The Crisis for Liberation Theology
In the eighties, the theology of liberation, in its radical forms, appeared as the most urgent challenge facing the belief of the Church, demanding response and clarification. For it offered a new, plausible, and at the same time practical answer to the basic question of Christianity: the question of redemption. The word liberation was supposed to express, in another, more readily comprehensible way, what in the traditional language of the Church had been called redemption. In fact the same underlying question is always there: we experience a world that does not correspond to a good God. Poverty, oppression, unjust domination of every kind, the suffering of the righteous and of the innocent are the signs of the times—in every age. And each single person is suffering; no one can say about the world, or about his own life: Stay yet awhile, you are so lovely. Liberation theology said, in response to this experience of ours: This state of affairs, which cannot be allowed to continue, can only be overcome by a radical change in the structures of the world, which are sinful structures, evil structures. If, then, sin applies its power through structures, and if our reduction to misery is preprogramed through them, then sin cannot be overcome by individual conversion but only by a struggle against the structures of injustice. Yet this struggle, it was said, would have to be a political struggle, because the structures were strengthened and maintained by politics. Thus redemption became a political process, for which Marxist philosophy offered the essential directions. It became a task that men themselves could—indeed had to—take in hand and became, at the same time, the object of quite practical hopes: faith was changed from “theory” into practice, into concrete redeeming action in the liberation process.
The collapse of the Marxist-inspired governments of Europe was for this theology of redeeming political practice a kind of twilight of the gods: precisely there where the Marxist ideology of liberation had been consistently applied, a total lack of freedom had developed, whose horrors were now laid bare before the eyes of the entire world. Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic. The political events of 1989 have thus also changed the theological landscape. Marxism had been the most recent attempt to formulate a universally valid code for determining the correct action to be taken in history. It believed it knew the fundamental structure by which the history of the world is built up and that it was therefore able to show how this history could finally be brought onto the right track. The fact that it underpinned all this with what seemed to be strictly scientific methods, and thus completely replaced belief by science and turned knowledge into practice, made it enormously, monstrously fascinating. It seemed as though all the unfulfilled promises of religion could be realized by means of a system of political practice with a scientific basis. The collapse of this hope inevitably brought with it an immense disillusionment that is still far from having been worked through. It seems to me quite conceivable that we will meet with new forms of the Marxist view of the world. At first people were at a loss. The failure of the one system incorporating a scientifically based solution to human problems could only favor nihilism or at any rate absolute relativism.
Relativism—The Dominant Philosophy
So in fact relativism has become the central problem for faith in our time. It by no means appears simply as resignation in the face of the unfathomable nature of truth, of course; rather, it defines itself positively on the basis of the concepts of tolerance, dialectic epistemology, and freedom, which would be limited by maintaining one truth as being valid for everyone. Relativism thus also appears as being the philosophical basis of democracy, which is said to be founded on no one’s being able to claim to know the right way forward; and it draws life from all the ways acknowledging each other as fragmentary attempts at improvement and trying to agree in common through dialogue, although the advertising of perceptions that cannot be reconciled in a common form is also part of this. A free society is said to be a relativistic society; only on this condition can it remain free and open-ended.
In the realm of politics this view is to a great extent true. The one single correct political option does not exist. What is relative, the construction of a freely ordered common life for men, cannot be absolute—thinking that it could be was precisely the error of Marxism and of the political theologies. Even in the realm of politics, of course, one cannot always manage with absolute relativism: there are things that are wrong and can never become right (killing innocent people, for instance; denying individuals the right to be treated as humans and to a way of life appropriate to that); there are things that are right and can never become wrong. In the realm of politics and society, therefore, one cannot deny relativism a certain right. The problem is based on the fact that it sees itself as being unlimited. And now it is being quite consciously applied to the field of religion and ethics. I can only give a couple of brief references here to the developments that are determinative for theological intercourse today. The so-called pluralistic theology of religions had in fact been gradually developing since the fifties, but it did not occupy the center of attention for Christians until now. With respect to the ramifications of the questions it raises, and likewise to its being present in the most various cultural spheres, it occupies much the same place as did liberation theology in the past decade; it is also frequently combined with the latter in an attempt to give it a new, updated form. It appears in widely varying forms, so that it is impossible to express it in a short formula and present its essential elements briefly. On the one hand, this is a typical product of the Western world and of its thought forms, yet, on the other hand, it is astonishingly close to the philosophical and religious intuitions of Asia, and especially of the Indian subcontinent, so that in the current historical situation the contact of these two worlds gives it a particular impact.
Relativism in Theology—The Revocation of Christology
That is clearly visible in the work of one of its founders and principal representatives, the English Presbyterian J. Hick, whose philosophical starting point is found in Kant’s distinction between phenomenon and nouomenon: we can never know ultimate reality in itself but only ever its appearance in the way we perceive things, seeing it through various “lenses”. Everything we perceive is, not actual reality as it is in itself, but a reflection corresponding to our capacities. This approach, which Hick first tried to apply in a context that was still christocentric, he transformed after a year’s stay in India, in what he himself calls a Copernican turning point in his thinking, into a new form of theocentrism. The identification of one single historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, with “reality” itself, with the living God, was now rejected as a relapse into myth; Jesus was consciously relativized, reduced to one religious genius among others. There can be no absolute entity in itself, or absolute person in himself, within history, only patterns, only ideal figures, which direct our attention toward the wholly other, which in history cannot in fact be comprehended in itself. It is clear that by the same token Church, dogma, and sacraments must thereby lose their unconditional status. To regard such finite mediations as absolute, or even as real encounters with the universally valid truth of the God who reveals himself, amounts to setting up one’s own experience as absolute and thus failing to perceive the infinity of the God who is wholly other.
From such a standpoint, which dominates thinking far beyond the scope of Hick’s theories, the belief that there is indeed truth, valid and binding truth, within history itself, in the figure of Jesus Christ and in the faith of the Church, is referred to as fundamentalism, which appears as the real assault upon the spirit of the modern age and, manifested in many forms, as the fundamental threat to the highest good of that age, freedom and tolerance. Thus to a great extent the concept of dialogue, which certainly held an important place in the Platonic and in the Christian tradition, has acquired a different meaning. It has become the very epitome of the relativist credo, the concept opposed to that of “conversion” and mission: dialogue in the relativist sense means setting one’s own position or belief on the same level with what the other person believes, ascribing to it, on principle, no more of the truth than to the position of the other person. Only if my fundamental presupposition is that the other person may be just as much in the right as I am, or even more so, can any dialogue take place at all. Dialogue, it is said, has to be an exchange between positions that are fundamentally of equal status and thus mutually relative, with the aim of achieving a maximum of cooperation and integration between various religious bodies and entities. The relativist elimination of Christology, and most certainly of ecclesiology, now becomes a central commandment of religion. To turn back to Hick: the belief in the divinity of an individual, he tells us, leads to fanaticism and particularism, to the dissociation of faith from love; and this is the thing that must be overcome.
The Recourse to Asian Religions
In the thought of J. Hick, whom we have particularly in mind here as a prominent representative of religious relativism, the postmetaphysical philosophy of Europe converges in a remarkable way with the negative theology of Asia, for which the Divinity can never enter, in itself and undisguised, into the world of appearances in which we live: it only ever shows itself in relative reflections and in itself remains beyond all words and beyond all comprehension in absolute transcendence. In their starting points, as in the direction they give to human existence, the two philosophies are in themselves fundamentally different. Yet they appear nonetheless to support one another in their metaphysical and religious relativism. The a-religious and pragmatic relativism of Europe and America can borrow a kind of consecration from India, which seems to give its renunciation of dogma the dignity of a heightened reverence for the mystery of God and of man. Conversely, the way that European and American thinking has turned back to India’s philosophical and theological vision has the effect of further strengthening that relativizing of all religious figures which is part of India’s heritage. Thus it now actually seems imperative in India, even for Christian theology, to extract from its particularity the figure of Christ, regarded as Western, and to set it beside Indian redemption myths as if it were of similar status: the historical Jesus, so people now think, is actually no more uniquely the Logos than any other savior figures from history are. The fact that here, in the context of the encounter between cultures, relativism seems appropriate as the true philosophy of humanity gives it (as we have already suggested) such an appreciable impact, both in East and West, that it hardly seems possible to offer further resistance. Anyone who opposes it is not only setting himself against democracy and tolerance, that is, the fundamental rules of human intercourse; he is obstinately insisting on the preeminence of his own Western culture and thus refusing to share in that coexistence of cultures which is obviously the order of the day. Anyone who wants to stick with the Bible and the Church starts by finding himself thrust out into a cultural no-man’s land; he has to come to terms again with the “folly” of God (1 Cor 1:18) in order to recognize true wisdom in it.
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
In that kind of feeling one’s way toward truth within the folly of faith, it helps if we can, at least to start with, try to make sure what purpose is served by Hick’s relativist theory of religion, in what direction it is pointing man. What religion means in the end for Hick is that man passes from “self-centeredness”, the life of the old Adam, to “reality-centeredness”, the life of the new man, thus reaching out from within his own self, his “I”, to the “Thou” of his neighbor. That sounds fine, but in the cold light of day it is just as meaningless and void of content as Bultmann’s call to authenticity, which he borrowed from Heidegger. You do not need religion for that. The former Catholic priest P. Knitter, clearly aware of this, has tried to overcome the emptiness of a theory of religion that is ultimately reduced to the categorical imperative with a new and more concrete synthesis between Asia and Europe, with a greater content. His suggestion is to give religion a new concrete dimension by linking pluralist theology of religions with the liberation theologies. Interreligious dialogue was to be radically simplified, and at the same time made effective in practice, by basing it on one single premise: “on the primacy of orthopraxy over orthodoxy”. This giving practice superior rank over knowledge is also bequeathed from good Marxism, yet Marxism for its part puts into practice only what is the logical result of the renunciation of metaphysics: when it is impossible to know, it only remains to act. Knitter says: One cannot comprehend the absolute, but one can do it. The question is: How, in fact? Whence do I derive right action if I have no idea what is right? The collapse of the Communist regimes resulted directly from the fact that they had changed the world without knowing what was good for the world and what was not; without knowing in what direction it must be changed so as to be better. Mere praxis gives no light.
This is the point at which the concept of orthopraxy must be critically investigated. The older history of religions had established that the religions of India knew nothing, in general, of any orthodoxy but that they did have an orthopraxy; it is probably from this that the concept crept into modern theology. But it has a quite specific meaning in describing the religions of India: people were trying to say that these religions had no generally binding teaching and that belonging to them is therefore not defined by acceptance of a given creed. Yet these religions do have a system of ritual actions that are regarded as being necessary for salvation and that distinguish the “believer” from the unbeliever. He will be recognized, not by any particular intellectual content, but by the conscientious following of a ritual that embraces the whole of life. What orthopraxy means, what “right action” is, is quite precisely determined: a whole code of rites. In any case, the word “orthodoxy” originally had almost the same meaning in the early Church and in the Eastern Churches. For in the “doxy” part of the word, doxa was of course not understood in the sense of “opinion” (correct opinion)—in the Greek view, opinions are always relative: doxa was understood rather in the sense of “glory”, “glorifying”. To be orthodox, therefore, meant: to know and to practice the right way in which God wishes to be glorified. It refers to worship and, on the basis of worship, to life. In that sense, there might well be a substantial bridge here for a fruitful dialogue between East and West.
But let us return to the use of the word orthopraxy in modern theology. No one any longer was thinking here about following ritual. The word thus acquired an entirely new significance, which had nothing to do with the genuine ideas of India. One thing does of course remain: if the demand for orthopraxy is to have some meaning, and is not merely to serve as a fig leaf for being indeterminate, then there must be a recognizable common practice for everyone that goes beyond all the generalized talk about being centered on the “I” or being related to the “Thou”. If we exclude the ritual sense, which was what was signified in Asia, then “praxis” may be understood in terms of ethics or politics. In the first case, orthopraxy would presume the existence of an ethic with a clearly defined content. In the relativist discussion of ethics, that is of course absolutely excluded: there is no such thing as good in itself or evil in itself. Yet if orthopraxy is understood in terms of politics and society, the question once more arises as to what is correct political action. Liberation theologies, which were animated by the conviction that Marxism tells us clearly what correct political action is, were able to use the concept of orthopraxy in a way that made sense. There was no vagueness or indecisiveness here but a system of correct action laid down for everyone, that is, a true orthopraxy that united the community and distinguished it from those people who refused to act correctly. In that sense the Marxist-oriented liberation theologies were in their own way logically consistent.
Yet as we can see, this orthopraxy is entirely based upon a certain orthodoxy (in the modern sense)—a scaffolding of obligatory theories about the path to freedom. Knitter is staying close to this base when he says that that freedom is the criterion by which orthopraxy is to be distinguished from pseudopraxy. But he fails to satisfy us with a practical and persuasive explanation of what freedom is and of what helps toward the true liberation of man: Marxist orthopraxy certainly does not help us, as we have seen. Yet one thing is clear: the relativist theories, without exception, lead to what is binding upon no one and thus render themselves superfluous; or, on the other hand, they suggest absolute standards in the realm of practice, where in fact absolutes can have no place. It is of course a fact that today, even in Asia, we can see how concepts drawn from liberation theology are being put forward as supposed forms of Christianity that more closely correspond to the Asian spirit, that transpose the essential elements of religious action into the realm of politics. When mystery no longer counts for anything, then politics necessarily becomes the religion. This, of all things, is of course profoundly opposed to the native conception of religion in Asia.
The relativism of Hick and Knitter and other related theories is ultimately based on a rationalism that holds that reason in Kant’s sense is incapable of any metaphysical knowledge; religion is then given a new basis along pragmatic lines, with either a more ethical or a more political coloration. There is, however, a consciously antirationalist response to the experience that “everything is relative”, a complex reality that is lumped together under the title of New Age. The way out of the dilemma of relativism is now sought, not in a new encounter of the “I” with the “Thou” or the “We”, but in overcoming subjective consciousness, in a re-entry into the dance of the cosmos through ecstasy. As in the case of Gnosis in the ancient world, this way believes itself to be fully in tune with all the teachings and the claims of science, making use of scientific knowledge of every kind (biology, psychology, sociology, physics). At the same time, however, it offers against this background a completely antirationalist pattern of religion, a modern “mysticism”: the absolute is, not something to be believed in, but something to be experienced. God is not a person distinct from the world; rather, he is the spiritual energy that is at work throughout the universe. Religion means bringing my self into tune with the cosmic whole, the transcending of all divisions. K.-H. Menke epitomizes the turning point in the history of ideas that is taking place just precisely here when he says that: “That self, which hitherto wished to subject everything to itself, now wants to dissolve itself in ‘the whole’.” Objectifying reason, New Age thinking tells us, closes our way to the mystery of reality; existing as the self shuts us out from the fullness of cosmic reality; it destroys the harmony of the whole and is the real reason for our being unredeemed. Redemption lies in breaking down the limits of the self, in plunging into the fullness of life and all that is living, in going back home to the universe. Ecstasy is being sought for, the intoxication of infinity, which can happen to people en masse in ecstatic music, in rhythm, in dance, in a mad whirl of lights and darkness. Here it is not merely the modern way of domination by the self that is renounced and abolished; here, man—in order to be free—must let himself be abolished. The gods are returning. They have become more credible than God. Aboriginal rites must be renewed in which the self is initiated into the mysteries of the universe and freed from its own self.
There are many reasons for the renewal of pre-Christian religions and cults that is being widely undertaken today. If there is no truth shared by everyone, a truth that is valid simply because it is true, then Christianity is merely a foreign import, a form of spiritual imperialism, which needs to be shaken off just as much as political imperialism. If what takes place in the sacraments is not the encounter with the one living God of all men, then they are empty rituals that mean nothing and give us nothing and, at best, allow us to sense the numinous element that is actively present in all religions. It then seems to make better sense to seek after what was originally our own than to permit alien and antiquated things to be imposed on us. But above all, if the “rational intoxication” of the Christian mystery cannot make us intoxicated with God, then we just have to conjure up the real, concrete intoxication of effective ecstasies, the passionate power of which catches us up and turns us, at least for a moment, into gods, helps us for a moment to sense the pleasure of infinity and to forget the misery of finite existence. The more the pointlessness of political absolutisms becomes obvious, the more powerful will be the attraction of irrationalism, the renunciation of everyday reality.
Pragmatism in Everyday Church Life
Side by side with these radical solutions, and side by side also with the greater pragmatism of the liberation theologies, there is also the gray pragmatism at work in the everyday life of the Church, whereby everything is apparently being done right, yet in reality the faith is stale and declining into a shabby meanness. I am thinking of two phenomena that I regard with some concern. On one hand, there are attempts, some more determined than others, to extend the majority principle to matters of faith and morals and, thus, to “democratize” the Church in a decided fashion. What is not obvious to the majority cannot have any binding claim upon us, so it seems. Majority of whom, in fact? Will this majority be different tomorrow from what it is today? A faith we can decide for ourselves is no faith at all. And no minority has any reason to allow a majority to prescribe what it should believe. Either the faith and its practice come to us from the Lord by way of the Church and her sacramental services, or there is no such thing. The reason many people are abandoning the faith is that it seems to them that the faith can be decided by some officials or institutions, that it is a kind of party program; whoever has the power is able to decide what should be believed, and so it is a matter of getting hold of power oneself within the Church or, on the other hand—more obviously and logically—just not believing.
The other point I would raise concerns the liturgy. The various phases of liturgical reform have allowed people to gain the impression that liturgy can be changed as and how you wish. If there is any unchanging element, people think, then this would in no instance be anything other than the words of consecration: everything else might be done differently. The next idea is quite logical: If a central authority can do that, then why not local decision-making bodies? And if local bodies, then why not the congregation itself? It ought to be expressing itself in the liturgy and should be able to see its own style recognizably present there. After the rationalist and puritan trend ofthe seventies, and even the eighties, people are tired of liturgies that are just words and would like liturgies they can experience; and these soon get close to New Age styles: a search for intoxication and ecstasy, not the λογικ←λατϱεία, the rationabilis oblatio (the rationally directed worship conformed to the logos, “spiritual worship”) that Paul, and the Roman liturgy with him, is talking about (Rom 12:1).
Now, I admit—and I say this with emphasis—that what I am saying does not apply to the normal situation of our congregations. But these tendencies are there. And that is why it is appropriate to be on our guard, lest some other gospel than that given us by our Lord is secretly substituted for this.
The Tasks Facing Theology
Thus, all in all, we are facing a remarkable situation: liberation theology had tried to give a new practice to a Christendom that was tired of dogma, a practice by means of which redemption was finally to become an actual event. This practice, however, instead of bringing freedom, left destruction in its wake. What was left was relativism and the attempt to come to terms with it. Yet what that offers is in its turn so empty that the relativist theories look for help from the liberation theology, so as thus to become of more practical use. Finally, New Age says, “Let’s just leave Christianity as a failed experiment and go back to the gods—it’s better that way.” Many questions arise Let us just take the most immediately practical one: Why has classic theology proved so impotent in the face of these developments? Where are the weak points at which it lost credibility?
I would like to mention two points suggested by what Hick and Knitter say. Both refer to exegesis for their revocation of faith in Christ: they say that exegesis has shown that Jesus himself certainly did not regard himself as the Son of God, as God incarnate, but that he was only subsequently transformed into that, gradually, by his followers. Both, but Hick more clearly than Knitter, also refer to philosophical evidence. Hick assures us that Kant has irrefutably demonstrated that no one can perceive any absolute entity or person in history and that no such entity or person could, as such, be present in history. On the basis of our ability to perceive and to know things, according to Kant, the things the Christian faith asserts cannot exist, cannot happen: it is crazy to believe in miracles, mysteries, and channels of grace, Kant explains to us in his book on “religion within the bounds of mere reason”. The question concerning exegesis and that concerning the limits and possibilities of our reason, that is, about the philosophical premises of faith, seem to me in fact to indicate the real point of crisis of present-day theology, on account of which faith—and to an ever-increasing extent, even the faith of simple people—is reaching to a crisis.
I would just like here briefly to indicate the task facing us because of that. First, as concerns exegesis, it should first be remarked that Hick and Knitter certainly cannot call on the support of exegesis as a whole, as if what they are talking about were a clear and universally recognized conclusion. That is impossible in historical research, which does not deal in such certainties. It is still more impossible in the case of a question that is not purely historical or literary but involves value judgments that go beyond just establishing a sequence of events or interpreting a text. What is true is that a quick survey of modern exegesis may leave you with an impression that agrees with what Hick and Knitter say.
Yet how certain is that? Even supposing that a majority of exegetes think like that (which must be open to doubt), the question still remains: How well founded is that kind of majority opinion? I maintain that many exegetes think like Hick and Knitter and reconstruct the history of Jesus accordingly because they share the same philosophy. It is not a case of exegesis providing evidence that supports a philosophy; rather, it is a matter of a philosophy that produces the exegesis. If (to speak in Kant’s terms) I know a priori that Jesus cannot be God, that miracles, mysteries, and means of grace are three things it would be crazy to believe in, then I cannot discover in Holy Scriptures any fact that cannot exist as a fact. I can then only discover why and how people came to make such assertions, how these gradually came about.
Let us look a little closer. The historicocritical method is a marvelous instrument for reading historical sources and interpreting texts. But it does include its own philosophy, which generally—if, for instance, I want to learn about the medieval emperors—hardly affects anything. For in that case I want to learn about the past, that is all. Even that is not entirely free of values and value judgments, and to that extent the method has its limitations. If you apply it to the Bible, then two factors you would otherwise scarcely notice are clearly manifest: the method seeks to know about the past as something past. It seeks to know what happened then, in the form it took then, at the point at which things stood right then. And it assumes that all history is in principle the same kind of history: man, in all his different manifestations, the world in its manifold variety, are yet determined by the same laws and the same limitations, so that I can eliminate what is impossible. What cannot possibly happen could not have happened yesterday and, likewise, cannot be going to happen tomorrow.
If we apply this to the Bible, it means that a text, an event, or a person is strictly fixed in his or its place in the past. We are seeking to bring out what the writer said at the time and what he could have said or thought at the time. It is a matter of what is “historical”, what was “current at the time”. That is why historicocritical exegesis does not transmit the Bible to today, into my present-day life. That possibility has been excluded. On the contrary, it distances it from me and shows it as firmly set in the past. This is the point at which Drewermann was right in criticizing historicocritical exegesis, insofar as it aims to be all-sufficient. Of its nature, it does not speak about today, or about me, but about yesterday, about other people. Therefore it can never show Christ yesterday, today, and forever, but only (if it remains true to itself) Christ as he was yesterday.
Then there is the second presupposition, that history and the world are always the same, that is, what Bultmann called the modern view of the world. M. Waldstein has shown, by a careful analysis, that Bultmann’s theory of epistemology was entirely determined by the neo-Kantian philosophy of Marburg. It was on that basis that he knew what could happen and what could not. In the case of other exegetes, their philosophical consciousness will be less clearly determined, but the foundation in Kant’s theory of epistemology is always silently present, as a self-evident hermeneutic entry to the path that criticism should follow. Since that is the case, the authority of the Church cannot simply impose from outside the obligation of arriving at a Christology of Jesus as the Son of God. But it certainly can and must challenge scholars, require them to look critically at the philosophy of their own method. In the revelation of God it is, in the end, precisely a matter of him, the Living and True One, breaking into our world and thus breaking open the prison of our theories, by means of whose iron bars we seek to protect ourselves against this coming of God into our lives. Today, praise God, in the crisis of philosophy and theology through which we are passing, a new consciousness of these fundamentals has come into play, not least on the basis of knowledge that has come to light through the careful historical interpretation of the texts. This is helping to burst as under the prison of philosophical presuppositions that was hindering interpretation: the wide realm of the Word is opening up again.
The problem concerning exegesis, as we have seen, to a great extent coincides with the problem of philosophy. The desperate situation of philosophy—that is to say, the desperate situation into which reason obsessed by positivism has maneuvered itself—has become the desperate situation of our faith. Faith cannot be set free unless reason itself opens up again. If the door to metaphysical knowledge remains barred, if we cannot pass beyond the limits to human perception set by Kant, then faith will necessarily atrophy, simply for lack of breathing space. Of course, the attempt to use a strictly autonomous reason that refuses to know about faith, to pull ourselves out of the slough of uncertainties by our own hair, so to speak, can hardly succeed in the end. For human reason is not autonomous at all. It is always living in one historical context or other. Any historical context, as we see, distorts the vision of reason; that is why reason needs the help of history in order to overcome these historical limitations. It is my view that the neoscholastic rationalism that was trying to reconstruct the praeambula fidei, the approach to faith, with pure rational certainty, by means of rational argument that was strictly independent of any faith, has failed; and it cannot be otherwise for any such attempts to do that kind of thing. In that sense, Karl Barth was right when he rejected philosophy as a basis for faith that is independent of faith itself: for in that case, our faith would in the end be based on changing philosophical theories. Yet Barth was mistaken in declaring faith on that account to be a sheer paradox, which can only ever exist contrary to reason and quite independent of it. By no means the least important practical function of faith is to offer healing for the reason as reason, not to overpower it or to remain outside it, but in fact to bring it to itself again. Faith, as a historical instrument, can set reason itself free again, so that—now that faith has set it on the right path again—reason can once more see properly for itself. We have to strive toward such a renewed process of dialogue between faith and philosophy, for each has need of the other. Without faith, philosophy cannot be whole, but faith without reason cannot be human.
If we look at the current constellation in the history of ideas that I have been trying to sketch in outline, then it must seem like a real miracle that, despite all this, people still hold the Christian faith—not just in the substitute versions of Hick, Knitter, and others, but the full and joyful faith of the New Testament, of the Church down all the ages. Why has faith still any chance at all? I should say it is because it corresponds to the nature of man. For man is more generously proportioned than the way Kant and the various post-Kantian philosophies see him or will allow him to be. Kant himself ought to have found a place for this, somehow or other, among his postulates. The longing for the infinite is alive and unquenchable within man. None of the attempted answers will do; only the God who himself became finite in order to tear open our finitude and lead us out into the wide spaces of his infinity, only he corresponds to the question of our being. That is why, even today, Christian faith will come to man again. It is our task to serve this faith with humble courage, with all the strength of our heart and of our mind.
 A survey of the most significant authors of the pluralistic theology of religions is offered by P. Schmidt-Leukel’s “Das Pluralistische Modell in der Theologie der Religionen: Ein Literaturbericht” [The pluralist model in the theology of religions: An annotated bibliography], Theologische Revue 89 (1993):353-70. For a discussion of it, see: M. von Brack and J. Werbick, Der einzige Weg zum Heil? Die Herausforderung des christlichen Absolutheitsanspruchs durch pluralistische Religionstheologien [The sole path to salvation? The challenge from pluralistic theologies of religion to the Christian claim to absolute validity], Quaestiones Disputatae 143 (Freiburg: Herder, 1993); K.-H. Menke, Die Einzigkeit Jesu Christi im Horizont der Sinnfrage [The uniqueness of Jesus Christ against the horizon of the question of meaning] (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1995), especially pp. 75-176. Menke offers an excellent introduction to the ideas of two ofthe principal representatives of this tendency, J. Hick and P. F. Knitter, upon which much of what I say here is based. Menke’s discussion of this question in the second part of his book includes much that is important and deserving of our attention, but as a whole, unfortunately, it remains unsatisfactory. An interesting systematic attempt at a new approach to the problem of other religions from the starting point of Christology is offered by B. Stubenrauch, Dialogisches Dogma: Der christliche Auftrag zur interreligiösen Begegnung [Dialectical dogma: The Christian task of interreligious encounter], Quaestiones Disputatae 158 (Freiburg: Herder, 1995). On the problem of the pluralistic theology of religions, cf. also the document published in 1996 by the International Theological Commission.
 Cf. on this point the most illuminating editorial in Civiltà Cattolica I (1996): 107-20: “Il cristianesimo e le altre religioni” [Christianity and the other religions]. The editorial engages in discussion especially with Hick, Knitter, and R. Panikkar.
 Cf., for example, J. Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, p. 90.
 Cf. E. Frauwallner, Geschichte der indischen Philosophie, 2 vols. (Salzburg: O. Muller, 1953 and 1956) [English trans., History of Indian Philosophy, trans. V. M. Bedekar (New York: Humanities Press, 1974)]; H. von Glasenapp, Die Philosophie der Inder [The philosophy of the Indians], 4th ed. (Stuttgart: A. Kroner, 1985); S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, 5 vols. (Cambridge: University Press, 1922-1955); K. B. Ramakrishna Rao, Ontology of Advaita with Special Reference to Maya (Mulki: Research and Publication, Vijaya College, 1964).
 F. Wilfrid, Beyond Settled Foundations: The Journey of Indian Theology (Madras: Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, 1993), is clearly moving in this direction; Wilfrid, “Some Tentative Reflections on the Language of Christian Uniqueness: An Indian Perspective”, in Pontificium Consilium pro Dialogo inter Religiones, Pro Dialogo, Bulletin 85-86, no. 1 (1994):40-57.
 J. Hick, Evil and the God of Love, 4th ed. (Norfolk, 1975), pp. 240f.; Hick, Interpretation of Religion, pp. 236-40; cf. Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, pp. 81f.
 P. F. Knitter’s major book No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1985) has been translated into many languages. Cf. on this Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, pp. 94-110. A careful critical evaluation is also offered by A. Kolping in his review in Theologische Revue 87 (1991):234-40.
 Cf. Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, p. 95.
 Cf. ibid., p. 109.
 Knitter, like Hick, claims the support of Kant for his denial that the absolute can exist in history; cf. Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, pp. 78 and 108.
 The concept of “New Age”, or “Age of Aquarius”, was introduced toward the middle of the twentieth century by Raul Le Cour (1937) and by Alice Bailey (she talked about messages she said she had received in 1945 concerning a new world order and a new world religion). The Esalen Institute was set up in California between 1960 and 1970. Marilyn Ferguson is the best-known representative of New Age thinking today. Michael Fuß (“New Age: Supermarkt alternativer Spiritualität”, Communio 20 :148-57) sees New Age as the result of a conjunction of Judaeo-Christian elements with the process of secularization, with gnostic tendencies, and with elements of oriental religions. The 1990 pastoral letter of Cardinal G. Danneels, Le Christ ou le Verseau [Christ or Aquarius], which has been translated into many languages, offers some helpful guidelines. Cf. also Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, pp. 31-36; J. Le Bar (ed.), Cults, Sects and the New Age (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1989).
 Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, p. 33.
 On this point, it must be noted that two different tendencies of New Age are increasingly being crystallized out: a gnostic, religious tendency, which seeks for transcendental and transpersonal being and looks to find the true self therein, and an ecological, monistic tendency, which worships material existence and mother earth and, in the eco-feminist movement, is linked with feminism.
 References for this in Menke, Einzigkeit Jesu Christi, pp. 90 and 97.
 See n. 10, above.
 B 302. The spiritual climate deriving from this philosophy, which is still widely influential to this day, is most graphically described, from his own experience, by M. Kriele, in Anthroposophie und Kirche: Erfahrungen eines Grenzgängers [Anthroposophy and the Church: The experiences of someone who went to the limits] (Freiburg: Herder, 1996); especially pp. 18ff. [Anthroposophy and the Church: The experiences of someone who went to the limits] (Freiburg: Herder, 1996); especially pp. 18ff.
 This can be very clearly seen in the encounter between A. Schlatter and A. Harnack, at the end of the last century, which is carefully portrayed, on the basis of the original sources, by W. Neuer in his book Adolf Schlatter: Ein Leben fur Theologie und Kirche (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1996), pp. 301ff. [English trans., Adolf Schlatter: A Biography of Germany’s Premier Biblical Theologian, trans. Robert W. Yarbrough (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996). Schlatter commented on this in a letter: “We have defined the religious difference [between us]: he said that the prophet’s cry, ‘O, that thou wouldst rend the heavens’ (Is 64:1), was in fact unfulfilled; that we were restricted to the psychological plane, to faith” (p. 306). When Harnack declared, in a meeting of their colleagues on the faculty, “Only the question of miracles separates me from my colleague Mr. Schlatter!” Schlatter interrupted, calling out: “No, the question of God!” Schlatter saw the basic point of difference as being embodied in Christology: “Whether Jesus was being shown to us as he is. . . or whether the New Testament disappeared behind our ‘scholarship’, that was the question” (p. 307). Nothing has changed with regard to this question in a hundred years. Cf. also in Kriele, Anthroposophie und Kirche, the chapter on “Loss of Faith through Theology”, pp. 21-28. I have tried to present my own view of the problem in Schriftauslegung im Widerstreit [Controversy concerning the interpretation of Scripture], ed. J. Ratzinger, Quaestiones Disputatae 117 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1989), pp. 15-la Potterie, R. Guardini, J. Ratzinger, G. Colombo, and E. Bianchi, L’esegesi cristiana oggi [Christian exegesis today] (Casale Monferrato: Piemme, 1991).
 M. Waldstein, “The Foundations of Bultmann’s Work”, in Communio (American ed.) 1987: 115-45.
 Cf., e.g., the collection of essays edited by C. E. Braaten and R. W. Jensson: Reclaiming the Bible for the Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1995), and in it especially that by B. S. Childs, “On Reclaiming the Bible for Christian Theology”, pp. 1-17.