Intellectus Quaerens Fidem
Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity in the University of Cambridge, is well-known to Commonweal readers. In the July 8th issue of The Tablet he has an elegant and pointed review of a new book by the eminent English philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny, What I Believe.
Though trained in scholastic philosophy prior to Vatican II and ordained a priest, Kenny “now rejects religious faith and proclaims himself an agnostic.” However, he continues to find important intellectual resources in Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.
As Duffy remarks:
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, for someone with this intellectual pedigree, many of his deepest convictions on truth, morals, and the proper ordering of society will resonate with Catholics: if not quite an anonymous Christian, Kenny reads at times like an honorary Dominican.
One salient example of this is Kenny’s rejection of the legitimacy of suicide and of “assisted dying.” Indeed, he expresses the hope that he himself will not be tempted in this, to the point of praying “that if I do I will be given the strength to resist it.”
Here is Duffy’s reflection:
It is good to know that Kenny still sometimes prays, and it would be impertinent to scrutinise that impulse too closely. Yet so rational a man must surely ask himself what sort of a being must that God be who can even be imagined as hearing the prayers of humanity at the end of its tether, and who might respond with strength against temptation. For prayer to have any meaning, the pray-er must surely, if only momentarily, abandon the enigmatic blank of agnosticism, and reach out towards the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jesus. And such a God, holy and ardent for love as the great montheisms have conceived him, can hardly be satisfied with the civilised indifference to his being which Sir Anthony thinks the “default position for rational humanity.”