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In Islam theological rebuttal of violence does not exist

Debate between Robert Spencer and Peter Kreeft

Debate between Robert Spencer and Peter Kreeft

Robert Spencer:

… there is no theological system in Islam, there is no sect, there is no group within Islam that has formulated a comeback, an understanding, a construction of Islamic theology based on the Koran that makes a case to reject violence and supremacism and the subjugation of unbelievers. It doesn’t exist.

I too have searched far and wide — as well as reading the views of many “moderate” Muslims — many of them good people — to find such a theological rebuttal. But without success.

Video below starts a minute before the above statement is made.

The complete video is just under two hours long.


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  1. Barboo

    That’s a very interesting video. If I had more time at the moment I’d have a lot to say. But what I found most interesting and aggravating was the negative view of both Robert Spencer and his opponent – both Catholics – toward the Enlightenment. I’ve run into this view a fair bit in recent years. I find it shocking and quite contrary to my view of the Enlightenment.

    I know that wasn’t the focus of the debate, but the focus didn’t reveal anything that was new to me about Islam. For me the sticking point was the Enlightenment references. Maybe I’ll come back and write about what I’m thinking later.

    In my opinion, Robert Spencer won the debate, and it seems even his opponent was won over.

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    You can listen again to Peter Kreeft’s condemnation of The Enlightenment from: 45.27 for a couple of minutes.

    Robert Spencer responds from: 50:36

    I’m not convinced, listening again to Robert Spencer, that he necessarily agrees with Peter Kreeft.
    It’s true that he doesn’t express DISagreement, however.

    Robert Spencer says: “Well, I understand, Dr Kreeft … your points about, that The Enlightenment is a greater enemy but …”

    And then Robert Spencer questions how there can really be common ground between (presumably) Christianity and Islam when Islam’s conceptions of what is and isn’t moral is so far and so different from the (presumably) Christian conception.

    Here is what Peter Kreeft thinks about The Enlightenment and why it’s a problem:


    “The Enlightenment was basically the narrowing of our vision to a purely scientific, empirical, rationalistic worldview, screwing down the manhole covers on us so we became squinting underground creatures … My favorite villains here are Descartes and Kant, both of whom have narrowed reason. Descartes narrowed reason to a human psychological thing — calculating. And Kant narrowed reason to a subjective thing — merely something that goes on inside our head that does not correspond to an objective reality we can know … In the Middle Ages and in ancient times, reason was the cosmic order of things which we understood intuitively before we understood it analytically. When the ancients defined man as the rational animal, they didn’t mean he was a narrow, dull, abstract analytic thing. They included his heart, his moral sense of conscience, his aesthetic sense. It was part of reason to wonder at the beauty of the heavens.”


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  3. Barboo

    I don’t have time right now to read the whole article you linked to. But if your excerpt from it is enough to go on, it looks like Kreeft has a much narrower view of the Enlightenment than I do. To me, the Enlightenment was a time when faith and force was replaced by a respect for reason and the right of the individual mind to use its reason to grasp reality for itself, without being forced to conform to the creed of those in power. Naturally, when a society embraces intellectual liberty you will find an explosion of new ideas, many of which will be in contention with each other. The only way to avoid development of dubious or even destructive ideas, such as those of Immanuel Kant (I’m not as familiar with Descartes) would be to shut down intellectual freedom and have a particular creed imposed from above, punishing anyone who dares to be a heretic.

    Although the Catholic Church did, pre-Enlightenment, punish heretics, I doubt that Kreeft would be in favor of outlawing intellectual liberty. Or would he? If he thinks the advocates of the Enlightenment are more dangerous than Islam, I wonder what it is he’s *really* on about. I suspect that he doesn’t really know himself.

    The essence of the Enlightenment is *not* any errors about reason that some of the Enlightenment thinkers made or the bad streams of thought that lead to, say, Marxism. The essence of the Enlightenment is the freeing of the mind to explore, to think, to make errors, to correct errors, to speak out against what we believe are errors or injustices, applying reason to the best of our ability in order to discover truths.

    I agree with Kreeft that being a “rational animal” does not make us a “narrow, dull, abstract, analytic thing”, which is why I admire Ayn Rand and agree with her philosophy of Objectivism, which builds on the evidence of the senses, connecting one’s understanding to what one can know from the ground up. And she does not ignore the nature and value of intuition and emotions, but puts them in their proper place – not as the final arbiter of truth and falsehood, but as automatic integrations that must not be ignored, that may hold important information that might be grounded in reality, or be mistaken, but should not be brushed off without attention.

    I would call Rand an “Enlightenment thinker”. And she rejected and despised Immanuel Kant for his rejection of our ability to know reality first-hand.

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