Chapter Six: Jesus Christ

Part 2: On the Phenomenology of Our Relationship to Jesus Christ

In this second part of Chapter Six, Rahner wants to show that his transcendental Christology is based on a historical encounter with Jesus Christ. It begins in an actual relationship of faith (A). That relationship is not confined to the experience of professing Christians only, but is an "absolute" relationship, experienced by non-Christians, with God's offer of salvation (B) . The relationship is self-validating. One knows it for oneself in one's own life, conscience, and intellectual honesty (C).

A. The Starting Point in an Actual Faith Relationship (VI.2.A, p. 203). One does not produce a relationship with Jesus, Rahner admits, as the result of transcendental reflection. No, faith must precede theology. A relationship to Jesus Christ exists prior to theology. Once the relationship exists, then a person can ask what that relationship means and what it demands. But the relationship itself is common to Christians. It is lived out in churches throughout the world.

B. The Relationship to Jesus Christ as Absolute Saviour (VI.2.B, p. 204). A relationship – that is what we have in the experience of faith in Jesus Christ. A relationship with Jesus Christ means God’s presence to us. It is the offer of salvation, forgiveness, and divine life.

This relationship is "absolute." It is not just a relationship with an individual, but between the human race and God's salvation. The relationship may be interpreted inadequately. It may be intermixed with an inadequate understanding of God and with false worship. Still Christianity is present wherever the relationship exists. And when that relationship is interpreted adequately in a profession of faith, and when that profession unites people, there we find "ecclesial" Christianity.

C. The Relationship to Jesus Christ Is Self-Validating (VI.2.C, p. 206). When a person grasps Jesus Christ as the mediator of God, then this relationship “validates itself.” The relationship proves itself to be real, trustworthy, and salvific. And it does so “before the tribunal of man’s existence, his conscience, and his intellectual honesty” (206). No doubt a skeptic could cast doubt upon it from the outside. But the person who enjoys the relationship can be confident that he or she is not being deceived.

This relationship has to be understood from within. It cannot be imposed from without. When Christians preach about the relationship with Christ, they must show that this relationship is universal and freely embraced. All human being "exist within the circle" of a relationship with Christ. Either they experience it concretely, hope for it, or reject it.

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