The World Union of Catholic Philosophical Societies was founded at the 1948 World Congress of Philosophy to represent these societies in international bodies and to develop cooperation among their members in response to philosophic needs. Under its successive Presidents: I.M. Bochenski, Vernon Bourke, Carlo Giacon, and Jean Ladrière, it has brought together the Catholic philosophical societies and more recently the philosophy institutes and departments of Catholic universities throughout the world.

The World Union is now implementing a cooperative research effort among Catholic philosophers on all continents on issues of common current concern. Its purpose is to evolve, through broad collaboration, the Christian tradition(s) in philosophy in a manner ever more rich and aware, and hence more adapted to facing the problems and interpreting the meaning of a truly Christian life in our times.

Its particular research focus has been the theme, "Philosophy and the Mediation of Values to Social Life," namely, how philosophical reflection mediates values, taking into account the present philosophical situation (the crisis of m etaphysics, the rise of the human sciences) and the urgent needs in the contemporary world, especially in the socio-political order (the role of praxis).

The study of the problem includes two aspects:

(a) reflection on the process itself of the historical incarnation of values, and

(b) determination of the concrete modalities according to which values should inspire the organization of social life.

To undertake this twin study it is necessary, first to define the general perspective in which this philosophical reflection can be developed. It is agreed that the appropriate context for the study is ontol ogy, on which basis it is possible to provide a rational foundation for values and comprehend the modalities of their realization. In order to construct progressively the concrete process of axiological determination in social life it is necessary to situate values in the context of an anthropology, and then develop a way to clarify their status in relation to their historical evolution and to the social context of their effective exercise.

Particular attention should be given to r eligious values, especially to the identification of their specificity, the manner of their presence to mankind--individual and social--and the way in which they can inspire social life. In sum, the following dimensions of work seem to be required:

The Ontological Dimension:

- the status of ontology as the context of philosophical thought;

- the nature of an on tology that is fundamentally open to the affirmations of the Christian faith;

- the ontological foundation of values.

Anthropological Factors:

- the foundations of a philosophical anthropology;

- interpersonal relations seen in both their immediate and their mediate modalities (social relations);

- action, understood as the dynamism that characterizes human existence;

- language both as the place of the development of meaning and of communication, and as the privileged form of action.

The Status of Values:

- how values enter into human existence, more precisely, how they appear in human actions;

- the status of values as objectivity-subjectivity, given-construct, universal-particular, abstract-concrete, etc.;

- how values are related to f reedom: the problem of the "cre ation" of values;

- the different forms of values;

- the nature of ethical values and their role in the dynamics of ex istence.

The Historicity of Values:

- historicity in general as an anthropological category;

- the problem of historicity: the problem of the sense of history (is there a "philosophy of history" or only a "theology of history"?);

- how are values affected by hi storicity: problems of relativism, of universalism, and of change;

- the diversity of cultures and its significance for the relati vism of values.

The Structure of Social Reality:

- analysis of the structures which constitute the mediations through which social life is realized: eco nomic, pol itical, cu ltural;

- the situation and role of id eology;

- relations between ideology and value;

- how the effective realization of values is affected by these structures.

The Religious Aspects of Existence:

- the religious dimension of existence;

- social forms of religious life;

- the interaction between social life and religious experience;

- the role of religious values as inspiring proper and effective conduct and social life;

- the transcendence and incarnation of religious values;

- specifically religious values: their hi storical modality and their insertion in history;

- how can values assert their claims in the present world, and what evident concrete projects do they impose.

A first meeting, held at Ix tapan de la Sal, Mexico, 1979, had as its participants: Drs. Jean Ladrière and Jan Van der Veken, Louvain; Pierre Colin and Dominique Dubarle, Institut Catholique, Paris; Evandro Agazzi, Univ. of Genoa; Albert Nambiaparambil, India; Kenneth Schmitz, Univ. of Toronto; Agustin Basave and Enrique Dussel, Mexico; and G. McLean, World Union Secretary (Peter Henrici, S.J., Gregorian Univ., Rome, and T. Ntumba, Kinshasa-Limete, Zaire participated in the planning, but were not able to be present). The meeting was hosted by Dr. J. L. Curiel, President of the Sociedad Mexicana di Filosofia.

The work of this first session was to search out the set of issues to be studied and resolved. Below, Prof. Jan Van der Veken has stated these first summarily as a list of topics for research and then in greater detail in terms of the related issues.


1. The Nature of Values

a. Nature: what is the ontological nature of values; can values and being be equated; do values have a reality in themselves or do they have being only in relationship to human subjectivity? (see 1.2 below)

b. Definition: is a positive definition of value possible, inasmuch as it relates to what is not yet realized? (ad 1.4.4)

c. Realization: what is the relationship between v alues and their realization or incarnation?

d. Action: how can action be evaluated or justified (ad 1.3.1); are the criteria for this justification intrinsic or extrinsic? (ad 3c below).

e. Social values: are social values a specific set of values, or do all values have social dimensions? (ad 1.1)

f. Ethical values: are ethical values a specific set of values, or are they realized together with other values (ad 1.4.2); how can the relationship between values and norms be clarified?

2. The Me diat ion of Values

a. Philosophy: how should the role of philoso phy in the mediation of values be conceived? (ad 2.1.5)

b. Pl uralism: in which sense can a plurality of ontologies be accepted in the mediation of a holistic religious vision to the situation? (ad 1.5)

c. Permanence: how can some permanence of values be conceived within a changing world view (ad 2.1.7); how can a sound core of supra-historicity be conceived without `ontologizing' values in a static "heaven"?

d. In culturation: how can values be re-interpreted and adapted according to specific situations? (ad

e. So ciety: which kind of organization of the state is required on ethical grounds; in which sense is democracy a requirement of li berty (ad 2.2.1); what is the importance of id eology in our society, and how does it function de facto (spearhead function, cloak function)? (ad 2.2.3)

f. International order: what kind of world organization is required to establish a just and sustainable society? (ad 2.2.1)

g. Production: what are the requirements for the rational and scientific control of an effective productive system which will provide the conditions of possibility for a decent life for everyone? (ad 2.2.2)

h. E vil and d isvalue: what is structural evil in the world and in society today (ad 3.5.3); how is the absolute ground and end of all value (i.e., God) revealed where values are not realized? (ad 1.4.3)

3. Ch ristianity and Va lues


a. Impact of Christianity on values: how is Christianity related to the issue of values; does it effect a change with respect to values; if so, what is that change and how is it effected: by altering the priority among values, by deepening and intensifying some of them, by adding new values, or by effecting a change in the very meaning and reality of value as such? (ad 3.1 and 3.3)

b. Secular values: are the so-called modern values such as ju stice, wel fare, he alth care, etc., in fact sec ularized Christian values; are they universally recognized or are they rather not realized? (ad 3.3)

c. Actuation: how is Christianity related to action; should it give new motivation for action; should it warn against "activism" or promote action; are different attitudes towards action the result of different economic situations, or of a different position in the production process (ad 1.5); should Christians prefer some solutions and exclude others? (ad 3.4.3) (See 1d above).

d. Diversity: should all Christians relate to action in the same way?

e. Man as im age of God: what is the relevance of the theme "image of God" for the attainment of a more just society? (ad 3.5.1)

f. Eschatolo gy: how should this be conceived in a world come of age?

4. Critical Role of Philosophy and Christian ity

a. Fa ith: how should Christianity influence one's philosophical stand (ad 4.1); what is one doing when he or she philosophizes, or theologizes, as Christians; how are philosophy, faith and theology related?

b. Human sciences: what is their contribution to the issues debated by philos ophy and by t heology? (ad 4.2 and 4.5)

c. Id eology: in which sense is Christianity submitted to the ambiguity of any ideology or all encompassing worldview with practical consequences; in which sense can it escape the dangers inherent in the way an ideology functions in society?

d. Approaches: what is the relation between fa ith and such different approaches to relig ion as the philos ophy of religion, the psychology of religion, and the sociol ogy of religion?




1. The Nature of Va lues


1.1. A philosophical framework is needed in order to understand what values are. As different approaches may be possible and even mutually complementary, it may not be necessary to choose a single philosophical system. The following is intended to point out some elements of a working definition of values.

Values have something to do with man's dynamic openness to the future, which H eidegger calls "Zu sein." Something has value if it can be related to an end. Values are not "beings," but are relational. They are related to something to be achieved, that is, they are "in respect of."

One could say that a value is something which implements man's openness. This openness is manifold. It follows from this that there are as many values as there are aspects in man's openness. Traditionally this can be described as openness towards the world, towards other men, towards God. This is an acceptable way to characterize man's openness, although we have to take into account that these forms of openness cannot and do not exist in separation. As we shall see, our relationship with other human beings has to be mediated by our relationship with nature. Further, our relationship with the transce ndent (or Go d) is not separate from the other spheres of existence.

Are social values a separate set of values, or are all values social? Surely, there is a deep socialization of the "I."1 All values have a s ocial aspect, and it does not seem that social values can be isolated as a special set of values.


1.2. One problem area is the relationship between value and being. Although in a certain metaphysical system it can be said that the highest being is also the "summum bonum," it seems that value and being cannot be identified: they have different functions. In his Letter on Humani sm H eidegger reacts against the equation of values and being, indeed, language about values became prominent when "truth" was no longer universally accepted. An ontologization of values, it seems, must be avoided, although a solid basis for values must be found. Some hold that the very talk about values as such leads to subjectiv ism; it must be shown that this is not the case.


1.3.1. In order to avoid an ontologization of values and at the same time to avoid mere subjectivism, the approach of Maurice B londel is very helpful. His philosophy of action begins from the clarification of the interior dynamism of action itself, taking into account its condition of possibility in a given situation.

Action is surely a fundamental anthropological category; it is animated by a vision, a dynamism, an intentionality ("visée").

From the formal point of view, values result from the fact that action is inscribed or inserted in a context or design which justifies it. This horizon might be made more explicit as the total development of existence, the accomplishment of "desire" (the re-union of action with itself), the realm of liberty, the coincidence of the "willing will" with the "willed will" ("la coincidence de la volonté voulante et la volonté voulue," M. Blondel).


1.3.2 Action itself must evaluate its achievements. In this sense it is rational, not blind. Yet, such an evaluation is not possible or remains indefinite as long as one limits oneself to the merely formal level.

I can "define" or "make more definite" what values are in a certain case. This means: I have to take into account the situation, that is, the objective framework in which action develops. This does not imply a situation ethics. Rather. the course of the events of the world" (He gel) is the objective framework which the willing will must take into account as the roots for its activity.


1.3.3. That our consciousness of values is ethical, means that it is responsible for its own realization. Ethical values are not a special type of values, alongside others. They are rather the expression of the way action itself discovers progressively its own requirements. These requirements are expressed in norms, i.e., in forms which are culturally realizable; they give expression to the inner requirements of action taking into account its objective condition of possibility. In this sense values are ideal rules in which the effort of action gives itself an objective stature in order to recognize in a practical form the conditions of its own realization.


1.3.4. The relation between va lues and norms must be clarified. Are values that which is to be achieved, or is that which is to be achieved valuable because it is a concrete possibility for realizing a truly human life? In any case, values seem to impose themselves with some regulative power. Values are or find an expression in canons according to which the relation between man and "the other" needs to be regulated.


1.4. It is an insight of our time that the different spheres of our existence cannot be separated. This applies in two ways.


1.4.1. First, the immediate or un-mediated relation of man to his fellowman (which can be called praxis) is abstract without the mediation of man's relationship to nature (which can be called poesis or production). Although the two forms of relationship are different, they cannot be isolated or exercised in a separate way. Even such a basic intersubjective relation as er otic love, expressed in significative acts, needs a house, a social structure, etc.

A recognition of others as persons without giving them what they need for their survival is a merely abstract assertion. Real values are always at the intersection of production and pr axis.


1.4.2. A second way in which it appears very clearly that values are not separate spheres is the special status of ethical and religious value itself. Ethical values are not a special kind of value; they are rather the way all other values are realized, according to a recta ratio agibilium. This recta ratio will depend upon all other values being realized in the right order. In the same way it can be said that religious values are not a special kind of values which could be separated from our concrete life in the world--although, as a special sphere of existence, religious life will always have to be organized in a definite way.

If religion is true relationship with the Absolute, however this be conceived, it follows that to consider any value as absolute is against relig ion. Religion is basically negation of fetichi sm. To "absolutize" money, property or anything else is not "secularization," but idolatry.


1.4.3. In idolatry or fetichization of value (in the sense of the result of production) the Absolute shows itself in a negative way: finite values should not be absolutized. It follows from there that those who suffer from oppression reveal in fact the absolute end and ground of all va lue, i.e., G od. Service of God for that reason will be service of the po or and the oppressed. For those who are oppressed the project of liberat ion founds values which are destructive of the system. to give one's life for the liberation of the oppressed is foolishness for the world and in fact leads to the Cross.


1.4.4. It might be difficult or impossible to define values in a positive way, exactly because values apply to the not-yet-realized. All we can say is: this situation is clearly unjust and has to be changed. In many cases, the content of the values to be realized can be determined only negatively. Ernst Blo ch said, correctly: "It is when man does not yet know who he is,

but nevertheless is able to know for certain--being in a state of alienation--who he is not, and consequently does not want or feels he ought not to remain in such a situation of untruth."2

In this context, value may be related negatively to an unjust situation as the claim for liberation from an oppressive system, i.e., one which does not contain the conditions of possibility for a decent human life?


1.5. Starting from an analysis of action and relating value to the progressive recognition of the possibilities of its own realization, we come to a startling result: in advanced industrial societies we seem to witness the decline of the philosophical category of action itself. People recognize more and more their own limitations. Perhaps humans must restrict themselves to small scale realizations, which can be called "do - prophecies." They keep hope alive because they show what is possible, what could be done or should be done. Instead of asking the question of what to do, the new generation is more preoccupied with how to live really. There is a new sense of prayer, joined with some humble action. Would the role of Christians there be to warn against the imperialism of Nations and to plead for a change of the heart?3 In Latin America, on the other hand, the category of action is considered all important. The whole issue of values seems joined to the concrete situation and the socio-political order, where the urgency of the concrete is felt as nowhere else.

This tension between two quite different ways in which believing Christians experience their relationship and responsibility towards values and actions has to be clarified. Is this different approach only the result of a different economic situation? Is any ontology equally open to mediate the whole of the Christian message to the situation?


The Mediation of Va lues


2.1. The issue of mediation concerns the link between the values as requirements for action and the concrete situation in which they have to be applied.


2.1.1. Different views on the mediation of values are possible, according to the ontological status one accords to values. Yet, it seems that one has to put aside the idealist ic view according to which values are somehow preexisting ontological realities and have only to be applied in a given situation. Values are not just there to be subsequently mediated. According to the proposed analysis of the dynamism of action, the ethical exigencies are rather gradually emerging. Taking into account the historical situation as its objective condition of possibility, action has to be brought under the control of practical judgment. Here the mediation of values by reason, and hence by philosophy, is prominent.


2.1.2. Yet, reason is not disincarnate. It is a situated reason, which, at the same time, has its built-in requirements (K ant).

Philosophy does not found values. It is essentially a critical reflection upon that which precedes philosophy, upon our spontaneous, and culturally determined worldview and values. Hence, the mediatory process between ideals and their realization has already begun from other sources, both non-discursive and discursive. No society can survive without a proper symbolization of the way it conceives itself and represents its "founding experiences" (e.g., The Ex odus, The French Revolution, The Declaration of Independence). Such an interpretative system of man's total involvement in the world has practical consequences. It contains a vision of what should be done. The value-system which constructs and specifies the society can be called id eology in the neutral sense of that term.


2.1.3. Such an ideological outlook upon reality is mediated far more by family, school, and voluntary associations. It is more atmospheric and pervasive than rationally reflected upon. It is accepted rather as an answer to one's quest for meaning in life than as the result of rational reasoning. Its language is more that of conviction than that of argumentation.


2.1.4. Because such an ideo logical outlook upon reality as a whole necessarily involves emoti ons and truth claims, its way of functioning is often ambiguous. It could be very well the case that ideologies are a modern form of m yth. They share in the same ambiguity. In any case, it is an important requirement, and the result of a long period of struggle for personal freedom, that no ideology or outlook upon reality be imposed by force.


2.1.5. As a critical reflection upon our "spontaneous" outlook upon reality, philosophy creates a kind of distance with regard to what in our earlier stage might have been accepted without an afterthought. Philosophy has to develop an intelligible and critical expression of the values which are operative in our lived lives. As recta ratio agendi philosophy has to show in which sense both insight and action have their built-in regulations. In the same way that one cannot think the way one wants, one cannot act on the basis of sheer subjective preference.


2.1.6. Yet, the fact that different outlooks upon reality are possible and that, in the same vein, different value-systems can be put into practice has fostered historical consciousness. The decreasing impact of the Christian view on v alues might very well be related to the way they have been conceived as suprahistorical, as "given" in themselves, so that the all-important task was to preserve them from any compromise with the mutable features of his tory. The danger of relativism has been often seen as the attempt to establish a kind of dependence between Christian values and history.


2.1.7. It is necessary therefore to re-mediate the intrinsic structures of values, and not to hold to a past paradigm such as that of a static conception of nature which was adopted to an era of very slow changes with little cross-cultural contacts.

Mankind's attitude towards its life is changing, and hence its system of values is also changing. The cross-cultural approach makes us aware that different systems of values are possible and are in fact lived, even by Christians, in different times or in different cul tural contexts.


2.1.8. Hence the question: how to express a sound core of supra-historicity, without "ontologizing" values in a static "heaven"? It seems much more appropriate to consider as suprahistorical that which is able to prove its validity, its fruitfulness in every stage of history. In such a way, this extraordinary character, which very well may be related to the creative will of God, becomes something engaging, a perpetual challenge which faces all humans in every moment of hi story.

To pretend to keep values unchanged in their formulation simply means to be unaware of the fact that in so doing one is attributing a range of universality to a particular historical formulation. As a consequence, though the intention may be to propose something independent of any historical contingency, the actual result is exactly the contrary, i.e., that of identifying the alleged universal validity with a particular historical realization of the v alue. The issue of historicity versus supra-historicity can be approached in two ways.

If values are expressed in canons according to which the relationship between man and "the other" has to be regulated, the following norms might always apply, e.g.: one should work for a living; intersubjectivity must somehow be regulated; one must worship the Transcendent Source of one's being. The way of realizing those values, on the other hand, as well as the prescription of concrete norms for action, depend upon the image mankind has reached of itself, and that image changes along with the histo rical process.

For example, adoring G od is a suprahistorical value, but it gave rise to different manners of realizing it. Worship in Spi rit and truth was possible only after Jesus gave a better insight into who God is. Justice also is a suprahistorical value regulating our behavior towards other men, but in the social order in the past it could not impose some ethical norms which nowadays are quite obvious as the result of the much stronger ties that link individuals one to another. The world is becoming a global village. Nevertheless, social pressure resulting from tribal consciousness is no longer considered acceptable.

Another example: a correct regulation of intersubjectivity and sexual life may be considered as a permanent value, but it cannot be realized today along the same lines as when sexuality was considered as related only to reproduction. Natural and human sciences, such as bio logy and ps ychology, have broadened both our view and our responsibilities.

Similarly, in all societies food supply is somehow regulated: to give satisfaction to people's basic needs is a value. But this basic need in our time may go far beyond that which is necessary to survive. Our society implies the obligation to provide a sufficient level of instruction, while in other historical ages this might very well appear not to have been necessary. In this sense the Universal Declaration of Human Ri ghts is itself a culturally "given," although it might very well express some permanent exigencies of a truly human life.

It should be clear from the above that the "validity" of the value, so to speak, does not depend upon action, but its realization is always relative to the historical situation in which we are involved. This implies that faithfulness to the message or the value cannot consist merely in receiving or transmitting it, but must consist rather in interpreting and translating it in such a way that it can act upon the concrete historical situation. This calls for creativity and inventiveness, as well as for personal engagement and participation. These are often quite distinct from the rather passive observance that used to be advocated by older forms of our tradition. A second way of approaching the issue of historicity versus suprahistoricity is to look for the constants or permanent structure which characterize the human condition as such. Man obeys orders: both the cosmological and noological (or spiritual) orders.

Schillebeeckx lists five "anthropological constants," which must be presupposed in every human deed if human culture is to be constructive rather than to tarnish or injure man. In sum, there should be noted:

a. our relation to our own bodies and hence to nature and our physical environment;

b. the common humanity in which we meet each other as persons;

c. the relation to social structures;

d. the dialectical tension between nature and human history; and

e. the relation between theory and practice.


2.2. A second and very important feature of the mediation issue results from the analysis of social reality. This analysis has been brought to greater clarity by what today is called the human sciences.

In the analysis of social reality three structural elements can be pointed out. In fact, these elements are so closely linked one with another that they are rather three moments of the analysis, though they are not situated exactly on the same level.


2.2.1. A philosophical reflection on what the state is may lead to different views, the one more optimistic than the other. It might be too ideal a view to see in the state the concrete realization of the ethical demands. A more cynical view of the st ate as a pure instrument of power and domination should also be avoided. Taking into account human weakness, gre ed and even sin, it seems safe to conceive of the state as a regulative instance which has to allow for the coexistence of many liberties. On the level of the coexistence of individual liberti es, it can be said that dem ocracy, regulated by constitutional law, has somehow succeeded in combining as much f reedom as possible with as little constraint as possible. Yet, it remains to be seen what real freedom is and how the taste of freedom can best survive in a dictatorial regime.

On the level of the coexistence of the states the same problems arise, but on a far larger scale and with new complications due to the evident inequalities of the different states and of their quite different approach to the same worldwide problems. The absence of any means of constraint, without which the best laws are only declarations of intentions, poses huge problems to the moral consciousness of our time and to national and international action.


2.2.2. A second level of analysis is economic reality. The forces of production in contemporary society have determinant force because they dominate the conditions of possibility of existence in advanced industrial societies. Even in a non-industrial society the absence of adequate means for subsistence such as f ood, w ork, edu cation and he alth care, determine the non-possibility of a human life.

Among the different possible theories about economic reality, the objective conditions of possibility (ener gy crises, limited f ood supply, intricate comm unications systems) seem increasingly to impose a move from a liber al to a planned economy. There is need for rational and scientific control, which at the same time and on the political level is not rendered powerless by internal divisions and opposed pressure groups.


2.2.3. A third level of analysis is the ideological level. I deology is understood in this context as the whole of the representations and symbols by which a society gives itself an understanding of itself. It is on this level that values are to be situated. A given society has an image (one could also say an idea or even an ideal) of itself. The ideological element functions as a commonly accepted goal, such as economic pr ogress or redistribution of in come. The ideological element can function as a criticism of the given situation (the spe arhead function of id eology), but it can also function as a defense or consolidation of a given state of affairs. An ideology can also cloak the real interests of a specific group or caste (the clo ak function of ideology).

If the advanced industrial societies are moving towards a less liberal and a more planned econ omy, then it is probable that the impact of ideologies will be decreasing. Global action is directed towards the attainment of agreed-upon common goals such as how to keep the system going. One could say that the "value s" of the industrial society are the accepted point of reference. Both interest groups, em ployers and em ployees, justify their decisions in relation to this agreed-upon goal as advanced industrial societies envision, probably for the first time, the idea of limits to growth. Even Euroc ommunists supported the same ideal, proposing different means to achieve higher production, lesser unemployment, etc.

In Latin America on the other hand (and probably also in other countries, though in a less reflective manner), ideological struggle, according to those who want to change the system, is of prime importance. Thus, the different attitudes towards ac tion are reproduced upon another level of analysis.

Christian Values

In addressing the philosophical mediation of values we are prompted to ask whether Christianity effects a change with respect to values. If it does, what is that change, and how does it affect that change? Does it alter the priority among values, does it deepen and intensify some of them, does it add new values, or does it effect a change in the very meaning and reality of value as such? It may be central to the meaning of the Cross that it radically transforms the relation between the good and existence and that Christ's Suffering, Incarna tion, and R esurrection not only disclose the new relation but also realize it. Such a radical confirmation may well affect the very exercise of philosophical mediation and require a new sense of the integrity of philosophy. (K. Sch mitz).


3.1. The first question to be asked is whether there are values which can be characterized as specifically Christian.

It cannot be denied that Christianity has some impact on the whole of values. We have to ask how the fact that we are Christians can and must accompany "the becoming of the human" in the world of today.

The question of the relationship between Christian and human v alues is a new instance of the age-old question of the relationship between the human and the "sup ernatural." A better awareness of the fact that there is no such thing as a universal human nature puts the question in a new perspective. The so-called universal human values are in fact secularized Christian values.

Sch illebeeckx puts it in this way (with regard to the related problem of liberation)

The first step is usually an evangelical inspiration, inspiration that encourages solidarity with the actual socialist emancipatory self-liberation. In a second phase, the attention is focused on the intrinsic logic of the process of emanc ipation. In a third phase, one recognizes the priority of emancipation in its own rationality on the evangelical kerygma; and in a last and fourth phase, the evangelical orientation and inspiration is often set aside as being irrelevant to the liberation movement.4


3.2. The original inspiration of Judeo-Christianity implies, among other features, the non-sacredness of the world, the "double commandment" (God cannot be worshipped without practicing justice towards the neighbor and the poor); the universality of salvation; the "eschatological reserve."

In a move of appropriation our c ulture has largely accepted some secularized version of this basic inspiration: the fact that man himself is responsible for the earth, the demand for ju stice, the commonly shared human situation, the sense of hist ory.


3.3. It can be argued that Christianity deepens and radicalizes our commitment (to the whole person, and to all humans, with a preference for the poor and the destitute). In some cases the fact of being a Christian provides the decisive motivation for giving up one's life to the service of others. Yet, it does not seem that we are going to find the originality of Christianity along those lines, precisely because secular cultures have appropriated and made their own many of those values which were introduced in our culture by prophets or saints. In a society which has "come of age" those values are no longer ours; they have already been accepted by contemporary society, for which man himself has learned to assume responsibility. Christianity has to be something other than the defense of an European way of life (and even of being human).

In Latin America and in other third world countries the situation is quite different, precisely because these "evident" values are not realized. For the same reason an appeal to fr aternity may sound ambiguous, because it hides the real structural oppositions (being oppressed or participating in an oppressive system).


3.4.1. The point at which we best realize the relatedness and the difference of the Christian with regard to the human predicament is what has been called by Johannes Me tz the "eschatological reservation." Christianity does not so much introduce new v alues; it rather changes the attitude toward values. This es chatological reservation can be expressed in many ways:

Christian belief in God as the Ultimate de-absolutizes all that is only penultimate ("das vorletzte Anliegen," Bon hoeffer). God is "always greater" (the insight of negative theology). Reality is open: time is open. Reality is moving to more than what is: "What is cannot be true" (Ernst Bloch). Other forms of liberation are necessary.

Religion is in principle anti-fetichist. To liberate religion, the idolatry of value (meaning the fetich of the product) has to be abolished.

"Happy are those who are poor" is an evangelical expression of the "eschatological reservation": "they will inherit the Kingdom." The poor and the oppressed are the eschatological reserve of history: they have no place in the system, and for that reason may be able to restore it, after having destroyed it.


3.4.2. The problems related to the widely accepted insight of the e schatological reservation are the following: What is the status of the promised Kingdom of ju stice and pe ace where every tear will be dried up?

An important cultural move is taking place in our time. Until recently, eschatology was applied to the individual, and the escha tology of hi story was rather vague. Today, there is a loss of the sense of eschatological fulfillment for the individual, whereas stress is entirely upon eschatology as applied to s ociety.

Language in this area is highly symbolical. "Symbolical" is often interpreted as less real, with "image" as the intermediary stage. Yet, such imaginative language might very well be the only way that a distant reality may be communicated. What Jesus has instanced is the possibility of transcending all h istory: "so that your joy might be fulfilled." This is a tangible reality in the world today, for those who believe in Him.


3.4.3. The eschatological reservation should not function as a kind of opium in the struggle for justice, in the world of today:

A completely hidden and merely announced and promised salvation, is the Utopian border-line-case of Christian existence. By means of continually provisional and replaceable configurations, eschatological salvation must visibly, if fragmentarily, be realized within the basic framework of our human history, both in heart and structure.5

The de-absolutization of all values, of all structures, has itself to be de-absolutized ("I1 faut demystifier les demystificateurs," M. Merleau-Pon ty). Such a de-absolutization opens one to a variety of positions. Christianity cannot be linked to one specific solution, nor can it exclude a specific solution (such as violence in an extreme unjust situation).


3.5. Christianity is probably most itself where it contributes something other than the world is capable of doing itself. Discontinuity with regard to what the world accepts as valuable seems to reveal the very essence of Christianity. It is then also discontinuity, originality, distance, and even point of rupture from a merely this-worldly approach. This distance should not be interpreted as fleeing the world or other worldliness. It might very well give one's struggle in the world new sense and new life.


3.5.1. The originality of Christianity may be synthesized in two decisive features: That we are called--and are--sons of God is for us the integral truth about man. The theme of man as image of God so broadens and deepens our understanding of what the being human is all about that it is present in all cultures as a dynamic force and promise.


3.5.2. Yet, the Son of God came in the figure of the oppre ssed and the slave and has been put to death on the Cross. That res urrection and not decay is God's response to the Son who was giving up his life for the life of the world is an essential feature of the Christian vision and h ope.


3.5.3. The fact that the Just is put to death reveals the existence of structural and existential evil: there is also non-truth and non-value in this world. Evil has for Christians clearly supra-human features, although this should not be absolutized. Evil is related to the Father of lies, but the ultimate victory is not his. Christians have to fight against brute inj ustice, lies, and forces which are not only of this world. The Christian's perception of God's call may even help him to detect what is unacceptable for God's children.


The Critical Role of Phi losophy


It can be asked how far we have moved from philosophy. The following questions arise in this context.


4.1. What is the position or the status of the one who "speaks"? This is both an epistemologic al and a ps ycho-sociological question. There is no claim that as a philosopher one is completely free of one's Christian presuppositions. "Christian philosophy is philosophy practiced by Christians." (This applies also to Marx ists, who are not free from their own presuppositions).

A philosophical discourse, however, has to justify itself as philosophical. We have to ask the question how philosophy today can mediate Christian values for the world of today. For that reason it is necessary to know the world of today. Yet, as a believing philosopher, at a certain point the introduction of a personal stand becomes unavoidable: the affirmation, "I believe," very probably participates in the same break-through mentioned earlier. Christianity cannot be reduced to a worldview (however justified). It is the promise of an undeserved and graciously given "more."


4.2. Many traditional questions have to be phrased in a new way:


- How do philosophy, f aith, and theology relate? What is the meaning of being a phil osopher, and a th eologian, if one is a Christian?

- In any case, the relationship between philosophy and theology cannot be conceived as it was in the Middle Ages. We have to ask old questions in a new way: what are we doing when we philosophize, when we theologize, as Christians?

- An important feature of our situation is that the human sciences function with their own rationality, which is outside of, and sometimes even opposed to, the rationality of faith.


4.3. On the other hand, the general distrust against all-encompassing systems must open us to a new sense of our limits. Ka nt, Hei degger, M arx, Witt genstein: all have contributed to a new awareness of what can--and cannot--be said. An onto logy which is not a th eology may be possible and a task for the philosophy of our time. It can help to bring into a better focus the original player of meaning that Christianity introduces into hist ory.


4.4. A more recent way of asking a related question is the issue of ideology. Ideology can be defined in a neutral way, but pejorative overtones cannot be avoided. For that reason Christians might like to clarify in which sense they escape the dangers inherent to the way an ideology functions in society. In its concrete way of functioning Christianity cannot escape one feature of an ideology inasmuch as it justifies, defends, and consolidates a given state of affairs.

Yet, Christianity cannot accept to be reduced to an ideology: it conceives itself as supra- or trans-ideological so that it might function as a breakthrough of every ideology. In this sense Christianity is more than a definite outlook on reality; it is an eternal call for more, for the "not yet."

Christiani ty has to bring under criticism even its own forms of appearance in history:

The Holy is always greater than the manner in which it presents itself to man in our history, greater than the salvation given by the exodus from Egypt, greater than the judgment of the Babylonian captivity. And even Jesus said that his followers would do greater things than He Himself did.6


4.5. The new way in which religion is understood in the human sc iences must be taken seriously by Christian philosop hers. They "may not act as if the criticism on religi on by the E nlightenment, or Feu erbach and M arx, Ni etzsche or Fre ud, were to be applicable only to non-Christian religions.

A difference between the philosophy of religion and the human sciences of religion is necessary. Whereas philosophy of religion is interpretative and moves on the systematic and conceptual level, the human sciences of religion aim at an ideal of ob jectivity. Sometimes this gives rise to a new type of scienti sm.

Yet, a better understanding of the way religion really (i.e., objectively) "works" on the social and psy chological level can help to understand better the precise point at which Christianity breaks with philosophy of religion, with onto-theol ogy, and introduces the unjustifiable, though not irrational, "I believe." There are other ways of relating to God, to Jesus and to one's brother than by thought alone.

Christianity has to gain a clearer awareness of its own originality: as such it is not dependent upon any philosophy in particular. On the other hand, every Chr istian philosopher has to say, as a philosopher, how the Christian insights can be situated in his philosophy.

Too ready an agreement with the values of our society, which is by no means homogeneous, would leave unclarified the perception of the distinction between what is really "theolo gical" (theologal) in the finality of human conduct, and what is not "theological" (theologal) but merely et hical, and as such open to the investigation of human intelligence which is always hesitating, always searching.9

The whole issue which faces the Christian who is also a ph ilosopher and wants to mediate the Christian values to the world of today can very well be summarized in this way:

How is the believing humanity, and the religious community which represents it, capable of bringing into existence in the world of human culture the originality of the theological dimension and of the truly divine character of religious faith which it announces to the world? It must bring that faith into existence in its originality, which cannot be reduced to philosophical or scientifico-philosophical speculations. It has to bring that faith into existence, not as a kind of speculative phantasm or pragmatico-sociological id eology, but rather as an achievement of the intell ect, which is convinced of the truth of the affirmation that it expresses and of the reality of that which it affirms. Religious reality has to be accounted for as content in our understanding, before it can be considered as object of reason.10


This is the intellect which is inhabited by faith.





1. E. Sch illebeeckx, "God, Society, and Human Salvation,'' in Faith and Society, ed. Marc Caudron (Gembloux, Belgium: Duculot, 1977), p. 90.

2. Philosophische Aufsatze sur Objectiven Phantasie, (Frankfurt a.m., 1969), p. 18; cited by Schillebeeckx, op. cit., p. 88.

3. Herzensänderung.

4. Op. cit., 94-95.

5. Ibid., p. 91.

6. Ibid., p. 96.

7. Ibid., p. 93.

8. D. Dubarle et P. Colin, "Incroyance et science," Bulletin du secretariat de la Conference Episcopale Francaise (nn. 2-3, Feb., 1979).

9. Ibid., p. 12.

10. Ibid.