Is it really true that we cannot speak of God as the source of meaning and good in the world of nature?
The Pope goes to the Bundestag (the law making body of Germany). Robert Moynihan comments: “The essence of the Pope’s thinking is that the West, and the world generally, have lost contact with that deep Christian culture in which the faith and its anthropological presupposition were simply cultural ‘givens’… ‘Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people’ (“Year of Faith” 2012-2013).
“So what is Benedict really saying? He is saying that, during this upcoming ‘Year of Faith,’ Catholics should engage in a profound cultural-religious effort to renew their faith, to deepen their understanding of that faith, and to share that faith with others not only in actual teaching, but also through exemplary actions of Christian charity. And that is shat the Pope did in this remarkable speech in Berlin. He presented the model of Solomon to the lawmakers, the model of a ‘listening heart,’ and in doing so, gave those lawmakers a first taste of that longing which ultimately leads to the holy, to the transcendent, to the holy, to the transcendent, to the Good in the Platonic sense, and finally, to Christ himself, and to Christ’s bride, his Church” (Inside the Vatican January 2012, 24).
Notice, Benedict is speaking to a secular audience. He had to speak without presupposing religious faith. He focused his talk on reason. But it is a reason that is brilliant because it is looking at the reality of the self as transfigured by the transcendence of prayer. Reason is not fully reason without faith as the action of going out of self. Reason does not first see the being of “things,” but the “Being of the self” seeing things. This is the first paragraph of Wojtyla’s “Acting Person.” The criterion is “experience.” We experience the self first and always in the act of experience the other as person or thing.
He gives the example of Solomon who is asked by God to make a request. Solomon does not ask for success or material gain. He asks for the will to do what is right and to understand what is right. “How do we recognize what is right? In history, systems of law have almost always been based on religion: decisions regarding what was to be lawful among men were taken with reference to the divinity… Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God….
Here we see the two fundamental concepts of nature and conscience, where conscience is nothing other than Solomon’s listening heart, reason that is open to the language of being [See Ratzinger’s “Conscience and Truth” in On Conscience Ignatius (2006)]. The two, although object (nature) and subject (conscience), are “being” in two epistemologically distinct keys. In the Enlightenment, being was discarded because the notion of experience as epistemological criterion was not discovered. Subject and object were sundered, and it became a shibboleth that “ought” could not be derived from “is.”
The result of that was the separation of the moral “ought” from reality, which then descended into relativism and subjectivism. The sensible, visible world of things could not be the grounding and source of truth and good unless a Creator put them into it, and the reigning positivism does not permit talk of God. Kelsen (the great proponent of legal positivism) said norms can only come from the will. Nature therefore could only contain norms if a will had put them there. But this would presuppose a Creator God, whose will had entered into nature. “Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile. Benedict questioned: “Is it really? I find myself asking. Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?”