Wednesday, April 02, 2008

War By Faith Alone

David Gordon reviews George Weigel's Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism(Doubleday, 2007):

The key to George Weigel's thought lies in his earlier massive volume Tranquillitas Ordinis (Oxford University Press, 1987). St. Augustine beautifully defined peace as the tranquility of order. Weigel twists Augustine's dictum for his own bellicose purposes. In standard just war theory, the conditions a legitimate war are required to meet are so demanding that, as the eminent theologian Charles Cardinal Journet contended,

"After reading this specification [by St. Thomas Aquinas of the criteria] for a just war we might well ask how many wars have been wholly just. Probably they could be counted on the fingers of one hand." (Journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, Volume 1, Sheed and Ward, 1955, pp. 306–307)

Weigel endeavors to escape from these limits. Anything less than a stable, ordered world does not meet Augustine's definition of peace. But should not our goal be to promote this sort of peace, rather than be satisfied with peace as the mere absence of war? If so, we may aim actively to secure an ordered world. Needless to say, Augustine did not take his remark to have these implications. Quite the contrary, he helped initiate the tradition of strict limits on war to which Cardinal Journet refers. Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism may be regarded as an application of Weigel's "tranquillitas ordinis fallacy" to current American foreign policy.[1]
The book consists of three parts: the initial part concentrates on Islamic theology and the other two on foreign policy issues. I propose to concentrate on the latter two parts, since theology far exceeds my competence. The sum and substance of the first part is that the notion of three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, should be rejected. Islam diverges sharply from the other two faiths. The issue, further, cannot be confined to mere theological argument. Many Muslims wish to wage holy war against the West in order to bring about the triumph of their faith. In doing so, some countenance tactics of terror, as we learned to our horror on 9/11. Some Muslims seem amenable to compromise, but the danger from Islam must not be underestimated; and tough tactics are the order of the day. An "Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI" signed by thirty-eight Islamic leaders is encouraging.

"Yet it is not without interest that this statement — which despite its shortcomings was still the most forthcoming from senior Muslim leaders in living memory — followed a robust critique [by the Pope] of the theological roots of jihadism, not the exchange of banalities and pleasantries that too often characterizes interreligious dialogue. Surely there are lessons here for the future." (p. 61)

I do not wish to argue for a different view of Islam from that which Weigel adopts: his foreign policy conclusions do not follow even if one sees Islam as he does. But his efforts to drive a wedge between Islam and the other two "Abrahamic" religions are sometimes forced. He rightly notes that Muslims believe that their faith has superseded Judaism and Christianity.

Read the rest of the article here

Very key point:
" Weigel says: 'Islam's radical stress on the unicity (oneness) of God, which Islam sharply distinguishes from the Christian Trinitarian concept of God, may also help explain the differing success each religion has had in creating societies characterized by a healthy, vibrant pluralism.' (p. 169, note 21) Weigel omits to mention that Judaism also insists on God's absolute unity. Indeed, Maimonides largely for that reason thought Islam closer to the truth than Christianity."

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