May 3, 2008
Pope Benedict, Logos, Chaos, and Freedom
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:His truth is marching on.--"Battle Hymn of the Republic" Union Army Anthem, 1861
Speaking at the White House, Pope Benedict XVI April 16 embraced America's "quest for freedom...." Benedict explained:
"Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience - almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad."
April 16 was Pope Benedict's 81st birthday. The White House greeting, carefully scripted by US and Vatican officials, included the Army Chorus' moving rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- anthem of an earlier war for freedom which has been looked to by President Bush and administration officials. The Pope received a 21-gun salute. The Marine Band performed the National Anthem of the Vatican, and the Star Spangled Banner.
Benedict's visit to America came just weeks after his Easter Eve baptism of Magdi Allam, Italy's most prominent Muslim. Allam's public baptism itself came just ten days after the body of Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, was found in a shallow grave after being kidnapped by al-Qaeda February 29. It was on the agenda in a private meeting with President Bush: Islamist attacks on Iraqi Christians.
At the United Nations four days later, Benedict pointed out: "...it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage." Underlining his point, Pope Benedict then traveled to Ground Zero where he renewed his call for conversion of Muslims with this prayer:
"Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred."
Benedict's message resonated with President Bush's White House greeting:
"We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.
"Here in America, you'll find a nation that is fully modern, yet guided by ancient and eternal truths. The United States is the most innovative, creative and dynamic country on earth -- it is also among the most religious. In our nation, faith and reason coexist in harmony. This is one of our country's greatest strengths, and one of the reasons that our land remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions across the world.
"... In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that ‘God is love.' And embracing this love is the surest way to save men from ‘falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism.'"
The coexistence of faith and reason is a theme going back to the earliest development of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is also the theme of Benedict's September 12, 2006 Regensburg speech in which he said:
"Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: ‘In the beginning was the Logos.' ...Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist."
In the opening verses of Genesis, God literally speaks the world into existence. (God said, let there be ....) God acts through words. In the Judeo-Christian tradition God is limited by Reason, Truth and the law of non-contradiction.
Islam teaches that Allah is transcendental -- not bound by anything. The followers of Allah imitate their deity. Left without the use of reason, many live in conditions little changed from centuries past. As Benedict explained at Regensburg:
"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion (to Islam) is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: ‘For the emperor (Manuel II Paleologos), 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."
The Bible written in the original Greek identifies ‘Logos' as the object of worship. But when Logos is translated this is obscured.
Without translation John 1:1-3 would read:
"When all things began, Logos already was. Logos dwelt with God, and what God was, Logos was. Logos, then was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him."
For instance, John 1:1-3, New English Version, translates Logos as "Word":
"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him."
But Logos has a broader meaning than "Word". For instance, retranslate Logos as "Reason" and the passage would read:
"When all things began, Reason already was. Reason dwelt with God, and what God was, Reason was. Reason, then was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him."
The view of a deity as ‘Logos' is not limited to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Zoroastrian angel Asha: truth and order, is a philosophical counterpart to ‘Logos'. In the Zoroastrian tradition, Asha is the opposite of Chaos, defined by Zoroastrian teachings as Druj: lie and disorder. In Greek mythology, Chaos was that which existed before the gods began to play out their stories.
Contrary to the modern neo-pagan environmentalist mythology of the ‘noble savage', the reality of many pagan societies replaced by Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, was exactly Chaos. Life was hard, brutish, and short. The gods of multi-theistic belief systems were riven by vanity, jealousy, lust, and vengeance. Emulating their gods, tribes constantly raided one another creating an atmosphere of almost permanent low-level warfare which for tens of millennia made the development of technology, written language, and systems of thought nearly impossible.
Islam directs Chaos towards the infidels of what Islam terms Dar al Harb -- the house of war. But Islamic Chaos is not merely external. Life in Darfur, Frontier Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, or Chechnya has advanced little from that of pre-Islamic pagan tribes.
Secularists will immediately point to the worship of Logos as a contradiction. Yet if Logos is not a deity, man could convince himself he possesses reason in its entirety rather than reason being an aspiration which, like infinity, one never reaches. One might then logically presume that all humans can today be reasoned with-a common and fatal mistake when considering responses to Islam. Another dangerous conclusion comes when the belief that humans can possess reason in its entirety is combined from the belief that "scientific socialism" is the pinnacle of human achievement.
The last century is piled high with the bodies of those slain by such atheist regimes led by those who call themselves "conscious". Based on their so-called ‘consciousness' they sought to transform the nature of what they deemed to be the ‘unconscious' mass of humanity. Trying to create socialist man, Mao Zedong killed between 40-80 million. Estimates of Joseph Stalin's death toll range as high as 20-60 million. Trying to control the most fundamental element of human nature, the Chinese one-baby policy has so far resulted in the death of as many as 50 million Chinese baby girls.
The Logos is the Prince of Peace but not the Prince of Pacifism. At the White House, the Army Chorus sang:
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.