I am continuing to read Karl Rahner's Grundkurs des Glaubens, a little over three quarters of the way through. As I think I might have said in a earlier post, there's a dilemma in choosing whether to read a text like this in German or in translation. My intermediate grasp of German makes my understanding undeniably inept at times, but at least I'm conscious of the uncertainly, which the reading of an expert translator might conceal.
Be that at it may, as I go through Rahner I start to get the impression that in some sense his method is a detailed, twentieth century application of the well-known aphorism from the first book of St. Augustine's Confessions:
et tamen laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae. tu excitas ut laudare te delectet, quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
God has "made us for himself," and we cannot rest apart from him. In my last post on Rahner I had descibed his initial analysis of human existence and transcendence as a philosophical application of the thought of Kant and Heidegger to the relation of God and man, his initial portrait of God being thereby the quintessential "God of the philosophers," not yet the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
But in another sense Rahner's analysis, though philosophical in form, seeks to give a rigorous exposition to something which, if not universal, is certainly widespread: the feeling of God, the intuition of God, that conception of transcendence that comes, not from Kantian analysis, but but from the mere everyday experience of human life, human freedom, human wonder at the world. Religion, in fact, is not some hobbyhorse of the leisured. For rich and poor, ruler and ruled, sophisticated and naive, the sense that the world is filled with God (or gods) runs throughout history and around the globe.
So, though Rahner indeed takes as his starting point some rather daunting analyses from technical Western philosophy, in language that few have the training to understand comfortably, he uses those categories to try to express an experience that is almost universally human. In that sense his "God of the Philosophers" intends to capture, not just the sense of the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," but the divine sense wherever human beings may locate it.
That wideness is his starting point, not the realm of the Christian faith, or the Catholic Church. As a Christian, though, and as a Catholic, he has to then bring that general sense back to the Faith, so that his analysis indeed leads to what he aims for in his subtitle, "An Introduction to the Concept of Christianity," not simply an introduction to the concept of religious transcendence.
So his method aims to connects up the general to the particular. If the sense of the transcendent indeed comes into history, it does so in terms of the Christian concept of God. If that historical breakthrough is to achieve full concreteness in some form of "Heilbringer," savior or bringer of holiness, we can find such a historical fulfillment uniquely in the life and work of the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
The course of the argument is from the concept to the historical object, from the general idea to the particular manifestation. But that connection, from universal to particular, works both ways. If the general sense is identified with the particular Catholic faith, then the Catholic faith must necessarily in some sense be identified with that general human sense of the historically present sense of the divine.
"Wir haben sehr oft im Lauf unsere Überlegungen zu betonen
gehabt, dass es durchaus eine gewissermassen anonyme and doch wirkliche
Beziehung des einzelnen Menschen zur Konkretheit der Heilsgeschichte and somit
auch zu Jesus Christus in demjenigen gebt and geben musss, der die ganze
konkrete geschichtliche and dabei ausdrücklich reflektierte Erfahrung in Wort
and Sakrament mit dieser heilsgeschichtlichen Wirklichkeit noch nicht gemacht
hat, sondern die existenziell reale Beziehung bloss implizit hat im Gehorsam
gegenüber seiner gnadenhaften Verwiesenheit auf den Gott der absolute, geschichtlich
daseienden Selbstmitteilung, indem dieser Mensch sein eigenese Dasin
vorbehaltlos annimmt, and zwar gerade in dem, was darin in Wagnis dieser
Freiheit nicht übersehen and verwaltet werden kann."
This is the concept of the "anonymous Christian" popularly identified with Rahner. The felt transcendental relationships are in fact relationships to the Trinity and the incarnate Son, whether acknowledged or not. Whether those relationships are ever explicitly realized by the individual is a separate question from whether they exist, whether they are real, whether they are salvific. Here we come back to St. Augustine. It is not simply the Catholic who is made for God. It is not only the Christian who cannot find rest outside of God. And this sense of recognized devotion to the unknown (or denied) God relates and is affirmed by the important, if not novel, assertion of Vatican II, in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:
"Qui enim Evangelium Christi Eiusque Ecclesiam sine culpa ignorantes, Deum tamen
sincero corde quaerunt, Eiusque voluntatem per conscientiae dictamen agnitam,
operibus adimplere, sub gratiae influxu, conantur, aeternam salutem consequi
possunt. Nec divina Providentia auxilia ad salutem necessaria denegat his
qui sine culpa ad expressam agnitionem Dei nondum pervenerunt et rectam vitam
non sine divina gratia assequi nituntur."