In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice, there are men, things, and sayings on such an immense scale, that Greek and Indian literature has nothing to compare with it. One stands with fear and reverence before those stupendous remains of what man was formerly.
All honor to the Old Testament! In that I find great men, a heroic landscape and something of the rarest of all elements on earth, the incomparable naiveté of the strong heart. Even more—I find a people.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
The science of God
Child: “But he does exist.”
What does the mother say? She only believes what she can see.
And what does the child say? But he does exist.
What do we say?
We agree with both, the mother and the child. Also with the mother?
The child is probably right with its faith, but so is the mother with her faithlessness. If we do not manage to make her see God, then we have no right to agree with the child’s “but”.
We cannot take atheism seriously enough. Deifying nature and spirits only leads us off the track. God is not something else, also not the sense of something else, God is God or – nothing. Only on the brink of atheism do have to learn to fly. But why does God’s existence have to be so uncertain? Because it has to be the origin of all other existence. We feel that at any rate God’s existence has to be on a different level than our existence, the existence of the world. We only want to believe in what we can see. But neither the outer eye, with which we see the world, nor the inner eye, with which we see men, lead us closer to the distance of God.
Through which eye can we see him?
Through the inner eye, says the pantheist …
Through the outer eye, says the spiritualist …
Only with both eyes, the inner and the outer, closed, – says the mystic.
But what does the pantheist see? Nothing but nature.
And what does the spiritualist see? Nothing but spirit.
And what does the mystic see? Nothing but - nothingness.
So which organ is left? None, if we were really just composed of senses and spirit?
But – senses and spirit unite the soul. Is there an organ of this complete, united human?
Translated from: Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), Zweistromland, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. III (1984)
Meaning does not grow out of systems of thought, but out of stories, and the Jewish story is the most unusual of all.
It tells us that God wanted to make us partners in His work of creation, but we disappointed him again and again. But he never gives up. He forgives us over and over again. For Judaism the true religious mystery is not our faith in God, but God’s faith in us. This is not a consolatory fiction, as atheists and skeptics sometimes say, but the exact opposite. Judaism is God’s appeal to human responsibility to create a world that is a worthy home for His presence.
Translated from: Jonathan Sacks, Vom Schicksal zum Glauben, Jüdische Allgemeine, 9. September 2018
A help that should not be overlooked
Notes to the discussion on the article of Joseph Ratzingers/Pope em. Benedikt XVI “Grace and vocation without remorse”
After the wave of reflexive criticism that has arisen concerning Joseph Ratzinger’s “Notes to the tract De Iudaeis“, one may ask why Cardinal Koch asked Pope em. Benedict XVI to publish this sketch. The cardinal – rightly – recognized the provocative potential of this article. ...
From the start the relationships of the CIC with Joseph Ratzinger have always interested me because over the years we have followed his theological efforts at a reconciliation, at a reapproach of Judaism and Christianity. In this area he is, I think, the most radical theologian I have ever even heard of.
He is also the one who, in the entire papal history, has dared to advance the furthest, as far as changing the Catholic Catechism. We have witnessed the entire development of Nostra Aetate with great interest – partly through sources, partly also personally in Rome during the years we lived there – and shared in it greatly. I belong to those people who perceived Benedict XVI’s election as a great sensation, as a shining hour in an otherwise gloomy time. I am not the only Jew who saw it like that. Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as pope was seen as positive in every respect throughout Israel, also by the World Jewish Congress. For years we witnessed it, how far his efforts had gone within the Church, also in the fundamental literature of the Church, to make hatred of Jews unthinkable forever..
Translated from: Chaim Noll, Mein Judesein (HEUTE, 6/2008)
The questions to be answered would seem to be: What would the significance of a church, a community, a homily, a liturgy, a Christian life be in an unreligious world?
How do we speak of God – without religion, meaning without the time-conditioned premises of metaphysics, of subjectivity, etc. etc.? How do we speak – or maybe we cannot even really “speak” of it as before – of “God” in a “worldly” way; how are we Christians in an unreligious- worldly way? How are we called out without seeing ourselves as religiously favored, but rather as fully belonging to the world? Then Christ is no longer the object of religion, but something entirely different, truly Lord of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Widerstand und Ergebung. Briefe aus der Haft (1944)
For your information
The glut of information also leads to a growing feeling of powerlessness. The news media reports of the problems in the Middle East, we hear of the destruction of the ozone layer and the extinction of the rain forests. Are we now expected to take action ourselves?
Most of us cannot actively help solve such problems and thus a feeling of passiveness and incompetence grows in people, which inevitably leads to an increased interest in oneself. If you cannot accomplish anything in the world, at least you can change yourself. You can lose weight, you can dye your hair differently, you can change the shape of your own nose or the size of your own breasts.
We are aware of and know thousands of things and are not capable of influencing them. This leads to the growth of a peculiar egotism. Even worse: Most people still believe information and still more information is what people need above all; information forms the basis of all our attempts at solving problems.
But our truly serious problems do not arise from people not having sufficient information. When a nuclear catastrophe occurs, then not because of a deficiency of information. Where people starve, the reason is not inadequate information. When families fall apart, when children are abused, when increasing crime rates terrorize a city, when the education system turns out to be powerless, then this is not because of a lack of information, but because we do not develop a sufficient consciousness of what is sensible and relevant.
Translated from: Neil Postman, Wir informieren uns zu Tode (DIE ZEIT, 2.10.1992)
When Israel can live securely among the nations,
then the promised times will have arrived,
for then and thereby it will be proved
that faith in God has become a living reality.
From: Leo Baeck (1921), The Essence of Judaism
When he is stripped of the Christian tunic and the classical toga, there is nothing left of the European but a pale-skinned barbarian.
There are no stupidities which modern man is not capable of believing, as long as therewith he avoids the faith in Christ.
The greatest modern error is not to proclaim that God has died, but to believe that the devil has died.
One does not have to despair of the atheist, as long as he does not deify man.
The most dangerous idea is not the wrong idea, but the half right one.
Modern theologies tend to be the contortions of theologians who are trying to avoid admitting their unbelief to themselves.
The progressive Christian makes eyes at his enemies so that his faith may be forgiven.
In his apostolic zeal the modern cleric forgets that one has to adapt the way of fighting to the times, however not the message.
Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Scholien (2006)
New Old Name
The choice of name surprised many cardinals, who could have bet that Ratzinger would choose the name “John Paul III” to emphasize the continuity with his predecessor. But the new pope replied resolutely to the question provided in the ritual: “Benedict”.
From the new pope’s view, the Benedictine monasticism did not only give Europe solid roots through its balance between reason and faith, between law and love, but offered it a model through which humanism, democracy and the harmony of art and music developed.
Pope Benedict was not a naïve nostalgic, nor a dreamer, who deluded himself into thinking he could restore the conditions that had led to that intellectual movement. But through his life he wanted to show people this equilibrium between reason and faith that stood at the origin of that which had made the culture and thinking of Europe so unique. The 20th century had already sufficiently proven that Europe, when it left this path, forfeited its radiance in the world. There was no reason not to look at one’s own history, at one’s own Christian roots, with love and respect — not to pursue expansionary goals, but to find the old balance again that stands at the origin of knowledge and wisdom.
Translated from: Elio Guerriero, Benedikt XVI. – Die Biografie (2018)