Irrational - Islam & Christianity

Their approach to State and Church

The british newspaper "The Economist" published an intriguing review of this book, written by "the Catholics' ultimate boss, Pope Benedict". The content of the book is reviewed in relation to recent events, such as "the outrage of muslims over the knighthood that Queen Elizabeth is to confer on the “blasphemous” author Salman Rushdie", and recent fallout over the Popes qouting of an emperor who described the Islam as irrational and violent (just for the record: the actions of neither the inquistion nor the conquerer are regarded - retrospectively of course - as overly rational and peaceful).

The starting point of the review is a musical performance, which intoned (in Arabic) "the 99 names of God, taken from the Koran".

Jesus of Nazareth by By Pope Benedict XVI (2007)

"[…] The pope's elegantly, almost tenderly written essay on the founder of his faith is less obviously polemical in tone than his lecture in Germany last September. This outraged Muslim opinion by quoting a Byzantine emperor who had called Islam irrational and violent (the pope later apologised for the offence his remarks had caused but stopped short of withdrawing them). Yet his book remains uncompromising in its insistence on the divinity of Jesus Christ, and hence in its rejection of arguments to the contrary put forward by liberal Christians, or indeed by Muslims and Jews.

[…] Some modern readings of the New Testament go on to argue that “the historical Jesus” of the first three gospels is not really portrayed as divine at all; and that the divinity of Christ, which is so emphasised by John and Paul, represents a later doctrine that was artificially bolted on to the basic story of Jesus's life.

The pope will have none of this. He insists that the divinity of Christ is very much present in the first three gospels, and that the gospel of John, for all its mysticism, does contain a reliable first-hand historical account of the life of Jesus. In making the first half of this case, he finds himself going head to head — with perfect courtesy, it should be said — with some Jewish critiques of the New Testament.

Whatever Jesus was, the pope argues, he was not simply a free-thinking rabbi who told people to lighten up and ignore the finer points of the Mosaic law. On the contrary, he saw the law of Moses as God-given and supremely important — and it was only because of his own divinity that he had the right to reinterpret that law. In other words, the teachings of Jesus and his divinity are inseparable. That means there is no avoiding a hard argument with those who deny his divinity: either he was the Son of God, and entitled to remake God's law, or he was an impostor.

What emerges from the pope's style of argument is a profound distrust of liberalism and watering-down of any kind. He has no time for the suggestion that Jesus was merely a good human being who offered an interesting new interpretation of Jewish teaching that had become excessively rigid or chauvinist. He respects tough-minded Jews, who do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, more than woolly conciliators from any side. […]"

[ June 30th 2007, The Economist, Religion: » An author and his subject]