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Implicit Theology, Authentic Subjectivity, and Karl Rahner’s "Anonymous Christian"

Autor:Wandinger Nikolaus
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Abstrakt:I argue in this article that B. Lonergan's dictum “genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity” can be fruitfully interrelated with the concept of implicit theology and with Karl Rahner's theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian. First I want to give a brief introduction to what I mean by implicit theology; already here I will try to find some common ground with Lonergan. Second, I would like to connect this idea to Karl Rahner’s theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian. And thirdly I will aspire to relate those two to Lonergan’s notion of authenticity and the three kinds of conversions he analyzes; from here I can express why I think that Lonergan’s insistence on objectivity being reached only through authentic subjectivity is so important for our day.
Publiziert in:Lonergan Workshop 21 (2008), 383-399.
Datum:2010-01-18

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Some time ago, the Communicative Theology research group at our faculty in Innsbruck asked me to write a kind of introductory article[1] to what we called implicit theology, as they but also me were often using the term – and we had some kind of implicit understanding but had never explicated that. (As you can see, the very act of writing the article was already an exercise in implicit theology). When Fred Lawrence then asked me about a topic for my presentation at the 2008 Lonergan Workshop, it occurred to me that this implicit theology in fact has a lot to do with the Lonergan quotation that – at least in recent years– engages me most: it is his insistence in the chapter on Foundations in Method in Theology that “genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity”[2]. And both of these things – implicit theology and authentic subjectivity – also have to do with what Rahner calls his theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian. With some rearrangement this makes already for the structure of my paper: First I want to give you a brief introduction to what we meant by implicit theology; already here I will try to find some common ground with Lonergan. Second, I would like to connect this idea to Karl Rahner’s theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian. And thirdly I will aspire to relate those two to Lonergan’s notion of authenticity and the three kinds of conversions he analyzes; from here I can express why I think that Lonergan’s insistence on objectivity being reached only through authentic subjectivity is so important for our day.

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1 “Implicit Theology”

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The general idea behind that concept is that there might even be religious or theological assumptions behind a human conduct that does not see itself as religious or theological. Here I am not yet thinking of nonreligious persons – that would be begging the question with regard to Rahner’s anonymous Christian. For the moment I am thinking about believing Christians when they are engaged in their everyday lives in such a way that they do not reflect about their being Christians or about how to live their faith. You might be shopping, or consider whom to invite for your birthday party, or how to resolve a conflict you had with a family member or friend. One could, of course, do all of these things taking one’s faith explicitly into account. However, I think it is likely that most people will not do so most of the time, and still the way they do these things might be influenced by their faith – or might not, meaning that the commitment with which they live their faith is – at least relatively – independent from the degree to which they thematize it.

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1.1 Philosophical Considerations

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Let us go from here to a more general frame. A religious faith can philosophically be understood as a Weltanschauung, i. e. a framework of convictions, attitudes, judgments by which a person lives, according to which he or she shapes her or his life. Otto Muck has described a Weltanschauung as the framework by which persons spontaneously understand what they encounter in life.[3] This framework is not merely conceptual; it is a “set of life-carrying convictions and values” on which persons rely “to evaluate all that they experience”[4] and to react to it. A Weltanschauung moreover is a person’s “most extensive […] framework [of that kind], since it is not specialized for one range of experience or questions, but is the all encompassing horizon for the totality of one’s life and experience”[5].

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In Lonergan’s terms, I think, a Weltanschauung would be an “integral heuristic structure”[6]. Muck introduces his Weltanschauung in the same context in which Lonergan refers to the integral heuristic structure: the meaning of classical metaphysics. So, a general ontology, based on concepts that have not only been nominally but operatively defined is the common ground for Muck’s and Lonergan’s transposition of scholastic metaphysics into a modern discourse. Lonergan also talks about an implicit definition in this case.[7] An implicit definition defines a concept by pointing out the relationship between the objects referred to; in many cases these relationships are functional or operative.

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So, in a metaphysics, terms can be implicitly defined by explaining the function they have in relation to one another and to the whole structure. Once they are also nominally defined, the integral heuristic structure becomes an explicit metaphysics. What does all this have to do with implicit theology?

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A metaphysics is certainly an excellent example for a Weltanschauung or an integral heuristic structure, but it is not the only one. Most -isms, like secularism, Marxism and so on, are also frameworks by which a person might live and act, and so are religious faiths. I will argue that every Weltanschauung that deals with questions of “ultimate concern” in fact is religious, whether its adherents acknowledge this or not. The question, of course, immediately arises: if all those are Weltanschauungen, are there criteria to distinguish valid or adequate structures from inadequate ones? Indeed there are, but this is not my point here.[8] Here I merely want to make clear that all conceptually developed heuristic structures that purport to provide general orientation in life can be addressed as explicit Weltanschauungen, while the heuristic structure that actually guides a person is their lived Weltanschauung – which might or might not coincide with the explicit one.

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In fact, Muck has provided us with an operative definition of Weltanschauung, which furthermore enables us to distinguish a merely operative one from an explicated one – or in different words: an implicit from an explicit Weltanschauung.[9] Muck argues: A lived Weltanschauung “should not be confused with an ‘official’ Weltanschauung or ideology. Still, a lived Weltanschauung often entails the complete or partial acceptance or rejection of such explicitly formulated views of life, e.g. basic doctrines of a certain religious creed. If so, these formulated convictions are understood in a certain interpretation.”[10] Conversely an explicit Weltanschauung can be understood as the attempt to cast an implicit one into words. Both do have theoretical and operative (i.e. practical) content. However, the theoretical seems to be primary in the explicit, the operative in the implicit Weltanschauung.[11] This and the fact that every interpretation is limited in its adequacy are reasons why we have to expect grave variances of meaning and therefore difficulties in communicating Weltanschauungen.

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Yet, not everyone adheres to a “creed”, be it religious or not. So, do these people still have a Weltanschauung? According to Muck’s introduction of the term, they do: because everyone has a set of convictions by which they react to the world, integrate new experiences into their over-all knowledge and act. So, according to that definition: everyone lives by a Weltanschauung but not everyone names their set of convictions and calls them a Weltanschauung. Still, is it true that everyone lives by a set of convictions by which they react to the world? Some people live in a kind of post-modern patchwork attitude: they claim to have no fixed set of convictions but decide anew, as any new situation allows and demands. However, this attitude exactly meets the operative definition of a Weltanschauung we gained from Muck, although that Weltanschauung does not fulfill the criterion of non-contradiction, as could be shown by an argument of retorsion[12] – but this again is not our task today. Adherents of such a patchwork attitude would, of course, not admit that. They would deny that they lived by a Weltanschauung. Just by living according to these precepts, however, they prove that it is an implicit Weltanschauung. The disagreement between me and them about whether they live by a Weltanschauung is precisely a consequence of the limitations of any interpretation and the resulting difficulties. A decision about which interpretation – theirs or mine – is more adequate could be made by clarifying which interpretation can answer more relevant questions[13] – it seems likely, however, that agreement could only be reached by expanding the range of common experiences.[14]

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We can summarize: In order to qualify an attitude as an (implicit) Weltanschauung it is not required that the person who lives by that attitude agrees with that qualification. It suffices that the operative definition of Weltanschauung, “framework by which a person lives” is fulfilled.

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If the lived and thus implicit Weltanschauung is the set of convictions that guides persons in their lives, then it should theoretically be possible to draw inferences from their conduct toward their Weltanschauung. This is certainly no easy matter because it can only work when several conditions are fulfilled, among them certainly: 1) The interpretation I accord another person’s conduct must be correct. 2) The person’s conduct really must be in accordance with their convictions and come from the depth of their person, otherwise it could be merely accidental or superficial. These conditions are very hard to fulfill – and even harder to ascertain – so these back-inferences to other people’s Weltanschauungen are very problematic and volatile. But that is a problem for concrete judgments, not for the general concept of an implicit Weltanschauung.

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1.2 Implicit “Weltanschauung” as implicit theology

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Let us now devote some energy to the question of whether every Weltanschauung can be called an implicit theology. The question is: Is every Weltanschauung also a theology or just some?

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Wolfhart Pannenberg adopts Rudolf Bultmann’s description of God as “the all-determining reality.”[15] Pannenberg takes this description in an objective sense and concludes from it: The answer to the question “which objects of our experience relate us to God?” can only be: all. If the term “God” refers to the all-determining reality, then everything must prove to be determined by that reality; without it, it must be incomprehensible in a final analysis.[16] For Pannenberg, however, this is only a hypothesis to be strengthened or weakened by further inquiry. It supports our hypothesis that even the so called secular is not without a relation toward the divine. Yet, this is not sufficient to argue our claim that there is such a thing as an implicit theology. From Pannenberg we can only infer that every objective reality is related to God. We cannot infer that every implicit attitude of a person also contains implicit propositions about God. For that we would need a subjective interpretation of Bultmann’s dictum.

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Let us try such a subjective reading: The entity that occupies the position of the all-determining reality within the framework of a person’s Weltanschauung functions in this Weltanschauung, as God functions in monotheism. Thus it is possible to discover implicitly theistic content in explicitly atheistic Weltanschauungen (for example, what is the all-determining element in Marxism or Capitalism?) and to detect such elements in not explicitly formulated attitudes that nevertheless ground a person’s life (what might be the all-determining reality in the everyday life of a Western teenager or an Asian slum dweller?).

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Other priorities and precepts will be developed from the basis of the perceived all-determining reality of one’s life, and thus depend on it: What is worth living (or even dying) for? How do I conduct myself in certain situations, etc.? Thus we can even argue that such an implicit theology does not only contain an implicit doctrine of God, but also an implicit moral theology or a theology of the human person, etc.

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Paul Tillich goes a step further because his definition of faith already contains a reference to the believing subject. He defines faith as being grasped by that which is of ultimate concern to us.[17] Thus, while Pannenberg emphasizes the relation all objective reality has toward God, Tillich emphasizes the human subject’s relation to God. His definition can be understood in an objective and a subjective sense, too. Objectively, “to live by the true faith” would thus be to be grasped by that which really concerns us ultimately. Subjectively it means: every Weltanschauung that contains elements of which the person holding that Weltanschauung is convinced that they are of ultimate concern contains elements of religious faith. This is, of course, a Biblical insight: the question of what I think is of ultimate concern to me is the question about my faith: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)

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Both Pannenberg’s and Tillich’s definitions contain theoretical and operative elements, whereby I think Panneberg emphasizes the former and Tillich the latter. Both also show that theoretical and operative elements are closely linked with each other, though not necessarily bound together. From the two I gain the confidence to state now: Every Weltanschauung in which something functions as all-determining reality or which contains something that the person holding the Weltanschauung believes to be of ultimate concern implicitly contains theological elements and can in that sense be called an implicit theology. Since Weltanschauung was defined as an attitude that guides one’s whole life, every Weltanschauung fulfills these criteria, for “to be of ultimate” concern and “to guide one’s whole” life seem to be coextensive expressions.

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That entails by no means that all Weltanschauungen, or all implicit theologies, are the same. The all-determining reality, which is of ultimate concern to us, can be understood very differently (e.g. as a benign or a malevolent person, as indifferent or a non-personal entity etc.) and this has further repercussions for one’s outlook on life and other attitudes (e.g. a pessimistic or an optimistic outlook). It may seem strange that all this could be implicit in a person’s consciousness without their realizing it. Karl Rahner, however, has shown that this is not so strange after all. Rahner’s theology of grace builds on his conviction that human beings have experiences, insights, and attitudes which are not explicitly known to them but influence their conscious behavior in such a way that they must be called “conscious” in some sense. I prefer to call them indirectly conscious.[18] Rahner, however, claims even more:

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“Unexpressed impulses, basic dispositions and attitudes, which escape total clarification by reflexion, are of more comprehensive significance for the totality of our spiritual life in certain circumstances than what is objectively recognized and expressed. A conscious logic, for example, holds sway in man’s mind even when he has never spent a moment’s thought on logic.”[19]

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Rahner’s mention of logic here makes clear that indirect consciousness is not some abstruse construct, but a fact of our everyday lives. Indeed most people, even children from a certain age on, utilize the basic precepts of logic without being able to state them as logical laws, because very few people are trained logicians. Therefore their directly conscious thinking is guided by an indirectly conscious logic, which most of them could not even verbalize when asked to do so. Then, Rahner claims that the indirectly conscious might even be more important than the directly conscious. Why is that so? One reason is certainly that every verbalization is, as Muck explained, a limited interpretation. Another reason, which bears special theological significance, is that human persons are influenced to a greater degree by impulses that are not immediately accessible in self-reflection than by those we can directly reflect on. That insight is not, as one might suspect, a result of modern psychoanalysis; rather, Rahner has shown, it follows from the conception freedom that the Christian faith entails.

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Long before psychoanalysts discovered the unconscious, theology supposed that the ultimate tendencies and desires of the human heart are eventually beyond our reach of self-examination. The real reason for the Christian theological tenet that we cannot know about our soteriological state is not God’s sovereignty or arbitrariness, as some theological schools have maintained, but the unfathomable mystery the human heart poses to itself.[20] Such an idea is behind the liturgical use to ask God’s forgiveness of those sins that are hidden before ourselves.[21] This allows for two interpretations: 1) I simply sometimes do not act in accordance with my Weltanschauung – a phenomenon we all know. This might especially be the case when our conduct does not really come from the core of our person and might be more or less accidental. However 2) it might also be the case that I do not act in accordance with my stated, explicit Weltanschauung because in fact I do not live by the precepts I think I live by. I might have a different agenda, hidden even from me, yet nevertheless operative in my behavior. In that case, my implicit Weltanschauung would be different from my explicit one. There would be a discrepancy between my stated faith and the integral structure that in fact guides my life.

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This will, of course, be always the case to a certain degree, unless I were already a fully perfected saint. But if the degree is a large one, I would have a real problem: I might, for example, state that I believed in a loving, merciful and forgiving God, but in fact live my life in a subdued, fearful and scrupulous way. Chances are that my implicit theology is different from my explicit one; chances are that I believe in a suppressive, frightening and vengeful God, although I profess the opposite. I hope you will agree with me that such a discrepancy is the very sign of unauthenticity in Lonergan’s sense, and therefore is a sign of a deficient conversion. However, before I attend to that more closely, let me briefly turn to Karl Rahner’s theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian.

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2 Karl Rahner’s “Anonymous Christian”

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2.1 In a Nutshell

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It might even be worse with me than in the stated example: I might profess faith in God’s grace and based on that hope for eternal life, and yet I might live my life in a way that betrayed a very different implicit theology of death: one that considered death as a final, irrevocable threshold, the end of my existence; as no different than any materialist or naturalist would. My conversion would be so unauthentic that while I professed to be a Christian, I in fact lived like a materialist and had an implicit Weltanschauung negating God’s saving power – or maybe even God’s very existence.

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Now, I think, what Karl Rahner has in mind when he talks about the possibility – not the certainty – that there are anonymous Christians[22], is just the opposite situation. Someone might profess their conviction that death is the ultimate end of their existence because there is no higher being to be addressed as God, and yet they might conduct their lives in a way that betrayed their hope for an eternal significance of their lives, combined with a trust in existence that was different from a believer’s trust in God only by not naming it thus.

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Rahner, of course, has his own way to interpret that possibility. He is certain that, if and when such trust occurs, it cannot be by pure chance or by human achievement alone, it is a gift of divine grace. And as such, it is by its very nature supernatural. It is, indeed, salvific faith, Rahner argues referring to Ad Gentes No. 7 where the council declares:

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“Therefore, though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel.”[23]

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This contains two important points: 1) The main clause emphasizes the importance of the church’s work of evangelization. 2) The concessive clause acknowledges that God can save people without their knowing the Gospel, yet not without their having faith. So the council emphasizes that those saved outside the church – a possibility of which it speaks repeatedly (cf. LG 14-16; GS 22; NA 1) – i. e. those who are saved without professing the Christian faith, still have a kind of faith that is salvific. And since the Council in the mentioned passages also reinforces the teaching that salvation is impossible without grace, it follows that divine grace can lead people to live by a faith that they nevertheless don’t profess. This amounts to an implicit faith, whose tenets we could call an implicit theology, and Rahner calls persons who live in such a way anonymous Christians.

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The question occurs of whether Rahner’s theologoumenon can do justice to the council’s insistence on the importance of evangelization as well? I think it can, for Rahner writes:

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“the theory [of anonymous Christians] ascribes to these justified pagans […] a real, albeit unexplicitated or, if we like to put it so, rudimentary faith. This is of course not to deny that this faith as it exists in the pagan is properly speaking designed to follow its own inherent dynamism in such a way as to develop into that faith which is objectified and articulated through the gospel, that faith which we simply call the Christian faith. The seed has no right to seek not to grow into a plant. But the fact that it is not yet developed into a plant is no reason for refusing to give the name which we give to the plant destined to grow from it to the seed as well.”[24]

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So in fact, if the church conducts her work of evangelization well, it becomes the much needed help for that seed to grow, for the anonymous Christian to discover what really guides his or her life, for the inherent dynamism to unfold – or in my terminology for implicit faith and its implicit theological assumptions to become explicit.

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2.2 Biblical Support

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I want to mention two more instances of Biblical support for what we are talking about. The first will be about implicit theology in general, the second about Rahner’s anonymous Christian.

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For me, one of the most impressive parables the Gospels tell us is that of the Prodigal Son or Merciful Father or – as Pope Benedict named it in his recent book on Jesus – that of the Two Brothers.[25] It is situated in an argument Jesus has with scribes and Pharisees who chastise him for consorting with sinners. In defense of his conduct Jesus tells three parables: of the lost 100th sheep (Luke 15:3-7), of the lost silver coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the one I am concerned with. All three parables latch on to an everyday situation for Jesus’ contemporaries. In all three the situation gets highly problematic but finally finds a happy ending and subsequent jubilation. Only at the end of the first two parables does Jesus introduce a theological level by drawing comparisons with the joy in heaven for converted sinners. Thus a comparison, no implicit theology – one might say, if it were not for the third parable.

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This parable contains no explicit comparison, no reference to God or heaven whatsoever. Readers of the parable have to add that reference themselves from the context – which is of course no matter of ingenuity. Thus everyone understands that the father in the parable stands for Jesus’ heavenly father and the two sons for types of sinful human persons; everyone understands that not only the emotions of the characters in the parable, but their whole conduct, their attitudes, the web of their relations are mirror images of the conduct, the attitudes and webs of relations between God and human beings. But this is more than a mere comparison. It is a real analogy that is easily understood from the context without resorting to explicit theological language.

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One could argue that in this parable Jesus utilizes the theology implicit in this (dysfunctional) rump-family to engage in explicit theology. Jesus did this not only in this parable, though it is a very striking example. Rather Christian theology, from the beginning, was to a high degree implicit theology, because Jesus’ life and conduct, e.g. his habit of attending meals together with sinners, was a theological statement. Jesus’ passion and death were not accidents without any connection to Jesus’ message either. On the contrary they were the result of the rejection of his message by the religious and political establishment of his day and his upholding of this message even unto death. Thus his conduct in the passion becomes itself a part of the message, which modifies this message in an important way.[26] Thus, in fact, the Christology we encounter in the New Testament is to a large degree an implicit Christology, the explicit formulations of Christological professions are scarce and their meaning is still unclear, which necessitated a long history of controversies until an explicit Christological dogma could emerge.

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Yet, isn’t merely Jesus’ conduct theologically relevant for Christians because they profess him to be the Son of God? Might these things be theologically relevant only in his person but not in anybody else? Such a viewpoint overlooks the seriousness of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. It affirms that in this divine act human nature “has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too” (GS 22). Therefore what happens in our everyday lives is not theologically insignificant either.

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Jesus’ divine sonship, however, entails one very important difference with respect to the question of implicit theology: For professing Christians it is a foregone conclusion that the implicit theology found in Jesus’ conduct is true and adequate to its “object” in a unique way. God is just like Jesus has shown him to be in his conduct, which constitutes his implicit theology. In our implicit theology, however, we will find some true and some false, some adequate and some inadequate elements in a seamless fusion. Here the difference between us sinners and Jesus, the completely sinless son, is immense.

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But this detour to the Bible has shown that the idea of an implicit theology is not a modern invention, but belongs to the bedrock of Christianity. To avoid some misunderstanding, it should be clearly stated that an implicit theology need not be a Christian theology or a true theology. It simply is constituted by the human relatedness to God through creation in His image, being graced by His Spirit, and being elevated by the Incarnation of the Son. Only after a concrete implicit theology has been explicated, we can decide what kind of theology it is. For that reason Rahner’s theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian by no means wants to say that everyone who is not a professing Christian is nevertheless one implicitly. It merely says that it is possible that there are people who do not profess the Christian faith but live in a way that – adequately expressed – would amount to the basic core of the Christian faith.

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The Bible also provides foundation for this view in the parable of the Last Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46).[27] Rahner draws the readers’ attention to the fact that “love of neighbor is given in St Matthew as the only explicit standard by which man will be judged”[28], as both the judged on the right-hand side and those on the left-hand side betray their complete ignorance and utter bewilderment at the statement that whatever they have done or not done to “one of the least” they have done to Christ. By establishing that link – Rahner argues that it is an identity –, Christ enables us to read the implicit meaning of the explicit criterion. What is explicitly known as love of neighbor is discernible as love of God because love of God is implicitly contained in true love of neighbor (which is only made possible by divine grace). For that reason the parenetic use of this parable, which is often made in sermons and exhortations, is completely against its intention. It is not told to instruct Christians to love their neighbors in order to attain heavenly bliss – on the contrary “loving” one’s neighbor as a means to an end devalues the good work, and the parable unveils the belief that it is done for love as self-deceptive. It is told to instruct Christians that the criterion for entering heavenly bliss is not words but deeds, and not deeds calculated for supernatural gain but deeds motivated by genuine love – which, the theology of grace tells us, is made possible by a preceding supernatural gift.

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3 Authentic Subjectivity

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Let us now finally accede to Lonergan and how this would resonate with his idea of authentic or unauthentic subjectivity.

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Formally both cases – that of the Christian who lives like a materialist and that of the atheist who lives as an anonymous Christian – seem to be the same: we have a grave discrepancy between an implicit and an explicit Weltanschauung containing elements of ultimate concern, i. e. between an implicit and an explicit theology. So we can say, both the anonymous Christian and the anonymous materialist are to a considerable degree unauthentic subjects. The difference is that the one lives by what saves him/her without realizing it – the other lives by what would doom him/her, while professing the opposite.

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According to Lonergan, authenticity is attained by threefold conversion: intellectual, moral, and religious.[29] Lack or incompleteness of either constitutes a degree of unauthenticity. I would argue that Lonergan’s threefold conversion helps us to distinguish between the anonymous Christian and the anonymous materialist, for the difference lies in the aspect of conversion each is lacking. Let us consider what we have said about Rahner’s anonymous Christian: he or she has been touched by God’s grace in such a way that they live by a salvific faith, although they do not profess this faith nor call it Christian faith. This corresponds very well with what Lonergan says about religious conversion:

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“Religious conversion is being grasped by ultimate concern. It is other-worldly falling in love. It is total and permanent self-surrender […] as a dynamic state that is prior to and principle of subsequent acts. It is interpreted differently in the context of different religious traditions. For Christians it is God’s love flooding our hearts through the Holy Spirit […]. It is the gift of grace, […]. […] Operative grace is religious conversion. Cooperative grace is the effectiveness of conversion, the gradual movement towards a full and complete transformation of the whole of one’s living and feeling, one’s thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions.”[30]

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At first glance surprising, on second glance obvious: anonymous Christians, those in whose life grace is actually operative although they do not expressly realize it, have undergone religious conversion. They might still stand at the inception of their gradual movement to the completion of their transformation, just as the seed is at the beginning of its growth into a tree, but it is this graced transformation on the level of ultimate concern that is working in them. Their lack of explicitly grasping this movement might be due to a lack of intellectual conversion. It might be because they think that “reality” is only what can be empirically ascertained and that therefore notions about the transcendent – be it called God or otherwise – can never be objectively real.

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“Intellectual conversion is a radical clarification and, consequently, the elimination of an exceedingly stubborn and misleading myth concerning reality, objectivity, and human knowledge. The myth is that knowing is like looking, that objectivity is seeing what is there to be seen and not seeing what is not there, and that the real is what is out there now to be looked at. Now this myth overlooks the distinction between the world of immediacy […] and […] the world mediated by meaning. The world of immediacy […] conforms well enough to the myth’s view of reality, objectivity, knowledge. But it is a tiny fragment of the world mediated by meaning. For the world mediated by meaning is a world known […] by the external and internal experience of a cultural community, and by the continuously checked and rechecked judgments of the community.”[31]

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Still, I am rather cautious by saying that lack of intellectual conversion might be the cause for their not expressly knowing about their lived faith. For there are a number of other possible reasons for that which entail no lack of intellectual conversion: it could be experiences of religion, and Christianity in particular, that let faith appear as adverse to life and subjugating human freedom. There might be misconceptions for which there is good reason in the person’s life, they need not necessarily be brought about by lack of intellectual conversion but could be engendered by believers who have given a counter-witness to the Christian faith.[32] But if we had a case where these other possible causes could be ruled out, lack of intellectual conversion would be the reason for anonymous Christians to remain anonymous and not walk towards the explicit completeness of the faith they actually live.

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Conversely the anonymous materialist might have attained intellectual conversion – although, of course, his/her profession of faith could also be engendered by adherence to tradition and group bias alone – but he/she has not undergone genuine religious conversion, and that is why they profess a faith that they do not live by.

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Today faith and the theology reflecting on it face the situation that many contemporaries find them unconvincing and implausible. Two important reasons for that, I think, are closely related to Lonergan’s dictum about genuine objectivity through authentic subjectivity. One is the lack of authentic subjectivity on the level of religious conversion in some who profess the Christian faith or even represent it in ecclesial positions. Another is the lack of authentic subjectivity on the level of intellectual conversion in many contemporaries who as a consequence demand a kind of “objectivity” from theology or the humanities in general that cannot exist. This claim is quite the opposite of the general bias in today’s larger society, which oftentimes takes believers to be less capable intellectually than non-believers. There are certainly many instances where this is true, because not every genuine believer is – nor needs to be – able to reconcile his/her religious beliefs with the latest scientific results. Still in some public discussions it might just be the other way round: the one who professes faith is intellectually justified in doing so but his/her inadequate adherence to that faith betrays a lack of religious (or moral)[33] conversion; and the one who attacks faith on presumed scientific grounds has not realized that he/she has left the ground of science quite some time ago and is now engaged in a philosophical argument about Weltanschauung, which demands the admission of more relevant questions than a single science. The situation is still worse, of course, when the scientist not only lacks intellectual conversion but religious as well, but the point here is that even well-meaning and implicitly believing persons might lack the kind of intellectual conversion needed and therefore be unable to see that the Christian faith adequately expresses important precepts they live by.

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I think Lonergan’s analysis of the different myths about reality and of the only way to reach objectivity in the realm of meaning – through authentic subjectivity – is of exceeding importance because it avoids the infamous extremes of both subjectivism and positivism, while it affirms the important role that both subjectivity and an objectivity gained through authentic subjectivity play in cognition. By comparing this analysis with Rahner’s theologoumenon of the anonymous Christian and the concept of implicit theology, I hoped that the three approaches would throw additional light on one another. Rahner’s main concern in developing the idea of the anonymous Christian was a soteriological: he wanted to argue how salvation for non-Christians is possible without giving up the strict doctrine of the necessity of grace and of Christ as the sole mediator of it; he emphasized that soteriologically the implicit faith is more important than its adequate expression, but still it is incomplete without that. Lonergan’s main concern in describing the necessary three-fold conversion as precondition for sound foundations of theology is theoretical. Since theology as an academic discipline demands an adequate expression of the intended reality, the explicit formulation here takes precedence;[34] still, without the necessary conversion of the subject, which might be merely implicit, it is just words without their proper understanding. By developing the concepts of implicit and explicit theology and linking them to Lonergan’s view of three-fold conversion, it is possible to see that Rahner’s anonymous Christian is not an absolutely unique phenomenon but one of several possibilities where implicit and explicit theology diverge, or where conversion has not been attained on all three levels but on merely two – or even one – of them.

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Benedict XVI, Pope (= Ratzinger, Joseph). 2007. Jesus von Nazareth. Erster Teil: Von der Taufe im Jordan bis zur Verklärung. Freiburg: Herder.

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Catholic Information Network. 1997. Vatican II Documents, [cited 08/06 2008]. Available from http://www.cin.org/vatiidoc.html.

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John Paul II, Pope. 1994. Apostolic Letter “Tertio Millennio Adveniente”. The Holy See, [cited 08/26 2008]. Available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_10111994_tertio-millennio-adveniente_en.html.

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Lonergan, Bernard. 1971. Method in Theology. Toronto:University of Toronto Press.

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———. 1992. Collected Works. Vol. 3: Insight. A Study of Human Understanding. Edited by Crowe, F. E. and Doran, R. M. Toronto:University of Toronto Press.

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Muck, Otto. 1968. The transcendental method. Translated by Seidensticker, W. D.New York, N.Y.

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———. 1994. “Assumptions of a Classical Philosophy of God”, Milltown Studies, 33, 37-50

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———. 1999a “Wahrheit und Verifikation”, in ———, Rationalität und Weltanschauung. Philosophische Untersuchungen (ed. Löffler, W.), Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 81-100.

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———. 1999b “Rationale Strukturen des Dialogs über Glaubensfragen”, in ———, Rationalität und Weltanschauung. Philosophische Untersuchungen (ed. Löffler, W.), Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 106-151.

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Neumann, K. 1980. Der Praxisbezug der Theologie bei Karl Rahner. Freiburger Theologische Studien 118. Freiburg i. Br.: Herder.

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Newman, John Henry. 1970 “Sermon XIII: Implicit and Explicit Reason”, Newman’s University Sermons. Fifteen Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford 1926-43 (large paperbacks 18),London: S P C K, 251-277.

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Pannenberg, Wolfhart. 1973. Wissenschaftstheorie und Theologie. 1 ed. . Frankfurt//M.

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Rahner, Karl. 1961 “The Theological Concept of Concupiscentia”, Theological Investigations 1: God, Christ, Mary, and Grace, Baltimore, MD: Helicon, 347-382.

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———. 1969a “Theology of Freedom”, Theological Investigations 6: Concerning Vatican Council II, Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 178-196.

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———. 1969b “Reflections on the Unity of the Love of Neighbor and the Love of God”, Theological Investigations 6: Concerning Vatical Council II, Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 231-249.

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———. 1969c “Anonymous Christians”, Theological Investigations 6: Concerning Vatican Council II, Baltimore, MD: Helicon Press, 390-398.

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———. 1976 “Observations on the Problem of the ‘Anonymous Christian’”, Theological Investigations 14: Ecclesiology, Questions in the Church, The Church in the World,New York: Seabury, 280-294.

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———. 1982. “Vom Geheimnis menschlicher Schuld und göttlicher Vergebung”, Geist und Leben, 55, 39-54

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Schwager, Raymund. 1999. Jesus in the Drama of Salvation: Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption. Translated by Williams, J. G. and Haddon, P.New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

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Tillich, Paul. 1970. Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 8: Offenbarung und Glaube. Schriften zur Theologie II. Stuttgart.

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Wandinger, Nikolaus. 2003. Die Sündenlehre als Schlüssel zum Menschen. Impulse K. Rahners und R. Schwagers zu einer Heuristik theologischer Anthropologie. Beiträge zur mimetischen Theorie 16. Münster: LIT.

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———. 2004a. “‘Concupiscence’ and ‘Mimetic Desire’: A Dialogue Between K. Rahner and R. Girard”, Contagion, 11, 146-160

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———. 2004b “Zur Rede von einer ‘impliziten Theologie’. Versuch einer Begriffsklärung”, in Drexler, C. and Scharer, M. (ed.) An Grenzen lernen. Neue Wege in der theologischen Didaktik (Kommunikative Theologie 6), Mainz: Grünewald, 189-212. Also available from http://www.uibk.ac.at/theol/leseraum/texte/689.html.

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[1] Cf. Wandinger 2004b.

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[2] Lonergan 1971, 292.

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[3] Cf. Muck 1994, 48.

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[4] Muck 1994, 48.

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[5] Muck 1994, 48.

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[6] Cf. E.g. Lonergan 1992, 417.

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[7] Cf. Lonergan 1992, 37.

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[8] Muck 1994, 49 mentions as minimal conditions for adequacy: freedom of contradiction, internal coherence, grounding in experience, openness to all realms of human experience.

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[9] Already John Henry Newman distinguished Implicit and Explicit Reason in his 13th Oxford sermon. Cf. Newman 1970

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[10] Muck 1999b, 132, my own translation.

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[11] Cf. Muck 1999b, 134-135.

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[12] For that cf. Muck 1968, 129-130.

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[13] Cf. Muck 1999a, esp. 83-93.

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[14] Cf. the schema in Muck 1999b, 142-143.

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[15] Pannenberg 1973, 304.

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[16] Cf. Pannenberg 1973, 304.

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[17] Cf. Tillich 1970, 111.

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[18] For my discussion of Rahner’s use of “conscious”, “known” and “unknown” and the introduction of the terminology “directly” or “indirectly conscious” cf. Wandinger 2003, esp. 119-124.

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[19] Rahner 1961, 378.

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[20] Cf. Rahner 1969a, esp. 191.

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[21] Cf. already Psalm 19:13, see also: Rahner 1982, esp. 45.

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[22] Cf. Rahner 1969c and 1976.

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[23] All documents of the Second Vatican Council quoted according to Catholic Information Network 1997.

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[24] Rahner 1976, 291.

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[25] Cf. Benedict XVI 2007, 242-252.

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[26] Cf. Schwager 1999, 102-114.

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[27] This Biblical passage is the one Karl Rahner referred to most frequently in his writings (cf. Neumann 1980, 126).

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[28] Rahner 1969b, 234.

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[29] Cf. Lonergan 1971, 237-244, 267-269.

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[30] Lonergan 1971, 240-241.

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[31] Lonergan 1971, 238.

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[32] This is one of the sins that Pope John Paul II took very seriously and deplored in his Apostoloic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (cf. John Paul II 1994, no. 33).

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[33] I am not discussing moral conversion here in greater detail. Let us presuppose for the sake of the argument that the persons involved do not act out of moral failure. This creates a simplification, which allows taking the other two types of conversion into a closer focus. Of course, in a more elaborate analysis, we would have to give up this simplification to tackle the question in all its complexity.

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[34] This is also the reason why there can be no anonymous Christianity. There can be individual persons who are anonymous Christians, but Christianity presupposes a cultural community that checks the meaning of its precepts ever again. And while a correction might well mean adjusting an inadequate expression to the much more adequate attitude that has been lived already but not expressed correctly, such a cultural community needs the explicit formulation of its attitudes, otherwise it cannot exist. For more elaboration on that cf. Wandinger 2004a, 158-159.

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