I want to reflect upon Rahner’s important claim that behind the technical arguments levelled by intellectual Christians, as a kind of ultimate force and a priori pre-judgment supporting scientific doubts about God, or about Catholicism, there are always what he calls ‘ultimate experiences’ of life causing the spirit and the heart to be ‘somber, tired and despairing’. And I want to reflect upon this suggestion within the context of the three specific questions that Rahner asks.
Rahner speaks of a real and genuine form of belief, that links inextricably with one’s actions and other attitudes. The key to what he is saying, in my opinion, is in contrasting this full sense of belief, with the kind of ‘belief’ that may be created by superficial challenges to faith and God. Thus consider the challenge of reconciling belief in God with what Rahner calls ‘darkness and suffering’. It is a superficial perspective on this matter to suppose that even the admittedly real darkness and suffering can truly challenge faith, or belief (in Rahner’s full sense). One might come to think, in a superficial sense, that God would not permit such evil in the world. But this would not be true belief. True, genuine belief must be felt as much as it is cognized. This is why cold, intellectual arguments cannot affect the kind of true belief in God that links with one’s actions and other attitudes.
Something similar seems to be true about choosing from amongst the plurality of religious traditions. Supposing that Christ is just another religious figure among many can never be a true belief; it cannot be felt, because the truth of God’s revelation moves through us. And if it cannot be felt, it can never lead to true belief. I also connect the necessity of feeling for true belief with Rahner’s repeated claims about how courage is crucial to the dynamic of faith.
Finally, if we do accept God into our lives, if we take Christ as the decisive revelation, can we see the importance of living in a faith community (the Church). Here I find it helpful to modify slightly Rahner’s usage. It is not so much a matter of living in a faith community, as it is a matter of living through the Church. For if one commits oneself to Christ, viewing oneself as merely living in a faith community is to dissociate oneself from one’s faith.
There is a unity amongst the three questions, and Rhaner’s answers to them. The unifying theme is that the courage to belief, as opposed to the lack of courage involved in doubt, transcends any possible appeal to evidence, or argument. Arguments for and against religion in general, and Christianity in particular, may have their place in exhibiting faith’s resilience. But in the end, to doubt that Christ is God is to take a sideways-on perspective on the world. It is to look at the world from the outside, instead of inhabiting the world through Christ. Since true faith, true belief, and true courage require living from within the world of God, doubts and skeptics are in the end irrelevant.