Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good News for Man, Bad News for the Left

"Good news" presupposes an awful lot about its recipient, doesn't it? The great majority of news is neither good nor bad; or, more to the point, it is relative to the person or group.

For example, good news for a Palestinian would be the murder of every Israeli man, woman, and child. But that would be bad news for the sane, decent, and civilized remnant of the world.

Likewise, the re-election of Obama is good news for parasitic public employee unions, for crony capitalists, for those thousands of soulless petty tyrants who get a thrill out of bossing others around, but bad news for the poor, the unemployed, the maleducated, the recently college educated (but I repeat myself).

So when Christians say their news is objectively and absolutely good, that's saying a lot -- again, not just about the news, but about the recipient.

The word "gospel" -- which means good news -- appears close to a hundred times in the New Testament. A quick etymological check reveals that gospel is a translation from the Greek for evangelize, and both ultimately derive from angelos, or “messenger.” Obviously, in this case we're dealing with vertical messages and messengers.

In the spirit of Rahner, let's just call it "news," so as to avoid too many presuppositions. This news, in order to be effective, must be analogous to the key discussed in yesterday's post. When the person hears it, it must be different from hearing other types of more mundane news, say, about the weather, or about those damn Romans and their high taxes.

Rahner asks the question, "What kind of hearer does Christianity anticipate so that its real and ultimate message can even be heard?" And this is indeed "the first question we have to ask," because it reaches all the way past our existence, down to our very being.

Or to put it inversely, if it doesn't so reach, then the message will be no more efficacious than any other so-called news. It certainly won't have the power to transform its hearer.

When a bird sings a particular song, it is heard in a particular way by other members of its species. The rest of us hear the same thing, but not really, since we can't unpack the message. Bearing this in mind, Rahner observes that

"When the reality of man is understood correctly, there exists an inescapable circle between his horizons of understanding and what is said, heard and understood." And "ultimately the two" -- what is said and what is heard -- "mutually presuppose each other."

As such, the Christian message assumes it is already somehow "present in the ultimate depths of human existence," again, on pain of only understanding the message superficially or not at all. The message not only "summons man before the real truth of his being," but does so in such a way that the person is "caught" by it. Or, to extend yesterday's analogy, the key fits all the way in, to "the infinite expanse of the incomprehensible mystery of God."

Wo, wo, wo, slow down partner. Didn't you just pull a fast one? First you're talking about a key that opens the door of understanding, but then you tell us that behind the door is an "incomprehensible mystery." How is that supposed to be helpful? Doesn't that mean we're no better off than we were when we started this whole human thing, which is to say, mysteriously engulfed in depthless layers of WTF?!

We'll get there. But let's finish our discussion of just what kind of a being man is. Rahner makes the subtle point that we only really discover what -- or even that -- we are via encounters with who and what we are not.

This reminds me of Bion's wise crack to the effect that the first thought is No Breast. From the infant's standpoint, there is no need for thinking until this unpleasantly novel thing called "hunger" occurs, which gives rise to something along the lines of: What happened to that infinite source of all warmth and goodness that was just here a moment ago!

We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, and we are; but imagine all the things that make individualism possible, which precede our presence and are not us: language, culture, history, and family, for starters.

However, as alluded to in yesterday's post, man is ultimately a (?) to himself, which very much parallels what was said above about the Incomprehensible Mystery behind the big door. It seems that if the key is to fit into our lock, it must reach all the way down to the mystery of ourselves.

Think about the many alternatives to this view. Let's begin with the most ready to hand, since it is so... ready to hand. Actually, most of the alternatives come down to leftism and scientism in their many dreary varieties, but these two may be unified by the principle that they both try to derive man from something else, something less than man.

Which immediately brings to mind a perfect aphorism by Don Colacho: The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

How we initiate a causal series goes to the whole mystery of man, which in turn converges upon the mystery of God, for we take seriously the statement that where the Spirit of the lord is, there is liberty (2 Co 3:17), and vice versa.

Man's free will is full of implications, for which reason its denial is equally full of implications. As Rahner points out, all of the sciences (and the pseudo-philosophy of leftism, which may be traced to the pseudo-science of Marxian thought) regard man "as a result of and as the point of intersection between realities which on the one hand exist within the realm of empirical experience, but which on the other hand are not man himself, and yet establish and determine him in his reality and hence also explain him."

This in itself isn't problematic, so long as we don't confuse the map with the territory, and suppose that these partial explanations reach down to man's essential being. Such an approach -- and this is where scientism meets the left -- is usually "motivated by the secret desire not only to understand man... but also to control him thereby."

But the truth sets you free, which is why tyranny is always rooted in lies about man. There are political, economic, spiritual, intellectual, and other types of tyranny, but all are unified at their rotten core.

Hey, I think I'm really becoming like Rahner, because I'm not sure this post went anywhere, and now it's time for me to check out!

12 Comments:

Blogger ge said...

While Nyangtsha Kargyen was pregnant with Milarepa, her husband went away on a long trading tour, and during his absence the child was born. A messenger was sent to find the father and inform him that he had a new son, asked him to give a name and to return for a festival. His father was filled of joy and named the boy as ‘ Töpa Ga’. ‘ Töpa’ means to hear, and ‘Ga’ means happy or joyous, so his name meant ‘ Milarepa, a Joy to Hear or Milarepa Good News.’
One of thee greatest Tibetan Saints [his bio + should be required reading]

11/20/2012 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I thought it went somewhere.

One of the biblical names of God is El Shaddai, translated as "breasted" or "many breasted" One.

On the other hand, the image of Diana from the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was thought to be a depiction of the goddess with multiple breasts. Turns out maybe that wasn't the case. Bull balls.

You can write your own jokes.

11/20/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Hey, I think I'm really becoming like Rahner!

you = what you read?
Us triple-mutables [astro.] likely are

11/20/2012 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"How we initiate a causal series goes to the whole mystery of man, which in turn converges upon the mystery of God, for we take seriously the statement that where the Spirit of the lord is, there is liberty (2 Co 3:17), and vice versa."

Clearly, the christians who voted for Obama, or chose not to vote because they didn't like Romney, do not comprehend that verse or vice versa.

I would also add some libertarians and the apathetic.
The apathetic, and there's millions of them, may be mostly conservative, but it doesn't matter what they believe since they don't vote (for whatever reason).

Bill Whittle recently said we owe it to those who have given their all to protect our lives and liberties to keep up the Good fight and defend it to the best of our ability.

I heartily cooncur!
Liberty lovin' patriots have always been a minority.
We know that but it bears repeating, so that we keep the proper perspective.

IOW's the cause of life, liberty and property is worth fightin' for...always.
And if the sacrifices of millions of our brothers n' sisters (past and present) doesn't encourage us to continue the Good fight then we are truly lost.

11/20/2012 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"Such an approach -- and this is where scientism meets the left -- is usually "motivated by the secret desire not only to understand man... but also to control him thereby."

Oh, yessss, makes sense. (Ears to hear and all that.) Reduce us to machines then all you need to do is figure out how to press the right buttons.

Just got back from the dentist. Grabbed a copy of Smithsonian to read while the novocane kicked in. One article, using brain scanning technology to understand how we react to beauty. It's all about the blood flow. Another article, the touching, human like, lives of the lowland apes. Complete with grieving mothers and patient fathers. That, along with the audio immersion of secular Christmas music caused me much pain. The dental work, not so much.

11/20/2012 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As such, the Christian message assumes it is already somehow "present in the ultimate depths of human existence," again, on pain of only understanding the message superficially or not at all.

Which refers in a roundabout way to the converse (or perhaps inverse?) idea in the quote at the top of Vanderleun's comments page:

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood."

11/20/2012 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

What kind of hearer does Christianity anticipate so that its real and ultimate message can even be heard?

An Italian priest named Luigi Giussani has a nice chapter in one of his books about Christ's own pedagogy. It appears that Christ was patient, waiting only until there was enough real experience with him in his hearer before saying anything explicit about who He really was.

That said, Fr. Giussani also has an ingratiating section in his first book about infant or "elementary" experience. The first thought or sensation is not "no breast!" but "omg, presences!" That is, when the nurse wipes a newborn's eyes, and the first visual apprehension occurs, there is an overwhelming perception of Presences, all moving around in the pink amorphous light, and then tactile sensations. It's the apprehension of an environment of mysterious presences.

The perception of "being" must come as quite a shock.

11/20/2012 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

John's Smithsonian experience reminded me of the PBS "Dust Bowl". The government came in and saved the West by intervening in farming methods. The independent farmers changed their tune when they were desperate.

I'm sure that was true of a portion. Propaganda was so much easier back then.

I knew a lot of those guys, and they despised FDR, mocked the ASCS, the CCC, WPA, and all the rest. In both cases, the historical evidence is anecdotal -- but PBS tells it as fact.

The Dust Bowl ended because the drought ended.

11/20/2012 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

"Hey, I think I'm really becoming like Rahner, because I'm not sure this post went anywhere, and now it's time for me to check out!"

Remember to keep this a labor of love - no expectations to meet. I think it's safe to say all your readers appreciate the time and effort you devote to this gift for us, regardless how densely packed one post is or ins't.

11/20/2012 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's the spirit: resignation.

11/21/2012 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I always think of "amateur," which is a cognate of amor.

11/21/2012 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Seems to me that quite often, the purpose (or rather, effect) of the post is less to "go anywhere" than it is to unlock hitherto unknown doors, windows, etc. in the mind of the reader; the deustination is there all along, just on the otherinner side...

11/21/2012 07:20:00 AM  

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