Ways of Christ

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Part 3 Ethics, society and philosophy

Christianity and Philosophy: A Comment on Habermas' speech "Faith and Knowledge" (2001*).

- With an annotation concerning other philosophical schools -

The philosopher Prof. Dr. Juergen Habermas, till now thought to be atheist, also recognized the significance of religious ideas as a root of the values and of the solidarity of a secular society. Man's likeness to God, created with the ability and the right of freedom, can even mean something to "the religiously unversed" (literal: 'religiously unmusical') " too - as he looks at himself. He says the world is unable to progress without reconciliation and forgiveness - values stemming from religion. He refers to the "suffering of those innocently maltreated , degraded and murdered, exceeding any measure of humanly possible reparation". "The lost hope for resurrection leaves behind a noticeable emptiness" (in secular society).

Habermas realizes the enlightened Christians' important "advance concessions" - which secular thinkers should now show in contacts with these modern Christians:
- The religious consciousness must work on the mentally "dissonant" contacts with other denominations and religions. Comments: At least in western countries there is a limited amount of civilization in this respect. Viewpoints important for an ecumenical or inter-religious dialogue are in our 'main text', and in some extra pages, e.g. concerning Churches, and ethics.
- The religious consciousness had to attune itself to the scientific authorities. Comments: From our point of view the scientific mainstream is often not in keeping with the latest research, or does not admit it, influenced by economical and other reasons. So, concerning many topics, this kind of authority has become questionable. In the scientific area, there is a lack of interdisciplinary co-operation and pluralism too. This just concerns questions important for the image of man, e.g. genetic engineering; its problems are mentioned by Habermas too); but also in the other sciences. We take up such new scientific explorations at several places in the main text following the steps of the Gospels. Indeed a dialogue between religion and science is necessary. However, according to our experience, the newer schools of (natural) science** would also have to be included and the "research of outsiders" etc. too. Additionally, from the religious pointof view, one must include insights stemming from the conscious digestion of deep religious experiences, instead of mere theological thoughts. Only this way is it possible not to talk at cross-purposes. Previous dialogues based on old scientific paradigms (old basic assumptions about the nature of the world) and/or on limited views of Christianity were not sufficient on their own. Humane disciplines might also benefit from a process in which man becomes man again and his soul becomes a soul again, instead of looking at it as a mere chemical function of the brain.
- The enlightened religious consciousness had to "accept the premises of a constitutional state...". He mentions the destruction possible without this step. Comments: This adaptation of modern Christians to the values of free citizens is partially a step back to the roots of early Christianity before the mixing of Christianity with the coercive means of the state since 325 AD.

While Christian / religious circles dealing with secular institutions usually adapted their language to the secular language, Habermas now calls upon the secularly thinking people to adapt their language to the religious language when contacting religious people, instead of simply "eliminating what was meant".  Secular majorities "should not enforce majority votes" in questions which are essential for Believers, without having sincerely checked to see what they themselves can learn from this protest. Comments: . Scientists, politicians etc. should indeed attune to the additional "certain something" in concepts like "to protect creation", "creature", even "man/human being" etc., compared to concepts like "cosmos" or "biosphere", "ecology", "living being", "Homo sapiens"... .

Habermas hopes for a mediating "third party" between religion and science: a "democratic, enlightened common sense" - in a "post-secular society", prepared for the continued existence of religious groups within this society. Comments: e.g. in Germany this exchange does not work very well, or only as far as at least the big churches must become invited to participate in some discussions. In the USA, for example, religious activities of the individuals are held in higher general esteem - but in a secular society religious values often assume an unrecognizable form.

*) "Glaube und Wissen", a speech by the winner of the German booksellers’ prize for peace . FAZ /SZ 15-October-2001, Page 9; or German  Internet text .
**) see also our Extra page " Science and the Belief in God".

***) Annotation: Habermas und other philosophical schools:

Jürgen Habermas - besides Theodor W. Adorno and Herbert Marcuse - belonged to the "Frankfurter Schule" ("Frankfurt School"), - their "critical theory" influenced considerably the students' movement of 1968, and included changed ideas of neomarxist, enlightening and atheistic origin. 
Mainly Günter Rohrmoser with his conservative philosophical and -theological view criticized since 1969 the theory and activities of the 1968 movement. He saw their  'utopia' as an "ersatz religion" (a substitute for religion, competing with the Christian doctrine of salvation or 'eschatology'), and tried to preserve the old teachings of 'two kingdoms - religion und state, both wanted by God' - from Augustinus. 
The university teachers of the Frankfurt School - and their conservative Christian and economic liberal opponents as well - listed one-sidedly the arguments against each other, describing the opponents sometimes like a united group. So the former ones were not able to ask themselves, if some of the conservative values should be preserved; and the latter ones missed the opportunity to notice a legitimate motivation of the new social movements (beyond the ideological distortions) - which was directed against formalistic authoritarianism -. However, many people in Germany and elsewhere think of this issues now more differentiatedly, because they did no longer accept the old "front lines" of 1968. Nevertheless research did not advance equally - there are still books assigning every evil in the world to the opponents, and ignoring mistakes of their friends.


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