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

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<ul><li><p>Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 190 / Religious Studies Review </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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- </p><p>forces this trend, it may well help presage a return to ra- tional argumentation in the study of religion as well. </p><p>REFERENCES </p><p>GERT, BERNARD </p><p>GREEN, RONALD M. 1970 </p><p>1978 Be&amp;$ Oxford University Press. </p><p>1963 </p><p>1974 </p><p>1971 </p><p>1971 </p><p>The Moral Rules. Harper &amp; Row. </p><p>Religious Reason: The Rational and Moral Basis of Religious </p><p>HARE, R. M. </p><p>NOZICK, ROBERT </p><p>RAWLS, JOHN </p><p>RICHARDS, DAVID </p><p>Freedom and Reason. Oxford University Press. </p><p>Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books. </p><p>A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press. </p><p>A Theoly of Reasons fordctions. Oxford: Clarendon Press. </p><p>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 </p><p>1 </p><p>Reviewer: John C. Robertson, Jr. McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8 </p><p>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. </p><p>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, </p></li><li><p>Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 Religious Studies Review / 191 </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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&amp;s quarens intellectum and intellectus quarens fidem. </p><p>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 </p></li><li><p>Vol. 5, No. 3 /July 1979 192 / Religious Studies Review </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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...</p></li></ul>