by Wade Seale

I grew up in a Catholic home, in the parish community of St Matthew, Bonteheuwel. I was about three years old when St Matthew started a charismatic prayer group. The prayer group grew and developed a strong presence in the parish, and as a result, I was exposed to charismatic spirituality from my earliest days. I mention this because many people of my generation probably testify to “finding God” in a charismatic camp or prayer meeting or something. This was not the case for me.

I pinpoint a turning point in my life to a moment that had no awesome music, no inspiring sermon, no prayer. At this moment I wasn’t even in a church, or any faith-gathering setting. Yet this was probably the moment at which I experienced God most strongly.

Pope Benedict XVI had just delivered a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany. In part of his lecture, to an audience made up of the academic community of the university and journalists, Pope Benedict XVI quoted a thirteenth century Byzantine Emperor who expressed an unfavourable opinion of the Prophet Mohammed to a Persian interlocutor. The quote was taken out of the context of Benedict XVI’s lecture and parts of the Muslim world responded with anger and protest. Some of the protests turned violent, with at least one nun being murdered in related evets.

As a young student who was interested in anything and everything except my academic work, I was intrigued by the reaction of these Muslims. I started by reading news reports on the protests; then moved on to longer commentaries; and eventually arrived at the text of Benedict XVI’s lecture. Upon looking at the lecture the first time, I found it to be dense and difficult to read. I therefore just looked for the controversial section and read that. Then I looked at the paragraph and figured out what the Holy Father was trying to say; that he was reflecting on a difference between the Christian idea of God and the idea of God in Islam. Challenging as it was, I then made myself read the first few paragraphs, at least until being able to contextualise the controversial part of the lecture.

Before the controversial section, Pope Benedict gives a brief sketch of the Christian idea of God. He focuses on the opening lines of the Gospel of John which says “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh”. He explains that if you translate ‘word’ into Greek it’ll be ‘logos’. The Greek word ‘logos’ can be translated into the English word ‘word’, as it is done in most English Bibles, but ‘logos’ can also be translated into ‘reason’. In fact, the English word ‘logic’ comes from the Greek word ‘logos’. The Greeks use the same word – “logos” – to mean ‘word’, ‘reason’ and ‘logic’. Benedict explained that because the opening lines of the Gospel of John reads “In the beginning was the Word/Logos…and the Word/Logos was God…and the Word/Logos became flesh”, because the Greek logos means both ‘word’ and ‘reason’, the opening verses of the Gospel of John could also be translated to read “In the beginning was the Reason…and the Reason was God…and the Reason became flesh”. Having explained that reason is in the nature of God in this way; that Reason is God, violence cannot be justified in the name of God because violence is unreasonable. Violence is the opposite of reason.

The moment I first understood these few lines in my university library was my conversion moment. I was immediately awestruck. I remember literally staring into space. I had always been an active Catholic. But for the first time in my life I had an idea of God that was real; an understanding of God that makes God more than just the Zeus-like figure with a long white beard, as in so many of the Bible stories. For the first time in my life a had a conviction about God and His existence that reached to the depths of being. God is Reason. God is Logic. And Logic makes science possible because it enables us to understand the natural world. When we say “God created the world”, it becomes easy to understand how if God is reason and we use reason to understand the way the world works, as in science. Ever since this day I sought the underlying reason and logic in all things, because I realised that finding the reason and logic in things was finding God.

With this view of God, I started reading and thinking about God and creation and some of the other great questions of life. It eventually led me to start studying philosophy. I’ve realised that the structure of music, for example, is very reasonable, and so I recognised the link between beauty and reason. I now believe that our human desire for beauty is ultimately the desire for God, whether we realise it or not. I realise that our human desire for knowledge and truth is ultimately a desire for God. I realised why human beings spend so much of their time in pursuit of science and questions about law, justice and morality. These pursuits are ultimately pursuits of God, the God who, in Christ, said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). In this way science can be understood as a kind of theology: a kind of studying the Creator by understanding His creation.

I think of Pope Benedict XVI as my intellectual hero today. I’ve read many of his books and articles and have received great spiritual and intellectual benefit from doing so. Even though his writing may not be easy to read, I will encourage anybody to read and study his writing. I can testify that God has used Pope Benedict XVI to change my life.


About the AuthorProfile Wade

Wade Seale

If, on my death-bed, I ended up as one-part Jack Sparrow, one-part Benedict XVI and one-part Steve Jobs, I would think I’ve lived a life. I am most interested in the philosophical side of theology and the theological side of philosophy, with a few other swashbuckling distractions. I play a little rhythm guitar in one or two bands and am an amateur cook. From time to time I visit the gym, but have no particular goals of losing weight or building muscle: I figure a few minutes on a treadmill is better than watching Top Gear reruns. I’ve lived in Cape Town all my life and plan to move to Malaga, Spain soon to pursue a PhD.