Implicit Religion, Vol 9, No 1 (2006)

Religious Identity: In Praise of the Anonymity of Critical Believing

John Hey
Issued Date: 31 Mar 2007


This is an essay about believing rather than beliefs. I use the term ‘anonymous’

to analyse Karl Rahner’s concept of ‘anonymous Christianity’, and to underline

the universality of believing.

Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christianity’ seeks to render universal a traditional

exclusive Christian message of salvation. However, in insisting that Christ

remains the pivot of this message, Rahner subverts the promise of his concept. I

use the term ‘anonymous believing’ to emphasize that believing is a universal

human instinct to create meaning, from within an existence whose contingency

inevitably lies beyond explanation. Believing has a natural primacy over

knowing. Critical believing is the attempt to create meaning amidst the

complexities of our subjectivity, and the cultural contexts of our lives and of the

physical world, knowledge of which is constantly growing.

My contention is that the primacy of believing is undermined by the primacy

accorded to the knowledge-based assertions that are currently characteristic of

religious creeds and moral injunctions. Anonymous critical believing eschews

creeds, but embraces the values of justice, compassion and well-being, which

religions also espouse. There are close links between ‘implicit religion’ and

‘critical believing’. However, I believe the two are categorically different:

implicit religion is predominantly descriptive and substantival, while critical

believing is process orientated.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre2006.v9i1.54


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