July 24, 2010

Tracy on Mystery

This passage from David Tracy has been sticking in my conscience for a couple of days. It's the sort of thing that is good for me because it both affirms and challenges.

When Catholic Christians speak of mystery they either mean an uninteresting and basically irreligious datum, muddle, or puzzle. Or they mean--as Karl Rahner so clearly means--that radically mysterious dimension to our lives which limits and grounds the rest of our activities.

When I read the first sentence I want to cheer; longtime readers will recall my annual Trinity Sunday rant on the cheap substitution of mystification for mystery. On the other hand, I'm not comfortable with the second sentence either. I am very afraid of the pervasive operative theology that embeds human religiosity too far into anthropological or existential categories, because I believe it leads to different "religions" as mere human cultural expressions and thus without any real distinction among them in terms of truth. (It also requires, at least it seems to me, that we see God as an incompetent revealer, but that's another story.) I'm not saying that this is the claim of the text; it just brings up a worry in me. But I have to admit, I haven't worked some of this out for myself, and am still trying to un-muddle my thinking, as it were. I'm still puzzling my way toward a way between the politically correct dogmas of the so-called liberals on the one hand, and fundamentalist-style habits of thought on the other.

To be fair to the text, the passage continues with an equally interesting--though less pressuring for me, obviously--parallel pair of sentences on Protestants:

When Protestant Christians speak of the "scandal of Christianity" they either mean some uninteresting and basically irreligious tenet of fundamentalism. Or they mean--as Bultmann means--the dialectical, the limit scandal that this God of Jesus the Christ is also and always my God.

Both passages are from David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology.

When posts like this start to come to mind, I guess I have to admit to myself that I am going back into student mode.

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