More elements of Catholic Theology


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Catholic theology of Revelation grapples with certain classical problems:

Is revelation a present event or a memory of the past?
Is it given exclusively to the biblical peoples or generally to all men?
Does it come through a structured community or immediately from God?
Can it be expressed in definite formulas or only in myths and symbols?

By focusing on these internal dilemmas, Catholic theology of revelation may be expected to assist in healing the divisions among Christians – divisions often brought about by a narrow and possessive understanding of a mystery too rich for comprehension and of a love which cannot be known except as that which surpasses knowledge (cf. Eph. 3: 19).

Karl Rahner SJ, a theological heavyweight, argued that man as a spiritual being is essentially open to the possibility of a divine revelation, and that such a revelation, if it occurs, must come to him in the form of a divine “word” given within history. He focuses on the two-fold character of revelation as an ineffable experience of God and as a determinate message, and distinguishes between a transcendent, non-thematic aspect, consisting of the elevation of man’s intellectual horizons by an interior enlightenment, and a predicamental, thematic aspect, having a definite content which can be expressed in words and other objective signs.
This latter is the role and function of the Church, and the means by which the individual can measure and assess the veracity of his or her own internal processes.

Rahner stresses the necessity that the interior, gracious self-disclosure of God should be correctly translated (my emphasis) into human language in order that the revelation may work itself out in man's conscious life and become an effective principle of his concrete behaviour. Incorrect formulation of revelation threatens the reality of the salvific encounter itself.

He also argues that “unthematic” or “transcendental” revelation can express itself in the extra-biblical religions, which consequently play an effective role in the mediation of revelation and salvation for peoples who have not yet entered into a sufficient historical encounter with Christianity to recognize it as the definitive and universally valid self-manifestation of God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar calls upon the contemporary Christian to experience “the abyss of silence from which springs the Word of God” – which paradoxically unveils the Father who is silent in it. In several volumes of essays he ponders the mystery of how Christ, as God's Word, inundates us with his presence and lures us to follow him in his self-abnegation.

Von Balthasar has set about constructing what he calls a “theological aesthetic,” which aims to show how the Infinite has emerged from its ineffable transcendence so as to shine forth historically in the lives of Jesus and the saints.

Brother Gabriel Moran, F.S.C., says: “Other religions demand that men accept this or that thing. Christianity only invites men to accept themselves and their own freedom in a community with God.”

Moran insists that our knowledge of God, especially within faith, is slippery and elusive. “God reveals and conceals himself in the naming of every truth. In the incarnation, God does not become obvious and comprehensible but, on the contrary, more paradoxical than ever before.”

Rahner maintains that dogma lives off mystery, the thematic off the unthematic. For him as for Moran, revelation does not adequately consist of the formulas and professions of faith that have won approval in the community. Indeed, the formulas are not revelation at all unless they are seen against the horizons of a spirit which is tending into the unfathomable mystery we call God.