Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't Believe in Natural Law? Then You Could Be a Muslim

Spengler has an analysis of Benedict XVI's "Regensburg" lecture vis-a-vis the Muslims.

As Benedict XVI explained in his September 2006 Regensburg address:

For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here [Professor Theodore] Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that "nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice" idolatry.

What does it mean for God to be "absolutely transcendent"? In the normative doctrine of the 11th-century Muslim sage Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Allah does not limit himself by ordering the world through natural law, for natural laws would impinge on his absolute freedom of action. There are no intermediate causes, in the sense of laws of nature. Mars traverses an ellipse around the sun not because God has instituted laws of motion that require Mars to traverse an ellipse, but because Allah at every instant directs the angular velocity of Mars. Today, Allah happens to feel like pushing Mars about in an ellipse; tomorrow he might just as well do figure-eights.

Allah is everywhere doing everything at all times. He sets the spin on every electron, measures the jump of every flea, the frequency of every sneeze. That notion of a god who accepts no limitation, not even the limit of laws of nature that he created, characterizes mainstream Muslim thought since the 11th century. St Thomas Aquinas wrote of its deficiency, drawing on the critique of the 12th-century Jewish theologian and philosopher Moses Maimonides. A century ago, the great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig summarized the problem as follows (my translation):

[The most interesting part of the discussion is at the end of this quotation:]

This has been the doctrine of the ruling orthodox philosophy in Islam. The whole impact of divine creative power crashes into every individual thing at every single moment. It is not so much that every thing is "renewed" at every moment; rather, it is "created" with hide and hair. Nothing can save itself from Allah's frightful, infinitesimally-split providence. The idea of "renewal" of the world [in Christian thought] maintains the connection between the individual thing and the one creation, and thereby with the unity of existence, precisely because it comprehends it within the whole, and thus grounds providence within creation.

But this [Islamic] interpretation of providence as constant interference on the part of the creator destroys any possibility of such a connection. In the first case, Providence seen as the renewal of the act of creation through events is the fulfillment of what essentially is set into creation; in this [Islamic] case, providence - despite its intrinsic interference into creation at every moment and in every case - is a permanent competition between acts of creating and the unity of creation, in fact, a competition between God the Ruler of the World, and God the Creator. It is magic, not a sign made by God the World Ruler for God the Creator. Despite its vehement and haughtily carried-forward idea of the unity of God, Islam slides into a monistic paganism, if one might use that expression; God competes with God at every moment, as if it were the colorfully contending gods of the pagan pantheon rolled into one.

(Back to Spengler):

Allah is no more subject to laws of nature than the nature-spirits of the pagan world who infest every tree, rock and stream, and make magic according to their own whimsy. The "carried-forward idea of the unity of God" to which Rosenzweig refers, of course, is the monotheism carried forward in outward form from Judaism, but dashed to pieces against the competing notion of absolute transcendence. As Rosenzweig observes, "An atheist can say, 'There is no God but God'." If God is everywhere and in all things, he is nowhere and in nothing. [See the Chesterton quote below.] If there are no natural laws, there need be no law-giver, and the world is an arbitrary and desolate place, a Hobbesian war of each aspect of nature against all. Contemplation of nature in Islam is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

All of this comports, of course, with Belloc's MUCH shorter version: that since Allah is NOT a Trinity, there is no 'communitas' in Allah--thus, no 'laws of nature,' no 'Paternity' which of its nature fosters 'Sonship,' and thus created 'order' which must be followed as a result of the act of creation per se.

The conclusion, that Muslims are atheists (except for their belief in Allah) is supported by the observation that Muslims who defect from Mohammedanism generally become secular atheists--NOT Christians. (There are exceptions, of course.)

But that cuts both ways: in this view, atheism is Muhammedanism without Allah. It may have any number of 'substitute' gods, or only one of them.

G K Chesterton, speaking of the Muslims: "…but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone."

"Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle."

Or, for the materialist atheist: "An interesting essay might be written on the possession of an atheistic literary style. There is such a thing. The mark of it is that wherever anything is named or described, such words are chosen as suggest that the thing has not got a soul in it. Thus they will not talk of love or passion, which imply a purpose and a desire. They talk of the "relations" of the sexes, as if they were simply related to each other in a certain way, like a chair and a table. Thus they will not talk of the waging of war (which implies a will), but of the outbreak of war - as if it were a sort of boil. Thus they will not talk of masters paying more or less wages, which faintly suggests some moral responsibility in the masters: they will talk of the rise and fall of wages, as if the thing were automatic, like the tides of the sea. Thus they will not call progress an attempt to improve, but a tendency to improve. And thus, above all, they will not call the sympathy between oppressed nations sympathy; they will call it solidarity. For that suggests brick and coke, and clay and mud, and all the things they are fond of."

Or, finally: "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

The connection between Natural Law and God is either un-breakable, or, if broken, leads to chaos, whether it has a 'civilized' veneer or not.

We only need observe abortion to understand the effects of 'broken' natural law. But who knew that the abortion promoters are Muhammedans-without-Allah?

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