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The Truth of Christianity

1999

At the end of the second millennium, Christianity finds itself in profound crisis in the very place of its original dissemination, in Europe.  It is a crisis caused by doubt of its claim to the truth.  This crisis has a dual dimension: the first increasingly insistent question is whether it is right, in the final analysis, to apply the notion of truth to religion; in other words, whether it is within man’s power to know the truth in the strict sense about God and things divine.  Contemporary man feels much more at home with the Buddhist parable of the elephant and the blind man. A king of northern India once gathered all the blind people of the city together.  Then, he had an elephant led in front of them.  He let some touch the head and said: “This is an elephant”.  Others were able to touch the ears or the tusks, the trunk, its back, its foot, its flanks, the hairs on its tail.  Then the king asked each one: “What is an elephant like?”.  And, depending on which part they had touched, they replied: “It’s like a woven basket…”, “it’s like a vase…”, “it’s like the wooden handle of a plough…”, “it’s like a warehouse…”, “it’s like a pillar…”, it’s like a brush…”.  At that point, the parable goes on, they start arguing and shouting: “The elephant’s like that”, “No, it’s not”.  And they attacked one another and fists flew to the king’s great amusement.  To today’s men, this dispute among religions is like this dispute among men born blind.  For, we were born blind to the mystery of God, it seems.  Modern thinking does not see Christianity as being in a more favorable position than the others.  On the contrary, because of its claim to truth, it seems to be particularly blind to the limitation of all the knowledge we have of the divine and is characterized by a particularly insensate fanaticism which incorrigible assumes that its own specific experience is everything. 

This generalized skepticism towards the claim to truth in the religious area is further supported by the questions that modern science has raised about the origins and content of Christianity.  The evolutionist theory seems to have overtaken the doctrine of the creation, knowledge concerning the origin of man seems to have overtaken the doctrine of original sin; exegetical criticism relativizes the figure of Jesus and questions his filial conscience; the origin of the Church in Jesus appears in doubt and so on.  The “end of metaphysics” has rendered the philosophy of Christianity problematical and modern historical methods have trained an ambiguous light on its historical bases.  It is therefore easy to reduce the Christian content to symbols, not to attribute any more truth to them than to the myths of the history of religions, to see them as religious experience which should humbly take its place beside the others.  In this sense one may still – or so it seems – be a Christian; expressive forms of Christianity are always used but its claim is radically changed: that truth which had been an obliging force for man and a reliable promise is now a cultural expression of the general religious sensibility, an obvious expression for us because we are European in origin. 

At the beginning of this century, Ernst Troeltsch offered a philosophical and theological description of this, Christianity’s retreat from its originally universal claim that could only be founded on the claim to truth.  He had arrived at the conviction that cultures are insuperable and that religion is bound to cultures.  Christianity is only therefore the side of God’s face turned to Europe.  The “particular characteristics bound to culture and races” and “the characteristics of its great religious formations which embrace a wider context” rise to the ultimate level: “Who would dare to make any categorical value judgment on the point?  That’s something only God himself may do, he who is at the origin of these differences”.  A man born blind knows that he was not born to be blind and so he will never stop asking himself why he is blind and how to be cured.  Only apparently is a man resigned to the verdict of being born blind when faced with his lot, with the only reality which counts, ultimately, in our lives.  The titanic attempt to take possession of the whole world, to extract everything possible from our lives and for our lives, like the explosion of a cult of ecstasy, transgression and self-destruction, shows that man does not content himself with such a judgment.  For, if he does not know whence he came and why he exists, is eh in all his being not an unfulfilled creature?  The apparently indifferent farewell to the truth about God and the essence of our “I”, the apparent satisfaction at not having to worry about any of this any more, deceives.  Man cannot be resigned to being and remaining a man born blind as far as the essential things are concerned.  The farewell to the truth cannot ever be definitive.
Things being what they are, the old-fashioned question of the truth of Christianity must be raised again, however, superfluous and unfathomable it may seem to some people.  But why?  Certainly and without the fear of leaving itself exposed, Christian theology will have to make a thorough examination of the various points that the fields of philosophy, modern sciences and natural history have raised to counter Christianity’s claim to the truth.  But it must also develop an all-round vision of the problem of Christianity’s authentic essence, its place in the history of religions and its place in human life.  I would like to move in this direction, highlighting how, at its origins in the kosmos of the religions, Christianity conceived of this claim it makes. 

As far as I know, there is no Christian text of antiquity as enlightening of the question as Augustine’s discussion with the religious philosophy of the “most erudite of Romans”, Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27BC).  Varro shared the stoic image of God and the world; he defined God as animam motu ac ratione mundum gubernantem (as “the soul that holds up the world through movement and reason); in other words, as the soul of the world that the Greeks call kosmos: hunc ipsum mundum esse deum.  This soul of the world, however, is not worshipped.  It is not the object of religio.  In other words: truth and religion, does not belong to the order of the res, of reality as such, but to that of mores – morals.  It was not the gods who created the State but the State which instituted the gods whose veneration is essential for the State order and for the proper behavior of its citizens.  Religion is, in essence a political phenomenon.  Varro thus distinguishes three types of “theology”, which he took to mean ratio, quae de diis explicatur – and which we might translate as comprehension and explanation of the divine.  They are theologia mythica, theologia civilis and theologia naturalis.  Offering four definitions, he then explains the meaning to take from these “theologies.”  The first definition refers to the three theologians associated with these three theologies: the theologians of mythical theology are the poets because they have composed songs about the gods and are therefore singers of divinity.  The theologians of the physical theology (natural) are the philosophers, or the erudite, the thinkers who, going further than usual, wonder about reality, about truth; the theologians of civil theology are the “peoples” who have chosen not to join with the philosophers (with the truth) but with the poets, with their poetic visions, with their imagery and their representations. 

The second definition regards the places associated with each theology.  The theater corresponds to mythical theology and it did have a religious and worshipful rank; according to public opinion, spectacles were instituted in Rome by order of the gods.  The urbs corresponds to political theology while space of natural theology is the kosmos.

The third definition outlines the content of the three theologies: the mythical theology is made of fables about the gods, written by the poets; the theology of State, worship; natural theology is said to respond to the question about who the gods are.  It is worthwhile paying more attention here: “If – as in Eraclitus – they (the gods) are made of fire or – as in Pythagoras – of numbers, or –as in Epicurus – of atoms and other things easier on the ear within the school walls than outside in the public square”, then it could not be clearer that this natural theology removes the myth, or rather, it is rationality to an extent that looks critically at what is behind the mythical façade dissolving it through scientific-natural knowledge.  Worship and knowledge prove to be separate one from the other.  Worship remains necessary while it is a question of political utility; knowledge has a destructive effect on religion and should therefore not be aired in the public square. 

Then there is a fourth definition.  Of what kind of reality is the content of the various theologies made?  Varro’s answer is this: natural theology’s concern is the “nature of the gods” (which do not really exist) while the other two theologies address the divina instituta hominum; the divine institutions of men.  The consequence is that the whole difference is reduced to the difference between physics as it was meant in ancient times and the worshipful religion of the other contender.  “Civil theology has no god at all in the final analysis, just ‘religion’; ‘natural theology’ has no religion, just a ‘divinity’.  Of course, it cannot have any religion because the word in religious terms cannot be addressed to its god (fire, number, atoms).  Thus religio (a word essentially designating worship) and reality, the rational knowledge of reality, appear as two separate spheres, one beside the other.  Religio does not draw its justification from the reality of the divine but from its political function.  It is an institution of which the State has need in order to exist. 

Undoubtedly, religion finds itself in a late phase, in which the ingenuousness of the religious attitude is shattered and its dissolution grafted on.  But religion’s essential bond with the State order penetrates decisively and much more deeply.  Worship is, ultimately, a positive order which, as such, cannot be commensurate with the problem of truth.  While Varro in his time, when the political function of religion was still sufficiently strong, could still justify it as such by defending a rather crude conception of rationality and of the absence of truth in politically motivated worship, neo-Platonism would soon seek another way out of the crisis which would then serve as the basis for the Emperor Julianus’ efforts to re-establish the Roman religion of State.  What the poets say is imagery not to be intended in the physical sense, are nevertheless images that express the inexpressible for all men whose main road to mystical union is barred.  Although they are not true as such, the images are justified as a means to something which must always remain inexpressible. 

The above anticipates something we will now go on to say.  The neo-Platonic position, in its turn, is already a reaction to the Christian position on the question of the Christian foundation of worship and the place of the faith at its base in the typology of religions.  Let’s go back to Augustine.  Where does he situate Christianity in the Varronian triad of religions?  The amazing thing is that without the minimum hesitation, Augustine sets Christianity in the sphere of “physical theology”, in the sphere of philosophical rationality, in therefore perfect continuity with Christianity’s first theologians, the Apologists of the second century, and with the position Paul gives Christianity in the first chapter of his Letter to the Romans which, for its part, is based on the Old Testament theology of Wisdom and dates, going beyond it, to the Psalm which scorn the gods.  In this perspective, Christianity has its precursors of and its preparation in philosophical rationality, not in religions.  According to Augustine and biblical tradition which for him is law, Christianity is based not at all on images and mythical presentiment whose justification is ultimately found in their political utility; rather, it makes appeal to the divine which may be perceived in any rational analysis of reality.  In other words, Augustine identifies biblical monotheism with philosophical visions of the foundation of the world that took various shapes in ancient philosophy.  This is what is intended when Christianity, starting with the Pauline discourse of the Areopagus, presents itself with its claim of being the religio vera.  It means that the Christian faith is not based on poetry and politics, these two great sources of religion, but on knowledge.  It venerates the Being at the foundation of everything that exists, the “true God”.  In Christianity, rationality became religion and was no longer its adversary.  For that to happen, for Christianity to see itself as the victory of myth-removal, the victory of knowledge and, with that, of truth, it had to consider itself as universal and be brought to all the peoples, not as a specific religion repressing others by virtue of a type of religious imperialism but as the truth which renders the apparent superfluous.  And it is that which, despite the wide-ranging tolerance of polytheisms, must have been intolerable, but must have been seen as an enemy of religion, even as “atheism”.  It was not founded on the relativity and on the convertibility of images.  So, above all, it disturbed the political utility of religions and it thus undermined the foundations of the State in which it did not wish to be a religion among the others but the victory of intelligence over that world of religions.

It is also true that Christianity’s force of penetration derives from this, its position in the kosmos of religion and philosophy.  Already before the Christian mission began, some learned circles in antiquity had sought in the figure of the “God-fearing” a bond with the Judaic faith which appeared to them to be a religious representation of philosophical monotheism corresponding to the demands of reason and, at the same time, to the religious needs of man, a need which philosophy on its own could not satisfy: one does not pray to a god that is only pondered.  But wherever the God found in thought lets himself be known at the heart of religion as a God who speaks and acts, thinking and faith are reconciled. 

In that bond with the synagogue, there was still something that did not satisfy: for, the non-Jew was always an outsider, could never arrive at total membership.  This node was unravelled in Christianity by the figure of Christ, as Paul interprets it.  Only then did Judaism’s religious monotheism become universal and thus the possibility to unify thinking and faith, the religio vera, became accessible to all. 

Justin the philosopher, Justin the martyr (†167) could serve as an emblem of this access in Christianity.  He had studied all the philosophies and, in the end, he recognized the true philosophy in Christianity.  He was convinced that, by becoming Christian, he had not denied philosophy, but that only then had he truly become a philosopher.  The conviction that Christianity is a philosophy, the perfect philosophy, the one that was able to penetrate as far as the truth, would remain for a long time after the Patristic age.  It was still totally current in the 14th century in Nicolas Cabasilas’ Byzantine theology.  Philosophy here does not certainly mean an academic discipline of a purely theoretical nature but also and above all something practical, like the art of living well and dying well which can only happen in the light of the truth.

The union of rationality and faith wrought through the development of the Christian mission and in the construction of Christian theology led, however, to some decisive corrections being made to the philosophical image of God, two of which we must mention.  The first is that the God in whom Christians believe and whom they venerate is really natura Deus unlike the mythical and political gods; this satisfies the need for philosophical rationality.  But at the same time the other aspect holds, too: non tamen omnis natura est Deus – not everything that is nature is God.  God is God by his nature but nature as such is not God.  A separation is created between the universal nature and the Being who establishes it, who gives it its origin.  Only then do the physical and metaphysical arrive at a clear distinction one from the other.  Only the true God that we can recognize in nature through thinking is the object of prayer.  But he is more than nature.  He preceeds it.  It is his creature.  To this separation between nature and God is added a second discovery more decisive still: one could not pray to god, nature, soul of the world or whatever it was; we have noted that these were not “religious gods”.  Now, and this is what the faith of the Old Testament is already saying through the New Testament more so, this God who preceeds nature addressed himself to men.  He is not a silent God for the very reason that he is not just nature.  He entered into history.  He came forward to encounter man and so man may now encounter him.  He may now bind himself to God because God bound himself to man; the two dimensions of religion, which had always been separate one from the other – eternally dominant nature and man’s need of salvation, man who suffers and struggles – are now bound one with the other.  Rationality can become religion because the God of rationality himself entered into religion.  The element that the faith claims as its own, the historical Word of God is, in fact, the presupposition for religion now to address the philosophical god, no longer a purely philosophical God but one who, rather than shunning knowledge of philosophy, assumes it.  Here an amazing thing emerges: the two fundamental and apparently contrasting principles of Christianity – the bond with metaphysics and the bond with history – condition each other and relate to one another; together, they constitute Christianity’s apologia as religio vera

If, then, it may be said that Christianity’s victory over the pagan religions was made possible not least by its claim to reasonableness, we should add that there is a second no less important reason for this.  Primarily and in totally general terms, it lies in Christianity’s moral seriousness, this being a characteristic, after all, that Paul had set in the same relation to the reasonableness of the Christian faith: everything to which the law basically aspires, the essential need highlighted by the Christian faith, for a sole God for the life of man, corresponds to all that man, every man has written in his heart so that when it presents itself to him he recognizes it as Good.  It corresponds to everything that is good “by innate sense” (Romans 2, 14ff).  The allusion to stoic morals, to its ethical interpretation of nature is manifest here as it is manifest in other Pauline texts, in the Letter to the Philippians, for example (Philippians 4, 8: “Let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honorable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire with whatever is good and praiseworthy”). 

Thus, the fundamental (albeit critical) unity with philosophical rationality present in the notion of God is confirmed and takes concrete form now in the unity, also critical, with philosophical morals.  Just as in the religious field, Christianity surpassed the limitations of a school of philosophical wisdom for the very fact that the God of thought allowed himself to be encountered like a living God, so too here there was a surpassing of the ethical theory: it became a moral praxis, lived as a community and rendered concrete in which the philosophical perspective was transcended to become real action, especially because of the concentration of all morals in the twofold commandment to love God and others.  Christianity, it might be said more simply, was convincing because of faith’s bond with reason and because action was oriented to caritas, to caring for the suffering, for the poor and weak independently of social or circumstantial differences.  That this was the innate force of Christianity is reflected in the way the Emperor Julian tried to re-establish paganism in a new form.  He, pontifex maximus of the re-established religion of the ancient gods, set to instituting a pagan hierarchy of priests and metropolitans that had never existed before.  The priests had to be models of morality; they had to dedicate themselves to the love of god (the supreme divinity among the gods).  They were obliged to carry out acts of charity for the poor.  They were no longer allowed to read licentious plays and erotic books and they had to preach on feast days on a philosophical argument such as to instruct and form the people.  Teresio Bosco says rightly on this point that, in so doing, the emperor was not trying to re-establish paganism but to Christianize it – his synthesis limited to worship of the gods, of rationality and religion.

Looking back, we might say that the force which transformed Christianity into a world religion lay in its own synthesis of reason, faith, life.  And it is none other than this synthesis that is summarized in the expression religio vera.  All the more reason then, to pose the question: Why is this synthesis no longer convincing today?  Why, conversely, are rationality and Christianity considered contradictory and even mutually preclusive today?  What has changed in the matter of rationality?  What has changed in Christianity?

Once Neo-Platonism, in particular Porphyrius, countered the Christian synthesis with another interpretation of the relationship between philosophy and religion, an interpretation intended to give philosophical foundation once more to the polytheist religion.  Today it is none other than this way of harmonizing religion and rationality that is striving to prevail as the best form of religious sense for the modern conscience.

Porphyrius formulated his first basic notion thus: ‘Latet omne verum – the truth is hidden’.  Here, we should remember the parable of the elephant in which, clearly, the Buddhist and Neo-Platonic conception meet, in that there can be no certainty about the truth, about God; they can only be matters of opinion.  During the crisis in Rome in the late fourth century, the senator Symmachus – the mirror image of Varro and of his theory of religion – related the Neo-Platonic conception to a few simple, pragmatic formulas which we find in his speech in the year 384 before the Emperor Valentinianus II in defense of paganism and in favor of re-establishing the goddess Victory in the Roman Senate.  I cite only the phrase which became famous: “We all venerate the exact same thing, we all think the same thing, we contemplate the same stars, there is only one heaven above us and we are surrounded by the same world; of what matter are the different types of wisdom by which each one of us seeks the truth?  We cannot get to the heart of such a great mystery in only one way.

This is precisely what today’s rationality sustains: we do not know the truth as such; by means of the most disparate images we are aiming at the same thing.  Such a great mystery, the divine, cannot be reduced to a single figure to the preclusion of all the others, one way only for everyone.  There are many ways, there are many images and they all reflect something of the “all” but no single one of them reflects the “all”.  The ethos of tolerance belongs to those who recognize a part of the truth in each of these, of those who do not set their own higher than the others but who serenely join the polymorphous symphony of the eternally Innaccessible.  In reality, it hides behind symbols but these symbols seem nevertheless to be our only possibility of arriving at the divinity in a sense.

So is Christianity’s claim to be the religio vera superceded by rationality’s progress?  Is it therefore forced to lower the level of its claims and to enter into the Neo-Platonic or Buddhist or Hindu vision of truth and symbol, to content itself, as Ernst Troeltsch proposed, with showing the part of God’s face turned to Europe?  Must we go one step ahead of Troeltsch, who continued to consider Christianity the religion suited to Europe, given that Europe itself today doubts that religion’s suitability?  That is the real question which the Church today and theology must address.  All the crises within Christianity that we see today have only their secondary root in institutional problems. 

The problems of the institutions and of individuals in the Church ultimately derive from this question and from the enormous weight it brings to bear.  No one at the end of the second Christian millennium would even remotely expect to find the definitive answer to this in a conference. There can be no purely theoretical answers, none at all, just as religion as man’s ultimate attitude, is never just a theory. It demands a combination of knowledge and action and it was on this that the persuasive force of the Fathers’ Christianity rested.

This does not mean that we can ignore in any way the urgency of the problem from the intellectual point of view by relegating it to “procedure”.   I will merely seek, in closing, to suggest an orientation hopefully in the right direction.  We have seen that the original unity of the relationship – while not fully acquired – between rationality and faith, to which Thomas Aquinas ultimately gave systematic form, was lacerated less by the development of the faith than by rationality’s progress.  As steps along the way of this mutual separation, one could cite Descartes, Spinoza, Kant.  The new englobing synthesis that Hegel attempts does not restore faith to its philosophical place but tends to convert it into reason and eliminate it as faith.  This rendering absolute of the spirit is countered by Marx with the exclusiveness of matter: philosophy must then be taken back to the realms of exact science.  Only exact scientific knowledge is knowledge.  And that dispenses with the idea of the divine.

Auguste Comte’s prophecy left  a remarkable echo in our century, in the human sciences, when he said that, just as everything that today is positive science, one day there would be a physics of man and the great questions left until then to metaphysics would be addressed “positively” in the future to that.  The separation between physics and metaphysics wrought by Christian thinking is increasingly abandoned.  All must become “physics” once again.

The evolutionist theory became crystallized as the road to metaphysics’ definitive elimination, rendering “the hypothesis of God” (Laplace) superfluous and formulating a strictly “scientific” explanation of the world.  An evolutionist theory that offers an englobing explanation of all reality has become a sort of “prime philosophy” that represents, so to speak, the authentic foundation of any rational understanding of the world.  Every attempt to bring causes into play that differed from those elaborated by a “positive” theory, every attempt at “metaphysics” necessarily appears to be a relapse on reason’s part, the decline of science’s universal claim.  Even the Christian idea of God is necessarily seen as non-scientific.  This idea finds no further correspondence in any theologia physica: the only theologia naturalis is in this vision the evolutionist doctrine and it knows no God and no Creator in the Christian sense (or in the Jewish or Islamic sense).  And it knows no soul of the world or interior dynamism in the sense of Stoicism.  One could eventually, in the Buddhist sense, consider the whole world as a façade and nothing as authentic reality and thus justify the mystical forms of religion which are not in direct competition at least with reason.

So has the last word been said?  Are reason and Christianity thus definitively separated one from the other?  However things stand, the portent of the evolutionist doctrine is not in doubt as prime philosophy and the exclusive nature of the positive method as the only type of science and rationality.  Both sides should embark on this discussion with serenity and willingness to listen, something which has only happened in a minor way so far.  No one could seriously doubt the scientific evidence of the micro-evolutionary processes: Reinhard Junker and Siegfried Scherer say on this point in their Kritisches Lehrbuch on evolution: “These phenomena [micro-evolutionary processes] are well known principally as natural processes of variation and formation.  That evolutionary biology examined them led to some significant knowledge being acquired on the living systems’ amazing capacity for adaptation”.  They say that one can rightly characterize research into origins as biology’s supreme discipline.  The question that a believer may ask when faced with modern reason is not about this, but about the spread of a philosophia universalis which aims at becoming a general explanation for reality and which tends not to allow any other level of thought.  Within this same evolutionist doctrine the problem presents itself on passing from micro- to macro-evolution, a transition on which Szamarthy and Maynard Smith, both supporters of a revised evolutionary theory, also concede: “There are no theoretical reasons for thinking that evolutionary lines increase in complexity through time; there is not even any empirical proof that this happens.”

The question now goes deeper: it is a matter of knowing if the evolutionist doctrine has the power to present itself as a universal theory of all reality, beyond which any ulterior questions about the origin and nature of things are no longer justified or necessary; or of establishing whether ultimate questions of that kind do not beyond the field of pure scientific research.  Let me put the question to you in a more concrete way.  Does an answer such as we find in the following formulation by Popper really tell us everything?  “Life as we know it consists in physical ‘bodies’ (better: in processes and structures) which resolve problems; the various species have ‘learned’ that through natural selection, that is, through the method of reproduction plus variations – method which in its turn was learned using the same method.  It is regression but it is not infinite . . .”.  I think not.  In the final analysis, it is an alternative that can no longer simply be resolved either at the level of the natural sciences or even by philosophy.  It is a question of knowing if reason, or rationality, is found or not at the beginning of all things and at their creation.  It is a question of knowing if reality is born by chance and necessity (or, as Popper would say, in agreement with Butler, of luck and cunning, and therefore of something without reason; if, in other words, reason is a chance marginal product of irrationality, ultimately a drop in the ocean of irrationality, or does the fundamental conviction of the Christian faith and its philosophy still hold true: In principio erat Verbum – in the beginning of all things was the creating force of reason.  The Christian faith today as in the past is the option for the priority of reason and rationality.  This ultimate question can no longer, as we said, be resolved by arguments drawn from the natural sciences.  Even philosophical thinking is blocked here.  In this sense, there is no ultimate proof of the fundamental Christian option.  But can reason ultimately and without denying itself renounce the priority of the rational over the irrational, the Logos as the prime principle?  The hermeneutical model offered by Popper, which appears in other different forms in other presentations of the “prime philosophy”, shows that reason can but ponder even the irrational by degree and it can do so rationally (solving problems and elaborating methods!), thus implicitly re-establishing  the very primacy of reason that is so contested.  With its option on the primacy of reason, Christianity is still “rationality” today and I think that a rationality which dispenses with this option would, contrary to what it might seem, necessarily mean not evolution but the involution of rationality.

We have seen that, in the conception of early Christianity, the notions of nature, man, God, ethos and religion were indissolubly linked one with the other and that it was this bond that helped Christianity to see its way clearly through the crisis of the gods and the crisis of rationality in antiquity.  Religion’s orientation towards a rational vision of reality, the ethos as part of this vision and its concrete application under the primacy of love, are all associated one with the other.  The primacy of the Logos and the primacy of love proved to be identical.  The Logos no longer appeared as mere mathematical reason at the basis of all things but as creating love to the point of compassion for the creature.  The cosmic dimension of religion that venerates the Creator in the power of Being and existential dimension, the question of redemption penetrated each other and became one.  In practice, any explanation of reality that cannot in any sensible and comprehensive way establish an ethos must always be insufficient.  Now, it is a fact that when the evolutionary theory risks expanding and becoming a philosophia universalis, it is trying to establish a new ethos on the basis of evolution.  But this evolutionary ethos, which inexorably finds its key notion in the model of selection and, therefore in the struggle for survival, in the survival of the fittest, in successful adaptation, has little of comfort to offer.  Even when effort is made to make it more palatable in various ways, it is always, ultimately, a cruel ethos.  Any effort to distill rationality from a basis of reality insensate in itself is a failure and spectacularly so.  None of this is of much help to us in our need: for the ethics of universal peace, of effective love of others and the necessity we have to go beyond the detail.

The attempt in this crisis of humanity to restore a comprehensible meaning to the notion of Christianity as religio vera must, so to speak, look equally to orthopraxis and orthodoxy.  At the deeper level its content must consist in the fact – today as always in the final analysis – that love and reason coincide in that they are fundamental pillars proper of reality: true reason is love and love is true reason. In their unity they are the authentic foundation and purpose of reality.

J. Ratzinger, "Christianity. The Victory of Intelligence over the World of Religions", in 30 Days, n. 1/2000, pp. 33-44.