- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1873 KB
- Print Length: 180 pages
- Publisher: Gateway Editions (25 June 2019)
- Sold by: Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc. (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07F6P81DX
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 19 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #226,910 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization Kindle Edition
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Gregg's clarity and scholarship are impressive and incisive.--"Frank Hanna III, author of What Your Money Means"
About the Author
Samuel Gregg is the author of more than a dozen books, including For God and Profit. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, the Washington Times, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Post, and many more. He has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Channel, the Wall Street Journal Opinion Report, BBC, ABC TV, and EWTN.
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Top international reviews
The book begins with Benedict XVI’s famous Regensburg address, and shows that its primary critique was of the West. For a long time, Samuel Gregg says, the West has been shaken by what he calls “pathologies of reason” and “pathologies of faith.” An example of a pathology of reason would be the reduction of reason to the natural sciences. An example of a pathology of faith would be Marxism. To resist these pathologies, the West has to correctly order its commitment to reason with what the author calls “the two faiths of the West,” so that reason and faith can balance and correct each other.
The book explains how the West’s unique integration of reason and faith occurred. It stresses that the process really begins with the Jewish people and the way in which their religion embodied a commitment to rationality and freedom centuries before the Greeks came to anything close to the same insights. That’s a welcome corrective. Connected to this is the fact that the Greeks’ achievements couldn’t be fully realized because of the pagan religions’ highly irrational nature.
Gregg shows how the idea of God as Logos (Divine Reason) was crucial for integrating Greek rationality with Judaism’s conception of God as a free, rational and active Creator. Christianity, Gregg says, universalized this idea and made it central to the West’s understanding of itself.
Three chapters of the book focus upon showing how the breakdown in the West’s integration of reason and faith has contributed to so many of the destructive forces that has caused many people to doubt the integrity of the entire Western project, such as Nazism, Marxism, and Nietzscheanism – but also “softer” forces that have corroded the West over time. These include utilitarianism and liberal religion, the latter being a form of sentimental humanitarianism that has laid waste to much of Christianity and Judaism in Western countries. Gregg doesn’t suggest that the disintegration of the reason-faith nexus is the only cause; but he does claim it is an underlying problem that links many of these trends.
There is a controversial thesis in this book. Gregg argues that the West needs to reassess the widespread view that the Enlightenment, as a movement of ideas that stressed reason and the social and natural sciences, was somehow deeply at odds with Jewish and Christian religious beliefs.
He acknowledges that there have been tensions but claims that it’s a myth that the entire Enlightenment was a highly anti-religious enterprise. He marshals plenty of facts to back up his position. He shows just how sympathetic many active Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians as well as many pious Jews were to many of the Enlightenment’s achievements. Most “Enlighteners,” he argues, were conventional religious believers of the time, especially those who participated in the Anglo-American and Scottish Enlightenments. This strikes me as very important given the debates going on today about how religious believers should think about the Enlightenment.
Most contemporary books about Western civilization are doom, gloom and pessimistic in tone and conclusion. Gregg doesn’t go down that path. He is optimistic that the West can recover if it can rediscover the particular synthesis of reason and faith that marked its emergence and continues to influence us today, whether we realize it or not. The last two chapters demonstrate how this could occur.
Lastly, the book is written with a very accessible style. Whether they agree or not with the book's argument, specialists and no-specialists alike will enjoy.
This is a well-written, well-informed and erudite survey of Western intellectual history.
Author Samuel Gregg starts with Pope Benedict's Regensberg Address and its observation that Christianity was based on the theological principle that God was Reason in contradistinction to Islam which conceived of God as Will. Gregg then follows up Christianity's definition of God as Logos and subsequent Christian intellectual history from Augustine through the modern era. This thinking was responsible for notions of freedom of choice, reason and constitutionalism.
Gregg also follows Pope Benedict's diagnosis of "pathologies of faith and pathologies of reason." These pathologies include, Prometheanism (the idea that man can be recreated by changing society), relativism, nihilism, Nietzscheanism, and Scientism, all of which totalize science at the expense of faith. Gregg follows Pope John-Paul II's observation that both science and faith are necessary, that mere faith reduces to superstition, whereas mere science removes the goal or content for which science exists.
Gregg's book is erudite. The reader is introduced to writers, ideas and concepts that are old friends if he has an acquaintanceship with the literature of Western ideas, but, for those who don't this is a good entry point.
For myself, I appreciated Gregg's linkage of Justice Kennedy's "sweet mystery of life" passage in Planned Parenthood v. Casey to the philosophy of Nietzsche. I have often wanted to turn the tables on another Supreme Court decision with the aphorism that "while the Constitution does not incorporate Mr. Spencer's Social Statics, it seems that it does incorporate Nietsche's "Beyond Good and Evil."
This is an intelligent, mind-stretching discussion on the connection between faith and reason in the West, where the West has gone wrong, and what might be done to correct the problems. It is worth the time spent.
The issue on the table is the compatibility between reason and faith. Between science and religion. When they do not accompany each other, bad things happen. Faith alone, without reason, leads to pathologies such as religious terrorism. Science, without faith, produces horrors, like the Holocaust. That is the drama at the bottom of the tragedy of our day.
It has been my opinion, for some time now, that what S. Gregg describes is real. The spirit of our times limits reason to the field of experimental science and thinks that faith is nothing better than superstition. This is the same mistake made by those who think that all that exists is faith in divine dictates that do not admit examination.
S. Gregg takes as intellectual base of his book ideas that come from Benedict XVI. To this he adds a multitude of sources and evidences that present his ideas as something reasonable and justified. And it points out something that I did not know, the "Böckenförde Dilemma" ... fascinating.
In short, a great read. Important and of serious consequences. A matter of survival.
An informative brief in the culture wars. The synthesis of faith and reason is presented not only as the historical basis of the West, but also as a requirement for our survival.
The preface acknowledgment to the thinking of the former Pope Benedict sets the tone for a history that begins with Genesis and proceeds to today. Certain core RELIGIOUS VALUES - creation, freedom, justice, and faith - emanated from our Judeo-Christian heritage. However, these values are today under attack:
“The West’s integration of creation, freedom, justice, and faith is always fragile, and undermining any one of them undercuts the others. Without creation, the intelligibility of the universe is hard to sustain. Without intelligibility, freedom is only a mirage, justice a sophism, and faith nothing more than emotivism or ideology. If freedom is meaningless, people cannot be held responsible for their actions. Without personal responsibility, there is no true justice. Without justice, the existence of an intelligent Creator to whom all must eventually answer is thrown into doubt. . . . Again and again, we see that belief in the Logos—or at least an acknowledgment that it is a more plausible position than assertions that all is flux or that everything begins in nothingness—is crucial for preserving the West’s civilizational achievements from the rule and consequences of irrationality.”
Gregg also describes competing contemporary philosophies and the threats they pose:
“If the West’s unique integration of reason and faith is a defining characteristic of its civilization, we must conclude that this civilization is seriously imperiled. Ideas that contest and undermine this integration—authoritarian relativism, Prometheanism, Nietzscheanism, scientism, etc.—have permeated every sector of public life. Marxist regimes are fewer in number today, but Marxism’s cultural influence persists, especially among intellectuals. So too does Mill’s religion of humanity.”
I quibble with Gregg’s the dismissal of the contribution of the Greeks as polytheistic pagans and note that the “reason” portion of Gregg’s essential synthesis was first formalized by the Greeks. Gregg’s detailed discussion of Aquinas and the scholastics and their mission to reconcile Christianity and Greek Philosophy underscores that Athens has much to do with Jerusalem.
This quibble does not affect my judgement that Gregg’s book is a very valuable contribution to our cultural debate. Highly Recommended.