’s been an appreciable number of conversions to Islam in the west. And no wonder, in a Europe of today, and in a North America of today, where the Protestant faiths have become so tolerant of all behavior as to sanction nearly any, and where the Catholic faith has, in some quarters, sought to follow suit, Islam offers a set of beliefs that is concrete. So, while Muslims in Tehran quietly convert, nominal Christians, often women, in Stockholm go the other way.

    It would seem that all humans seek truth, and that there are some values that are concrete is a truth. Catholics in those areas where we are urged to become “modern” would do well to remember that.

  • magyart

    Islam is one of the many anti Christs among us. They deny Christ is the son of God, for Allah had no son. They also deny Jesus died on the cross. A basic tenant of Islam is that non-believers MUST convert or be killed.

  • DLink

    Having lived off and on for a decade next to a Muslim province in the Philippines and having Muslims in the family, I can say that the term “dialog” is a non-starter. Some Muslims are name only and have little interest in the theology, like some Christians. A few would like genuine reform and updating the faith similar to Trent or even Wittenburg, but would be regarded as heretics so they keep silent. The largest group see Islam and Christianity in varying degrees of hostility. This is the group that nodded affirmatively after 9-11 and persecutes all religious minorities to one degree or another. Egypt is a country that presently is in internal conflict among the groups and it is by no means certain that the secularists will come out on top. Indonesia is falling back into fundamentalism as is Turkey. Western Europe is in the process of committing national suicide with so many Muslims entering the countries. Only Eastern Europe, having felt the harsh boot of Islam in the past has shown a sensible approach to the matter. I must agree with the comments that prospects for future improvement in relations are highly questionable.

    • R.Owen Tynge

      You sound sensible.

  • R.Owen Tynge

    Since there is no central authority we must ask, “Which Islam do we debate?”
    The Muslim in search of dialogue knows that the Catholic Church or Orthodoxy hold the sum of Christian teaching: how puzzled he would be if only confronted with 33,000 protesting possibilities instead!

    We would prefer to debate “moderate Islam” deeming this to be “good Islam”. However, that kind of Islam is considered a very lukewarmish apostasy by the other adherents whom we consider bad, but whom many Muslims consider very good indeed. It is as if Satan has constructed his own version of the Rubik’s cube on the scale of the Kaaba.
    Best to mark time. Islam is under pressure from the modern world. Much of what we see is a desperate attempt to turn back the centuries. The camera and its dark works has already undermined its iconaclasm and they have had to weave the finest casuistry to blend it in. As many challenges face Islam as face Christianity and the purist version will not have magnetic appeal though Ferrari might.

    • InfidelNumberOne

      Just typing out loud –
      “Since there is no central authority …” Reminds me of the hundreds of flavors of protestant ‘christian’ denominations found on virtually every street corner here in central TX and beyond. Upon what common ground do we ‘dialog’ with them when they won’t even acknowledge they owe the existence of their bible to the Catholic Church.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Dialogue? In the modern world what we have is 7.5 billion simultaneous monologues. I often find myself disagreeing with someone whom I later find was me!

    • Howard

      Are we interested in debate, or evangelization? Is this an academic pastime, or the spread of the Gospel?

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I cannot account for the indecision of your mind .

      • Howard

        There is no indecision in my mind, but it appears I will have to be less rhetorical and more clear. To answer your question, “Which Islam do we debate?”, it is necessary to understand the reason for the debate in the first place. The purpose of the Church is NOT to be a high school debate team; it is to win souls. Therefore, the version of Islam we must confront — a better word than debate — is whatever version we find in our neighbor. If your neighbor is a Shiite, there is not much point in addressing problems specific to the Sunni, and vice versa; his beliefs and practices may be deep or superficial, “orthodox” or merely folk Islam, but he has to be reached where he actually is. In that regard, it’s really not much different than dealing with a Protestant — you need to use a different approach with a Primitive Baptist than with a high-church Anglican.

        The “how” and “when” to evangelize a specific Muslim is of course a matter of prudence, but merely marking time is not a plan consistent with Scripture or Tradition.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        “Marking time” is what happens when you have to shake the dust off your feet. Where does it say that in Scripture?There are some clues in the last verse of St John’s Gospel.
        In my experience many Muslims are happy to speak about a number of things. This never includes Islam which, it seems, one must swallow whole without protest or debate

      • Howard

        Look, we are not each and every one of us called to drop everything and become missionaries overseas, or even apologists. That said, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics, and about 1.6 billion Muslims — at least 5 times as many people as were alive in the whole world in the first century. If you can think of times when the Church actually did “shake the dust off Her sandals” and give up on even a city for any significant period of time, name it. The Church always has missionaries willing to go to cities more sinful than Nineveh, even though they are rarely as successful as Jonah.

        Not everyone is called to be a missionary, but each of us is called to be ready to give the reason for the hope that is in us, and a city cannot be hidden if it is truly built on a hill. It would help a bit if more Catholics knew more about Islam, but what would REALLY help would be if more understood and lived their own faith. Since there have been converts from Islam to Catholicism in every age, there is no reason to be hopeless.

        You do put your finger on something important, though — Christianity seems to be nearly unique in seeing humility as a virtue possessed by God. I asked a Jewish friend about this several years ago, and he claimed that Jews agree on that point, but to me at least it is not at all clear that they give this much thought.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Mini-messiahs consort with the mighty,
        Or seek to supplant them in power,
        And then once in,
        It’s hell once agin,
        As the poor make more bricks for their tower.

  • Kevin Vail

    Islam or Catholicism
    A religion of brutal men or a religion of homosexuals
    how about no on both?

    • R.Owen Tynge

      Kevin,why did the mission of Jesus focus on the unlearned ?

      • Kevin Vail

        Aside from the fact that nearly everyone in that part of the world at that time was unlearned (and for most of human history for that matter)?
        The theological reason is given as God’s special care for the weak and powerless.
        What’s your reason?

      • R.Owen Tynge

        He knew the learned would be too full of themselves.

      • Kevin Vail

        O yes, I know. Learning is bad, just believe what your told – pay, pray and obey.
        No thanks.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        How do you know you know you know?

      • Kevin Vail

        We just have opposite ethical structures.
        I see Christianity as a religion of resentiment – hatred of all that’s noble and powerful. It calls sin the virtues of the strong that actually made the world work.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I don’t want to offend you, but this seems very wrong-headed in a bigly way.

      • Kevin Vail

        Don’t worry about that, I’m not some snowflake. Debate is a contact sport, my feelings are my problem not yours.
        I’m sure it does see odd to you.
        When Christianity integrated the Germanic tribes for a time there was a strength tempered by a code of mercy and service – chivalry.
        We’ve lost that entirely so the West has become weak, dysgenic and foolish.
        There is still an elite that cynically uses Christian values to keep the herd in line when they do as they please. Since the French Revolution, resentment towards the strong has metastasized into leftist violence and virtue signaling.
        “O look at me, I’m for the poor” (while driving my Rolls Royce and living in $2 million condo). Nonsense, you’re for yourself and GOOD. We can’t deal with poverty by encouraging victimhood, weakness and foolishness. We’ll always have the bottom rung of society, people that can’t function well in the world. It’s not bad to be magnanimous to them, but we have made being weak a virtue and consequently we have a lot more of them.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        But Ayn Rand was nuts even in the abridged version.

      • Kevin Vail

        Not a Randian, she was a terrible philosopher and a worse author. Her books are utterly predictable and full of nonsense.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I’m shallow. I judge people on looks. If they look dead, I’m off.

      • Kevin Vail

        Take your first statement, well not the first exactly,
        “He knew the learned would be too full of themselves.”

        So what’s the alternative? Be unlearned? What is that about? I know, “be like a child” but then Paul says “when I was a child I thought like a child but then I put away childish things” .
        So which is it? Be a child or don’t be a child?
        I choose don’t be a child.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I have no choice in the matter.
        Do you beleve Saints Peter and Paul existed?

      • Kevin Vail

        Sure. We know quite a bit about Paul, less about Peter but they were certainly real people, though the stories are archetypal and elaborated with mythical elements but that’s not uncommon in the ancient world, they didn’t do history the way we do.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I have heard suchlike so many times and am thinking of teaching my parrot such phrases.
        Would you agree that St Paul was a learned man who needed to be knocked unconscious before he woke up?

      • Kevin Vail

        Lol, that’s good. See you can get a handle on the contact sport element

        Paul of Tarsus was certainly a student of Gamaliel, the most respected Rabbi in Jerusalem in the first century, Un-doubtly brilliant.
        The story of his trip to Damacus is archetypal, not history as we think of it.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        You have the video? Or you maybe heard it from another parrot?
        Did you hear the one about the carpenter?
        He said, “Actually I don’t need a Ph.D to know I’ve just hit my thumb with the hammer.”

      • Kevin Vail

        That’s good, I’ll try to remember that.

      • Kevin Vail

        There’s no question here, just the bald assertion.
        The story follows the same pattern you find in the story of Moses and of Jesus – the wandering in the desert leading to a mystical vision. It’s part of the hero’s journey and found often. Joseph Campbell termed it

        4. Meeting the Mentor (Paul on the road)
        At this crucial turning point where the Hero desperately needs guidance he meets a mentor figure who gives him something he needs. He could be given an object of great importance, insight into the dilemma he faces, wise advice, practical training or even self-confidence. Whatever the mentor provides the Hero with it serves to dispel his doubts and fears and give him the strength and courage to begin his quest.

        5. Crossing The Threshold (Paul in Damascus)
        The Hero is now ready to act upon his call to adventure and truly begin his quest, whether it be physical, spiritual or emotional. He may go willingly or he may be pushed, but either way he finally crosses the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. It may be leaving home for the first time in his life or just doing something he has always been scared to do. However the threshold presents itself, this action signifies the Hero’s commitment to his journey an whatever it may have in store for him.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Another thesis for the shelves.
        Have you heard of Glendalough , Kevin?

      • Kevin Vail

        Sorry, didn’t see the second sentence.
        Relics are fetishes. It was either Luther or Calvin, I don’t remember which, said there were enough fragments of the “true cross” in the world at his time to make a forest.

        Relics were often faked, sold or exploited by churchmen to generate income from pilgrims.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Again, such views are even mustier than the relics.

        Other estimates of “true-cross” relics indicate that they would not even form one beam if reconstituted.
        Hadrian’s wall is a relic too. It suggests that some people built it.

      • Kevin Vail

        Not a relic in the same sense as possessing mystical powers. No one travels to Hadrian’s wall to be healed of cancer.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        That is because it has no connection with the holy.

      • Kevin Vail

        Neither do most “relics”

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Does the holy reveal itself to the unholy?

      • Kevin Vail

        Holy means set apart. Fetishes are imbued with significance because the stories associated with them, stories have great power. They teach us how to act in the world and there’s nothing more real than that.
        There’s no difference psychologically and socially between a Catholic relic on an altar somewhere and a magic tree worshipped by our ancestors. They both have power in peoples lives because of the belief in them and their associated stories.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Yes. Belief is important. Most so-called knowledge is only belief. Can you prove our nearest star after the sun is 4.25 light years away?

      • Kevin Vail

        Personally with equipment on hand? No.
        Neither can I prove viruses cause disease right now, not a virologist anymore than I’m an astrophysicist. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get a flu vaccine this year. We act primarily on faith in that sense every day all day.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I’m glad you see that. It is important for heroes to know such things.

      • Kevin Vail

        We do, more and more today because the world is so complex and we are so small and specialized. I always have to act on incomplete information, I have no choice because I must act, not acting is acting.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        You are not alone, but you do know you are conversing with a human being and do not need a PH.D. to be convinced. Nor do you need any other authority apart from your own senses.
        To be sure, pinch yourself.

      • Kevin Vail

        Actually that’s where stories come in.
        We have this wonderful brain that lets us watch and learn from others acting. We can run little experiments, so to speak, in mental fantasy about the possible consequences of acting so, for those actions that lead to death, our fantasies can die instead of us. We can learn from the experiences of others, good and bad. Absolutely an amazing achievement, no other animal can do that.(that we know of)

      • R.Owen Tynge


        The unlearned, being human, are intelligent. Few frills about them.
        Shepherds, carpenters, fishermen. Down to earth folk who know when the hammer hits their thumb. Honest enough too or their neighbours would reject them. Probably crack few jokes though humour doesn’t always carry across time or languages.

        Be a hero-detective. Look for evidence that will stand up in court. Where is the body? The body of Peter. Now trace his journey back to when he was an unlearned fisherman. What transformed him? And the answer to that will take a long time to fill out.

        (Disqus is running very erratically and has just deleted the greater part of my post)

      • Kevin Vail

        Yes! Awe and mystery. The numinous as it’s sometimes called (Meaning of the Holy, old book by a guy named Otto). We respond to symbols and read into them multiple layers of meaning.
        So, here’s a problem.
        What happens when the numinous loses it’s awe? Look around a Catholic mass sometime, do you think the participants believe that’s Jesus on the altar? We know from surveys that about 80% of them don’t.
        Religions have a life cycle.
        Even by the time of Plato and Aristotle, very few believed there were a bunch of larger than life people living on a mountain, it was a story that lost its power.
        Same in classical Rome. The Romans became enamored with Eastern mystery cults, like Christianity, because their own stories became trival and meaningless.
        I think we are there with Christianity today, fewer and fewer people find the symbols of Christianity to be awe inspiring, they seem insipid and foolish to our ears. Sometimes we made them that way with overlaid ideologies. Worship services are rock concerts and pastors are celebrities.
        So some go chasing after other stories, foreign religions or recycled old ideas like gnosticism that are new to them. Others just tune out, use drugs, chase sex, money and power to give themselves meaning and direction. Most of which is self-destructive and other destructive.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        A great deal of truth in what you say. Is this what you observe with your own senses?

      • Kevin Vail

        Actually yes, I’m a psychotherapist. I see it everyday in the lives of my clients.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Materially they have everything but are somehow utterly miserable and confused?

      • Kevin Vail

        Often yes.
        Some are poor, I’ve done a lot of work in addictions, corrections and child welfare, seriously damaged individuals.
        Rich or poor though, they have no sense of meaning or purpose beyond the next high, they can forget the meaningless of their lives for a while at least. Usually, if there’s any sort of recovery, its due to a recovery of meaning and purpose – joining a church or a 12-step group (which is really the same thing psychologically). They re-imagine their lives as survivors and capable of helping others, it’s great, but rare unfortunately.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        One third of the stars were swept from the sky.

      • Kevin Vail

        The fall into hell is very real for these folks. They don’t have to go to some metaphysical alternate reality after death, they are in hell right now and they spread their hell around to their world.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I witness it too.

        A study of Peter’s vacillating faith and courage is informative.One might think that the Resurrection of Christ, seeing the empty tomb, seeing Him coming through a locked door, seeing him eat, would have given Peter such a buzz he’d have run through the town defying everyone to call him a liar? But he had no courage until Pentecost. Courage is a gift.

      • Kevin Vail

        Sure, the message being confront what you most fear, voluntarily. Accept the enmity of the world and do it anyways. I can envision “tongues of fire” if I want, that’s poetic elaboration. The error is thinking that if we had a video recording of the upper room we’d see fire and wind blowing things around. Whether it even happened that a some people were hiding in a real room in Jerusalem is kinda irrelevant, the story is the for the purpose of teaching us how to live and act in the world successfully and when people believe it, they imitate it. That’s what’s meant by archetypal, inspires awe and imitation. You can find plenty of other stories where the details are different but the lesson is the same.
        I don’t like it when Christians insist on the empirical realities of such stories and/or say all other peoples stories are wrong.
        Don’t tell a Buddhist that the Buddha didn’t sit under the Bodhi tree and emerge victorious from his battle with Mara the deceiver. It’s a story with power for him.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I missed that post of yours, Kevin.

        Archetypal? No. I think it is much more than that, but until you have it, you won’t know.
        Nevertheless it is quite rare, admittedly. “Rare” does not mean non-existent. Those who see such things as non-existent generally lack wide experience.( “Wide experience” does not mean, “read a lot.” )

      • Kevin Vail

        Perhaps we have not clearly defined archetypal. There’s nothing unreal about it. Perhaps with Plato (and St. Thomas) we should say the archetypal is the most real thing.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Hmm. I know what you’re getting at, though I was thinking Jungian.

        Why was St Francis, by all accounts, reputed to be such a happy man?

      • Kevin Vail

        Sorry forgot about the second question. I think St Francis, at least as far as haighography can be trusted, was a happy man because he gave up all to pursue the Good or the God, which to my thinking are the same thing

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Apologies to you in my previous post. I’d jumped the gun and failed to scroll down for your response.
        Yes, St Francis. I find this matter to be most interesting on a very human level. He was acting for religious motives, but the main reason, I believe, for his happiness was that “he had CHOSEN poverty.”
        In this he had completely contradicted the world and in doing so so radically, he made an enormous impact. But a poor man could not have done so, because Francis had so much to give up.

      • Kevin Vail

        This reminded me of this,

        A choice! Do you, my listener, know how to express
        in a single word anything more magnificent? Do you realize,
        even if you were to discuss year in and year out how you could
        mention nothing more awesome than a choice, what it is to
        have choice! For though it is certainly true that the ultimate
        blessing is to choose rightly, yet the faculty of choice itself is still
        the glorious prerequisite. What does it matter to the young
        lover to take inventory of all the outstanding qualities of her
        fiancé if she herself cannot choose? And, on the other hand,
        whether others praise her beloved’s many perfections or enumerate
        his faults, what more magnificent thing could she say
        than when she says, He is my heart’s choice!

        -S. Kierkegaard, http://www-astro.physics.ox.ac.uk/~ddarg/pdf/ProvocationsProvocations, Ch 2

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Marvellous! That knocked me out..

        Song of Songs!

        Free will.

      • Kevin Vail

        Yes it is. If I ever succeed in being half as profound as Kierkegaard (unlikely) then I can die happy.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Did Kierkegard die happy?

      • Kevin Vail

        Here’s his perspective, from his journal
        “What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…What good would it do me if the truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not, and producing in me a shudder of fear rather than a trusting devotion? Must not the truth be taken up into my life? That is what I now recognize as the most important thing.

        So given his social awkwardness, his tragic relationship with Regina and the difficult relationship he always had with his father and the state church of Denmark. Which are all “hap penstances” What do you think?

      • R.Owen Tynge

        When I thought I was near death I wouldn’t describe myself as happy . . . but certainly very anxious to avoid pain and discomfort. Very vulnerable too especially when a beautiful and caring nurse appeared. How quickly Superman became a nervy infant! (Gulp!)

        The “truth” K. speaks of seems to be a philosophical truth which is also a female. Hmm. Not sure.

        “Truth” as statement of fact etc., is a pretty indifferent phenomenon. . . but Truth as a person is not ,if that Person is Christ. It would be an impossible contradiction for a Christian to be unhappy with Christ. As regards K., it might depend upon what else he saw in Regina. Maybe he longed to sing her the Song of Songs and to hear it sung?

        How does Francis Thompson’s ” Hound of Heaven” compare to K’s thinking?

        We are often at our best when we are at our worst.

      • Kevin Vail

        “When I thought I was near death I wouldn’t describe myself as happy . . . but certainly very anxious to avoid pain and discomfort”

        Yes, what we call “happy” is not the blessedness of arête but rather the absence of pain and satisfaction of desire.

        “How does Francis Thompson’s ” Hound of Heaven” compare to K’s thinking?”
        It does not ring any bells, I don’t think I’m familiar with it.

        “The “truth” K. speaks of seems to be a philosophical truth which is also a female”
        Truth or wisdom rather, is also female in the wisdom literature.

        20 Wisdom cries out in the street;
        in the squares she raises her voice.
        21 At the busiest corner she cries out;
        at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
        (Prov 1)

        The morphology of the Greek word Sophia is gender female, so is the morphology of the Greek word for truth, althea

      • Kevin Vail

        There’s a fudgy word, “happy”.
        Aristotle said “call no man happy until he is dead”, at least that’s how most translators render it. But Aristotle’s “happy” was not the modern English “happy”, which indeed “hap pens by hap penstance” [same Anglo-Saxon root word]
        Aristotle meant “blessed” [eudaimonia = good guardian spirit ] . Same word as used by the Greek text of the Sermon on the Mount.
        By that definition? Yes, I believe he did.

      • Kevin Vail

        Jung was definitely on to something. I am strongly influenced by Jung to be sure and his system is very helpful in my work. I would never claim he was always right by any stretch.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        He has certainly been stretched a lot. . . and compressed . . . and bent to fit.€:-)

      • Kevin Vail

        “I am grateful I am Jung, not a Jungian”- Carl Jung


      • Kevin Vail

        I have a number of influences as do we all. I wouldn’t try to put me in a convenient box if I were you. I been trying to come up with a pithy name for my philosophy. Perhaps its something like radical christian transcendental idealism, but that’s quite a mouthful lol
        Obviously I like Jung but also the object relations psychoanalysis I got my MA in. Also Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heideggar and the existential-phenomenologists.
        For theology I like the radical orthodoxy school and nouvelle theologia of the last century. Also Augustine, Eastern Neo-platonists and even some of Calvin.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Very interesting, but you didn’t answer my earlier question Kevin, concerning St Francis.

      • Kevin Vail

        I couldn’t agree more. I try to fulfill the Socratic quest to know myself. I believe philosophy is not a word game among eggheads but a way of life. I’ve got a strong mystic steak I guess.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        But what are egg-heads determined to propagate? And how successful are they being. . . and, are we now dealing with a lot of scrambled eggheads? And do they make a tasty meal or are we reaching for the bucket ? Are the doors and windows secured and the alarms on? Who is out there?

        So many questions Kevin? ( I hope you’re chortling)

        Some stories are short and some are long. Here is a very short story.
        “Two philosophers met and the question arose as to who was their favourite philosopher: which one would they cling to and which ones would they happily leave behind.
        Philosopher A: Nietzsche, definitely Nietzsche. . . and you?
        Philosopher B: Well, after much deep reflection, I have come to the firm conclusion that I am very much attracted to the world view of Bugs Bunny.”

        Of course the story doesn’t end there, but now it has legs.

        Belief is such a strange phenomenon and ranges from tentative fantasy and tentative theory through to firm conviction. Those with firm conviction live a very different life. That’s when belief has become indistinguishable from certain and confident knowledge.

      • Kevin Vail

        OK, I can’t find this reply anywhere but my Disqus app, so here. It may end up appearing twice.

        You are so fun.
        Epistemology! Yea, I like epistemology.
        Somewhere, in another comment you said something to the effect “how do you know you know?” Sound familiar? Hope so or my memory is poorer than I realize.
        Let’s put it together with this and commence to philosophize.
        First query.
        Is complete knowledge of phenomena possible?
        I answer than, no, complete knowledge is not possible. Every being is interdependently connected with every other being in space and time, only an infinite intellect could apprehend all connections and truly “know” the being. Therefore, complete knowledge of phenomena is not possible for the finite intellect.
        Second query
        Given complete knowledge of phenomena is not possible for the finite intellect and that man is a being that acts towards a known and chosen end [ http://newadvent.com/summa/…Summa Theologia II-I, Q 1, ad 1.
        Then how is action possible for the finite intellect?
        I answer that, Man must act from incomplete, but true knowledge. While it is true a finite intellect cannot completely understand a being it does not follow that the finite knowledge possessed is ipso facto false.
        Man is an animal that moves, we’re not plants or sea sponges, waiting for the environment to come to us. We must move in our environment or we die. Therefore the test of belief is the test of action. I can say whatever I like about what I believe, but what do I know of myself? We are not by any means transparent to ourselves. Our consciousness creates an illusion of unity but it is better to think of man as a loose collections of sub-personalities in constant dialectic with one another. If we were transparent to ourselves, the imperative to “know thyself” would be meaningless.
        So says the Bard,
        And thus the native hue of resolution
        Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
        And enterprises of great pith and moment
        With this regard their currents turn awry,
        And lose the name of action. (Hamlet, Act 3, Sc 1)
        And so say we all (Battlestar Galatica reference, sorry, couldn’t resist, I’m a mega-nerd what can I say)

      • R.Owen Tynge

        No, you’re not, just rare. Of words there is no end. Infinite.

        No end of tangents either. . . but a tangent is still related.
        (Bugs Bunny says a lot too.)

        Dogma is very useful at times. It gives the thoughts a rest.
        Now we see through a glass darkly. . . though some do not look at the glass at all. . . unless it’s the one with booze in . . . or the likes.

        For God all is complete. God created time and we are bound to live our earthly lives within it and exercise our free will according to our understanding. We see billions of years but to God that is less than a moment. God sees our life and our death. All is complete. Our decisions are free. . . but God sees what we will do. He leaves us free.

        The knowledge we need is how to live with faith hope and charity and Christian teaching says The Resurrection and the Church Christ left us is sufficient. The Apostles lived well without knowledge of Einstein et all. They died as well as a man can.

        How do you know you know you know you know…………..?

      • Kevin Vail

        O good to hear. I do not regard being a nerd as a bad thing.
        So yes, the implication would be that an infinite intellect could know all things completely.
        I love this line, “Now we see through a glass darkly. . . though some do not look at the glass at all. . . unless it’s the one with booze in . . . or the likes”
        I gots to remember that

        “For God all is complete. God created time and we are bound to live our earthly lives within it and exercise our free will according to our understanding. We see billions of years but to God that is less than a moment. God sees our life and our death. All is complete. Our decisions are free. . . but God sees what we will do. He leaves us free”
        Hello Boethius, nice of you to join us. cf Consolation of Philosophy, wonderful work, 6th century. The part on time and eternity is in the last chapters. This is pretty good summary of what he says.

        “How do you know you know you know you know…………..?”

        So you know you know if you what you know is what you do. It’s values all the way down. Values set goals and goals guide motions in the world. They also guide perceptions. There’s an infinite amount of information in every second of every day, I can only process a tiny sliver of it. What we see is what we need to see to accomplish our goal in that that moment. We don’t see objects in our environment and infer utility, we see tools to achieve or impede our current motivations.

        If my hypothalamus is detecting low blood sugar, the “I” watching TV starts to be overridden by the “I” that wants a PBJ sandwich. That “I” loses interest in the plot and causes me to move to the kitchen. On the way, I will ignore non-novel stimuli that do not assist me in achieving my goal of a PBJ. When I return to my seat with my sandwich and begin to eat, that motivated “I” disappears and the “I” that is interested in TV reappears. Obviously a simple example of an incredibly complex set of behaviors and perceptions.

        So I “know” I’m hungry because I act on the knowledge. This is an existential and pragmatic definition of “truth”. Since we must act on insufficient information always, what we do know will have to suffice It’s “true enough” to be a reliable guide to action in the world. (or it isn’t and we die).
        Of course people act in opposition to stated values all the time. It is interesting how this connects with Augustine’s definition of sin as a defect in the will.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Disqus is not sending your reply straight to the thread but to my e-mail and then I can come back via that! So my replies will come slowly I guess.
        Well, I suppose the purpose of military training is to make sure one doesn’t have to think. . . all training is the same I guess. A good musician doesn’t have to think as much as a bad one! One doesn’t need a hesitant philosoper when the fire-brigade is required.

        The ideal of the Christian Life is to be so well-steeped in contemplation of Jesus that one automatically became a blurred copy of Him. A Christian should always know how to be.

        An actor, may be acting the part of a gangster in a film and, in learning the part ,may play at being a gangster so well ,he is shot before the film is! That’s a problem with method acting.
        A hypocrite may be acting the part a virtuous man so well that he even convinces himself.

        But true. . . the purpose of thinking must have an outlet in action or behaviour. . . much as a cistern has an overflow.

        We moderns live in a strange world. We are expected to have an opinion on everything. Before long we can start to think that our opinion matters! But, as a wise man once said to me “Your problems are local, not global.”
        Sometimes I forget this and am much happier when it comes back to mind.

      • Kevin Vail

        I’m not fun? Damn… I try.
        Oh well. Perhaps you’d prefer Zen Buddhism, they have a hatred of words too. Hence the Zen Koan, an insolvable puzzle to quiet the mind for meditation on direct experience.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        It was the “mega-nerd” bit that I disagreed with. You are interesting and interested! That is rare. You have a good sense of humour. . . but “tone” is hard to convey as is “twinkle”.

        I am full of words. But I am often silenced by. . . events, great beauty.

        I saw a photo of a child kneeling in prayer with its mother the other day at a special service. I had been fairly busy and interested (rushrush) but suddenly I saw the photo and was TOUCHED. Strange feeling. No sadness, only quiet gladness.Suddenly my eyes were full of tears. It moved me. Whatever it was, was in me ,but so rarely surfaces, that it took me completely by surprise.
        Here my words are certainly not adequate.

      • Kevin Vail

        Told you, my offense, if or when it might occur, is my problem. No snowflaking allowed lol.
        I do enjoy this as well. Good dialogue partners are uber rare.

        “I saw a photo of a child kneeling in prayer with its mother the other day at a special service. I had been fairly busy and interested (rushrush) but suddenly I saw the photo and was TOUCHED. Strange feeling. No sadness, only quiet gladness.Suddenly my eyes were full of tears. It moved me. Whatever it was, was in me ,but so rarely surfaces, that it took me completely by surprise.”

        Yes, beauty! The main reason I could not stay a protestant.
        Beauty is the visible sign of the Good according to Socrates. Beauty will save world according to Roger Scruton.
        St. Thomas said beauty is that which pleases when seen. One of the few times I want to slap him on the back of the head and say I know you can do better than that! Ick, lame definition, but nevertheless the Middle Ages specialized in beauty. Ours specializes in ugliness I think. Maybe that’s why we cannot see truth or goodness either.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        It is very difficult to see it in the city. Indeed it is very difficult to see it in people whom the world has devoured. In the city etc., it’s all about Man’s creations. Wonderful if seen in God’s light, dreary if praised without it.

        Away from the city one can think better about God’s Creation and remember that above that cloudy sky or that blue sky the stars are beyond all counting.
        So many don’t even seem to have a sense that they are lost. It is sad to see so few innocent eyes even in the very young, and this is not a matter of mere education for I have known many illiterate people whose minds were very clear, and it showed in their ways and their eyes.

      • Kevin Vail

        Lo! I show you the last man.

        “What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”—so asketh the last man and blinketh.

        The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest.

        “We have discovered happiness”—say the last men, and blink thereby.

        They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loveth one’s neighbour and rubbeth against him; for one needeth warmth.

        Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbleth over stones or men!

        A little poison now and then: that maketh pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.

        One still worketh, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

        One no longer becometh poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wanteth to rule? Who still wanteth to obey? Both are too burdensome.

        No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wanteth the same; everyone is equal: he who hath other sentiments goeth voluntarily into the madhouse.

        “Formerly all the world was insane,”—say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby.

        They are clever and know all that hath happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled—otherwise it spoileth their stomachs.

        They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

        “We have discovered happiness,”—say the last men, and blink thereby.—

        And here ended the first discourse of Zarathustra, which is also called ‘The Prologue’, for at this point the shouting and mirth of the multitude interrupted him. “Give us this last man, O Zarathustra,”—they called out—“make us into these last men!
        -Freidrich Nietzsche
        -Thus Spake Zarathrustra, Prologue 5.
        [not a huge fan of Thomas Common’s translation here, but it’s public domain and Kaufmann’s much better translation is not]

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Good day to you Kevin! What is this on the doorstep?

        I always brace myself when Nietzsche arrives. The greatest of lies is that which is mainly the truth. We have to be careful. Christ did much more than speak charismatically.

        Unfortunately history shows how high quality metal can be used for very destructive purposes. Pointing out how useful a saucepan is, won’t delete the guns and bombs etc.

        About the only thing that always comes to mind from Z is a sentence on the lines of: “and he shall be as far from man as man is from the ape.” N. was certainly a prophet of our times. . .unfortunately he was taken as a guru.

        So, men shall be as gods? Hmm. Unfortunately that is true, at least as far as aspirations and ambitions. The technology in the poorest homes today would have astounded a medieval king.

        One important characteristic of God is always left out by those who wish to soar. . .viz., humility. In much the same way Islam has remained unaware of the 100th name of God. . . the Humble One. (Judaism at least saw God as personal. . . if not as brother and friend.)

        Those who wish to be as gods always avoid that note of humility. . . unless they are intent on pulling the wool over eyes.

        Christians are called to imitate God. . . but to recognise they are not God. How do they imitate God? By becoming servants of one another. . . not to find a way to crow over others.
        When Hitler handed a copy of Zarathustra to Mussolini, humility was not top of either’s list.
        “A humble politician ” is an oxymoron which should always FIRST come to mind when “oxymoron” is mentioned.( I could provide other examples.)

      • Kevin Vail

        BTW, this “The greatest of lies is that which is mainly the truth”, is so Nietzschean I had to make sure it wasn’t a quote from one his writings. It is definitely in his style.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I have been trying to reply to you for half an hour or more but Disqus is playing up again and everything freezes or disappears! (A sign?) So I have come in on another ‘route’. . . not that I understand that either!

        It is a phrase which has stuck in my mind from somewhere and I do apply it to the likes of Nietzsche and anybody who makes a great deal of sense. . . but who leaves me with too many uneasy doubts. It was not my phrase certainly. I wonder whether it might even be from Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’Kempis where he certainly deals with St Paul’s reference to “angels of light”.

        I have found a few comments of yours which I failed to catch and reply to. All I can say is : “Very thought-provoking and stimulating!” as I can’t seem to get them on this page in order to respond! The answers I had, have fled from mind . . . so they were obviously airy!

        At bottom the modern age has rejected all notion of the supernatural. Since the supernatural is not under the control of “naturals”, those who believe, do have a problem. . . but even when good, honest men have many witnesses, the sceptic still finds ways to explain it all away. Since ALL often amounts to a large number of oddities it becomes . . . wearisome. The fact is, EVEN ONE EXCEPTION to the materialist’s worldview brings down their house of cards. Personally I have had many striking experiences which I no longer use to try to convince the unbeliever to “entertain a thought” No matter how unusual the events it is all dismissed as “mere coincidence” or a matter of “synchronicity”. . . as if that explains anything!
        Apart from my own experience, many other well-documented events are ignored and dismissed as superstitious nonsense when it is quite clear that many of those who do pause for thought are as able to tie their shoelaces as the next man.

        One thing’s for sure. The Infinite seems biggish. . . and smallish.

      • Kevin Vail

        Perhaps we need a new way to communicate. Disqus flakes out on me too. Yesterday I got like 10 emails “a new comment has been posted”… except it was all your old comments from last week in individual emails, bah… and now I’m apparently subscribed to two very obnoxious discussions in which I have no interest but I commented once there days ago so I get 3 emails an hour about them

        You are welcome to write me directly at amedievalman at gmail dot com

        “At bottom the modern age has rejected all notion of the supernatural. Since the supernatural is not under the control of “naturals”, those who believe, do have a problem. . . but even when good, honest men have many witnesses, the sceptic still finds ways to explain it all away. Since ALL often amounts to a large number of oddities it becomes . . . wearisome. The fact is, EVEN ONE EXCEPTION to the materialist’s worldview brings down their house of cards. Personally I have had many striking experiences which I no longer use to try to convince the unbeliever to “entertain a thought” No matter how unusual the events it is all dismissed as “mere coincidence” or a matter of “synchronicity”. . . as if that explains anything!
        Apart from my own experience, many other well-documented events are ignored and dismissed as superstitious nonsense when it is quite clear that many of those who do pause for thought are as able to tie their shoelaces as the next man.
        One thing’s for sure. The Infinite seems biggish. . . and smallish.”

        A lot to unpack and little time before I head home, but there’s always the evening too.
        First thought I had is it doesn’t help the case when there is so much nonsense that passes as “supernatural” out there. Virgin Mary on toast, ghost hunters international, predicting the end of the world from hidden bible codes… the list of just REALLY stupid things people believe is endless. I been watching Season 4 of True Blood, good show, pretty adult granted but I’m just noticing just how incredibly stupid some of the characters are made out to be. There’s this story line where this couple thinks their baby is a reincarnated serial killer so they call this pastor and he comes over with wife and jump around and wave incense sticks in the corner (the devils hide in the corners) and stuff like that and they are like, “ya, this makes sense”…. Now granted, Hollywood has made a great sport out of making Christians look stupid, but it would be nice if there were not so many that really do act like that. We have to be careful not the jump into the God of the gaps argument. The atheists justly make us look ridiculous, because we are being ridiculous.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I shall establish the link at medievalman right now. . . though not too much to say. A bit of synchronicity, since I referred to “medieval” in my last post before reading this, your most recent!

      • Kevin Vail

        Good morning to you.
        So you said, “Away from the city one can think better about God’s Creation and remember that above that cloudy sky or that blue sky the stars are beyond all counting.
        So many don’t even seem to have a sense that they are lost. It is sad to see so few innocent eyes even in the very young, and this is not a matter of mere education for I have known many illiterate people whose minds were very clear, and it showed in their ways and their eyes.”
        Well written BTW, you have some sparkling prose. If you write a book I will read it.

        So I saw in this some of what Nietzsche saw and called “last men”. I suppose we could concern ourselves with how Nietzsche has been used and abused by his so-called friends and even his family, IMO Elizabeth Forester-Nietzsche is the one that turned him into a proto-Nazi with her editing and commentary.

        I’d rather concern myself with his words, not his reputation, deserved or undeserved. As a psychologist he has few equals. One of the oddest pairs in the history of philosophy is Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. They were contemporaries but don’t appear to have ever read each other or interacted. In part, because Kierkegaard wrote in Danish which limited the spread of his ideas greatly.
        In any case, they diagnose the same problem in almost the same terms so that whether it came from the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard or the atheist variety of Nietzsche, the problem addressed was the death of Christianity as lived experience.
        We have the same problem today. Many Christians, no Christ to be found. And all that Christianity midwifed is swept away by a dissipation of soul that can no longer even remember what reality looks like.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Thank you Kevin for your kind words. Actually I read your responses very attentively. You are a powerful writer. I was hesitant with you at first but now see that you are not “a parrot” on a mission. Then, I was still hesitant, in case you were a lion on the prowl!
        I must admit, apart from a skim read of Nietzsche many years ago, and a rapid glance at Kierkegaard, my learning in these matters is a very thin veneer. I am appalled at my ignorance. Too much of my world view is built up on half-remembered asides and barely comprehended paragraphs.

        The connection between Darwinism and Supermanism etc. which is now even more exacerbated by a preening scientism, is what concerns me. . . and I would guess, yourself and others.
        Benedict XVI certainly laid it out for the Church. . . the problem today is not lack of belief in Jesus Christ , but belief in God. Who needs God when they have an Apple phone,Silicon Valley, Google and silicone breasts etc?

        The misery of modern man. . . especially the female side of it. . . is the crumbling part of the atheists’ otherwise firm foundations. For young males the lack of adventure and meaning leads to hedonism, drugs or crime and, as far as I can see, childlessness, the clock and,mirror do hell’s job for the female.

        Nietzsche wrote it: we live it and witness it. But I also witness other things: it becomes irrational to disregard the irrational.

      • Kevin Vail

        “I must admit, apart from a skim read of Nietzsche many years ago, and a rapid glance at Kierkegaard, my learning in these matters is a very thin veneer….The connection between Darwinism and Supermanism etc. which is now even more exacerbated by a preening scientism, is what concerns me. . . and I would guess, yourself and others.”

        That’s OK, the wise man knows he doesn’t know. Ignorance is repairable.
        In my mind, Darwinism is really a scientific theory, it rises or falls with the evidence, as it should. When it’s turned into an a priori structure of all reality, it’s a problem. A scientist makes a terrible priest.

        I’m not sure what “supermanism” might be, I started to write that I could explain what Nietzsche meant by ubermensch but on further reflection I don’t think I can, certainly not quickly or easily. That’ll have to be a book. I wrote my MA thesis on Nietzsche, my “Young Man Nietzsche” as my advisor called it [“Young Man Luther” was a book by famous psychoanalyst Erik Erikson on Martin Luther]. I considered doing just that for a time, but life intervened and these days that project has little appeal for me. You can read it, if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, I won’t be offended. The few papers I’ve published on scribd are pretty old at this point, certainly my ideas have developed since I left grad school. You can find them at http://www.scribd.com/kjvail
        I’d be more interested in the line of thought in Synchronicity and Scholasticism, a paper I wrote for a class called Freud, Jung and Religion. It’s a far more innovative thesis. But you know, lots of people have the pretension they are writing a book.

        Both are devastatingly insightful, but I find Kierkegaard more interesting. Or at least his method is. He wrote all these books under different pseudonyms. They are different perspectives with different styles. His whole writing career is a Socratic dialogue writ large and like Plato’s dialogues, it can be a challenge to try and figure out which voice is HIS. Maybe none of them. He did write some books under his own name, those are more theological than philosophical. It’s really pretty remarkable, it’s hard enough for a writer to find his own voice, Kierkegaard found he had several and none of them are bad writers.
        His purpose, as stated, was “to smuggle Christianity back into Christendom”, so he chose “indirect” communication. He’s a very bizarre character. If you were inclined to do so, I’d recommend “Fear & Trembling” and “The Sickness Unto Death” as good starting points for reading him.

        “Who needs God when they have an Apple phone,Silicon Valley, Google and silicone breasts etc?”
        You’d like this then,
        “If I were a physician, and if I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.” (Kierkegaard, c 1840)
        If he could write that in 1840’ish we can only imagine what he would think of today.

        “The misery of modern man. . . especially the female side of it. . . is the crumbling part of the atheists’ otherwise firm foundations. For young males the lack of adventure and meaning leads to hedonism, drugs or crime and, as far as I can see, childlessness, the clock and,mirror do hell’s job for the female.”

        Yup. Just to keep bouncing off them, this was kinda Nietzsche’s point. He considered “God is dead” to just be a fact he was acknowledging. What was meant is God no longer mattered to people, the symbols of Christianity were meaningless and he was very concerned about the nihilism that would follow. He did think that human beings could and should “create their own values”, in that sense to become “gods” [bouncing off Genesis 3 there]. He was wrong about that. For all his talk about the body, he didn’t take it seriously enough. Values have a biological floor to them, their ultimate source is a need adapt to our environment in order to survive. The natural law is the law that applies within human dominance hierarchies. It really is GOOD to tell the truth, respect tradition, avoid needless violence, respect other peoples’ property and the natural environment, to avoid adultery, jealousy, envy and greed and all the rest. When the individual ignores the natural law the dominance hierarchy smites him , when large numbers of people ignore and violate the natural law, the dominance heararchy collapses and that’s chaos. War of all against all where life is nasty, brutish and short.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        I have taken note of your site Kevin and I shall certainly give it a try. It may be well beyond my competence (and energy levels) but what you have to say is very powerful. You are obviously searching and have a hospitable mind.

        Books and the written word have been so important in our culture. Marshall McCluhan (a difficult thinker) set a few cats among the pigeons. That is changing, and we are like the man who couldn’t see the forest for the tree that was in the way.
        I often perform foolish calculations which amuse me.e.g. If a man was to read one good book a day for 60 years (365×60) that would be 21,900 books.

        Q.a) How many good books remained to be read?
        b) How much of what he read did he i) understand ii) retain?

        Through my parents, I have one foot in the pre-medieval and medieval worlds and one in the 21st century. Oral culture is interesting.
        Those of the past had an idea of the supernatural as a certainty, a foundation. The largely non-literate of today seem to have no foundation at all. . . but fashion interests them. And, having caught their attention, fashion enslaves them and enriches those who have no love for them.

      • Kevin Vail

        This is interesting. I recently started an old book of mine. I read it before but you cannot really ever read the same book twice, the dialectic advances.
        After Writing: the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy. It’s a reading together of the Missal for the Tridentine Rite and the Phaedrus, a platonic dialogue. Anyway, her first discussion is on the setting of the dialogue. Socrates leaves the city to discuss on the river bank. What this means and the like. And here you are talking about not being able to see beauty in the city which very much follows her discussion of this text. Perhaps I have sold you short and you know the Phaedrus? No matter, point stands.

      • Kevin Vail

        I can see my reply below in my disqus app but not on the website, do you see the post? Odd

      • Kevin Vail

        I wrote a good reply, I thought it posted but I can’t find it now. Bother…

      • R.Owen Tynge

        We now see the limitations of artificial intelligence! Disqus is delivering late ,or twice, or three times over. . . maybe sometimes not at all? And, to top it off, no sense of humour in its many shades and tones.
        With Jesus everything that really mattered was face to face, there and then. He wrote no books.

      • Kevin Vail

        You are so fun.

        Epistemology! Yea, I like epistemology.
        Somewhere, in another comment you said something to the effect “how do you know you know?” Sound familiar? Hope so or my memory is poorer than I realize.
        Let’s put it together with this and commence to philosophize.
        First query.
        Is complete knowledge of phenomena possible?
        I answer than, no, complete knowledge is not possible. Every being is interdependently connected with every other being in space and time, only an infinite intellect could apprehend all connections and truly “know” the being. Therefore, complete knowledge of phenomena is not possible for the finite intellect.

        Second query
        Given complete knowledge of phenomena is not possible for the finite intellect and that man is a being that acts towards a known and chosen end [ http://newadvent.com/summa/2001.htmSumma Theologia II-I, Q 1, ad 1.
        Then how is action possible for the finite intellect?
        I answer that, Man must act from incomplete, but true knowledge. While it is true a finite intellect cannot completely understand a being it does not follow that the finite knowledge possessed is ipso facto false.

        Man is an animal that moves, we’re not plants or sea sponges, waiting for the environment to come to us. We must move in our environment or we die. Therefore the test of belief is the test of action. I can say whatever I like about what I believe, but what do I know of myself? We are not by any means transparent to ourselves. Our consciousness creates an illusion of unity but it is better to think of man as a loose collections of sub-personalities in constant dialectic with one another. If we were transparent to ourselves, the imperative to “know thyself” would be meaningless.
        So says the Bard,

        And thus the native hue of resolution
        Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
        And enterprises of great pith and moment
        With this regard their currents turn awry,
        And lose the name of action. (Hamlet, Act 3, Sc 1)

        And so say we all (Battlestar Galatica reference, sorry, couldn’t resist, I’m a mega-nerd what can I say)

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Disqus sent this to me just now. It is very good and much better than when I first read it, for now I do not see you as an egotist but a searcher. In the meantime my mind has been changed. . . or rather, my heart.
        An academic once said to me: “You do realise that most people use thinking to suppress thought, don’t you?”
        But he had walked on before I’d time to gather my wits.

        “It happens,”

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Jesus told the rich man (who was a model citizen) to become perfect and to give up everything and follow him. You emphasize “successful”. I suspect that this is the fly in your ointment. The adventure begins when we give up everything for Christ, and death begins when we cling to the thing.

      • Kevin Vail

        OK. So let’s go this way.
        The post-modernists are right, there are an infinite number of ways to interpret reality because there are an infinite number of facts but they are wrong because there are not an infinite number of SUCCESSFUL ways to interpret reality. We’re actually quite restrained by the structures of empirical reality; the needs of human beings such as food, water, sex and play, and negotiations with other people.
        We can’t interpret reality in a way that gets us killed or in a way that makes no sense in the environment or in a way that will cause other human beings to want to kill us. So we have spent a couple billion years developing a brain that works within those restrictions.
        Humans are social creatures, that’s our natural environment and all social creatures, that we know of, exist in dominance hierarchies. We have spent a couple million years watching and learning from others who successfully negotiated the dominance hierarchy then telling stories about those people. Call them heroes. Over time I had a story, you had a story, Bob had a story and because we have the ability to abstract behavior out of those stories we, intergenerationally, wrote a meta-story about the greatest hero. It didn’t matter that such a concrete individual didn’t actually exist, the the story is the thing. Time marches on, families become tribes which become nations which become empires. We continued to build our meta-stories, both of good and bad behaviors in the world.
        Finally about 7000 years ago (a miniscule portion of human existence on earth) some genius in Mesopotamia said, “hey, if we agree that this squiggly line means “fish” and we make some other squiggly lines for other words and we put them on this clay tablet then I don’t have to remember all these stories all the time!” Pretty damn ingenious actually.
        At the same time, again in Mesopotamia, we were figuring out how to get all these squabbling tribes to live together so we could be safer from predators and other people and grow more food so we invented government. Now we have the problem of the dominance hierarchy writ large.
        We had already been telling stories about those funny lights in the sky and the patterns we saw that changed in a predictable way, we had made pictures in the sky about the stories we told, then someone hit on the idea that maybe those stories and the world we were living in had a relationships, so we created “cosmological empires” (Erik Voegelin’s term) where human societies are mirror images of the stories we told about what we were now calling “gods”. Another stroke of genius, and it worked pretty well. You find this model, empirically, all over the world, whether it spread by diffusion or parallel development we don’t know.
        Enter the Jews. An ethnically related, slave class in one of the oldest civilization the world has ever seen (at the presumed time of the Exodus the great pyramid was 1300 years old, by contrast the oldest nation in Europe is probably France which they like to date to Charlemagne in 800 AD, a scant 1200 years ago) and it was just absolutely static. Cosmological empires don’t have history exactly, not like we think of, they didn’t think in those categories and they don’t change unless you conquer them and exchange your culture for theirs, Egypt was not conquered by anyone until Julius Caesar in about 50 BC. (The Hyskos did briefly during the old kingdom but they left and everything resumed as it was). So the Jews, got this idea that they were the Chosen People of God. They probably integrated their tribal religion of Yawehism with the Akhenaten theology which was a pseudo-monotheism that was brought in by a Pharaoh around this time.
        Moses, whoever he was, became the leader of a slave revolt and they were chased out of Egypt. Israel is the first society we know of that broke from the cosmological symbolism of the ancient world into a historical symbolism, probably the break is connected to being a people without a land and the genius of Moses to forge this identity of the people of Yahweh who had a mission and a destiny to inherit a land. We see similar breaks in the cosmological form around 500 BC in Greece, China, Mexico and India so it’s not a unique event, it just seems to have happened among the Jews first as far as we can tell.
        So that’s the story as far as we can tell. During all this time, we were telling stories and writing them down and changing them to reflect current realities and incorporating other people’s stories into ours, you get the idea.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Such musings are always interesting, except for one thing. No other story quite like the Four Gospels exists anywhere upon this earth. No previous “messiahs” had gone to the poor and unlearned (who really were nobodies in those days. . . mere chattels) and given them such hope and dignity. Quite a message.
        Now we are so prosperous (and have such endless hope in the learned) that we don’t need such stuff. Not only that but we demand a god who’ll dance like a puppet for us. Not finding such a god. . . we shrug and say He does not exist. Not only that, but in the deaths (and existent tombs) we have the evidence that something very strange and marvellous occurred. This wasn’t a few clever guys concocting a tale so that the confection would continue for 20 centuries. But that’s what you seem to be claiming.

      • Kevin Vail

        First assertion is just wrong, there are lots of stories just like it. Some so similar if you changed the names and places you’d have trouble telling the difference. The story of Jesus is archetypal. Some literary critics might say there is no other story than creation, fall, redemption, consummation. Keep those things in mind and just watch or read any dramatic story you’ll see the structure. The monomyth is everywhere in human history. Probably because it encapsulates how to successfully live in the world. Campbell popular books on “The Hero’s Journey” and “The Hero with a 1000 Faces” made some of them better known but most are very obscure to most people. Don’t confuse the details of the story with structure.

        Your second assertion may be true insofar as most stories and history have to do with the powerful not with the powerless. Though it’s certainly debatable whether Christianity has worked out that well for the powerless historically but I have no problem conceding the point

        It would seem to me that reducing a God that created the universe as we know it today to a human being in a backwater of the Roman Empire on this planet is the very essence of “a god who’ll dance like a puppet for us”, pure hubris I call it. Human beings are just not that special

        Finally, that’s not the process of how these stories getting written. It’s not “a few clever guys”, it’s entire cultures over vast lengths of time and the archetypal structure has taken millions of years to grow in a brain adapted to the human dominance hierarchy

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Well, that’s the picture that appeals to you but I need to observe you over a period of time to see why that might be so!
        Do point out to me another case in religion or myth where four distinct books exist and record the same general events but through different eyes and from a variety of perspectives.
        The writings of the Church Fathers suggest that a general agreement was reached very early 1800 years ago. . . and church history is actually very detailed.

      • Kevin Vail

        You stretch my intellectual muscles, good! Biblical criticism it is

        So, there are not four accounts, really. There are two.
        Three of the gospels are dependent on one, Mark. I used to have this book in seminary, it laid out the synoptic gospels by pericope, graphically. It’s got to be around my house somewhere, anyways. It lays them out side by side so you can see the connections. They had different emphases and audiences. Mark was aimed at Roman Christians living under persecution so most of the book is the passion narrative (8 out of 16 chapters if I remember right). Matthew adds materials from the OT, intent on showing how the events relate to prophecy and was aimed at Jews in Palestine and Luke was a gentile convert making a historical account Heredotus style but they are obviously from the same original set of traditions. John is the odd one, it seems to be from a different set of traditions. The number is not accidental, its based on the Jewish law that nothing could be proved except on the testimony of at least 2 witnesses.

        The second point is true as far as it goes. There was fairly broad agreement early but some books were debated until 390 when the canon was set. Other “gospels” are kind of silly. I find it entertaining when Time mag or something comes out with “a new gospel found!” and it’s the gospel of Thomas, a well known gnostic document from the 3rd century AD that was rejected but it has almost nothing to do with the rest of the texts. These clowns really know nothing.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Disqus is playing up badly and so many replies have been “disappeared” I feel tired. There is of course so much to say. . . an infinity of words which is why the good and wise retreat into silence and stillness. We hope for the last word, but . . .
        The last verse in John says it all.
        By the way, what did Jesus write in the dust which the wind blew away?

      • Kevin Vail

        Who knows lol
        Kewl, thanks for the discussion. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        God bless us all.

      • Kevin Vail

        Gotta go to lunch, I’ll mull this over and get back to ya in an hour

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Fine 🙂

      • Kevin Vail

        No, I don’t know that one.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        St Kevin, your namesake, was the first Abbot.

      • Kevin Vail

        O ya, right. I have an EO friend that sends me birth day greetings every year on that saint’s day. It slipped my mind, not one of the big saints.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        You have drawn a veil over it.
        Glendalough is in Co. Wicklow , Ireland.
        Throughout Ireland there are thousands of raths and burial mounds. They are often indicated by a sole remaining hawthorn tree which, before our zombie-culture, were called fairy trees/fairy mounds. Whatever, the folk respect and memory remained tangible over 5000 or so years. Relics matter.

      • Kevin Vail

        Yes they do, I have no quarrel with that for reasons already stated.
        I object to the error of misplaced concreteness that we must believe these stories are about empirical history. Christians actually fall into the same materialist trap when they do that. The fathers of the church and the medievals knew better with their four fold reading of scripture and other texts. It was the protestants that elevated “the literal” to the primary and now pretty much only sense of reading scripture. They lacked imagination and fell into the materialism of the times, many today continue in that, missing the point of the stories altogether.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        Yet somehow rush to think “symbolically” when reading “This is my body!”

      • Kevin Vail

        Well, it is a symbol. We can take the wafer down to the lab and I guarantee it’s unleavened bread, not human flesh. The council of Trent overlaid this materialist dogma of transubstantiation. Calvin and Zwingli here were more reasonable in this case

      • R.Owen Tynge

        You seem to require a god whom your mind can encompass and dissect? Stones cannot fall from the sky?
        Pope Benedict wisely observed: “modern man has not just lost all belief in Jesus, but belief in God. He is therefore forced to have faith in man.”

      • Kevin Vail

        I have a great appreciation for the vastness and timelessness of the universe. 90 billion light years in diameter (the observable universe) and 14 billion years old.
        Assuming there is some metaphysical being behind it all, it would be so far from anything we could understand it might as well not exist because we couldn’t recognize it if it did.

      • R.Owen Tynge

        You have just burst through the Jewish and Muslim objections to Christianity. Christianity says (think Nietzsche) that we must become , not gods, but Godlike. This God is Jesus, whose humility is a key characteristic. We are acquainted with Jesus, but how many really know Him?
        I have a favourite tease for the learned.

        Imagine there is a straight road between you and Alpha centauri (approx.4.25 light years distant). Now(entertain the thought) imagine you are on a motorbike travelling at 100mph towards it. How long would it take you to arrive.
        I then hand them a pencil and paper and suggest they calculate it there and then . . . and observe.

      • Kevin Vail

        Bah, ya i have other things to do than that! I think it would take something longer than the current age of the universe. But I don’t understand the connection with the first statement about Jewish and Islamic objections

  • MRL123

    How can you look at this objectively when so many use this religion as a religion of death and destruction? It is not just a few people. It is thousands if not hundreds of thousands from all parts of the world. Their own supposedly moderate majority cannot get them to change their ways with what they call “real Islam”, but they are both quoting the same book. What are we to do?

  • Tim

    It is a major point of frustration when I read the catechism and it states “841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” How is this to be interpreted? They do not adore the “one merciful God.” They adore a god of anger who is tempermental like a child, filled with wrath and without mercy. The problem with the Church and Christians in general is a lack of fundamental understanding of Islam. As the article states, Islam denies the divinity of Christ and misunderstands the trinity to be Mary, God and Christ and believes Christians believe in three gods not one. Mohammed was a terrorist warlord who, like every other false prophet, promised fleshly rewards to those who followed his false religion. Yes we need to evangelize muslims. Sadly the average Catholic does not understand his/her own faith much less other faiths. Better catechesis is must!

  • Tim W

    I’m glad to have learned of Father Samir’s book, and even happier to see it’s available for free through our parish’s Formed app. As it comes highly recommended, I’ll read it soon.

    And thank you for commemorating the Regensburg Address. I re-read it every so often, as I find Pope Benedict’s lecture to be rich.

    God bless you!

  • Vincent Torley

    Hi Dr. Staudt,

    Thanks for an interesting article. By the way, “tenants” in line 3 should be “tenets.”

  • Daninkansas

    Dude, pretty good start, very good start, with stating the “problem”, that allah can’t be trusted to keep his side of the deal, that muslims have a really funky concept of god as blind will (see Bernard Lewis). So where are we going with this? I mean, if metaphysics matters, that’s a deal breaker. So on essentials, we have everythng not in common. How modern.

  • gss

    Great. Something positive about inter-religious relationships. How about something directly from Fr. Samir Khalil?

  • Tony

    Compare the following three… traditional Christians, muslims and modern anglosphere society. Christians and muslims have far more in common than not when compared to the third. Yes muslims can be a bit rough around the edges, but their life fundamentals in things such as the family are much more in line with us than the pro-gay, gender switching, aborted, unbridled capitalist, pet loving, parent hating, male-subjucated, peverted anglosphere. This is moreso when taken from the perspective of old world values.

    There are many examples of Christians and muslims living side by side successfully. Today, its the libertarian lid on multiculturism that is the problem. It seeks to cancel out all culture. Its not the muslims doing it.

    Muslims share the same view as Christians on many social issues, such as gay marriage, abortion, urban crime, drugs, etc. We should be allies, not enemies.

    • Dave Snyder

      Tony, Your point on our similarities vis-a-vis the secular world are well taken. Two things however. Muslims who practice the religion as it is taught today believe that the Qur’an was written by God (Allah) in heaven, where it still phyically resides and was dictated word for word to Muhammed. So, the Jihad Surah’s (chapters) in the Qur’an which in some places authorize killing to advance Islam must be accepted by ALL practicing Muslims not by a minority.

      The second thing however is that Muslims consider Mary – the mother of Jesus (her title thoughout the Qur’an) the most holy women who ever lived (some say one of four) and they honor her even on her Catholic feast days. In fact, the most recent mosque in Syria was named after Mary the mother of Jesus. She even has her own Surah in the Qur’an and the only women refered to without geniology. This anomoly is of great wonder to many theologians.

      There are some very holy followers of Islam. When one of the see’ers in Medjugorje asked Our Lady about Islam (they were at war with them at the time), She said, the most holy women in their town in the eyes of her Son was a muslim women.

      My theory is Our Lady will bring Islam to her son at or near the end times.

      • Tony

        Haven’t heard that one re Medugorje. Mind you, I’m a Croat.

      • Docent

        How does Islam really respect Mary when it simultaneously rejects the claims of the divinity of her Son? Is Mary okay with this? Her whole life is one of leading people to her divine Son, so she is decidedly not respected by Islam that basically calls her a liar.

        How does Islam really respect Mary when it denies that her son Christ was crucified and rose again from the dead? Who was she worshipping and witnessing to at the foot of the Cross according to Muslims? Answer: an imposter. Once again she is most decidedly not respected by Islam by virtually calling her a fool for what she did.

        How does Islam really respect Mary by referring to her only as the mother of Jesus (not the mother of God) that Islam declares to be a fine Muslim who will return at the end of the world to declare that Mary and all other Christians were duped into believing that Jesus is the son of God? Is Mary okay with this attitude toward her? Of course not, because she is a lover of the truth, not heresies even if they falsely “honor” her by making her into something she most decidedly is not.

        To be sure, pretending that Mary is also a Muslim and the mother of another fine Muslim not as great as the false prophet known as Muhammad is not respecting nor honoring her in all things that really matter, and naming a mosque after her is a most serious insult, especially in light of the heresies taught in the mosque. It’s kinda like Satan naming a corner of hell after Mary, and you believe it’s an honor.

        Regarding the Medjugorge reference, this is yet more evidence to cast much of it in serious doubt, and it adds more weight to why the Church will not approve of the so-called “visions” by the so-called “seers” whose kool-aid you apparently have enjoyed.

      • Dave Snyder

        Docent, you are preaching to the choir. Don’t shoot the messenger. I said this anomily is a mystery to Theologians. But, believe me it is true. Why? I don’t know; but, like I said, I think Our Blessed Mother will eventually bring Islam to her son. Maybe that’s God’s plan. Who knows. For sure I don’t.

        To make your point, there is an interesting quote in the Surah on Mary where it describes the incarnation (very similar to Lukes version) when Mary becomes pregnant by the willl of God and no man. Then Mohammed adds : “It is not for God to take a child.” Clearly, he was denying Jesus as the Son of God – thus two parts of the Trinity which he denies vehemantly elsware while at the same time accepting God made her pregnant. He explains this by saying God can do anything.

        So, you see, we have a conflict. There are many in the Qur’an. Mohammed has copied the description of the incarnation from scripture and then denies the divinity of Jesus. IMO, the reason is because he was catachised originally by an Arian Christian (the cousin of his first wife) who as you know do not believe in the divinity of Christ — while at the same time acknoledge Jesus’ many miracles even adding a few during his childhood. They even state in a Hadith statement that Jesus will return at the end of time to judge mankind. Yet, he’s not divine. Wierd stuff but practicing Moslems believe what is written in the Qur’an is the word of God.

      • Docent

        Sorry, Dave, but the “mystery” is not an anomaly to sound theologians who understand the sheer nonsense that is spewed throughout the Quran. It is also not a mystery because you or others declare it to be so. It also doesn’t matter if there are some “nice” comments in the Quran, because the gist of it is horrific and loaded with heresies to boot that only a fool gives any credence to in any way.

        If Mary helps bring Islam to her Son, it won’t be through the Quran or the practice of Islam in any way, nor by dishonoring her in the ways I mention that you somehow believe are good things (like the major dishonor of naming a mosque after their version of what she is), or any other way than a complete and total rejection of Islam as the false cult that it is and always has been.

        Also keep firmly in mind that, according to Islam, Jesus will come back to judge mankind and in the process proclaim to all Christians that their Christianity was completely false and only Islam is the true faith. This is not weird stuff as you so characterize it. It’s flat out heresy and false teaching that you still want to accept as being part of the larger truth when it clearly isn’t, just because it includes Jesus coming back to judge. How He is to judge makes all the difference, and the Islamic approach is completely wrong; not weird.

        There is indeed no path to Christ through Mary by any teaching of Islam because even some teaching that appears to treat Mary with some respect ultimately abuses her own faith and role in salvation history. Again, this is not weird; it’s simply bogus teaching that permeates all of Islam.

        Islam is a seriously false heresy that must be engaged on that basis alone; not minimized by pointing to some things you classify as “weird” instead of properly classifying them as flat out wrong and hostile to the truth.

  • Docent

    Dialogue with Islam? This is like dialoguing with Satan, the father of lies. Islam qua Islam teaches that deception in the cause of Islam is a legitimate practice, so the notion of pursuing an objective truth is not possible with Islam or its adherents. Once we finally woke up, what kind of dialogue did we have with Hitler, a 20th century Muhammad in many ways? Could we have sought some common ground on gassing Jews, perhaps only on the weekends?

    Dialogue in general is frequently just an exercise in Hegelian relativism wherein objective truth is all too often required to take a back seat to such brilliant “virtues” as tolerance for one form of evil or another. It never moves to more traditional or natural law values as has been illustrated regarding many issues (name one that has gone toward more traditional morality instead of toward progressive nonsense…all in the name of “dialogue” that only goes one way). Not too long ago I was told by a so-called Catholic educator that I was lacking Christian tolerance because I did not want to dialogue for the express purpose of trying to find some common ground regarding direct abortion on demand.

    If you love objective truth, many things should never be open to any kind of dialogue that attacks objective truth, and Islam is one of those things. It’s irrational and based in large part on disrespecting the basic human rights of all people. It is not worthy of any kind of dialogue that refuses to acknowledge the reality of what it is.

    • TruthWFree

      Good statement. I have been studying Islam since 9/11/2001 and have come to the conclusion that Islam (Quran) was revealed to Muhammad by Satan. Nothing else makes any sense. And to have this Bergoglio/Francis wanting to reach out to Islam is diabolical in my opinion. One does not reach out to Satan’s religion…which is a recipe for eternal fighting among mankind.

      • Docent

        Thanks, TWF. There is actually some serious scholarship that has been around for a while but now receiving a little bit more notice, and this pertains to the serious question of whether or not Muhammad actually existed or was a construct based on a “corporate Muhammad” that was produced a few hundred years after his alleged death in 632 and further embellished beyond that time as well.

        Get a copy of Robert Spencer’s “Did Muhammad Exist?” and also watch the following YouTube video by Jay Smith (a committed Evangelical who is not very friendly toward Catholicism, but his work on Islam and examining its true origins is superb):


  • opinionated1945

    There is a war of ideas between Islam and secularism on the one hand, and Christianity on the other.

    To quote William Kirkpatrick’s book, “Christianity, Islam and Atheism”: “There are many parallels between the messianic faith of secular leftists and the apocalyptic faith of Islam, but both stand on shaky ideological ground. Both can only survive in a climate of ignorance and repression; both engage in incessant propaganda; and both devote much energy to silencing opposing voices.”

    [Further:] “Christians should take courage from knowing that, in his war of ideas, all the best ideas are on their side. Although the secular left talks the language of human dignity and although Islam’s representatives have learned to do the same, neither provides any basis for human dignity or human rights.

    In Islam, human beings are nothing more than slaves of a capricious Allah. Likewise, secular systems don’t provide any reasons for believing in human rights and human dignity; they only assume them as a given.

    We tend to forget that these concepts are now a given because they were given to the world by Christians.”

    My conclusion? Consider the approach to dialogue by Coptic Christian Father, Zakaria Botros. You can see him on YouTube. For me, he demonstrates the courage and knowledge that results in successful dialogue with Muslims.

  • Howard

    Ugh. I hate the expression “dialogue with Islam” because it is no more meaningful than “dialogue with miasma theory”. Sure, just set the Bible and the Koran together on a shelf and let them chat quietly between themselves.

    Islam is an idea. It is a bad idea, because it contains key errors; the fact that it contains much that is good only makes it more dangerous. (Think about E. coli outbreaks. Almost none of the contaminated vegetables are the contaminant. No sane person would eat poo, but that apple or broccoli looks very healthy indeed, and most of it is. It is the goodness in the vegetable that makes people swallow a potentially fatal pathogen.) At any rate, Islam is an idea to be debated, considered, and ultimately accepted or rejected. Islam is a proposition in a dialogue between persons, not a person with whom we can dialogue and to whom we should be nice. Islam is not an immortal soul for whom Christ died.

    This really is the error of identity politics.

    • Dave Snyder

      Howard, I have been studing Islam for some time. The best book I have read so far is the Catholic philosopher, Robert R. Reilly’s book “The Closing of the Muslim Mind.” He show how the Islam’s whole theology changed dramatically and suddenly in the 12th century when they rejected philosopy (which Islam reintroduced to Europe) and reason for “Votontarism” which this article explains replaces reason with “Will” – in this case the will of Allah.
      Father Shalls book is also of great importance, but I didn’t really understand today’s Isalm until reading “Closing.”

      • Howard

        OK. Thanks for the book recommendation, but it really has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

        The article above states, “Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Church has called consistently for dialogue with Islam (see the Council’s declaration, Nostra Aetate).” My point is that a Christian can have dialogue with a Muslim, but Christianity cannot have dialogue with Islam. We’re off to a bad start when we habitually confuse ideas with persons.

      • Dave Snyder

        Absolutly agree. Ben XVI proved that when he thought he could dialog with Islam in an intellectual setting at Regensburg and they wanted to kill him. That’s why Reilly’s book is so enlightening. It explains when and how Islam abandoned the concept of reason for Volontarism – Allah’s will trumping man’s reason. Reminds me of one my my favorite movie quotes: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

      • Howard

        I’m really not trying to be a jerk here, but when you say, “Absolutely agree” — with what are you agreeing? And then, “Ben XVI proved that …” — what is the antecedent for the pronoun “that”? I ask because you do not, in fact, seem to be agreeing with what I have said.

        You reiterate reasons why dialogue between Catholics and Muslims may be pointless, which it might often be. My point is that a Catholic man — let’s call him Peter — can have a discussion (whether profitable or not) with a Muslim man — let’s call him Mohammed, but Catholicism, as an abstract idea, cannot have a discussion with Islam, as an abstract idea, nor is it possible for Peter to have a discussion with “Islam”. This Mohammed is a person, whereas Islam is an idea dear to Mohammed.

        Of course, it might be argued that I am only nitpicking — like sayign that “the White House” never really says anything, being just a building. My answer to that is that no one is really confused by mentions of “the White House”, but in the case of “dialogue with Islam”, the sloppy language leads to sloppy thought. As Christians we must love Muslims, along with everyone else, but we have absolutely no obligation to love Islam.

      • Dave Snyder

        Like I said, “What we have here is failure to communicate. Peace bro.

      • 蔡雅惠

        Islam is thé paganisme with thé shadow of thé judeo-Christian monotheisme. Islam is thé religion of hagar, ismael mixed with idea of thé one god of Abraham. When a jew or a Christian apostize, hé become a muslim, a hagarien,who return back to thé egypt. The world will go back to thé paganisme before thé coming of thé christ.

      • I think the better evidence is that Islam is actually a developed Christian heresy.

        We really don’t know very much about very early Islam. Indeed, it can be debated when the tenants of Islam became that, unlike the tenants of Christianity, which we can show were in their Catholic form right from the onset of the Faith.

        Piecing it together, what the most likely scenario seems to be is that Mohammed was, at first, probably something on the order of an itinerant Gnostic Christian of some sort. We know that his first wife was Catholic and that, if I recall correctly, she had an uncle who was a Gnostic priest. There’s fairly good evidence that his eldest daughter may have also been Catholic. We know that some of his early Arabian tribal allies were also Catholic. He was likely something very loosely like like Rasputin, a religious man but not one that held orders of any kind.

        At some point he began, probably, to change his early religious views to accommodate his own needs and proclivities. He was not educated, but was intelligent. It’s always easier to excuse your needs and desires than to accommodate them to the Gospel, and so he began to sanction violence in order to rationalize it to that being necessary to the spread of his views, and he sanctioned polygamy (after the death of his first wife) to rationalize his attraction to women. As those rationalizations suited the violent male world of his audience, it helped spread the religion he developed, which is likely not the same Gnostic version of Christianity he originally probably preached.

      • 蔡雅惠

        St. John of Damascus’s Critique of Islam

        Webmaster note: The following passage is from Saint John’s monumental work, the Fount of Knowledge, part two entitled Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin. It is usually just cited as Heresies. The translator’s introduction points out that Fount of Knowledge is one of the most “important single works produced in the Greek patristic period,…offering as it does an extensive and lucid synthesis of the Greek theological science of the whole period. It is the first great Summa of theology to appear in either the East or the West.” Saint John (+ 749) is considered one of the great Fathers of the Church, and his writings hold a place of high honor in the Church. His critique of Islam, or “the heresy of the Ishmaelites,” is especially relevant for our times.

        There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: ‘Sara hath sent me away destitute.’ [99] These used to be idolaters and worshiped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabár, which means great. [100] And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, [101] devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

        He says that there is one God, creator of all things, who has neither been begotten nor has begotten. [102] He says that the Christ is the Word of God and His Spirit, but a creature and a servant, and that He was begotten, without seed, of Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron. [103] For, he says, the Word and God and the Spirit entered into Mary and she brought forth Jesus, who was a prophet and servant of God. And he says that the Jews wanted to crucify Him in violation of the law, and that they seized His shadow and crucified this. But the Christ Himself was not crucified, he says, nor did He die, for God out of His love for Him took Him to Himself into heaven. [104] And he says this, that when the Christ had ascended into heaven God asked Him: ‘O Jesus, didst thou say: “I am the Son of God and God”?’ And Jesus, he says, answered: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord. Thou knowest that I did not say this and that I did not scorn to be thy servant. But sinful men have written that I made this statement, and they have lied about me and have fallen into error.’ And God answered and said to Him: ‘I know that thou didst not say this word.” [105] There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God. But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases. ‘This,’ we say, ‘We know, but we are asking how the book came down to your prophet.’ Then they reply that the book came down to him while he was asleep. Then we jokingly say to them that, as long as he received the book in his sleep and did not actually sense the operation, then the popular adage applies to him (which runs: You’re spinning me dreams.) [106]

        When we ask again: ‘How is it that when he enjoined us in this book of yours not to do anything or receive anything without witnesses, you did not ask him: “First do you show us by witnesses that you are a prophet and that you have come from God, and show us just what Scriptures there are that testify about you”’—they are ashamed and remain silent. [Then we continue:] ‘Although you may not marry a wife without witnesses, or buy, or acquire property; although you neither receive an ass nor possess a beast of burden unwitnessed; and although you do possess both wives and property and asses and so on through witnesses, yet it is only your faith and your scriptures that you hold unsubstantiated by witnesses. For he who handed this down to you has no warranty from any source, nor is there anyone known who testified about him before he came. On the contrary, he received it while he was asleep.’

        Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God. We say to them in rejoinder: ‘The Prophets and the Scriptures have delivered this to us, and you, as you persistently maintain, accept the Prophets. So, if we wrongly declare Christ to be the Son of God, it is they who taught this and handed it on to us.’ But some of them say that it is by misinterpretation that we have represented the Prophets as saying such things, while others say that the Hebrews hated us and deceived us by writing in the name of the Prophets so that we might be lost. And again we say to them: ‘As long as you say that Christ is the Word of God and Spirit, why do you accuse us of being Hetaeriasts? For the word, and the spirit, is inseparable from that in which it naturally has existence. Therefore, if the Word of God is in God, then it is obvious that He is God. If, however, He is outside of God, then, according to you, God is without word and without spirit. Consequently, by avoiding the introduction of an associate with God you have mutilated Him. It would be far better for you to say that He has an associate than to mutilate Him, as if you were dealing with a stone or a piece of wood or some other inanimate object. Thus, you speak untruly when you call us Hetaeriasts; we retort by calling you Mutilators of God.’

        They furthermore accuse us of being idolaters, because we venerate the cross, which they abominate. And we answer them: ‘How is it, then, that you rub yourselves against a stone in your Ka’ba [107] and kiss and embrace it?’ Then some of them say that Abraham had relations with Agar upon it, but others say that he tied the camel to it, when he was going to sacrifice Isaac. And we answer them: ‘Since Scripture says that the mountain was wooded and had trees from which Abraham cut wood for the holocaust and laid it upon Isaac, [108] and then he left the asses behind with the two young men, why talk nonsense? For in that place neither is it thick with trees nor is there passage for asses.’ And they are embarrassed, but they still assert that the stone is Abraham’s. Then we say: ‘Let it be Abraham’s, as you so foolishly say. Then, just because Abraham had relations with a woman on it or tied a camel to it, you are not ashamed to kiss it, yet you blame us for venerating the cross of Christ by which the power of the demons and the deceit of the Devil was destroyed.’ This stone that they talk about is a head of that Aphrodite whom they used to worship and whom they called Khabár. Even to the present day, traces of the carving are visible on it to careful observers.

        As has been related, this Mohammed wrote many ridiculous books, to each one of which he set a title. For example, there is the book On Woman, [109] in which he plainly makes legal provision for taking four wives and, if it be possible, a thousand concubines—as many as one can maintain, besides the four wives. He also made it legal to put away whichever wife one might wish, and, should one so wish, to take to oneself another in the same way. Mohammed had a friend named Zeid. This man had a beautiful wife with whom Mohammed fell in love. Once, when they were sitting together, Mohammed said: ‘Oh, by the way, God has commanded me to take your wife.’ The other answered: ‘You are an apostle. Do as God has told you and take my wife.’ Rather—to tell the story over from the beginning—he said to him: ‘God has given me the command that you put away your wife.’ And he put her away. Then several days later: ‘Now,’ he said, ‘God has commanded me to take her.’ Then, after he had taken her and committed adultery with her, he made this law: ‘Let him who will put away his wife. And if, after having put her away, he should return to her, let another marry her. For it is not lawful to take her unless she have been married by another. Furthermore, if a brother puts away his wife, let his brother marry her, should he so wish.’ [110] In the same book he gives such precepts as this: ‘Work the land which God hath given thee and beautify it. And do this, and do it in such a manner” [111]—not to repeat all the obscene things that he did.

        Then there is the book of The Camel of God. [112] About this camel he says that there was a camel from God and that she drank the whole river and could not pass through two mountains, because there was not room enough. There were people in that place, he says, and they used to drink the water on one day, while the camel would drink it on the next. Moreover, by drinking the water she furnished them with nourishment, because she supplied them with milk instead of water. Then, because these men were evil, they rose up, he says, and killed the camel. However, she had an offspring, a little camel, which, he says, when the mother had been done away with, called upon God and God took it to Himself. Then we say to them: ‘Where did that camel come from?’ And they say that it was from God. Then we say: ‘Was there another camel coupled with this one?’ And they say: ‘No.’ ‘Then how,’ we say, ‘was it begotten? For we see that your camel is without father and without mother and without genealogy, and that the one that begot it suffered evil. Neither is it evident who bred her. And also, this little camel was taken up. So why did not your prophet, with whom, according to what you say, God spoke, find out about the camel—where it grazed, and who got milk by milking it? Or did she possibly, like her mother, meet with evil people and get destroyed? Or did she enter into paradise before you, so that you might have the river of milk that you so foolishly talk about? For you say that you have three rivers flowing in paradise—one of water, one of wine, and one of milk. If your forerunner the camel is outside of paradise, it is obvious that she has dried up from hunger and thirst, or that others have the benefit of her milk—and so your prophet is boasting idly of having conversed with God, because God did not reveal to him the mystery of the camel. But if she is in paradise, she is drinking water still, and you for lack of water will dry up in the midst of the paradise of delight. And if, there being no water, because the camel will have drunk it all up, you thirst for wine from the river of wine that is flowing by, you will become intoxicated from drinking pure wine and collapse under the influence of the strong drink and fall asleep. Then, suffering from a heavy head after sleeping and being sick from the wine, you will miss the pleasures of paradise. How, then, did it not enter into the mind of your prophet that this might happen to you in the paradise of delight? He never had any idea of what the camel is leading to now, yet you did not even ask him, when he held forth to you with his dreams on the subject of the three rivers. We plainly assure you that this wonderful camel of yours has preceded you into the souls of asses, where you, too, like beasts are destined to go. And there is the exterior darkness and everlasting punishment, roaring fire, sleepless worms, and hellish demons.’

        Again, in the book of The Table, Mohammed says that the Christ asked God for a table and that it was given Him. For God, he says, said to Him: ‘I have given to thee and thine an incorruptible table.’ [113]

        And again, in the book of The Heifer, [114] he says some other stupid and ridiculous things, which, because of their great number, I think must be passed over. He made it a law that they be circumcised and the women, too, and he ordered them not to keep the Sabbath and not to be baptized.

        And, while he ordered them to eat some of the things forbidden by the Law, he ordered them to abstain from others. He furthermore absolutely forbade the drinking of wine.

        99. Cf. Gen. 16.8. Sozomen also says that they were descended from Agar, but called themselves descendants of Sara to hide their servile origin (Ecclesiastical History 6.38, PG 67.1412AB).

        100. The Arabic kabirun means ‘great,’ whether in size or in dignity. Herodotus mentions the Arabian cult of the ‘Heavenly Aphrodite’ but says that the Arabs called her Alilat (Herodotus 1.131)

        101. This may be the Nestorian monk Bahira (George or Sergius) who met the boy Mohammed at Bostra in Syria and claimed to recognize in him the sign of a prophet.

        102. Koran, Sura 112.
        103. Sura 19; 4.169.

        104. Sura 4.156.

        105. Sura 5.Il6tf.

        106. The manuscripts do not have the adage, but Lequien suggests this one from Plato.

        107. The Ka’ba, called ‘The House of God,’ is supposed to have been built by Abraham with the help of Ismael. It occupies the most sacred spot in the Mosque of Mecca. Incorporated in its wall is the stone here referred to, the famous Black Stone, which is obviously a relic of the idolatry of the pre-Islam Arabs.

        108. Gen. 22.6.

        109. Koran, Sura 4.

        110. Cf. Sura 2225ff.

        111. Sura 2.223.

        112. Not in the Koran.

        113. Sura 5.114,115.

        114. Sura 2.

        From Writings, by St John of Damascus, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 37 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1958), pp. 153-160. Posted 26 March, 2006.

      • Howard

        Also a non-sequitur.

  • Johann du Toit

    The Regensburg address was probably the most courageous act of Pope Benedict’s papacy.

    • Tony

      Isn’t it on record that he didn’t expect the backlash? I don’t think he gave it that much thought.

      His greatest achievement was his trip to those teeth gnashers in the UK. The Holy Spirit descended and placated a people baying for blood. Look up the news headlines just before and just after his visit. The difference is astonishing.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    To learn about Islamic traditions in order to understand Islam is to enter a confusing, fractured, eternally contradictory world where violence always overrides The Word (Jesus) for the sake of power at all costs. It’s the blind worship of UN-freedom as the utopian, all-powerful remedy to all human ills, tragedies, injustices and sins long as they (Radical Islam and their admirers) can totally dictate the terms of that un-freedom. That’s why I agree with Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg as stated in this article: “He argued that Islam and the modern West hold a significant tenant in common: a voluntarism that puts will above reason”. BOTH!! Islam and the West share and ever-increasing, ever darker, dehumanizing, robotic, sadistic voluntarism. Those are shocking, absolutely truthful, genuinely prophetic revelation words. The world hates Absolute Truth about anything and the world brought Benedict XVI down.

    What this means is that under the appearances of “social justice” and millions of apparently different, historical, superficial details, a radical Islamist and a radical anti-Catholic social activist (overt or undercover, lay or clergy) are essentially the same, identical at the core. That’s why radical social activists admire violent radical Islam so much. I also fully agree with the concluding paragraph of this article which could have been the core of the message instead. While the suggested book is a great reading, rather than solve the ever more complicated Islamic puzzle, addressing the vicious anti-Faith, anti-Reason, anti-Truth activism within the Catholic Church will empower the Church and all of us against losing our Catholic Identity, the only divinely blessed Via Media: being both the authentic bridge for dialogue and the invincible weapon against total dissolution before Demonic Voluntarism under any self-righteous, “holy” disguise. Absolute Truth demands both if we ever care about all and their souls and not just “looking good”. True Catholic Identity and Truth is the New Holy Land under siege and we must win for the sake of all humankind.