This is a revised version of a comment of mine at The Belmont Club.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.Following John, let us posit a scientist's God, the Logos, the Word, God Who created the Universe and the laws that govern it. The Universe consists of physical matter and physical laws, and also of life and the laws of life.
Now it is no great leap to add that He created the stuff that sets man apart from animal, the life-stuff that becomes souls and the laws that govern souls. Good, evil, free will, these are empirically discovered, universal soulful laws in the same way that gravity and the strong nuclear force are physical laws. The way we implement those universal soulful laws is soul engineering. Our understanding of those laws progresses following an empirical method. As we live, learn, and hopefully grow wiser, so we each conduct our own battery of experiments on the laws that govern the progress of the soul.
Given the Universe thus understood, we have a choice, whether to follow a tradition that has thought about the issues that affect souls for a long time, or to throw all such traditions away and wend our own way based solely on reason. But if we compare this path to the equivalent path in science, with a scientist throwing away everything going back to Pythagoras, then we realize how futile and ultimately stupid it is to throw away our traditional body of law that concerns the soul.
How then can we experimentally measure what is correct law and what is incorrect? By using reason, our own logos, to explore the results of actions and attitudes. God made us in his image, when he filled us with Logos. This God created the laws that govern these things. He did not create everything, anew at every instant, and override laws at every turn. To the contrary, He loves reason, as reason/Logos is the very image of God with which He created us.
This is what Benedict XVI was saying when he quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in September 2006.
God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.Most certainly we have to realize that the state of our soul matters. We must tend to it. We must encourage others to do good and not to do evil. And the definition of good is obvious to all who are reasonable. It starts with the golden rule, and continues from there. The ten commandments were an early approximation, as were the legal codes of Leviticus.
Manuel II Paleologus
Evil is equally obvious. Just wake up, open your eyes, and the degrees of evil will be apparent. There is a passage in Matthew 7 that says it all.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.
One of the most interesting articles I recall from the initial time of the Pope Rage was Andrew Bostom's article in the American Thinker. Mr. Bostom pointed out that Manuel II Paleologus was so persuasive in his argument that the Moslem theologian with whom he was conversing underwent an inner conversion to Christianity!
At the end of the 26-round marathon dialogue of seven centuries ago alluded to by Pope Benedict, the Muslim “muderris” (theologian), overwhelmed by continuous glimpses of Christian truth, hovers at the threshold of abandoning Islam and embracing Christianity. The muderris openly marvels at the magnificence of Christ and the Christian teachings, while proclaiming his readiness to journey to Constantinople (the last significant stronghold of the once mighty Byzantine Christian empire), and study with the theologians there. The drama of the dialogue thus concludes with the muderris’ effective inner conversion to Christianity, and his promise to Manuel II to pursue this profound change of heart.
The Jihadists fear our Western religion of Christianity is too attractive to be resisted by Moslems. Let us put their beliefs to the test.
Update: As a commenter noted, Reason was not God's greatest gift to Man: that would be Jesus Christ. Reason, or Logos, was instead the very center of what it means to be Man, and it is the essence of what Man shares with God, it is the "image" that Man shares with God.