Second podcast on Rahner’s rhetoric. Point is: Although Rahner’s thought is serious and needs serious treatment, his dismissals of prior tradition are sometimes totally unjust, misrepresentations, dismissals of caricatures. That is irresponsible. These instances are not worthy of an undergraduate paper.
AT THE REQUEST OF AN INQUIRER, I AM RE-POSTING THIS.
A number of posts ago I indicated that I would come back to a treatment of Fr. Karl Rahner. That treatment will take a good bit of time. A post here and there.
Today, the treatment regards Fr. Rahner’s rhetoric.
THE QUESTION: Whether some key claims of Rahner — which constitute rejections of traditional theological explanations — are “fair” rhetorically.
For some reason, Firefox had difficulty with this podcast. Safari does work.
I complete my treatment of Pius X’s portrait and condemnation of Modernism.
Again, this is a portrait gathered from many elements. He is not saying that anyone exactly matches the portrait. He is arguing that there is a coherent logic in the thing portrayed. So, sundry instantiations of this portrait are possible. Many “family resemblances.” And, lo and behold, this seems true enough, as I suggest.
I’ve got an article on Rahner’s “supernatural existential” coming out soon in Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie 63 (2016), no. 2. You can find the abstract and details on Academia.
A correlation: Rahner’s dominance in theology and the destruction of Catholic vitality.
A suggestion: Rahner’s theology premises and fosters the “withering of God”.
Argument: Recall previous lengthy posts on Rahner’s thought. If you haven’t read them and wish to think this argument over, first read them / listen to them. In light of those analyses, I make this further argument.
How, for Rahner, can one point out God? God is indicatable by way of man’s not being stuck in any particular, by his going beyond the particular. Rahner will thus call God man’ whither. This could be misleading. We might think of this whither as an indicatable item. For instance: Whither goest thou? The answer: To Greece. Greece is an indicatable place. So is sushi.
But for Rahner God cannot be such an indicatable item. If he were, he’d be finitized. But he is not finite. The hypothetical condition–if God were indicatable, he would be finite–is Rahner’s presupposition.
Hence, Rahner concludes, God is not “whither” as another object is whither. Rather, he is “whither” precisely as what corresponds to the progressive infinity of man’s reach. Man ever reaches beyond whatever particular upon which he happens to be thrown. That man goes beyond the particular indicates a whither dynamically and so-to-speak ontologically (not statically or ontically). To what, then, does man go? Not to a particular. Rather, to the progressive infinity of ens commune, qua potential.
Hence, God is not really an identifiable whither. He is not an indicatable whither. God is pointed out by our cognizing the character of man’s whithering. Man whithers his way towards God. Or, man’s whithering past this particular and that shows us … God. God is the correlate of man’s being an ever historically grounded, ever transcending being.
I therefore call Rahner’s presentation of God the “whithering of God.”
The pun with withering is intended. Hence, I happily entitle the post the Withering of God.
The pun works. Why? Because on this analysis, no one can have a personal relationship with God. God dissipates into the mist of ens commune, but not even qua actual; rather, qua potential. This is disastrous. It is one of the foundational errors that wrecks havoc upon just about everything Rahner does.
Why does God so dissipate? Precisely because God is the correlate of man’s whithering. But by man’s whithering we can really only gather an awareness of ens commune, qua possible. Why? Man’s reaching is not actually infinite. Rather, man reaches beyond this particular and that precisely in targeting this particular and that. Man can surpass “this”. This transcending capacity has as correlate a potential infinite. Ens commune is that potential infinite.
We treat here the modernist as theologian and historian. Very incisive descriptions. Meeting these descriptions are many claims by certain historical critics.
Modernist as Believer, arts. 14-18 of the Great Encyclical of Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi.
Here, we will also touch upon some examples of modernism in some claims of historical critics and in a recent highly influential theologian.
This one is about 34.5 minutes.
I have a number of irons in the fire. Here’s another set.
Modernism is a plague afflicting the Church violently and virulently today. We must understand what we are up against. Pope St. Pius X, declared saint under the most stringent standards of assessment for canonization, can teach us what we are up against. The portrait of the “modernist” that he paints will call to mind recent theologians, very influential on prelates today.
Today’s podcast is 28.5 minutes. I thank my good friend and brother-in-law Stephen for the awesome microphone. Much better than my previous use of the built-in computer mic.
Time to take a pause from the environment and to examine a theologian at the root of many contemporary ills. Fr. Karl Rahner. A quote:
“The tendency today to talk not about God, but about one’s neighbor, to preach not about the love of God, but about the love of neighbor, and to use not the term “God,” but “world” and “responsibility for the world” – we can see that this tendency has an absolutely solid foundation.” Foundations of Christian Faith (Crossroads, 64).
A very jarring statement. And a pious person’s first reaction to this – revulsion – is in the end the reaction with the greatest wisdom. This very difficult and subtle thinker, Fr. Karl Rahner, often strikes the pious – upon first impression – as impious. Whatever may have been his intentions, one is wise to be revolted. Yet, note that I said “first … in the end”. Reason: This very subtle thinker has some keen insight. Nor is it just “philosophical”. It is, rather, and very seriously, akin to the monastic insights. In short: He wants to be very clear that God is INFINITE. You cannot put God in a box, not even the box of your thought. That said, once again and in the end, we have to say that this is a comment to be found revolting.
And Rahner himself issues an immediate caution:
“HOWEVER, going to the extreme of banishing God and of being radically silent about him is and remains false and does violence to the true nature of Christianity” (ibid.).
In the end, Rahner will reduce God’s role in your life to a function of your own dynamic operations / tendencies. You are the kind of knower that puts labels on things, and in putting a label on, say, the Advil Pills, you transcend the individual; you also distinguish this kind of thing – Advil – from other kinds of things. So, for instance: Headache pills vs. Cold pills. Again, Medicine vs. Food. Again, Health Materials vs. Recreation. Again Things for Man’s good vs. Things just there (sun, stars). Again, possible things out there, etc. Ultimately, your mind is heading to BEING as SUCH – I.e., what is and what can be. Your mind has a vector like Toy Story: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! (Sorry!).
How now can “GOD” come in the picture? Not as an object of focal concern. Why? Every object about which you can have focal concern is finite! But God is infinite. Hence, he cannot be that about which you can exercise focal concern. Instead, note that in having focal concern about any object, your mind goes beyond it towards … infinity. Hence, God must rather be the ultimate whither of your mind’s vector of transcending. That means, he cannot appear to you, show you his face, lest he cease to be God. This is the grounding anthropology of Rahner. To be sure, he squeezes grace and the beatific vision into this, but he will not let this determinative and determining foundation go. Hence, in the end, he gives us that about which we can have focal concern: NOT GOD!
The result is ironic: In preserving God’s transcendence, Rahner practically banishes God from man’s mind.
Indeed, this banishment is doubly ironic since, if we truly reflect on the “ultimate whither” of our mind as Rahner sees it, we note that it truly is POSSIBLE BEING. That is, ENS COMMUNE / THE SET OF POSSIBLE BEINGS OF FOCAL AWARENESS is really what constitutes the vector. That truly is infinite, for there is no limited range of what can be. But Possible Being is not Subsistent Being. Hence, the ultimate whither of my transcendental experience thus defined is not God but Possible Finite Beings.
This is far from “very good”. This is “not good”.
Sixth, we must go right back to the core problem: Rahner’s identification of “concept” with “finitude”. The identification is false. Not every concept must be about that which is finite. Just as Kant was incorrect that all the categories regard only items in space and time and thus have no relevance whatsoever to whatever transcends time and space, so Rahner was incorrect that all concepts regard only finite items and thus have no direct relevance to He who transcends all finitude. We must, it is very true, be cautious about our application of concepts to God. However, caution is not rejection. They key is the authentic notion of analogy. I can have the concepts “being” and “good” and “true” and apply them to God, knowing that the application is supremely true and knowing that I do not know just how they obtain in the God who infinitely transcends me but judging with absolute certitude that indeed they do and having the likeness of their truth displayed before me in the evidence of the Book of Creation, in which God has spoken, and in the Face of Jesus, the God-man. (About Rahner’s Christology, in some future post. About his Sacramental theory, in some future post, though you might take interest in some items found in my podcast on his rhetoric.)