As He shows Himself
Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity, if I haven’t mentioned it already, follows the common tactic of exploring and slowly unpacking The Apostles’ Creed. Almost two hundred pages in and we’ve only got the following part of the creed covered: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” He spent a lot of time talking about what belief is and its rationality, before moving on to consider what the concept of God is, why God is one and why “Father.” I’ve now gotten to the part of the book where Ratzinger is laying the ground for a discussion of “Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord…”
In other words, Ratz is now discussing the concept of the Trinity; why the One God is said to have three persons. It’s a famously and notoriously difficult doctrine but he handles it well:
The point at issue here is whether man in his relations with God is only dealing with the reflections of his own conciousness or whether it is given to him to reach out beyond himself and to encounter God himself… the answer found in those days [separates] the path of faith and a path bound to lead to the mere appearance of faith: God is as he shows himself. On this assertion rests the Christian relation with God; on it is grounded the doctrine of the Trinity; indeed, it is this doctrine.
This means that when God appears as Son, who says “You” to the Father, it is not a play produced for man… but the expression of reality… Although it is true that we only know God as he is reflected in human thought, the Christian faith held firmly to the view that in this reflection it is Him that we know. Even if we are not capable of breaking out of the narrow bounds of our conciousness, God can nevertheless break into this conciousness and show himself in it…
The enlargement of the bounds of human thinking necessary to absorb intellectually the Christian experience of God did not come of its own accord. It demanded a struggle, in which even error was fruitful…
Thesis No. 1
God stands above singular and plural. He bursts both categories… To Him who believes in God as tri-une, the highest unity is not the unity of inflexible monotony. The model of unity or oneness toward which one should strive is consequently not the indivisibility of the atom, the smallest unity, which cannot be divided any further; the authentic unity is the unity created by love. The multi-unity that grows in love is a more radical, truer unity than the unity of the atom.
Thesis No. 2
If the absolute is person, it is not an absolute singular… we shall have to acknowledge that “God is a person in the guise of a triple personality” explodes the naive, anthropomorphic concept of person. It declares in a sort of cypher that the personality of God infinitely exceeds the human kind of personality… the concept of person, illuminating as it is, once again reveals itself as an inadequate metaphor.
Thesis No. 3
“Son” means being from another; thus, with this word [John] defines the being of this man [Jesus] as being from another and for others, as being completely open on both sides, [He, Christ] knows no reserved area of the mere “I”…
It is the nature of Christian existence to receive and to live life as relatedness and, thus, to enter into that unity which is the ground of all reality and sustains it.