Spring 1969

Page 70



twists man into a rancid question mark. This is the moral puzzle in the mystery of human existence. Even if the existential ground is positive and good, does not our depravity condemn us as perverse products no Goodness could abide? An absolute who is holy must judge our sin; we are-then tempted to call his silence a stay of execution and our darkness a grace not to be troubled. Summarily, therefore, human experience reveals man as a question. He is the being of history who clearly knows intimations of all and nothing, condemnation and salvation. At the core of his self, he must wait and listen. Here, where the anchor-chain of his being slips from his sight, he cannot run from inscrutable mystery. It is present to his most frenetic distraction; it is necessary for his most pedestrian mongering. Man is the being held by Being. He is the one defined and categorized only by virtue of the undefinable. In this way, Rahner comes to the traditional theology of man as an obediential potency. Through his own existential phenomenology, he reaches what he takes to be the core of every "spirit-in-the-world." From theology's viewpoint, this makes man a "hearer of the word," the being who must listen to the mystery of Being, in hope that it may speak. Should the absolute, "horizontal" all disclose itself, its declaration would be a self-manifesting "word." Spirit-in-the-word only meets intelligibility when it is historical-when it takes a form proportioned to our fleshly containment. Thus, the disclosure of mystery, should it occur, will be a perceivable coming into our ambience. Event, action, word, speech-these are all variants on the symbolic presence the mystery must assume if it is to became clarified, disclosed mystery-for-us.


The foundations of Rahnerian thought are therefore a theological anthropology. Rahner keeps central focus on the experiential mystery at the heart of human existence. It is to this point that he shines the gospel light of free revelation.