Written 40 years ago by Ratzinger, this book still resonates with the times. In itself, this shows that Ratzinger is focused on what really matters in the Christian mystery - he nevers gets side tracked into going down blind and fruitless alleys. It is only on my second reading of this book that I began to see how important a book this is. This book is an important exploration of the nature of belief and of the articles of belief set down in the Apostles creed. I believe that in this book Ratzinger surpasses his mentors, namely De Lubac and von Balthasar. His analysis of the kenosis of Christ is particularly impressive, Christ "being from" and "being for".
Ratzinger first deals squarely with belief and points out that it is within the context of doubt that the theist and the atheist can enter into dialogue. After all, the Christian believes; he does not see. Likewise, the atheists "sees" what is optical and does not believe in what cannot be empirically verified. But, both the Christian and the atheist, if he is honest, must have doubts about the nature of his belief or non-belief. There must be times when the atheist says: "yet perhaps it is true (page 46).
For Ratzinger the word credo means:
"man does not regard seeing, hearing and touching as the totality of what concerns him, that he does not view the area of his world as marked off by what he can see and touch but seeks a second mode of access to reality, a mode he calls in fact belief, and in such a way that he finds in it the decisive enlargement of his whole view of the world" (page 50).
For Ratzinger the radicality of Christianity is that "God has come so near to us that we can kill him and that he thereby, so it seems, ceases to be God for us".
Ratzinger poses the question of whether "it would not have been much simpler to believe in the Mysterious Eternal... to leave us as at an infinite distance". (page 55)
Ratzinger notes that belief does not come "though the private search for truth but through a process of reception.. Faith cannot and should not be a mere product of reflection" (page 92). Faith demands unity and calls for the fellow believer; it is by nature related to a Church." (page 98).
On the nature of the Trinity, he noted that: "He is one, but at as the exceedingly great, entirely Other, he himself transcends the bounds of singular and plural; he lies beyond the" (page 125).
On the "I am who I am" scene in exodus, he notes that the words sound like a "rebuff","like a refusal to give a name than the pronouncement of a name (page 127) "I am" is as much as to say "I am here for you" " a Being-for". (page 129).
"The name is no longer merely a word, but a person: Jesus himself." (page 133) Ratzinger goes on to say that the meaning of a "name" is its invocability. God, by having a name, becomes accessible to me. "He is handing himself over to men in such a way that he can be called upon".
"And by doing this he enters into coexistence with them; he puts himself within reach; he is "there" for them". The name is no longer just a word at which we clutch; it is now flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. God is one of us" (page 134/135).
Ratzinger notes the great saying by Tertullian: "Christ called himself truth, not custom". (page 141)
His thought then becomes even more metaphysical:
"Whoever looks thoroughly at matter will discover that it is being-thought objectivised thought. So it cannot be ultimate. All being is ultimately being-thought and can be traced back to
"Christian belief in God means that things are the being-thought of a creative consciousness of a creative freedom and that the creative conciousness that hears up all things has released what has been thought into the freedom of its own, independent existence". (page 137).
"The doctrine of the triune God, means at bottom renouncing any solution and remaining content with a mystery that cannot be plumbed by man (page 168)". "Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace". (page 171).
"It now became clear that the dialogue, the relatio stands behind substance as an equally primordial form of being". I note here that Ratzinger preempts some of the philosophical work done by the great Jesuit Thomist, Norris Clarke and by the personalist, John F Crosby. "Father is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other is he Father; in his own being in himself he is simply God". (page 183). "By calling the Lord "Son", John gives him a name that always points away from him and beyond him; he thus employs a term that denotes essentially a relatedness, He thereby puts his whole Christology into the context of the idea of relation" (page 185).
Moving on to focus of the office and nature of Christ, he notes that Christ "performs himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself" (page 204). "The person of Jesus is his teaching and his teaching is he himself" "message and person are identical" (page 206). "Jesus is his work" "His being is pure actualitas of "from" and "for"(page 228).
"For John, the picture of the pierced side forms the climax not only of the crucifixion scene but the whole story of Jesus... his existence is completely open. Now he is entirely "for"; now he is no longer a single individual but "Adam" from whose side, Eve, a new mankind is formed". (page 241) "The future of man hangs on the Criss - the redemption of Man is the Cross. And, he can only come to himself by letting the walls of his existence be broken down, by looking on him who has been pierced" (p242)
"Talk of original sin means no man can start from scratch any more (completely unimpaired by history" (page 249). "Last judgement, on the other hand is the answer to these collective entanglements" (page 249).
"Being a Christian means essentially changing over from being for oneself to being for one another". "Christ is the infinite self expenditure of God" (page 261).
"Love demands infinity, indestructibility; indeed it is, so to love demands, infinity, indestructibility; indeed, it is, so to speak, a call for infinity" (page 302).
Ratzinger's analysis of the resurrection and the Last judgement is deeply impressive, noting its deeply serious nature. Of hell, he notes that it "consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in one's own being alone."
Finally, on the Church, Ratzinger approaches the evil evident in the Church in a sober fashion. "At bottom there is always a hidden pride at work when criticism of the Church adopts that tone of rancorous bitterness which today is already becoming a fashionable habit"
He notes that Christ in his earthly ministry scandalised others; is is surprising that he does so again when he gives himself over to be broken sacramentally on his altars, ministered, at times, by deeply sinful ministers and consumed also by those whose lifes often contradict the gospel. Don't we all in our own way contradict the gospel in our daily lives?