The Beginner's Guide to the End of All Existence, or Unfathomable Depth for Dummies
Oh well. Time to dive straight into the cold and bracing waters of O and see what we can pull out. For we are not nuts, we are fishermen! And we are the fish we catch.
For those who glance now and then at the sidebar in order to see what Bob is up & into, I've been trying to slog my way through this Karl Rahner person, whoever that is. (I removed the book from the sidebar as soon as I concluded that it is not for everyone.)
I'd bumped into him frequently in my transdimensional peregrinations, and found that he was often described as the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th century, or at least among the toppermost of the poppermost, along with such fertile eggheads as Balthasar, de Lubac, Maritain, and Congar.
Now, the first thing you need to keep in mind before we begin this strenuous verticalisthenic -- and I know you will -- is that I am neither a Catholic nor a theologian, just a guy with a blog. And as Jean Paul Sartre might have said, hell is other people's blogs.
Frankly, I'm not even a lay theologian, but I will cop to being a ¶lay theodoxian, which is to say, a guy who just fOʘled around and fell in Love, and has a lot of unsolicited opinions about it.
Note that I just used the word "strenuous" up there. It definitely applies, because this is without a doubt some of the most strenuous reading ever engaged in by the Gagdad melon, which is disinclined to what the conspiracy likes to call "work" but we just call slavery.
Oh yes. We are referring specifically to what is said to be Rahner's magnum opiate which is definitely not for the masses, despite its innocent-sounding title: Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.
"Introduction?" "Foundations?" Ho! C'mon, Karl. You really need to get out of the fane more often. I mean, we just had this ratification of stupidity we call an "election," and to imagine that this grazing multitude of knuckleheaded conformists could grasp the first sentence of your Introduction is to overestimate the average man's yelvertonian intellect by an order of magnitude.
Maybe he was being ironic? If so, he needs to telegraph it a little more. Otherwise you end up like Andy Kaufman or Joaquin Phoenix, who push the joke so far it can start to grate. Gotta be a little more like Spinal Tap, Larry Sanders, or Iowahawk, so the audience can be in on the joke. Why not call yourself something like "Gagdad Rahner" or Coolhand Karl to create the right mood?
Nineteen reviews on amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars, so there are obviously some people ready for such an advanced introduction. Haven't read them yet. Let's see if any resonate...
Yes, this is good: "I bought this book used and it came in great shape. I am currently trying to muddle my way through it."
My experience has been quite similar, except that my used copy has a cracked spine. Should have been rated "acceptable" instead of "good," but I decided to let it go. Life is short and eternity long, and all that.
Ah! Another reader with whom I see eye-to-eye: "I am new to studying Karl Rahner, but this book is difficult to read, confusing, and if the reader is not very careful, can easily misconstrue the author's intent."
This is helpful: the reviewer speaks of Rahner's "rambling German sentence structure, but once you understand that this text, like all of his published works, was written from dictation, you will begin to understand just what is missing from the printed word."
Nevertheless, it is difficult to "capture the characteristic vocal inflections that made the rambling sentences concise and clear. The reader must supply the drama of the words, understanding that not a word that was uttered has been left out of print."
"Thus, Rahner is not to be read so much as to be experienced [what we call (n) vs. mere (k)], and this will take some work. But in this way, the reader will suddenly discover what Rahner, in his persuasive and vastly diverse way, is attempting to say. This book is well worth hearing, for those who have ears."
The problem is, Rahner is attempting to condense "50 published works into one 400 page book" (as one reviewer puts it). What if someone were to ask me to boil down the previous 2069 posts into a 400 page book? Nocando. That's for someone else to attempt. Any takers? I didn't think so.
This review comes close to what I'm getting from Rahner: "A mystical theology for the future" and a "marriage between intellectual thought, deep spirituality, and a home in tradition."
Now, why is he controversial (which he apparently is)? I think I know why, and we'll get into that as we proceed. One reviewer mentions "the perennial conflict within Catholicism between a theology inspired by Thomas (based on Aristotle) and Augustine (based on Plato). The representative of this latter theology is the Swiss theologian Von Balthasar, who wrote his magisterial 'The Glory of the Lord' in response to what he saw as Rahner's 'dilution of the concept of Revelation,' amongst other things."
I can't vouch for that, and have no idea whether it's true.
The reviewer continues: Pope Benedict "is a firm supporter of Von Balthasar's theology, which makes Rahner somewhat unpopular in Vatican theological circles today. Rahner, in contrast to the entire Catholic approach to theology of the past 2000 years, does not start his understanding of Christianity by elaborating upon the tenets of revealed faith, but starts from 'below,' i.e., from mankind as a species which is open to the supernatural in its very essence..."
Now we're brushing up against Coonland, because I definitely have a similar approach -- that is, I start from the facts of existence, not necessarily from revelation.
But the most important fact of existence is without a doubt the human subject, and I am in complete agreement with Rahner that the human subject is inconceivable in the absence of "God" -- which I place in scare quotes because, as emphasized by Rahner again and again, the word is simply too saturated -- including by later revelation -- to serve as an adequate placeholder for what we are attempting to convey -- what Rahner simply calls the Holy Mystery, or what we call O.
As we have demonstrated in so many ways in so many posts, it isn't difficult to prove the existence of God to the intellectually adequate. But as to what God is actually like -- this can only be furnished by revelation, faith, and grace. More on which later, but it's an important distinction, which comes down to the difference between "I" and "AM."
The reviewer notes that "A further difficulty for the traditionalists is that Rahner tries to make evolution an integral part of his understanding of faith." The reviewer properly notes that "placing any scientific theory as an integral part of theology exposes it to the risk of collapse should the theory prove to be false or is replaced by another theory," but I don't see Rahner doing this.
Rather, he seems to make it clear that experience trumps theory. He's just trying to situate the transcendent experience of the presence of the Holy Mystery within the context of an adequate metaphysic that accounts for everything, including the truths of science. Here again, much more on this as we proceed. Which I guess we'll do tomorrow.