Reason, Faith, and the Pursuit of Wisdom, by Phil Lawler

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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Aug 09, 2019

“However secularized a civilization may become,” writes Samuel Gregg in his excellent new book, “it can never entirely escape from the burden of its spiritual inheritance.” The civilization of the Western world is the product of a singularly fruitful marriage between faith and reason, between Jerusalem and Athens. Unfortunately that marriage is now on the rocks, and a final divorce would be catastrophic. Gregg is right; a civilization cannot escape its spiritual inheritance. But a civilization can die.

In his Regensburg Lecture in September 2006—an address which should be recognized among the most important public statements of our era—Pope Benedict XVI explained how the partnership between faith and reason is endangered: by a form of faith that rejects reason on one hand and a type of reason that rejects faith on the other. In Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization, Gregg fleshes out that argument and its implications—implications that are critical to our future.

In the Regensburg Lecture, as in virtually all of this work, Pope Benedict handled difficult topics with a disarmingly simple style, making his argument easy to grasp. Sadly, the speech was poorly covered by the mass media, which focused almost exclusively on the angry reaction from militant Muslims—who, also sadly, proved the Pontiff’s point, attempting to stifle a reasoned and respectful critique by irrational violence. That unbalanced reaction drew attention away from the Pope’s trenchant criticism of the sterile, materialistic rationalism that has come to dominant the world once known as Christendom. ….