Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jurgen Habermas and the Necessity of Christianity


When I was studying philosophy at Northwestern University the department had some incredible scholars. I took a doctoral seminar on Aristotle's metaphysics, taught by arguably the then-world's greatest Plato scholar, Reginald Allen. There were about 6 of us in his seminar. Allen was so brilliant that occasionally another professor would come and sit in on his lectures. For example, one day Edwin Curley came and listened. Listen to this. Allen would arrive in class, usually just a bit late. Often, as I remember, he would not even bring the text of Aristotle's metaphysics with him. It seems that he knew the entire text by heart, in the Greek language. That, to me, was very cool. And, intimidating. But Allen was a good guy, and had grace (as I experienced him) towards us.

Now I feel jealous when I see who's teaching in NU's philosophy department. None other than Jurgen Habermas. Incredible! You either drop your jaw at the thought of being taught by Habermas in the flesh, or you don't know who he is. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy rightly says that "Habermas currently ranks as one of the most influential philosophers in the world."

So tonight I'm reading an essay by Philip Jenkins on the myth of the death of Christianity in Europe, and he quotes Habermas. Jenkins writes: "J├╝rgen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, “Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”"

I think I'm going to memorize that statement, ingest it for a while.

Jenkins uses it to illustrate his scholarly opinion that Christianity is not laying down and dying in the face of "Islamification." As Jenkins writes, "Europe may be confronting the dilemmas of a truly multifaith society, but with Christianity poised for a comeback, it is hardly on the verge of becoming an Islamic colony."