FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE IDEA OF CHRISTIANITY

  • Published on
    28-Sep-2016

  • View
    212

  • Download
    0

Transcript

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 190 / Religious Studies Review

    I have argued that Gewirths deduction is not finally persuasive, and if I am right, then this would seem again to cast doubt on the possibility ofjustifying moral principles at all. In fact, despite the shortcomings of Gewirths specific argument, rational justification of a less direct sort still re- mains possible. One can argue, as do Rawls and Gert, and perhaps also David Richards (1971), that if there is to be anything like a morality (a rational procedure for arbitrat- ing social disputes) one must reason in an impartial manner and utilize only the basic values of our generic nature. This justification is successful, I believe. It will persuade all ra- tional agents that it is rational for there to be morality as we know it, since this procedure of reasoning will eventuate in the ordinary moral rules. But, clearly, this justification has the effect of making individual immoral behavior less im- mediately irrational, and it also renders more difficult the task ofjustifying individual commitment to morality. Where Gewirths immoral agent seriously contradicts himself, an immoral person aware of a Rawlsian justification merely eschews acceptance of a rational method of settling social disputes. Where Gewirth answers someone who asks the question, Why should I be moral?, by saying, You will not even be able to think rationally if you are not, a Rawlsian can only reply that the agent who chooses immorality relin- quishes the productive instrumentality of moral appeal. Obviously, many individuals-especially those in very fortunate or very urgent circumstances-might rationally be willing to abandon a moral settlement of disputes.

    This lastjustification of morality is therefore far weaker than most defenders of morality would like, and Gewirths strenuous effort to provide a firmer ground for individual moral obligation is a sign that contemporary rational ethical theory has exposed a major difficulty. Even as it has illumin- ated the general relationship between reason and substan- tive moral principles, it has exposed the great difficulty of justifying moral commitment. Indeed, by revealing the logic of moral reasoning, by demystifying it and by replacing more traditional and more intuitive moral views, rational ethical theory may actually have made the task of motivating and justifying moral commitment more difficult than ever.

    This conclusion has important implications for disci- plines adjacent to ethics, particularly the study of religion. Since religious belief and behavior are certainly related to the moral life, the more precise clarification of the structure and limits of moral reason afforded by contemporary ethi- cal theory may help to throw light on religious behavior itself. In a recent book (1978) I have argued that reasons inability to justify individual moral commitment helps both explain and justify the kind of metaphysical speculation commonly a part of religious belief. But whether or not this specific claim is correct, the changes wrought in ethical theory recently must have some impact on religious studies and theology. The fact that the analytic concern with the meaning and uses of moral language which dominated ethics until recently had its counterpart in a linguistically- oriented philosophy of religion shows how related these two disciplines are in content and method. The recognition that there is nothing especially distinctive about moral language, and greater insight into the content of moral judgments, have fostered a return in ethics to a more traditional ex- ploration of the logical significance and rational justifiability of moral principles. Because Gewirths book solidly rein-

    forces this trend, it may well help presage a return to ra- tional argumentation in the study of religion as well.

    REFERENCES

    GERT, BERNARD

    GREEN, RONALD M. 1970

    1978 Be&$ Oxford University Press.

    1963

    1974

    1971

    1971

    The Moral Rules. Harper & Row.

    Religious Reason: The Rational and Moral Basis of Religious

    HARE, R. M.

    NOZICK, ROBERT

    RAWLS, JOHN

    RICHARDS, DAVID

    Freedom and Reason. Oxford University Press.

    Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books.

    A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press.

    A Theoly of Reasons fordctions. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE IDEA OF CHRISTIANITY By Karl Rahner Translated by William V. Dych A Crossroad Book New York: Seabury Press, 1978 Pp. xv + 470. $19.50 Reviewers: John C. Robertson, Jr., and Leo J . ODonovan

    1

    Reviewer: John C. Robertson, Jr. McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8

    The publication of Karl Rahners Foundations of Christian Faith-the English version of his Grundkurs d e s Glaubens (1976)- is a major event for two obvious reasons. First, the book is such as to assure us that Rahner in his mid-seventies (Rahner was born in 1904, the same year that saw the birth of those other two Roman Catholic greats, Lonergan and Congar) is still working with unabated genius and energy. Second, we can also rejoice because this is a new type of book for Rahner. Up until now, the (massive) Rahner corpus has consisted of isolated studies of special topics. While these special studies have been much and rightfully celebrated, many of us have long wished for an overall and uninter- rupted statement of Rahners basic theological position. That wish was partially fulfilled by A Rahner Reader (1975c-G. A. McCools skillfully-edited collection of key Rahner writings. But with Foundations Rahner has himself given us what we have wished for.

    A When one thinks about this book vis-a-vis the forty years of Rahners philosophical-theological career, it is natural to wonder how Rahners mind has changed. Two things can be said right away. First, considering the general change that has occurred in the last half-century, what strikes one most about Rahners thinking has been, not its change, but its continuity. T o be sure, Rahners reputation as a restless,

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 Religious Studies Review / 191

    ever-probing, venturesome, fresh, open-ended thinker is justified. And, obviously, these adjectives connote change. But one will look in vain for radical discontinuities and basic self-reversals in Rahner. While no one could, of course, simply deduce from the early writings the later ones, one can now see rather clearly that and how the later writings are fugue-like developments of the insights hit upon and ex- pressed in the early Spirit in the World and Hearers of the Word. This can be a flaw, however, only for those who prize novelty for its own sake. It can more appropriately be taken as a testimony, I think, to the productiveness and strength of the original position, its capacity to generate and accommo- date new thoughts.

    Second, there have, nevertheless, been some subtle changes, even in the basic structure. From the beginning Rahner has done theology from below. While Rahner has (stoutly) resisted tendencies to reduce all talk of the divine to some form of human self-understanding, he has neverthe- less insisted from the beginning that all of our religious knowledge is mediated and conditioned by our experience of the finite world and is inseparable from it. This emphasis remains. What emerges as new in the later Rahner, how- ever, and is so obvious in this book, is a richer understanding of the world itself. It is now clearer than ever that the world is not merely the world of discreet sensa but is also the world of historicity, relativity, intersubjectivity, and personalism. This is not to imply that the early Rahner, who was, after all, Heideggers pupil (Rahner calls Heidegger his Meister), was innocent of history and intersubjectivity. But the full impact of German Lebensphilosophie in this regard seems more obvi- ous now than before. The result is that the ori8inal finite and a posteriori base is broadened and, in my judgment, immeasurably enriched.

    Further, Rahners early Augustinianism is prominent now, despite Rahners puzzling failure to acknowledge this (indeed he almost always refers to Augustine and Augus- tinianism in a negative manner). Yet, what was little more than latent in the early works is fully explicit now; for exam- ple, God is not known by an inference from the finite to the infinite but is rather co-known, in the act of knowing the finite, as the a priori Lumen Inbllectw and horizon of abso- lute intelligibility. Of course, one can claim this to be Aquinas position. But, unless I am mistaken, that would only be to say that Aquinas himself was more Augustinian than is ordinarily thought. In any case, the Augustinian influence on Rahner is clear if unacknowledged.

    The result, and this is what matters most, is a remark- able account of human experience as the open-ended and dynamic drive of the self toward knowledge and personal meaning, which drive is explicable only in terms of a horizon of infinite being and absolute mystery which evokes and nourishes it. It is in this way that Rahner challenges the self-sufficient finitude of secularism and is able to argue that humans are existentially open to a possible self-giving of God. And, of course, Rahner is not only a philosopher but also a Christian precisely because he believes that the human race has in fact been so addressed.

    This patient and intense laying of philosophical- anthropological foundations is expressive of Rahners strug- gle against immobilism and extrinsicism in his own tradi- tion (and fideism and revelation-positivism in Protestant- ism). It also clearly places Rahner in the tradition of the

    great mediating theologians (from John Locke through Schleiermacher and Blonde1 to Tillich) who refuse to sepa- rate apologetic and dogmatic theology and who argue for the fit between the answer given in revelation and general accounts of human experience. In my opinion, the danger of this mediating approach-that is, of allowing the prior understanding of the question(s) so to shape the capacity to understand the answer that the uniqueness, integrity, and superiority of the answer is lost-is finally outweighed by the need to make at least plausible the claim to universality implicit in the answer itself. Revelation-positivism cannot, I think, account for the conditions of the possibility of the truth of the kerygma.

    It is because Rahner has adopted such an apologetic and mediating stance that Foundations has come to be written. I say this because the book impresses me as a sus- tained effort to raise and address the question as to the meaning, justification, and significance of the key Christian claim, the claim that in Jesus one has to do with the absolute savior of all, in light of a general account of human expe- rience.

    The subtitle of the book is indicative of Rahners long- standing concern to grasp and state in a relatively short version an integral account of the Christian idea, a task that has been made both urgent and difficult by modern secular developments, especially pluralism and the proliferation of specialized forms of investigation and knowledge. In addi- tion to the difficulties, Rahner believes, however, that these developments, concomitants that they are of modern historical-consciousness, have some positive effects. For example, they so expose the danger of mistaking what is partial for what is complete and what is changeable for what is not, that the church and the theologians are forced to be more sensitive than before to the differences between the abiding treasure and earthen conceptual vessels.

    It is illusory, however, to think that specialized research can put back together or replace the integral vision(s) it has challenged. Hence there is a need for what Rahner calls a first level of reflection, in which one will risk a unified clarification of his or her basic self-understanding. Rahner also refers to this discipline as first science (which suggests comparisons with Aristotles first philosophy). In any case, I believe this is a new concept in Rahner which we can hope he will develop further subsequently. (I believe that we can already see that itsfirstness does not mean it is necessarily chronologically prior to specialized or secondary sciences. Nor does it replace or rival them. But it has some logical priority inasmuch as it has to do with the basic self- understanding that generates and can integrate the work of specialized sciences and disciplines.) Rahner understands Foundations to be an exercise in such first level reflection. In a word, the book grows, then, out of a particular self- understanding, the Christian one, and seeks to clarify, de- velop, and vindicate it. It is-to use an Augustinian- Anselmian formula-a case of f&s quarens intellectum and intellectus quarens fidem.

    The philosophical-anthropological section of the book describes profoundly, I think, the universal question that humans are for themselves. This section contains an account of the question component of the question-answer structure that Christian theology presupposes. What is surprising and even more interesting, however, is that Rahner also argues

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 192 / Religious Studies Review

    for the presence of something else factually constitutive of human experience. He perceives human life as actually lived on the basis of a preconceptual basic trust in the worthwhileness of existence. The Absolute Mystery (and unfmsbare Woraujhin of human life) is experienced, not only as question and distant goal, but also as trustworthy and intimate presence. Rahners theological interpretation of this experience relies heavily on the concept of grace, a grace that need not but in fact does accompany the created order as such.

    It isjust in this context that Rahner turns to what surely is, since Lessing, the most difficult problem in Christian theology, namely, How can uparticular event, i.e., Jesus Christ, have universalsignificance? The raising and addressing ofjust this question constitutes the second third of the book.

    B I find Rahners argument a brilliant analysis of the problem and his answer, while problematic, a clear advance beyond traditional and alternative contemporary answers.

    Basically traditional theology has been unable to solve the problem, in myjudgment, because in all of its forms, for all their variety, there has been a common insistence that somehow or other the explicitly-Christian revelation is con- stitutive of salvation. Traditional theology has held this view because of a conviction that apart from the explicitly-chris- tian revelation the human race exists bereft of a knowledge of God or in moral impotence or both.

    The difficulty with positions like these, however, is that they are basically unstable. On the one hand, the Christian revelation they adhere to speaks of a God of love whose salvific will is universal. On the other hand, by making the Christian revelation itself constitutive of salvation, they leave unexplained (to say the least) how the vast majority of the human race, which after all has not had a meaningful contact with the explicitly-Christian revelation, can indeed be included in the economy of salvation.

    Rahners response, whatever its problems, is direct, rad- ical, and interesting. He distinguishes two modes of revela- tion, the universal, Transcendental and the special, cate- gorical. The former is coexistent and coextensive with the history of the world and of the human spirit (1 53). It refers to Gods gracious self-giving always and everywhere-to every person as the inner-most centre of his existence, whether he wants it or not, whether he reflects upon it or not, whether he accepts it or not (139). Nor is it a merely natural or philosophical knowledge about God; it is an experience of the gracious God himself, which experience is potentially salvific (163). Because of this universal divine presence, human life can be lived in basic trust and hopeful- ness (141). In a word, the history of salvation and revela- tion is coextensive with the whole of world history (142). Hence the authentic human possibility is (supernaturally) given in and with ordinary history itself. (Rahners technical and Thomistic explanation of this makes use of the notion of God giving himself as the new higher, and gratuitous, although unreflexive, formal object of human conscious- ness [ 1721.)

    Of course, Rahners argument here is interesting par- tially because it is so bold. It remains, perhaps, controversial even in the final analysis. But some clarification may help it get a fair hearing. First, Rahner is perfectly aware that a poll

    of the worlds population will not support his view that all human beings have experienced God, much less divine grace. But this settles nothing, for there is a difference between experiencing something and knowing that you have experienced something (believing something and be- lieving that you believe, etc.). Rahners universal experience of grace refers to a preconceptual experience. But please note, the contrast is not between experience and under- standing simpliciter, for no human experience is so brutish as to be devoid of understanding. The contrast rather is be- tween reflexive (or thematic) and unreflexive (unthematic) experience, a distinction that has to do with degrees of self-awareness. His conviction then is that all persons have had and continually have unreflexive experiences of divine grace, whether they know it or not. If they do not know it, these are called anonymous experiences.

    This does not mean, however, that Rahner is contraven- ing the Christian conviction that salvation is a matter of faith responding to grace. The possibility of anonymous salva- tion is not a concession to works-righteousness or Pelagian- ism. Although Rahners most frequent illustrations of anonymous religion pertain to moral acts, this does not mean that religion is reducible to morality. It means rather that, to Rahners mind, morality is not self-contained but presupposes a more basic decision about the ultimate nature of reality. Although one can always do the right thing for the wrong reason, it is nevertheless plausible to think that genuine love of neighbor expresses an antecedent love of that Infinite Whole within which both my neighbor and I live, move, and have our being. This is what Rahner means by an implicit, or unthematic, or unreflexive experience of grace/faith/God which may accompany moral activity.

    It does not mean, however, that the achievement of reflexive self-understanding is unimportant. To the con- trary, since we are rational and reflective beings, who not only live but also must self-consciously lead our lives, a fully reflective self-awareness is required by the human drive for wholeness. And this brings us to the notion of a categorical and special revelation, which is, quite simply, a species, a segment of the universal history of transcendental revela- tion that has become self-aware (155). It is a moment in world history in which the divine origins of the moments of authenticity become manifest and certain to self- consciousness (1 56).

    Rahners substantial christological discussion is an at- tempt to interpret Jesus Christ as just such a categorical revelation. While Rahners christology is high and or- thodox, it is not exclusivistic. First of all, categorical revela- tion is not coextensive with revelation as such. Nor, sec- ondly, does the high status which Rahner attributes to the Christ-event rule out the possibility of other meaningful thematizations of grace. Rahner rather interprets Christ as normative-as the eschatological occurrence which is intelli-

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 Religious Studies Review / 193

    gible and compelling in itself and capable of rendering intelligible, correcting, and enhancing the more general history of categorical revelations-but not as exhaustive.

    This opens the way for a possible solution to the prob- lem of how a particular contingent event can have universal religious significance. If traditional theology ran aground by simply making the Christ-event constitutive for salvation, Rahner offers us a subtle and (to my mind) a more nearly adequate alternative. While he holds that there is a sense in which Jesus Christ as the final cause (telos) of revelation is ontologically constitutive of salvation, his proposal is new because it emphasizes that metically, at least, Jesus Christ is representative rather than constitutive of authentic human existence (i.e., salvation). Jesus Christ objectifies and re- presents what is always already present to human hearts and consciousness in the awesome, mysterious, and sublime liturgy that is world history. In this consists the universality of the distinctively Christian revelation in Jesus.

    My appreciation for Rahners treatment of these chris- tological issues is great, for it seems to me to provide a way of being faithful to Chalcedon and also doing justice to the belief that Gods salvific love is universal. So it is religiously satisfying. I also find it more nearly philosophically satisfy- ing than most alternative accounts, for on it, christological claims do not come at one as though shot from the pistol. Rather there is the claim, which is argued for, that the categorical event is appropriate to and interlocks with humankinds transcendental experience in general. Nor is it a sheer negation of all other human attempts to thematize that experience. Rather, to use Whiteheads formulation that H. R. Niebuhr gave some currency, it is a special occasion that claims both to be intelligible in itself and capable of rendering intelligible all occasions. Hence it makes claims that are subject to some sort of soft verification.

    The obvious criticism of this way of handling the uni- versal/particular problem is that it so emphasizes the con- tinuity between the two that the uniqueness of the latter is dissolved. What may give special plausibility to this charge is the abstractness of Rahners account of Christ and his virtual neglect of the literary and historical details and the narrative character of the Christian categorical revelation. But I fail to see that Rahners principles necessitate such a neglect. And if Rahners christology is not as concrete and rich in literary sensitivity as, say, Karl Barths, it nevertheless has an advantage. It specifies and vindicates the universal significance of the particular event of Jesus Christ by specifying and vindicating the conditions of its possibility.

    To touch on another but related problem, one may wonder whether the concept of a universally graced world history, entailed by Transcendental revelation, is com- patible with this particular categorical revelation when the latter centers around a crucifixion. That is, does the former simply baptize natural vitalities, while the latter is about a fundamental contradiction between natural vitalities and Gods grace? I think Rahner should be more careful in sorting this out, but I think his position is at least consistent with classical Thomisms contention that grace perfects rather than contradicts nature. What the cross contradicts is the perversion of the natural and not the natural itself. Self-realization and shouldering the cross are only appar- ently contradictory, it can be plausibly argued.

    Finally, if this is the meaning of the central Christian confession, what is its significance for the ongoing life of the church itself and for the churchs interaction with the wider human community? I find this part of the presentation (largely contained in the last third of the book), which explic- itly addresses this sub-question, the least inspired part- simply because 1 found it not up to the high level of what Rahner himself has already written elsewhere (e.g., The Shape of the Church to Come [ 19741). Nonetheless, there are several high points.

    C First, Rahner shows by precept and example how this un- derstanding of christology suggests a way of ordering the contents of theology. Christology, which presupposes a prior and general experience of grace, itself serves as the apex of a sort of inverted pyramid of subsequent thematiza- tions. The community of faith rests upon and expands the Christ-event. It is (contra Augustine) faith in Jesus that makes the church credible and not vice versa. The preach- ing, teaching, and organization of the church have validity only in the derivative sense that they bear witness to Jesus Christ. The justification of the sacraments is treated in this context. So also are patterns of organization and authority within the church. And the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are treated as a form of the communitys corpo- rate self-understanding.

    I gladly confess that there was much in Rahners ecclesiology that I could, as a Protestant, find edifying and agreeable. And if I was not sure that Rahner had overcome Hans Kungs (and my own) reservations about infallibility, I find joy in being able to testify to finding in Rahners ac- count of community a vision not only rich in what Tillich called catholic substance-a sense of tradition, of belong- ing to a people, and of the sacramental, contemplative, and mystical-but also containing some feel for what Tillich also spoke of as the Protestant principle-the capacity to criticize finite expressions in the name of the one Absolute.

    But second, and even more interesting to me, with Rahner we have a clean break with all visions of the church as the ark or realm of redemption. Neither Jesus nor the Christian community, according to Rahner, exists to pro- vide an isolated encounter with God in an otherwise godless world. Rather both exist to bear witness, by word and exam- ple, to the gracious and holy Mystery that encompasses us all always already and is the inner word by which all human beings live insofar as they live at all.

    It isjust this stance on universality and particularity that explains, in my opinion, the well-known paradox that Rahner is more radical concerning secular humanism and non-Christian religions than most theologians and also more conservative than many on matters of dogma, disci- pline, and ecclesiology. But this is no contradiction! If mem- bership in the community of faith were constitutive of salva- tion, one might try to make membership and discipline as cheap as possible and doctrine indefinite and minimal. But since the church, like Jesus, is not ark but sign, Rahner is free and even compelled to be stringent for the sake of the clarity of that sign function.

    At the center of the churchs witness of faith are the three key dogmas of grace, Jesus Christ, and the Trinity. I have discussed the first two already. Rahners treatment of

  • 194 / Religious Studies Review Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979

    the third, while disappointingly brief, will nevertheless be of special interest to those theologians influenced by process philosophy. For Rahner, the Trinity expresses the convic- tion that the Absolute God is really (and notjust logically) related in love to the world of change and contingency. Consequently the finite cannot be merely negative (2 19). While Rahner, with his church, rejects both pantheism and the doctrine of a finite deity, he urges that much yet remains to be worked out in ontology by way of doing justice to the partial identity between God and the world and the senses in which God is really involved in historical change. Here, says Rahner, ontology has to be adapted to the message of faith and not be schoolmaster to this message (221). The basic direction he suggests is one of developing the insight that God who is not subject to change can. . . be subject to change in something else (220). The capacity to change need not be a defect; it may, indeed, be a perfection of goodness, power, and love.

    I wish Rahner had developed this thought more fully, but the grounds for a fruitful discussion with the followers of Whitehead and Hartshorne are obvious. The issue, I think, would have to do with trying to show how the rela- tionship between God and the world can be in some senses reciprocal without either endangering the aseity of God or running the risk of conceiving mutuality in a synergistic (and mythological) fashion. While the process thinkers might learn something in such a dialogue about the absolute mystery and majesty of God, Rahner might find a way to develop his notion of divine self-giving so as to include within it a sense of love as sharing, suffering with, and receiving from, as well as giving to.

    Thirdly, by Rahners account the church will confront the wider community dialogically. It will confront non- Christians-whether secular people or members of other religions-as beings who have already experienced and been claimed by the holy mystery of grace, whether they know it or not. The witness then will consist of offering an interpretation of our common human experience. Of course, Rahner must know that non-Christians may not agree that they are anonymous Christians and may argue in turn that the Christian is really, insofar as he or she is authentically human, an anonymous Marxist, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever. And, they may continue, it is only their reflexive self-interpretation that can do justice to common experiences.

    Often this sort of scenario is sketched as though it alone were enough to discredit Rahners theory about anony- mous Christianity. Why this could be considered a refutation, I cannot imagine. It seems to me that Rahners theory is what one would expect from anyone who understood the implications of a radical belief. In other words, basic truth- claims of high religions and comprehensive philosophies intend universality. Hence for one to adopt such a claim as

    true for oneself, one can hardly avoid implying that some- how or other that claim is relevant and true for all other people as well. Those who label imperialistic such efforts to understand others by extending outward from what one believes about oneself are usually those who no longer have much confidence, I suspect, in the foundations of their own tradition. Rahner at least can not be accused of such lack of confidence.

    Presumably in the coming world civilization, conflicting truthclaims will be made, and hopefully this will be an occasion for renewed appeals to human experience and mutual edification. In such a context, Protestants and Catholics will make progress in overcoming their old differ- ences by sharing with one another in a mutual dialogue with the world.

    At the outset, I specified two reasons for welcoming this book. There is a third one: there are many of us who judge Karl Rahner to be one of the real giants of modern theology and philosophy of religion. This challenging, original, help- ful, and rich volume can only support thatjudgment. It is a work of rare intellectual power and profound religious sen- sitivity.

    2

    Reviewer: Leo J . ODonovan Weston School of Theology Cambridge, M A 02138

    The major temptation in assessing the significance of this extraordinary book is to read it as an answer to ones own questions as a theologian rather than as the course of study Rahner himself intended for an audience he has quite pre- cisely defined. In many ways indeed the volume is a testa- ment from its author, as Martin Marty suggested in The New York Times Book Review (1978), or even a synthesis of his theological journey, as Joseph Ratzinger remarked in the first major review of the book to appear in German (1978). While Rahner admits that certain topics are only briefly considered or even necessarily omitted, Foundations of Chris- tian Faith does treat the major themes of doctrinal theology. I t moves from introductory methodological remarks through a discussion of Christian anthropology, the reality of God, the situation of human freedom with respect to divine grace, and an outline of the history of salvation and revelation. Then, after devoting its central third to the ques- tion ofJesus Christ, it addresses the gathering of the church, Christian life and the sacraments, and eschatology. A con- cluding epilogue contains several short formulas of faith.

    A Inasmuch as Rahner provides a synthetic view of Christian faith, his book belongs to the distinguished company of similar efforts by theologians such as Adolph Harnack, Karl Adam, and, most recently, Hans Kung. But inasmuch as a special theoretical intention guides the development of the book, it provides something less than a synthesis and yet much more. That intention is to express the whole of Christianity and to give an honest account of it on a first level of reflection (xii). Addressed to students of theology who will be serving in the church either as ordained minis- ters or as teachers and lay ministers of the word, the book

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 Religious Studies Review / 195

    proceeds with two questions in view: How can ones faith as a whole be expressed in a contemporary way, and how can one justify such faith today before the demands of intellec- tual honesty? Actual belief is invited to take reflective pos- session of itself and at the same time to respond to the basic requirements of modern historical and critical conscious- ness. Such a first level of reflection can be defined nega- tively by distinguishing it on the one hand from mere com- mon sense about ones religious beliefs and, on the other, from the specialized theology which would comprise a stu- dents further education, the theology for which this book is intended precisely as an introduction. More exactly, the first level of reflection is a process of thought which takes as its ground the essential interrelationship of experience and reflection; it then attempts to understand how the primary truths of faith are rooted in that ground. Clearly, since Rahner builds on the experience of lived faith, he is address- ing those who already believe. Butjust as clearly his struggle to account for the primary dimensions of faith will reveal to attentive readers what they share with those who cannot identify themselves with the community of faith. (We may note here that this is one reason among others why Founda- tions of Christian Faith can be a misleading title; in fact it was the choice not of the excellent translator but of the pub- lisher. Rahner himself had wanted to call his book in Ger- man simply An Introduction to the Zdea of Christianity, but he lost the argument with his publisher as well. Still, in discus- sion of the work, Introduction is a better way to refer to it.)

    The notion of a first level of reflection is crucial both to the specific intention of this book and to the general struc- ture of Rahners theological endeavor. It is valid if and only if he is correct in his epistemological and metaphysical posi- tions on the interdependence of being and knowing. Being is intrinsically luminous, in the nowclassical metaphor de- rived from both Augustine and Heidegger; knowledge is self-presence. Rather than develop these positions again, Rahner summarizes them skillfully and proceeds to specify them in each of his nine theological ways. (In German, each main section of the book was called a Gang, which seems untranslatable in English; to call each section a way rather than a chapter at least indicates that to a certain extent one and the same question is addressed in each.) There is a primordial unity in difference of experience and reflection, he recalls, as a result of which all experience seeks to understand itself more fully while all reflection seeks to recover its basic experience more adequately. A theological inquiry into the lived structures of faith does not invent new possibilities for that faith; it discovers the experienced movement of faith in its objectifiable moments and clarifies those moments for the new issues of faiths further life. Rahner speaks of this dialectical pattern in various ways, as the unity in difference of self-possession and self- interpretation, of experience and reflection, or, most inclu- sively, of history and transcendence. If he is interpreted as proposing a necessary dialectic in which an absolute idea is the term of an integrative process starting from an originally diffuse ontological order, he is idealistically misunderstood and his essentially religious inspiration is discounted. But if his dialectic is grasped as a truly historical one in which the transcendent fullness which belongs to God alone is offered in time to a creation free to accept or reject the offer, then he is correctly understood both in his modern retrieval of pe-

    rennial philosophy and in his incarnational center of grav- ity.

    No one, I would suggest, can appreciate Rahners con- viction and wonder at the prospect of our human process of coming to ourselves, a process ultimately of the worlds becoming what is promised to it in its original relation to its source and goal, unless one sees that this dialectic is fore- shadowed for Rahner in the classical language of Chal- cedon. The Ignatian influence on his religious sensibility has been emphatic, but he is still more significantly a theologian of the Word incarnate, of the union of God and humanity in Jesus the Christ which Chalcedon defined as being a unity at once unconfused and inseparable.2 He stands in the trajectory both of Council fathers and of classi- cal mystics who struggled to defend conceptually their lived experience of Gods closeness to humanity through his Word and in his Spirit. The fundamental distinction be- tween the transcendental and categorical moments of expe- rience comes first of all not from ontology but from a basic Christian conviction. It is refined by confrontation with the modern turn to subjectivity. It becomes urgent for a church that had lapsed into theological modes that were all too often objectivistic, ahistorical, and experientially deraci- nated. It also becomes inadequate, as I shall suggest later, when it is taken as a finished tool which needs no further development.

    Is Rahners method, then, a transcendental one? No, it is correctly described and can justify its own claims only if it is seen as comprising two related moments, the historical or categorical and the transcendental; these are in dialectical relation to one another because they are first given as an imperfect unity-though with the prospect of fully achieved union. The distinction, with its implied modes of analysis, derives from a sense of the holy before it becomes a philosophically-argued position within Rahners twofold theological method. Without clarity on this point, one is hardly likely to be persuaded by the contention that there is a primary level of reflection at which contemporary Chris- tians may reasonably and justifiably express their faith.

    B In the first way of anthropology, The Hearer of the Mes- sage, for example, one reading would find an undue pri- macy given to the human being as questioner or as expec- tation of God. But one must emphasize that the question is awakened by the prior reality of the message. The gospel message, in Rahners explicit terms, creates its point of con- tact in humanity. Subtle variations are worked on this theme, according to which God is also conceived as a ques- tion put to our answering responsibility (for some of the key passages on the theme cf. 11, 24,48,57f., 101, 170ff., 192, 217,263,350ff.). The resemblance to Paul Tillichs method of correlation is striking, and yet there are also differences. For Tillich religious symbols are born in response to the self-disclosure of the New Being in which they participate. For Rahner they derive through symbolic causality from the reality of Gods mystery itself. As a result of his highly realist epistemology, he is able to argue for the analogical truth of conceiving reality as such, both secular and divine, as prop- erly personal. This entails transcending the distinction be- tween the ontological and the dramatic or personal orders, and makes it possible to speak in a unified way of absolutely

  • 196 / Religious Studies Review Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979

    personal being as creating personal addressees for its mes- sage of universal salvation (cf. Robertson, 1975).

    The being which is unconditionally personal, absolutely loving and free, is the one we call God, and Rahners second way or chapter makes clear again that holy mystery is his most proper name for the divine. This conception of God appears throughout the text, heightening its directly reli- gious impact while also reinforcing an element of negative theology. In view of Rahners confidence in the possibilities of transcendental reflection, this negativity lends his ap- proach a typically modern irony. Once again, however, he seems to move beyond that category. A sense of reverence and awe is even more prominent than irony. A worship without words is more accurately the term of his dialectic than is a single-minded effort to affirm a God who is wholly other than his creation. (In addition, one should not over- look other names Rahner believes appropriate for God: absolute being, for example, or the absolute Thou, or the absolute future.)

    The struggle to name God is approached anew in each of the next three ways: in the third by returning to human freedom from the point of view of its possible rejection of God; in the fourth by deepening the earlier anthropology to reconceive it as what happens when the very selfhood of God is shared with what is other than God; in the fifth, by broadening the scope of the question so that Gods saving word may be seen as the integrating foundation for all of history. Rahners treatment of the history of revelation and of salvation offered through all of time is familiar in most respects. But this text deepens his earlier reflections by showing where the author thinks it most appropriate to introduce them. He does so after discussing faith from a largely individual point of view and before turning to Christ as the unique center of faith. This sequence heightens the centrality of the doctrine of grace in the previous section; it also provides some response to critics who have complained of Rahners intellectualist individualism. Gods gracious ap- proach to humanity is indeed the central reality of Christian experience. But it can be appreciated adequately only as a search for humanity which is coterminous with all of history and as a discovery which first begins its radically new age when humanitys full hope emerges with Jesus Christ.

    Rahners introductory christology, comprising the second third of his book, follows therefore on the reflective aware- ness that the time which God has made his own has its most decisive caesura in Christ (cf. 164ff.). T o recover a full sense of time after Darwin, however, we must realize how evolu- tionary theory has temporalized science. The affinity pro- posed by the author between Christian and evolutionary world views bears upon creation theology, anthropology, and eschatology. But he discusses christology in particular within the evolutionary perspective (in pages edited chiefly from Theolopal Investigations, Vol. 5), because the particu- larity of Jesus has its full force only against the most univer- sal horizon we can envisage, just as that horizon is dialecti- cally transformed for faith by the history of Jesus himself. The d i f f d t y of differentiating and uniting a transcenden- tal christology and actual historical witness to Jesus as the Christ is notorious. Rahners efforts to do so in his sixth way to God will probably not satisfy those whom it has not al- ready satisfied. And yet this section does bring together in one place his remarkable basic christology. It seems to be

    structured by treating first the a priori dimension of chris- tology (1 78-228, except for 203-06), then the a posteriori dimension (228-85), while concluding with some more ecu- menical and exploratory questions (285-32 1). Here Rahner strengthens his commitment to the reciprocity of descend- ing and ascending christologies (cf. Rahner, 1975), even though his harmonization of the two does not yet seem complete. Use of material from the volume he co-authored with Wilhelm Thusing indicates the importance of his en- counter with recent biblical scholarship (Rahner-Thusing, 1972). The attention given to the resurrection expands the scope of the almost exclusively incarnational approach which had earlier enabled him to provide such a remarkable hermeneutic for the Chalcedonian definitions. The topic may not be wholly integrated, but to emphasize it implies a deepened reflection on historicity as well. Should one ask for more at a first level of reflection?

    The last third of the volume, treating church, Christian life, and eschatology, may well prove less stimulating for teach- ers and students alike. One is often less excited by the end of a years study, however, and Rahner acknowledges that his treatment shows the entropy of the academic process. In the section on the church, ecclesiologists in particular will un- doubtedly miss the vigor and creativity of earlier essays on the church as sacrament and as charismatic, but also as s i n f ~ l . ~ They would do well to supplement these pages with something like The Shape ofthe Church to Come (1974; see also M. Kehl, 1976, 171-238, and L. J. ODonovan, 1977), but they should also make connections with the earlier pages on grace and with the doctrine of the Spirit implicit there. Nor would it be inappropriate, Rahner admits, to pay more attention to the negative and burdensome side of church life. If anything, such realism would add to the force of the remarks on Christian life and on eschatology. On the first of those topics, a valuable supplementary essay is Considera- tions on the Active Role of the Person in the Sacramental Event (Rahner, 1976,161-84). On the second, the key issue is whether Rahner has spoken successfully of eschatology as both individual and collective--once again in a development of the social dimension of his thought. On neither topic, however, should one look for a systematic theology, or even for its outline. One should look for a treatment of two questions at a first level of reflection: What does Christian faith say about our life in community and its ultimate hope? And, is it intellectually honest for us as modern men and women to have such faith?

    C Does Rahners Introduction, when all is said and done, succeed in answering these questions? In a real sense, of course, he is successful only to the extent that readers are led to realize the questions as their own and to respond to them with reflective clarity. But the matter is a more theoret- ical one than such an existential approach allows. The im- portance of the Introduction on the current theological scene is clear enough from its use in seminars by theologians such as Eberhard Jungel and Wolfhart Pannenberg. But its long-range significance will be measured accurately only in terms of an evaluation of Rahners basic intuition, his method in developing it, and the interior capacity of his thought to be sublated, if necessary, to a still more com- prehensive and dynamic form.

  • Announcing.. . . .an important new series of original works and dis- cussions of contemporary problems in the fields of Scripture, Systematics , and Moral Theology.

    Editorial Advisory Board for THEOLOGICAL IN- Q U I R I E S : R a y m o n d B r o w n , S . S . , Myles B o u r k e , Dav id Tracy, Michael Buckley, S.J., and Richard McCormick, S.J.

    Currently aoailable.. . THE VISION OF MATTHEW Christ Church and Morality in the First Gospel By John F? Meier $5.95 paperback

    THE GOSPEL OF JOHN IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY: Essays for Interpreters By J. Louis Martyn $4.95 paperback

    CHRIST PROCLAIMED: Christology as Rhetoric By Frans Jozefvan Beeck, S.J. Forthcoming, price to be announced.

    Of related interest

    The Community of the Beloved Disciple The Life, Loves, and Hates of an Individual Church in New Testament Times By RAYMOND E. BROWN. This outstanding new work by one of the worlds most respected Biblical scholars reconstructs the history of one Christian com- munity in the first century- a community whose life is reflected in the Gospel and Epistle of John. $3.95 paperback

    Mary in the New Testament Edited by RAYMOND E. BROWN, KARL F! DONFRIED, JOSEPH A. FITZ- MYER. and JOHN REUMANN. A careful and thorough examination of the New Testament presentation of Mary, valuable in itself and a significant contribution to ecumenical dialogue.-library Journal $3.95 paperback

    The Salvation of the Gentiles Studies in the Acts of the Apostles By JACQUES DUPONT, O.S.B. One of the foremost contemporary specialists in Acts combines rigorous scholarship with a fine feeling for the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures as he highlights their relevance for our own lives.

    $5.95 paperback

    PAULIST PRESS 545 Island Road, Ramsey, N.J. 07446

  • 198 / Religious Studies Review Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979

    A common and plausible view of Rahners fundamental intuitions sees them as twofold. He is philosophically the explorer of the transcendence of the human spirit open in its world to all reality. Theologically, he is the contemporary exponent of the centrality of grace as the communication of Gods selfhood to humanity. The critical question is then: Which of these two starting points is truly primary? In my own view, however, the fundamental intuition is a unitary one: the mysterious personal relatedness of all reality or, in terms perhaps more reminiscent of the eailier writings, the felt presence among beings of being as a whole. From this primary experience, which lends Rahners text again and again such religious power and poise, there then derives the concern for speaking appropriately of the unequal partners in the eternal dialogue. Questions of psychological and sociological development are tabled. The foundations for the validity of language about the transcendent are exca- vated rather than fully built. The relation between levels of discourse from common sense and catechesis to doctrinal and systematic theology are sketched rather than studied. But the ground is laid out for the germination of the seed of faith which can be understood as sown always through the presence of God, even before the church proclaims its doc- trine or theologians address their questions. Gods way with us in time is approached as a unitary process toward fulfill- ment; only within that moving unity can the various mo- ments of its differentiation be adequately reflected.

    For theological method this pivotal intuition necessi- tates a concrete dialectic of historical transcendence, the twofold method of which we spoke earlier. In the Introduc- tion this dialectic operates concretely not only because the experience of transcendence is understood as a dimension of lived historical experience, but also because the two di- mensions of the one experience are inherently self- reflective. The dialectic is not so much completed by a her- meneutic as it is itself intrinsically hermeneutic. The unity in difference of our experience is understood as implying a radical necessity of interpretation. It is the necessity, to be sure, of a thoroughly contingent intelligence. But that in- telligence is understood as active only through the illumina- tion of love; the basic interest guiding it is the free responsi- bility for lifes final form. And so interpretation is imposed on us to the extent that a full life is offered to us. What may be true for us has been grasped in dialectical unity with what may be good for us. Ethics is revealed at the root of ontology, for self-determination through self-transcendence is understood as the central issue of reality in time.

    Rahner has clearly not devoted himself in equal meas- ure to the transcendental analysis and the historical re- search which this basic pattern calls for. One reason for this, I believe, is his concern to appropriate the hermeneutic character of modern subjectivity. More exact research on the circumstances and intent of conciliar texts is in danger of floating free unless it has acontext for interpretation. But as we now realize more and more, the prerogatives of subjec- tivity will turn back on themselves disastrously if we do not develop the otherness and objectivity which historical studies provide. Use of transcendental reflection will seem hasty and vacuous unless it is accompanied by more sophis- ticated categorical appreciation of historical process. And so it seems that we must concretize the Rahnerian method still further, and in a double direction. We must explore its social

    and political roots and implications, as political and libera- tion theologians are now doing. But we must also probe its unconscious and imaginative dimensions, in the manner of current hermeneutic and metaphorical studies. Will this sublate Rahners thought to a radically new form? That depends in good measure on whether greater attention to the symbolic and political uses of language proves to be a qualifying development or a basic revision of the human questioning he sees as axiomatic. But that his thought pro- vides a standard of reference for such exploration is already, accomplishment enough.

    The exploration, finally, is likely to proceed in more or less direct relation to the second reason for Rahners life- long emphasis on the transcendental aspect of his method, namely, his conviction about the new relation in modernity between historicity and transcendence. The fulfillment he discusses in his Introduction is a fulfillment of time; eter- nity is conceived not as a contrary of time but as the fulfill- ment of the time of freedom. How such fulfillment is sym- bolically or eminently the cause of historical process must of course be further analyzed and a r g ~ e d . ~ But it seems to me that our author is more than a bridge builder on this issue. Between the eventually static extremes of retrenchment and resistance, he continues to probe a center that will hold through life in time. Living before the holy mystery with acute awareness of the historicity of our world, he listens again and again for the word that may gather time together. And here we theologians are one, are we not, with the students for whom this book is written. We too are students still learning the relation of being and time. We too must always begin anew with asking how today we can most basi- cally express our faith, and how we can do so with intellec- tual honesty.

    NOTES

    The great merit of Klaus P. Fischers study (1974) is to have pointed out the spiritual origins of Rahners thought. Whether Fischer carries his insight through the rest of his book is another question.

    * Let me offer here but one basic text in corroboration of this interpretation: Reality and its appearance in the flesh are forever one in Christianity, inconfused and inseparable. . . . This basic structure of Christianity, which a theology of the symbol should investigate. . . (Rahner, 1966, 252).

    Ratzinger, it may be noted, has special praise for this section (1978, 185).

    Eminent and symbolic causality are categories that recur in almost every area of Rahners theology, in his understanding of the relation between God and the world, in his conception of the constitution not only of the human person but also of world pro- cess, in his approach to the saving efficacy of the life of Jesus and also of Christian sacraments. Key passages in the Introduction would include pp. 194f., 21 1, 214, 254, 258f., 282ff., 317f., 41 If.

    REFERENCES

    FISCHER, KLAUS P.

    KEHL, MEDARD

    1974 Herder.

    1976 Kirche als Institution: Zur theologkchn Begriindung &s insti- tutwnelkn Charakters der Kirche in &r neueren deutschsprachigen katholkchen Ekklesiologie. Joseph Knecht.

    Der Mensch als Geheimnis: Die Anthropdogie Karl Rahners.

  • Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 Religious Studies Review / 199

    MARTY, MARTIN E.

    ODONOVAN, LEO J. (ED.) 1978 Review in The New York Times Book Review, March 12, 15.

    1977 A Changing Ecclesiology in a Changing Church: A Symposium on Development in the Ecclesiology of Karl Rahner. Theological Studies 38, 736-62.

    1966 E T The Theology of the Symbol. In Theological Investi- gations, Vol. 4, 221-52. Helicon. 1972 With Wilhelm Thusing. Christologie-systematisch und exe- getisch. Herder. 1974 ET

    RAHNER, KARL

    The Shape of the Church to Come. Seabury.

    1975 ET The Two Basic Types of Christology. In Theological Investigations, Vol. 13, 213-23. Seabury. 1976 ET Considerations on the Active Role of the Person in the Sacramental Event. In Theological Investigations, Vol. 14, 161-84. Seabury.

    RATZINGER, JOSEPH 1978 Vom Verstehen des Glaubens: Anmerkungen zu Rah- ners Grundkurs des Glaubens. Theologische Revue 74, 177-86.

    ROBERTSON, JOHN C., JR. 1975 Tillichs Two Types and the Transcendental Method.

    Journal of Religion 55, 199-219.

    Bibliography

    RUDOLF OTTO AND INDIA Hans Rollmann, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4Kl

    The appreciation of Rudolf Ottos numerous and widely- dispersed studies and translations of Indian religion and philosophy has been inhibited by the lack of an adequate bibliography. Otto remains known primarily as the author of The Idea of the Holy and of comparative studies, Mysticism-East and West: A Comparative Analysis of the Nature of Mysticism (1926a) and Indias Religion ofGrace and Chrkthn- ity Compared and Contrasted (1930b). Even S . P. Dubeys Rudolf Otto and Hinduism, the only monograph dealing explicitly with Ottos views on Hinduism, seriously neglects many of Ottos indological publications.

    Ottos translations and studies of Indian religion and philosophy concern Vedic, Upanisadic, and epic literature, as well as the modern Indian thought of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. But without doubt Ottos major indological contribution concerns Vaisnava theism, notably Riimiinujas Viiistzdvaita, which before Otto was virtually unknown to German theology and Religionswissen- schaft.

    The history of Viiistiidvaita scholarship in Germany prior to Otto isquickly recounted. In 1861 Christian Lassen, relying on H. H. Wilsons work,z presented RPm5nuja and Viiistidvaita for the first time to German scholarship3 in the fourth volume of his monumental Zndische Alterturn~kunde.~ Although Lassen provides a brief sketch of Riimiinujas vai- jesika veanta, he sees the significance of RPmPnuja not so much in his philosophy as in his alleged casteless egali- tariani~m.~

    Paul Deussens Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie mit besonderer Benkksichtigung der Religionen, begun in 1894 and significant for its first three volumes on Indian philosophy, reveals Deussens preoccupation with Sankaras Ad- vaitavedznta but did little to alleviate the deficiency of Ger- man scholarship regarding philosophical Vaisnavism.6 In this history of Indian philosophy Deussen treats RPmiinujas Viiistiidvaita as he does the remaining heterodox philosophical systems of India-not from the original sources but by merely translating the relevant section of Madhvkiiryas Saroadarianusampaha.

    Between 1898 and 1930 four dissertations dealing with Riimiinuja and Viiistiidvaita were written in Germany, but they either remained entirely unknown or, like Vasudev Anant Sukhtankars Bonn dissertation (1908), exerted a negligible influence upon theological and religionswissen- schaftliche scholarship.

    It fell to Rudolf Otto to introduce Vaisnavism and Rimiinuja to a Germany in which Deussens publications on Advaitavediinta had left theologians and historians of reli- gion with the impression that this philosophical tradition was the only authoritative expression of Indias philosophy. If Deussen approached Upanisadic and Vediinta thought from an idealist base and as a believer in Schopenhauer, it was Ottos Neo-Kantian and Schleiermacherian philosophi- cal preparation which provided him with a heuristic frame- work for approaching Indian religion and philosophy.

    Besides his philosophical and theological acquisition, Ottos encounter with India was that of a homo religiosus with a remarkable capacity to experience, comprehend, and evaluate another religious tradition. Ottos personal in- volvement remained his great scholarly asset. Just as his magnum opus, The Idea of the Holy, was born of a deep intuitive experience in a Jewish synagogue in Morocco,B so Ottos interest in Vaisnavism was kindled by a visit to a Vaisnava gosv5min in Bena re~ .~ And Ottos Sanskrit studies, which resulted in many translations, notably DipikZ des NiviZsa (1916), Vischnu-NZrGjana (1917), and the introduction to Riimiinujas SribhGsyu, SiddhZntu des RZmiinuja (1917), were begun while traveling through the Himalaya region.l0 The value Otto attached to personal exposure to a religious tradition is reflected in his letters writtey during a second visit to India in 1927-28. After visiting a Siva sculpture in a grotto in the Gulf of Bombay he writes: To have seen this place would truly have alone been worth a voyage to India, and from the spirit of the religion which has lived here one experiences more in one hour of contemplation than from all books (1938, 986).

    The importance of a personal look at other faiths in addition to the examination of literary documents resulted

Recommended

View more >