Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When Salt Loses Its Savor

Like a house that has vanished, so is wisdom to a fool;
and the knowledge of the ignorant is unexamined talk.
-Sirach 21:18

The well-disposed commissar: Comrade Christian, can you tell me frankly what you Christians are up to? What are you still doing in our world? What do you see as the justification for your existence? What's your job?

The Christian: First of all, we are men like any other men who are helping to build up the future.

The Commissar: I accept your first statement, and I hope that the second is true.

The Christian: We have recently become "open to the world", and some of us even have become seriously converted to the world.

The Commissar: That sounds like crafty priests' talk. It would be even better if, as "men like any other men", you had first become converted to an existence that is worthy of man. But to the point. Why are you still Christians?

The Christian: Today we are Christians come of age. We think and act on our own moral responsibility.

The Commissar: I hope so, if you say you are men. But don't you have some special belief?

The Christian: That's not so important. The main thing is the morality appropriate to the age. Today's emphasis is on brotherly love. He who loves his neighbor loves God.

The Commissar: If he existed. But since he does not exist, you do not love him.

The Christian: We love him inclusively, unobjectively.

The Commissar: Ah, so your belief is without an object. We're making progress. Things are getting clearer.

The Christian: It's not quite so simple as that. We believe in Christ.

The Commissar: I've heard of him. But it seems we know little about him historically.

The Christian: Granted. Virtually nothing. That is why we believe less in the historical Jesus than in the Christ of the kerygma.

The Commissar: What's that word? Chinese?

The Christian: Greek. It means the proclamation of the Gospel. We feel that the linguistic event of the Gospel of faith concerns us.

The Commissar: And what does this Gospel state?

The Christian: It depends on the effect it has on you. It can promise you the forgiveness of sins. This, at any rate, was the experience of the original Christian community. It must have been led to this conclusion through the events surrounding the historical Jesus, of whom we do not actually know enough to be certain that he...

The Commissar: And you call this "conversion to the world?" You Christians are still just as obscurantist as you always were. And you want to help build up the world with that kind of wishy-washy talk!

The Christian (playing his last trump): We have Teilhard de Chardin. He has a great influence in Poland!

The Commissar: We have him ourselves already. We did not need to get him from you first. But it's a good thing that you've finally got that far. Just throw out all that mystical hocus-pocus, which had nothing to do with science, and then we can start talking about evolution together. We'll forget about the other stories. If you yourselves know so little about them, you are no danger to us. You'll save us a bullet or two. In Siberia we have some very useful camps. There you can prove your love of humanity and work away at evolution. You'll achieve more than you do here in your university chairs.

The Christian (somewhat disappointed): You're underestimating the eschatological dynamism of Christianity. We are preparing the way for the coming of the Kingdom of God. We are the true world revolution. Equality, Liberty, Fraternity: that is our real concern.

The Commissar: A pity that others had to fight the battle for you. It's easy to associate yourself with something after the event. Your Christianity is not worth its salt.

The Christian: You are associated with us! I know who you are. You are a decent fellow. You are an anonymous Christian.

The Commissar: Don't be stupid, my friend. Now I've understood enough. You've liquidated yourselves and spared us the trouble of persecuting you. Dismissed!

-Hans Urs von Balthasar, satirizing Karl Rahner's "Anonymous Christianity" theology and liberal Christianity in general in his book The Moment of Christian Witness.

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