more on the Pope’s statement

James White, over at Alpha and Omega, writes this excellent post on the furoré over Benedict XVI’s recent comments. This is well worth the read.

I think it would be useful for thoughtful folks–you know, folks who think before they open fire, burn, or go to war–to read what Benedict XVI actually said in his talk that has resulted in such outrageously inane and violent reactions from so many. Here is the talk. Here is the relevant portion:

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on– perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara– by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian.The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur’an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point– itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself– which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the Book and the infidels, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death….

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: “For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.” Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

Benedict XVI was accurately representing a historical encounter; he was accurately applying it to a truthful statement: that violence is fundamentally opposed to true religion. When that cannot be said, especially in an academic context, then truth has truly been silenced by brute force–the brute force of evil.Let’s be clear about this situation. The vast majority of hoodlams tossing firebombs at churches or burning things in the streets around the world haven’t a clue what the Pope said. Instead, corrupt religious leaders without the slightest concern for truth are using these ignorant crowds to increase their political capital, nothing less. Anything in the service of accomplishing their ultimate goal. I mean, if you will use road-side bombs, why not misrepresent the Pope? One cannot expect much in the way of fairness or rational thought from such folks.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. detroitfather

    This part had not caught my attention before:

    God is not pleased by blood

    I would say that needs some qualification, at the least.

    1. David Ould


      I’m not sure that I completely agree with the Pope’s argument. That one did catch my attention too.

      What’s interesting is that the Pope thinks that faith is something that, ultimately, is something that a man can work out for himself. That much came across when I was doing work on JP2’s encylicals Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor. His line was that the natural law (which a man can work out) is the same as God’s law which is, essentially, the gospel.

      The theology, of course, is nonsense but there is consistency. Ratzinger isn’t saying anything new.

  2. Anonymous

    more on the pope’s staement

    The comment ‘God is not pleased by blood’ was by the Emperor, not the pope. Considering that the Emperor was speaking of violence when he said it, I understand the meaning of the phrase used.


    1. h1s_songb1rd

      Re: more on the pope’s staement

      God isn’t pleased by violence. It’s the whole reason He wiped everything but the ark off the planet.

      1. Anonymous

        Re: more on the pope’s staement

        God isn’t pleased by violence. It’s the whole reason He wiped everything but the ark off the planet.

        Im not sure if this post was claiming that God is a hypocrite, or the commentor can’t read (the quote is ‘God isn’t pleased by blood’), or the commentor is suggesting that the pre-deluvian people were characterised by extreme violence. Im hoping for the latter.

        Hopefully no one would be deluded to think they had a right to judge a perfect Being, who with great patience with-held judgement from a people who offended God’s holiness, for longer than was due.


        1. h1s_songb1rd

          Re: more on the pope’s staement

          God doesn’t like violence. Period. Violence usually ends in bloodshed. Bloodshed, death. God doesn’t like death. The context of the speech was that no one should use violence to convert. The context of the speech was to quote someone who had pointed out the same thing years ago. The purpose was to admonish Islam, in my humble opinion.

          Admittedly, you’ve pulled out the last straw, today. I’m certain that God would also like it if brothers and sisters wouldn’t be so rude and impatient with each other — considering themselves better than someone because they didn’t happen to word something absolutely perfectly. You’ll never get perfection from me, so please be polite and ask for clarification or ignore my comments. Thanks.


          1. Anonymous

            Re: more on the pope’s staement

            I wonder where I said I was better than you?

            Comment ignored.


            1. h1s_songb1rd

              Re: more on the pope’s staement

              You basically called me stupid or deluded. (can’t read, deluded, judging God, etc.). Unless you think you’re just as stupid and/or deluded, which you had not conveyed, then you think you’re better than me. It’s a valid deduction. At the very least you could probably admit you were rude.

              Thanks for ignoring my comment. lol

  3. lhynard

    thanks for the post

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