Benedict: The 'True Philosopher'

It's been a while since I've said much about the whole reason I started this blog in the first place.  After all, what would In Umbris Sancti Petri be without the successor Petri?

So what is the pope up to these days, you might ask?

Well, aside from promulgating apostolic constitutions that bring Anglicans back into communion with Rome and making pastoral visits to his flock (at home and abroad), Pope Benedict has been doing what good popes do.  That is, teaching the faith.

Most recent on the roster of papally endorsed lessons has been the historical development of monastic and scholastic schools of theology--a trend that endures also throughout Ratzinger's earlier work.  Since its October 28th inception at the Wednesday audiences, the topic has seen two subsequent installments; which leads one immediately to the question: "Why?"

Naturally, as an interested student of philosophy and theology myself, I'm a big advocate of the integration of faith and reason.  And I think that Pope Benedict's persistent teaching on the importance of understanding Catholic intellectual history is evidence that, even at the level of the Church universal, the integration of faith and philosophy is absolutely critical for our very salvation.

In a recent post about Edith Stein, I stressed the importance of a Christian philosophy; and I cited St Thomas Aquinas as a key example of such a synthesis.  But here I want to touch rather on the idea that each individual Christian--insofar as he or she is a Christian--must also necessarily be a Christian philosopher.

If a "philosopher" is one-who-loves-wisdom, then it should come as no surprise that for the Church to endorse philosophy is nothing else than for the Church to endorse a love of Christ, who is the spoken Word of God himself.  In his book, The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ratzinger writes that:

As early as the second century, Justin Martyr had characterized Christianity as the true philosophy, for which he adduced two main reasons.  First, the philosopher's essential task is to search for God.  Second, the attitude of the true philosopher is to live according to the Logos and in its company; that is why Christians are the true philosophers and why Christianity is the true philosophy.
Furthermore, Ratzinger also claims that there is something else distinct about the Christian philosopher.  While he uses his intellect to discern the truth of reality through natural reason, he also "carries in his hand the Gospel, from which he learns, not words, but facts.  He is the true philosopher, because he has knowledge of the mystery of death."  This problem of death, he says, is the "only real existential question facing man" after all; and it is because of the inescapable reality of death (and of its significance and role) that the Christian can ultimately make any sense of Christ'a Passion and Resurrection--the very core of the Christian faith.

Insofar as each of us faces this harsh reality, then--and insofar as we face anything which is simply beyond us--we are true philosophers.  Moreover, inasmuch as we resolve the tension of these conflicts by an assent to faith in Christ (who conquers and makes sense of what is innately senseless) we are each Christians.  And insofar as the two coincide--which they must quite necessarily--we are indeed Christian philosophers.  Quite simply, we make sense of the mysteries we encounter not merely by natural knowledge, nor by supernatural faith, but by an integration of both.

And this is precisely what we are designed to do.