The Divisive and the Unifying Power of Faith: Nicholas of Cusa in the Presence of Islamic Military Victory
Paul Richard Blum, Loyola University Maryland
Delivered at the KU Leuven Institute of Philosophy on December 2, 2015 as part of the Leuven Newman Society's "Faith & Reason" series.
In 1453, when Byzantium fell to the Turkish powers, Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) wrote a treatise, De pace fidei, in which he pondered the reasons why religion can lead to war and set peoples against each others. He was convinced that there is a “heaven of reason” (coelum rationis), in which understanding the truth of religion spreads peace. His philosophical starting point was that the notion of God entails bliss, love, and union, whereas everything remote from God is transitory, discordant, and fragile. Hence he postulated that the variety of religions cannot be the essence of faith, but rather the gateway to unity and peace. In order to show that he scrutinized all religious groups known to him, including the Bohemians and the Muslims and emphasized that they all imply the same veneration of truth. As a result he concluded that religion cannot possibly be divisive, which is contrary to the truth, but ultimately unifying for – in Christian language – it must have been God’s will to be sought from all sides of the world. Plurality, hence, is not a curse but a blessing.