THE IMPULSE OF JESUS
Christianity understands itself as a design for living, as an imparting of meaning to human life. It imparts meaning, however, not only in the area of theoretical reflection on the act of faith, but in the area of practice which falls under the heading of basic human values or human rights. The Catholic Church, at the Second Vatican Council, in the Constitution on Divine Revelation,(184) understands the revelation of God as the source for the proclamation of moral teaching ("morum disciplina"). All the more remarkable is the fact that, to the present day, ethical argumentation takes recourse to a supposed "natural laws", and strives to deduce from "nature" those basic human values which have been and still are understood as the manifestation of the divine will.
The natural-law concept rendered it almost impossible to appreciate human situations in their social and psychological structure. By referring morality to an allegedly unchangeable, divinely constituted "nature", it excluded everything that was conceived of as violating nature and, in consequence, as violating divine law. Thus Christian social teaching, for example under Leo XIII, had no room for freedom of thought, of the press, of teaching, of religion. That meant, at the same time, that personal development-individually and socially exercised democratic freedom--was seen only to the extent that the individual was a particular instance of nature in general and of its laws. The results of this attitude, particularly in the area of sexuality, were devastating.
In the position taken by John XXIII's encyclical, Pacem in Terris, written in 1963, for the first time the Catholic Church departed from a purely natural law type of argumentation (even though this still dominates). Here the term "human rights" occurs for the first time in an ecclesiastical document. With the help of this concept the Second Vatican Council attempted in 1965, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and in the Declaration on Religious Freedom: Dignitatis Humanae, to underscore the personal, unalienable rights of the individual person in a social context, and to defend these rights against a totalitarian socialism as well as against a liberal capitalism: the former would look upon the state, the latter upon goods and technology as the central value.
It should be noted that the possibility of a paradigm change first made its appearance at the Second Vatican Council, after human rights had become institutionalized in many nations of the world, and many of these basic human values had found their way into modern constitutions. It should be remembered that the human-rights ethos aims simply at justice, which is the presupposition for the ethos of love of neighbor. This latter, however, forms uncontestedly the ethical basis for Christian morality; and as Vatican II formulates it, it is to be found in revelation. But since the Bible as source of revelation of divine reality offers specific ethical counsels--drawn in part from surrounding societies only sporadically and as related to specific situations--reliance tended to be placed rather in the so-called "natural-law." As a result, the genuinely Christian contribution to an ethical design for life was called into question.
Does such a contribution exist? Are there basic values in Christianity that can be made comprehensible for, and communicated to, non-Christians?
The fundamental ethical discussion is to be found in the New Testament, which is the source of Christian morality. This discussion embraces all of what is right and just; it includes norm and law in the existing order. To "law" belonged, in the historical context, not only the Mosaic Law, but also the natural-law ingredients (e.g., in the ten commandments), and cultic, sociopolitical standards and legal axioms.
At the outset, according to the presentation of the Bible, there stands a struggle for orthopraxy, which of course takes place in reciprocal relationship to the struggle for orthodoxy: ethics and metaphysics exhibit a clear interdependence. It is above all the evangelists who attempt to unfold this theme for posing the question about the behavior of Jesus which involves posing the question of God.
The point of departure for moral behavior is formed by experience. Earlier, Aristotle recognized in experience a lasting prerequisite for feeding every and all ethical reflection. The experience of men and women in contact with Jesus can be designated "authority in freedom", or "the power to be free". This power leads inevitably to conflict with the prevailing state of affairs. The concept which forms the foundation of ethical values is the unique, liberating authority of Jesus; it is expressed in Scripture by the Greek word . This authority or power implies the possibility of acting unhampered by any instance, whether it be norm, law or cult. It is the authority of freedom. At the time of Jesus the orientation for a person's life was given by the words, "On three things stands the world: on the Torah (legal instruction), on worship, and on deeds of kindness (alms-giving)" (Pirke Aboth 1, 2). It is just these three pillars which become questionable then through experience of Jesus with the power to be free. With an unlimited experience of power, of authority, these basic values begin to sway, although--or precisely because--they were looked upon as divine, for what in the Old Testament was assigned to the lordly and kindly authority of God, now is granted to Jesus.
In this ethical assertion, therefore, the image of God is being changed. In the behavior of Jesus, men and women experienced the liberating nearness of God, a proximity which makes free. He teaches as one "who has authority" (Mt 7:29: ), and not like the Pharisees and Bible scholars. Even the devil spirits must succumb to this authority, which is displayed on the sick as well as on sinners. Indeed, all those ties in and with which men and women have entangled themselves cease to dominate them, individual and social bonds are loosed, and the human person is constituted in freedom. When the existing "authorities" demand to know where this new authority, this power, comes from, when they ask how it proposes to identify itself, the evangelists deliberately decline to give an answer. The authority requires no further substantiation, because it is in itself substantial. Inasmuch as it is exercised, and signifies liberty and freedom for men and women, it is in itself evident, since it formulates what is human and makes it reality, and since through its interpersonal exercise it mediates the nearness and proximity of God. Certainly, the demand included by this event is a fundamental transformation of mind and character, "metanoia". This means that what is human is no longer to be understood and to be lived from the point of view of general norm and legality, but by being exercised and put into practice after the liberating manner of Jesus.
In the context of Jesus, this authority takes on specific form against the background of: 1) the law, 2) organized worship, 3) politics, and 4) society.
On the one hand, Jesus is described as someone on whom Jewish rites are performed, someone who is subordinate to his parents, who visits the temple, indeed as someone who intensifies the demand of obedience to the law (divorce and swearing are forbidden), so that it appears as if he would teach the observance of all commandments and norms. On the other hand, however, in light of the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath, precisely the opposite can be inferred. It was the loftiest commandment and, like the Torah, created before the world. Jesus infringed against it, apparently in an arbitrary manner. It was precisely on the Sabbath that the disciples plucked ears of grain (Mt 12:1ff; Mk 2:23ff:; Lk 6:1ff), although strictly speaking, no one would have died of starvation had they not done so. It was on the Sabbath that the women who for eighteen years had been bent over were cured (Lk 13:11ff), and on the Sabbath that the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years was healed (John 5:5ff), though to satisfy the norm, both could certainly have waited until the next day. The violation of the law seems almost willful. And it is useless to look for a principle. Just as when the law is intensified, when the law is violated, no new norm is being established with the help of which a person could find orientation. The one takes place as well as the other from circumstance to circumstance, concretely, for the benefit of someone who is directly affected. In this manner freedom over against the law finds its expression, and simultaneously, it is shown that persons are not to be manipulated.
All commandments and norms have meaning only if and when they exist for people: never the other way around. No human being may ever be forced into a Procrustean bed. The key to the proclamation, to ethical practice, is never the law, but Jesus' authority in freedom, the power to be free. This authorization from Jesus signifies the liberation of the person, not simply from law, however, but over against the law, which retains its conditional, relative and historical validity and binding force. But it is no longer through the law that human life receives meaning, but through the authority and the power in which a person concretely experiences God's nearness, when he himself or she herself goes through this conversion. The liberation over against all laws grants the whole person new possibilities for life.
In analogy to the law stands also the experience of Jesus' authority over against organized worship, the temple cult. On the one hand, Jesus accepts it and cooperates in carrying it out; on the other, he relativizes its absolute meaning with his words on the destruction of the temple, for there is something greater than the temple (Mt 12:6). A human being may not be simply subsumed under the concept of worship. Temple and law, sanctuary and the commandment of God: both remain; they are not replaced by something new (and thus "reformed"), but they are relativized in the light of the authority of Jesus. His authority grants freedom, indeed not from sanctuary and law, but over against them. Organized worship is not a way of salvation, such that in it human existence could find fullness of meaning; rather, human existence is emancipated into freedom over against the "act of religion", when it cooperates in carrying through this transformation that grants meaning to human life.
Similar observations can be made in the area of politics. Jesus' behavior is neither apolitical (cf. the Essenes) nor national-revolutionary (cf. the Zealots). On the one hand, political power is not simply refused, not even in its then prevalent form, occupation by a foreign power. Thus Jesus can pay the tax coin and recommend rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's (Mk 12:17). And even to Pontius Pilate Jesus is willing to concede power from above (not from God!; John 19:11). On the other hand, the supreme power of the state is relativized, inasmuch as it is put at a critical distance. The authoritative title "rabbi" is strictly refused (Mt 23:8). With downright irony, Jesus negates the custom of political rulers who lord it over peoples, "pacify" them and let themselves in return be called "benefactors" (Lk 22:25). It is a radical criticism of political power, of the totalitarian claim of the state on the human person.
Without doubt, Jesus is speaking in the name of the oppressed. But Jesus as well as his disciples also undergo the temptation to power; it raises its head not only in the desert, but again in Gethsemane. Jesus refuses power, and demands this attitude from his disciples. The domination of one person over another person is damaging to persons and to peoples. The strived-after change in the conditio humana is therefore political in nature. But not even the renunciation of aggression turns out to be a new principle with Jesus, in accordance with which the political order could align itself. By no token should salvation and politics be identified with each other. Jesus does indeed identify himself with the oppressed, without himself oppressing--whence his preference for children and for women, who at that time were held in subjection. This implies liberation, therefore, from the clutches of the state as a way to salvation, and thus freedom for the specific individual vis-a-vis the political power.
Jesus' reaches its peak in the liberation from interpersonal barriers in society. In the abolition of social oppression his authority becomes specific once again, and thereby practical. The just and the sinner, separated in the social order, both have equal contact with Jesus. Injustice remains injustice, indeed, but the association with tax collectors and prostitutes no longer makes a person unholy, rather the power of forgiveness, liberating salvation is communicated to them. The Samaritan becomes `neighbor' for the isolationist-inclined Jew. The touchstone for Jesus' power of freedom is one's enemy; the religious outsider and the personal enemy, both are included. Social barriers do not secure salvation, they rather destroy the freedom of the person and thus the person him- or herself. Of course, active engagement and the intensive, specific decision for one's fellow human being are demanded absolutely. The freedom over against the established norms of society, but not from social relationships, means salvation and liberation for the individual and for society, when conversion is put seriously into practice.
The Christian ethic, its fundamental value, has its root therefore not in the natural law, not in religious or in sociopolitical lawgiving, but in the liberating experience which Jesus communicates. He does this by taking men and women out of the existing order, out of the established, petrified system of norms and letting them experience the authority of freedom, the power to be free. Nature and law are not simply identical with "God's will", they are not its expression; but they can become its expression when they contribute to the humanum of the person, that is, to the humanness of men and women. Laying this foundation for morality can be called a paradigm-change. What is general is understood to be derived or secondary; the particular is now primary, for it is in concrete life, in specific experiences, that what really matters becomes clear. It is in the act of decision that the fundamental ethical value reveals itself. Thus for the Christian, the particular person is the "norm", and not the "generally valid". Jesus Christ is a "living norm" who communicates liberating experience. Where one person is able to make such an experience comprehensible to others, namely by living that experience, there this fundamental Christian value is realized.
With this understanding, a free development of the person is possible, as is also the advancement of human rights. These latter are, like historical experience, not subject to being chosen retrospectively ad libitum; they are dependent on the time. Thus, the rights of men and women are to be seen in the medium of time and history. Of course, they are none-the-less binding. This binding force can--as the example of Jesus shows--never take on the structure of an obedience responsible before the face of the norm or the law. Such a structure would pronounce the norm to be innocent, and would see the particular person alone as possible guilty factor. It is not the conformer who is free of all guilt, quite the contrary. Thus, seen from the liberating authority of Jesus, every man and woman is drawn into the responsibility for shaping the law and the norm. All are obliged to shape what is human in the specific temporal, historical situation; their responsibility is to what is human. Precisely this is what is expressed in Jesus' exercise of freedom over against all law, but not from any and all establishing of norms.
"What is human" is to be understood as whatever is of specific service to love and thus furthers the tendency to increased humanness. In this liberating ethical "finding of norms" one person communicates him- or herself to another in a decision which is critical and free to a maximal degree, a decision with shared responsibility. The examination of whatever is prevailing at the time, in the form of norms, laws, rules and customs, is both critical and self-critical. Everything already at hand, as well as the concrete decision, is part of the dialectical process and only as such can become understandable. What we have here is relational polarity, or the polarity of relation. Both terms of the relation are in the process of becoming. Jesus' critical decision in freedom before the law changes this latter not only in its position as a value, but also in its specific content. At the same time, Jesus himself comes to be, through his decisions, what he himself makes out of his life. He himself is constantly becoming, constantly changing.
The model of Jesus mirrors a certain understanding of humanity, in which the liberating impulse is indeed dominant, but without ever cutting itself off from relational polarity. This affects not only the specific person as an individual, but is always also a communicative, and thus social, procedure. In this manner, the men and women who were with Jesus understood his practice, experienced it as liberating, and communicated it further. The binding force of this practice was made accessible to reason, communicatively. If, however, norms or laws are made into fundamental values and thus exaggerated, their binding force is necessarily driven home with authoritarianism, in the pattern of obedience and command.
In the practice of freedom, in the model of relational polarity, such a development is fundamentally excluded, since response can be made to this "living norm" only through dialogue and argument. The intersubjective possibility of universalizing, the transubjectivity of the basic value, is the "criterion" for the humanness of this morality. If in the historical, temporal conditionality of some society such a consensus is reached, then it is entirely legitimate to postulate a certain irreversibility. In this manner, the Samaritan's treatment of the man who was beaten and robbed can, for contemporary society, stand as a non-standardized free act which realizes the basic human value of love of neighbor. This has, in some modern societies, found its way into the area of objectified norms, so that under certain circumstances the failure to assist someone in acute and immediate need is a legally punishable offense. The root of Christian morality is the experience of the behavior of Jesus. From what has been said above it is clear that putting the matter this way does not imply a blind faith in an untouchable authority, but that this experience constitutes a model for living the dialectic of authority and norms in freedom.
THE ELABORATION BY PAUL
It can be shown that in the early community of believers which formed after Christ, this power to be free, this authority of freedom, was the way of life. This can be seen most clearly in the theology of Paul. Fundamentally, Paul presupposes that conversion which Jesus enjoined. Indeed, this conversion is nothing other than putting the authority of freedom into practice. The fruit of this spirit is, for Paul, ethical behavior (Gal 5:22). His morality is grounded on "being in Christ". Albert Schweitzer called this new form of existence "mystical". Whatever one may think of the last term, it is this manner of being which according to Paul is decisive for human behavior. It is what makes criticism of the system of norms possible.
There is a danger for this "being in Christ", however, when it is understood "supraethically", and so becomes a kind of being in eternity, in pure
spirit, and indeed thus turns into an end in itself and no longer forms the
fundamental thought of ethical behavior. To a great extent, the Corinthians--as
we know from Paul's letters--succumbed to this danger. They became "infants
in Christ" (I Cor 3:1-3), inasmuch as each one egoistically lived according to
his or her own talents, without bearing communicative responsibility for them.
The phrase "being in Christ", which occurs more than a hundred times in the
Pauline letters, is intended, however, to express that room, or space, in which a
Christian is free. This room is therefore that of Christ, indeed it is Jesus Christ
himself, who is the end of the law (Rom
10:4). Freedom is thereby a characteristic quality of the Christian and of his or her morality. "Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1). "For you were called to freedom, brethren" (Gal 5:13). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (II Cor 3:17).
Paul insists on this freedom and defends it. Thus for those who are in Christ, who himself is freedom, there is no difference between holy and unholy (cf. Rom 14:1ff) between man and woman, and so on. His freedom stands vis-a-vis the whole legal structure. Thus being in Christ is also the end of living in the "having" mode. In the phrase, "having as if one did not have", the dialectical distance of the "as if" note finds expression. Over against all having, all possession, vis-a-vis all achievement and power, the Christian lives his or her life in freedom. This room in which a Christian is free, and which represents the fundamental ethical value, is an anthropological insight and an experience which is made with the "living Norm" who is Christ. Because this new being implies the giving of meaning to human existence, it thereby implies an "ontological" content, which can then be interpreted as the room, the space in which salvation takes place, or as the "first installment" on all further salvation of the Christian, precisely as making it possible for the human person to be human. When a person lives in Christ, he or she is "saved", and Christ lives in that person, so that he or she becomes an "alter Christus" (as later--among others--Francis of Assisi came to understand the matter).
In the objective language also used by Paul, this is then called salvation through Jesus Christ. But the "mystical" expression "in Christ" counterbalances this objectivity, and recognizes in Christ the room, the space, in which the person who consents to this new manner of being, and accepts the ethical meaning therewith imparted, is free. What is denoted morally, by the concept of freedom, is grasped theologically as faith. Here again it is important that faith, which is a trusting, relational putting into practice, not be seen so much as having Christ as its object, but that it be seen as taking place in Christ (Gal 3:26; 5: 6; also Col 14:25; Eph 1:15; and the still later reminiscence in the pastoral epistles: 1 Tim 1:l4; 3:13; 2 Tim 1:13; 3:15). The believers are in Christ (Col 1:2; Eph 1:1). And when there is talk of faith in Christ, the same content is intended (Gal 2:16,20; 3: 22; Phil 3:9; Rom 3:22, 26; Eph 3:12).
A. Deissmann points out in his book on Paul, that in the Hellenistic Koine the preposition eis can also be used in this manner.(185) Just as in the synoptic tradition "believing" is always used absolutely, without an accusative object, the same usage holds as well--with reservations--for Paul. "Believing in Christ" could be understood in two ways: with "in" as a locative preposition, denoting "where" the belief takes place; or with "in" practically as part of the verb, pointing to the specific object of belief. These two possibilities involve a different understanding of the mode of being. Only by transposing meanings in the latter case--"in" as introducing the object--can the Christ-event become the qualification of my fellow-human being (e.g., "What you did to one of the least of these, that you did to me"). Faith and freedom as the putting of human existence into practice occur "in Christ", because he forms the standard of human life. Thus those who live and exist in Christ are "one body in Christ" (Rom 12:5). A new understanding of human and ecclesiastical community presents itself through this new reality.
It is the freedom, which by turning to the other in faith and trust attains realization, and denotes the authority to be free over against legal obedience. But even here the law is not simply annihilated; it can even turn into the expression of divine will. Then it is holy, "spiritual" (Rom 7:12, 14). It is not, however, God's will automatically; rather it remains present primarily as a pole for reflective dialogue. In this way the dialectic between freedom and a system of norms is preserved: freedom over against the law (as polarity), but not freedom from the law in the sense of an arbitrary libertinism. But it always remains the case that the source of meaning for human existence never comes from law, but only from freedom. Or again, as seen from the viewpoint of faith: "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under the charge of a custodians" (Gal 3:23ff). There must not, however, be any non-dialectical confusion between the freedom of faith, or moral freedom, and a system of norms. When Peter attempts a mixture of these ideas, Paul resists him face to face. The of Jesus would be betrayed, for Paul says, "all things are lawful for me" (: 1 Cor 6:12).
This concept, which transcends what is at hand, the essence and thus the "natural limits", is used later by Origen to characterize Christian freedom. He uses the concept of for freedom.(186) The free authority of Jesus is autonomous, and we are autonomous in that authority. Thus Origen can say that we, in Christ, are in our freedom the ground () of what is good.(187) A more autonomous morality would seem hardly thinkable.
At the same time, the fundamental understanding lying behind these words reveals how senseless a discussion about so-called "autonomous or "heteronomous" morality can be. In freedom, the particular believing individual stands beyond the µ, the law. In making decisions, he or she becomes, relatively, a "legislator". Every norm, however, calls again for dialectical responsibility in the face of that freedom which takes place "in Christ".
For Paul, there enters at this point--even before he discusses the structure of freedom for all, in other words, our common freedom--a further, decisive, fundamental thought. Even though the freedom of faith and morality is indispensable, in order not to betray the "mystical" being in Christ, there is nonetheless another basic ethical principle which proceeds from this "being in Christ" as a common being of all believers. The calling to freedom is indeed irrevocable, but it is only then true autonomy when it assumes the structure of love for one another. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one saying: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal 5:13f; cf. Rom 13:8ff). Decisive here is that the so-called "double commandments" of love of God and neighbor is here "reduced" to love of neighbor. Only in being in Christ is the dimension of divine reality accessible; and the Letter to the Ephesians (2:12) can go so far as to say, without Christ we are in this world without God ( . . . µ). Love of neighbor is freedom in Christ, and is itself "without grounds", because it has--or better, it is--the ground and therefore divine reality in itself. It is what grounds all ethical behavior and renders legal norms relative.
We can, however, encounter the weak, Immature Christian, who acts as a minor, not yet of age. It is the Christian, who in the concrete, practical circumstances of life cannot hold out under the dialectic of Christian freedom. His or her conscience is troubled; he or she thinks it necessary to submit to certain regulations. Paul speaks specifically of meat that has been offered to idols, a question which poses a problem even today, e.g. in Black Africa. In his letters to the Corinthians and to the Romans Paul is convinced that every Christian may eat any meat sold at the market place, even that which has been offered to idols. Eating such meat does not bring about union with the gods. Some of Paul's contemporary Christians, however, believe just that. It is a matter of not plunging the weak brother or sister into ruin, a matter of tolerating his or her opinion, not theoretically, but practically, out of love and solidarity. Paul would rather never eat meat again than to cause his fellow Christian to fall (1 Cor 8:13; Rom 14:20ff). After all, "`knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Cor 8:1). Love must therefore prove its value practically, in particular as consideration for the weak. Gnosis, or knowledge, however correct it might be, does not lead closer to God, not closer than others are in their being in Christ. Paul smashes this opinion for the benefit of the weak, in favor of love of neighbor. M. Dibelius writes of this: "The egoism of mysticism must make way for the altruism of the gospel".(188)
Thus freedom binds itself in love. But love and freedom are, in a certain sense, contradictory. Freedom is thought of as self-determination; love, however, is only in relation to the other. Nonetheless, it is only a free person who is able to love at all; and this person is free only when he or she realizes him- or herself in the relation with the other. Love is the field for the integration of personal freedom(s). Love transcends freedom(s) towards unity. This may be formulated as follows: Paul knows only one point at which a Christian is unfree, namely where love is unfree for the benefit of one's neighbor. He or she becomes a "slave" (of love) because of being in Christ, because of the freedom that finds its limit at the other.
Being in Christ is thereby determined by God. For God is not faith and hope, but alone is Love. Therefore love is the highest, or in other words, God is the highest, because he is Love. Love in Christ is the love of God (Rom 8:35). Love is the manifestation of being in Christ, and also of faith, for faith works through love (Gal 5:6). Here again we have the "principle" of communicative responsibility. Even if we humans are responsible for the forming of norms, this dialectic fades into the background when my fellow human being is at stake. One could say, he or she bears a "living system of norms" in him- or herself, and it is with this "living system" that the Christian must enter into dialogue from the very first. Only by means of this dialogue can "abstract rules and laws" that are of use for living together then be filtered out. One's fellow human being in his or her particular limitation may not be skipped over.
Herein, Pauline behavior can be seen occurring basically in the form of a dialogue. It is not authoritarian command and the obedience resulting therefrom which determine ethical conduct, but "paraenesis". "Paraenesis as heartfelt, brotherly, encouraging and helpful exhortation is the new style, such as corresponds to an ethical instruction filled with the Spirit of Christ."(189) And it is together that burdens are to be borne (Gal 6:2), in family-like solidarity. (This is not to say that Paul himself always fulfilled this ideal and never became authoritarian in a false manner; but his occasional behavior is no counter argument against his underlying intention, his ethics.) The main thing is not the art of persuasion; it is rather a matter of convincing one's neighbor within a community of communication. This community of dialogue, necessitated and guided by love, can be grasped only by the ethics of freedom. This latter cannot even then be reduced to nomism, when they dispense with revolutionary impatience and tolerate the fellow human being, even precisely in his or her faulty behavior.
This Pauline morality makes possible Paul's understanding of community, which becomes visible in his concept of the community of faith, the Church. He says that Christians are one body in Christ (Rom 12:5), indeed, that they are the body of Christ (1 Cor (2:27). This is true not for each individual as such, but for determining the relationship of Christians one with another. The thought of "body" is supposed to indicate a relational reality, according to which one person should interact with another. The coordination of the individuals with each other should thereby be clarified. "Body" is the room, the space for interpersonal relationship. This relation of one person to another, this dealing with another person, is, however, not arbitrary. Not every dealing with another is sanctioned thereby; the expression "in Christ" is necessary as the localization of morality.
People conduct themselves with each other properly when they conduct themselves "in Christ", that is, when they grant each other freedom, the authority and power to be free. They do this when they refrain from dominating each other. Just as it is unethical to base life on a system of norms instead of on the liberation given by Jesus Christ, so the social relationship is unethical when it is oriented on dominance and thereby on the structure of command and obedience. What individually might be called "regulation", on the level of society or in a social context is domination.
Paul's position lies here along the lines of the proclamation of Jesus, which propagates the principle of mutual service as the principle of social relation and love. Paul thinks that the authority of freedom, the power to be free, falls to everyone, that no one may exalt him- or herself above another, but rather that each one stands up for the other in genuine family-like solidarity.
Domination is no road to salvation; instead, it brings evil upon society. Paul himself, in spite of his authority, never claims domination over his community, and he does not succumb to the temptation of exercising dominant force "in the name of Christ or indeed of God". "Domineering over your faith is not my purpose. I prefer to work with you toward your happiness" (2 Cor 1:24). Even in case of conflict, it is not the "last word", the decisive command, which is decisive, but simply communicative conduct (Cf. 2 Cor 10:6). All those terms connected with arche, which mean dominion and office, are--in this understanding of community and of church--excluded. "Holy" is alone the freedom from domination (so to speak, the "an-archy"), never the "hierarchy." Domination is never holy, but highly unholy. Just as Paul broaches the subject of freedom from the law in order to prevent the Christians from turning Christianity into a system of laws, so does he broach the subject of freedom from domination in order to reintroduce order in the community. It is not authoritative dominion which should govern community life, but the freedom of the body of Christ. Power and dominion do not build up, but destroy the community; they abandon the liberation that comes through Christ. This common root for the ethical behavior of all believers is indispensable.
Nonetheless, he knows that neither human society nor the Church is an amorphous mass, but that this freedom falls to different human beings with different gifts or talents (charismata). These differences may not, however, be imposed from without, as through a caste into which one is born, or through sex, or through skin color, etc.; but they come from the specific talents or gifts of each individual. This is what structures society. Out of this freedom in Christ, a multiplicity of gifts of grace, charismata, are released; and they become the principle for order and for living in the ecclesiastical society. Every believer should realize his or her charisma, granted in Christ for the benefit of others, in such a way that it contributes to the order of the common life. Charisma, therefore, is what establishes the structure for order in the Church. The standard for the right use or misuse, the criterion of right morality is not the concept of obedience, which divides people into masters and servants, but, being rooted "in Christ", that is, in the authority of freedom, the power to be free. This makes love--that is, the usefulness for, or effect upon, the others--to be the measure of freedom. In this way the structural elements of ecclesiastical life are led back and grounded dialectically in "being in Christ".
If indeed Paul himself thinks only in terms of this inner ecclesiastical polarity, in fact institutional auxiliary structures, permanent or semi-permanent functions, etc., also are thinkable. Like the system of law, these latter, however, are to be seen in critical distance to living a Christian life, and are accordingly subject to ethical judgment. Institutions for the protection of freedom, as they find expression, say, in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, confirm the auxiliary structure of the institution over against freedom. Once again the concept holds: freedom "over against", but not "from" the institution. This is true even in reverse: the Christian is affected also by existent structures of dominion on the part of the state, just as at the time of Jesus. And just as the law can be called "holy", under certain circumstances, so can Paul speak of "authorities established by God", to which everyone should be subject (Rom 13: 1-7).
Factual injustice is not being considered here, e.g., that the emperor has himself honored as God, or that Paul himself is unjustly imprisoned and beaten. What Paul means is that if the state were eliminated, dialectical polarity would be destroyed. Without considering the perverting structure of the supreme power of the state more closely, that supreme power is something over against which the Christian is free and which he or she should even resist, when injustice occurs. But the Christian is not free from the structure of the state; rather, the Christian lives in a dialectical relationship to it. As applied to the Church, Paul recognizes the structure of domination as a human perversion; even the state as such need not necessarily be so structured. In the Church, however, there must be no power structure. Otherwise it is no longer "in Christ" but "in the cosmos", and as such is to be understood from the "world" and as fallen to the world.
On these assumptions, the community of believers has a decisive significance, namely as the place where God is put into words. With the state and in the system of norms, this is not the case. When, "in Christ", everyone aligns his or her conduct ethically according to its usefulness to the community, and thus establishes order in social life, then God becomes luminous. Church is a connecting relationship of people to each other, of which God can be asserted. It is not the individual who, puffed up in his or her pneumatic inflation, has a personal relationship with God. Rather it is possible in community, in the right behavior to each other, that God is put into words. And for a community of which God can be asserted, God is a predicate; it is a Community which, in Christ, is determined by God: the Church of God!
This is particularly true with Paul in I Cor 11-14: in Corinth, everyone is thinking only of him- or herself; self-satisfied, one provides a mirror of the other in his or her particular gifts. Community is thereby destroyed. Paul interposes angrily, and points out that in this way no worship can take place at all; that what they are performing "in the name of God" is a "service of the devil"; that no Church of God but rather a convention of the rejected is what is happening. If, on the other hand, the faithful understand one another, if they speak so that what is hidden comes to light, that what is good comes to the fore, if the bread is shared with one another and not eaten egoistically, then God will be present in this assembly and, Paul says, even an unbeliever will declare: really, God is here among you (I Cor 14:25).
"Being in Christ", the body of Christ (not the body of God!), the Church--each concept is the determination of a relationship of human person to human person. This relationship is ethically qualified and being thus directed to each other believers hope that God will be present. This presence reveals itself in the freedom from domination and in the liberation over against all systemization of legal norms for the benefit of one's neighbor. This "morality" Paul calls love, which, ontologically expressed, designates God, who biblically is "defined" as Love. Thus Christian self-understanding leads to the idea of God. In a certain (ethical) way, God is experienced in being together with one's fellow human being.
THE UNDERLYING UNDERSTANDING OF GOD
Morality has an "ontological foundation" in the idea of God. After all, love is not just a basic value, but at the same time a declaration of Being. It is an ontological reality that determines every being, not just moral being, although this latter is reflected and recognizable in the former.
Modern theologians, among others R. Bultmann, put it this way:
God is Love, to the extent that I know that I am sustained by the blessing which is offered to me in the always present possibility of loving in human togetherness, from person to person, and when I know that I am compelled to realize this possibility.(190)
This expression reveals the close connection between the ontological state of affairs and ethical demand. With this biblically characterized approach, there is no sense in speaking of God as a Being, not to mention as a self-existing Potentate and Ruler. God is not a Being (as such he would be superfluous, or a projection), but Love, that is, Relation, Self-dedication, and in Christian theology: Community of Persons. God is the expression for the most profound meaning of human community and solidarity. God denotes the location of the meaning of human existence: it is not each person's own ego which is the point of departure, the center for shaping one's life. Relation, which is qualified as the occurrence of love in freedom alone is essential for life; only in relation will the meaning of our being be disclosed.
Therewith, again, new light is shed upon the ethical demand for conversion. Anyone who derives ethics from the experience of an objectively conceived being, and looks upon this as the basis for taking up relation, lives topsy-turvy, puts everything upside-down. Conversion, and that means giving life meaning as relationship and solidarity, is what first makes an object-related experience possible in an ethically correct sense--and also ontologically. In other words, it is (ethically) crucial, whether the determination of a human person is made by nature (norm) and existant institutions, or whether the specific character of the human being is seen in his or her personal fulfillment in freedom.
In genuine Christian thought, a man or woman is to be understood through his or her being a person; and not through a given human essence. Therefore the "depth of reality" cannot be conceived as a being, for example, as an "almighty Being", but "only" as relation (ontologically) or as love (ethically). The being of a person is real only in fulfillment, and indeed not inasmuch as it is in-and-for-itself, separated from others, but in its being with another. Person, the power to be free as self-fulfillment, constitutes itself only through the other. Psychologically speaking, a man or woman attains the form of his or her own person, discovers the "I", only by way of a "thou". If no "thou" ever reached a person, he or she could never form an "I" and thus come to him- or herself. The "essence" of personal being does not primarily consist, therefore, in a non-communicable uniqueness, but in the transcendence of self, in communicative mediation and relation. In this sense it is "the overcoming of self" and the reversal of "natural" conditions.
True enough, "person", which realizes itself only in the manner of being-with-another, is always mediated by spirit-endowed nature. Person is person, however, only inasmuch as he or she finds fulfillment, forms a relationship and lives in relation. This means that personal being can be realized only in a social context. It is a relational event; the community (for example, mother--child) constitutes person. Human personal being stands in the polar dialectic of being-in-itself and relational being. Precisely, this is indicated by the message of Jesus as well as by Paul; it is resolved by the dialectical concept of freedom. It must constantly be emphasized thereby, that ontological primacy belongs to the person, to the power to be free as fulfillment, to liberation and love.
The experience of this ontological and ethical primacy expresses itself in the concept of God. Being involved in the polar dialectic is not the ultimate disclosure of the meaning of human existence, but the univocally positive, and this deserves the designation "God". For this reason, by means of the teaching on the Trinity, Christian theology has interpreted God's personal being as "pure relation". God's essence is pure "person". God can be understood only as relation; God is absolute relation. Traditional Christian theology speaks of "relatio subsistens", total self disclosure or self-transcendence. Thus God can be designated in the New Testament as total dedication, as gift, or again as Love. In the area of human experience, God is thus the determination of human relationships. He is the transubjective determination of existence.
By way of comparison, we may consider music. Music is a reality but it cannot be reduced to individual tones. It is the harmony between the individuals parts which is the essence of music; music is the integrating field as the determination of mutual relations.
By "God" is to be understood such a relational reality; it is not at all arbitrary, but integrates towards love and establishes community so that individuals yield a "harmonic" whole. For this reason, the Christian understanding of God's personal being is not that of individual subjectivity and substance; God is community of person, personal communication, solidarity. Here our power of speech fails, because for us every community involves a numerical multiplicity, whereas no number can be predicated of God. God as community of person in the singular should clarify the "coincidentia oppositorum". The relational multiplicity is seen as unity, and precisely in human society; that is the dimension that grounds unity. Thus God's reality can be understood as a being which is being-here, as an essence which is presence (German: Da-Sein, An-Wesenheif). A person experiences himself or herself as affirmed, as accepted. A God who is community of person is a God who evinces solidarity with human beings, sustains human society, and is the meaning of intrahuman solidarity.
The Christian insight into the ethical constitution of human beings is evident originally therefore, in the experience of Jesus' authority of freedom. The power to be free is given to a person as a gift when that person is ready for reorientation, that is, ready to put conversion into practice. The experience of this liberating impulse is the original event that initiates the Christian understanding of the human person. Morality, in a Christian sense, is no longer to be understood otherwise. Human rights evolve from this fundamental ethical concept. The Christian churches have often failed to see this freedom movement; they have therefore developed their concept of ethics from nature and thus betrayed the experience and the proclamation of Jesus.
Pauline ethics uses the concept of "being in Christ" for this experience. It is intended to signify the free room, or space, in which Christian responsibility is put into practice. This is called a mystical formula (since Adolf Deissmann), and it is at the same time the place or location for conversion or for the new ethical and ontological mode of being. "This means that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17 et alibi). The formula is called "mystical" because it signifies a unity between Christ and the believer. As liberating impulse, Christ is a center of powers. "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13). Indeed, the subject putting life into practice is no longer the individual, the "I", but Christ himself. "The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me (Gal 2:20).
The concept does not, however, turn into a mysticism of identity: it
remains rooted in the community, and only in community do these statements
make sense. Neither does this mysticism at any point denote a sensuously
pleasurable abiding "in Christ"; it expresses the ethical impulses
constituted through this mode of being. It is decisive that Paul does not simply refer "being in Christ" to God, or thereby intend a deification. The "mysticism of Christ" remains therefore in the field of social integration, so that it can designate the dialectic of freedom and love. The Body of Christ, or "the one body in Christ", is intended to express the context for action by all believers, much in the sense that Mt 25 declares behavior to the least of one's fellow human beings to be behavior towards the reality of Christ. The expression " Body of God" is for the Pauline writings inconceivable, just as Jesus' authority of freedom cannot be identified with God.
Nonetheless, this ethical-ontological approach does indeed bring about a change in the concept of God. Whereas God is often seen in the context of nature and its corresponding system of laws, and functions accordingly as the highest being and as the ground of Being, in a Christian sense God is seen from the viewpoint of the field for the integration of genuine community, so that he is the meaningfulness of the ethical choice of love and not of hate, indifference, apathy, etc. Moral behavior is thereby exposed to criticism, and can be classified as right or wrong according to definite criteria. The concept of God has an ethical function, because it is the determination of a relation and, as such, meaningfully qualifies as love those interpersonal relations in freedom which conduct themselves dialectically towards what is existent, towards Being. Ethics is not without ontology; each conditions the other, so that Christian morality can properly be called an "event of Being".
CONFUCIAN THOUGHT IN DIALOGUE WITH
THE FUNDAMENTAL CHRISTIAN VALUE
Albert Schweitzer is of the opinion that this ethical concept, especially as developed by Paul, has a parallel in Chinese thought--not in its Taoist but in its Confucian form:
The fact that Paul's ethical thought is in many particulars reminiscent of Chinese thinkers like K'ung-fu-tzu ([Confucius] 6th century BC), Meng-tzu ([Mencius] 4th Century BC), and especially Mo-tzu ([Mo Ti] 5th century BC) can be explained in the same way as the resemblances with late Stoicism. The same thing occurs in Chinese thought as in Stoicism. Lao-tzu (6th century BC), Chuang-tzu (4th century BC) and others achieve vital living ethics no more than do the older Stoics, because they fail to comprehend ethically the ultimate Will that holds sway in nature. Parallel to them, K'ung-fu-tzu, Mo-tzu, Meng-tzu and others achieve living ethics in the same manner as does late Stoicism, and afterwards the Rationalism of the 18th century: they assume a purposeful and ethically effective world Will, to which man must dedicate himself, and then come accordingly to demands of love that are somewhat analogous to those of Paul.(191)
P. Welt writes: "Because of this similarity Between Chinese and Christian moral concepts, Christian faith is attractive for many Chinese, and provides a welcome support for traditional morality."(192) In this light A. Schweitzer calls attention above all to the coherence between ontology and ethics, or between the concept of God and human morality. In his opinion, this particular connection is correctly grasped in Confucianism.
This consideration will serve as the point of departure here for presenting some ideas on Confucianism. Not being a specialist in this field, I would offer my remarks simply as suggestions for further thought. All authors I know, in explaining the basic concept of Confucian teaching on morality identify the concept which runs as a thread through all of Confucianism as that of jen. In my opinion, this fundamental concept can best be rendered into German by Mitmenschlichkeite or humanheartedness, a deep awareness, with consistent consequences, of one's fellow human beings. The Chinese character for jen (ren) consists of that for "man" and "two". Jen signifies, therefore, a reciprocal relationship between human beings. It means love and everlasting loyalty. This is the proper form for interpersonal relations. It is the highest commandment, the path to harmony, to balancing opposites; it is the path to the unity of reality, the path of life. Jen is kindness as human relationship. This "being good", which is not simply something "already there", is not an isolated quality, but acting correctly precisely in human togetherness: the morality of the individual is rooted in the social context. The principle of action is reciprocity, mutual understanding (Lun yü 15, 23).
The first rule of content resulting from this is the so-called golden rule: "What you yourself do not wish [that someone do to you], do not do that to another" (cf. Mt 7:12). Service to one's fellow human being is therefore the measure (Lun yü 6, 20); as in the structure of the Pauline church!). The first duty is that to one's fellow human being. Thus it is above all necessary to serve one's fellow human being (Lun yü 11, 11), not spirits or other beings. Jen always remains rooted in society, and transcends the individual (but never does away with the latter).
From the first rule is also to be derived, secondly, that service to one's fellow human being cannot mean domination (Lun yü 11, 25), whether it be in the Great Temples, or over the people, even if the domination were to bring about prosperity and satisfaction. It is always service by, and to, those who are free: "To bathe with others in the river, and return home singing." Thus there is, basically, only one sadness: "Not to understand the others" (Lun yü 1, 16). Jen approaches in this way the concept of "communication without domination".
The preceding becomes more clearly apparent inasmuch as, thirdly, this interpersonal service does not mean punishment. On the contrary, one should strive after what is good, and then other things will follow after this (Lun yü 2, 3). Even the so-called "useless" person is not to be spurned. This is "divine will" (Lun yü 6, 4). The bad person is not to be detested (Lun yü 8, 10). One who is wise, the noble person, lets none be lost (Lun yü 15, 7). One who is noble does only good. By means of this humanness, the death penalty becomes superfluous (Lun yü 13, 11).
This doing of what is good can go so far that the just person, fourthly, sacrifices him- or herself. Mo Ti (Mo-tzu) explains this humanness so: "To kill a person in order to save the world, that doesn't mean acting for the benefit of the world; but to sacrifice oneself in order to save the world, that means acting for the benefit of the world."(193) The essence of what is good, the love of humanity is thereby made manifest (cf. Lun yü 12, 22).
It follows from this, fifthly, that the person who carries out jen can name no limit for his or her humanness. Confucius himself apparently recognizes a gradation, in that evil is to be met with justice and the good with what is good (Lun yü 14, 36); Mencius (Meng-tzu, 371289) and Mo Ti (Mo-tzu, 5th century BC), however, see jen as universal, without gradation and equal for all. Each and every one is to be loved.(194)
Such noble persons make up the "new people" of Confucians, as A.B. Chang Ch'un-shen writes.(195) And Mencius calls this benevolent (jen) person "lord of Heaven". Inasmuch as in the "new people" he helps the other person, he himself is splendid. "He is capable of judging others according to what he himself knows and is familiar with." And Chang comments further: "This is the condition of the `new man' of Christ, of whom Paul speaks, who loves his neighbor as himself."
But how did this noble person acquire jen? It is given to him or her at the start, and is, to that extent, a gift. Human nature is good. Natural benevolence, jen, is like the water which collects in a valley inasmuch as water flows downhill. Jen as a possibility is given to every person as a gift. But no person is only good; the good must be attained chosen (Lun yü 4,1). Whoever acts against humanness, jen, is evil. But how should people do what is good, when day after day flagrant wrongs are being perpetrated? It is as with the woodsman's axe, which does damage to the woods.(196) By interfering in what is harmonious, the corresponding elements are disturbed; the human being is ruined. Thus we can well say that cruelty (the opposite of jen) interrupts human relationships. The disturbed relations are to be restored; the feeling for humanness is to be awakened. After all: whoever is good jen) is never unhappy (Lund yü 9, 28). In this manner the "true nature of the person is to be recognized. Even the "non-jen" I is determined not only individually, but socially and even decisively so.
It is apparently the case in many religions, that a return to the origins as a "golden age", Tat'ung, and as a grand harmony in the past is of considerable significance (cf., ancestor cult). This awareness plays a function for the just order of society in the present for it reflects the true measure of what is human. Measure is not taken from the divine, important as the "will of Heaven" seems to be, but from the human. In I Ching, the Classic of Changes, can be read: "If the measure of man is absolute righteousness, then it is difficult to be a true wise man; but if man is the measure of man, then just men have a model which they can follow".(197) This is the way that jen is handed down in tradition; history transmits to humans the quality of being human.
One must, therefore, take the path of learning (Lun yü 7, 8). This path or way (tao ?) changes human beings in the direction of the good. Therefore no one, of any social standing whatsoever, may be excluded from this human self-cultivation. "In education there is no discrimination" (Lun yü 15, 38).
Jen comes to fulfillment in specific circumstances, situations and forms. This ceremonial structuring of relations is called li, the concrete cultivation of humanness. Li means the specific social behavior which expresses itself in ritual forms and which itself has religious meaning. In li the human measure of "being-in-relation" is realized: In society right and just social relations are the basic principle.
Five such interpersonal relations, which are the ratio of all further human structuring, are named by Confucius. All are reciprocal relations: 1. father--son; 2. husband--wife; 3. (older) brother--(younger) brother; 4. ruler-minister (subject); 5. friend--friend. The just society is constituted by means of these five relations. Most important is the reverence of children for their parents (hsiao), filial piety. It is also the way to self-education, and is connected with ancestor cult. As long as the parents are alive, the children should serve them; and when the parents are dead, they should be honored (with sacrificial rites). The reason for the importance of this relation is to be seen in the fact that life is transmitted through the parents. It is not primarily a legal regulation, but expresses rather the linear descent of the power of life. Thus the meaning of every change, of every improvement (even in the political order, which is very important), is that of a better possibility for life: Li arises from jen. These relations, which doubtlessly were elaborated historically under specific social conditions, are not, however, to be understood uncritically. Thus the son may, within limits, contradict his parents (Lun yü 4, 18). The structuring with li finds a true counterpart, say, in Paul's adoption of contemporary Stoic rules conditioned by their time of origin and in his counsels for the "family".
All this assumes a transcendental quality. This is not only inasmuch as the individual is determined relationally by humanness; inasmuch as the concept of jen is led back to a "sacred time" ("in illo tempore"), to the ancestral line; further not only as the right path of a human being joins the path of non-human things; but much more, it is inasmuch as the right path of a human being forms a unity with the path of "Heaven". Mencius was of the opinion that a human being can carry Heaven in his heart, and that whoever relates to the truly human knows Heaven (Mencius 7a, 1).(198)
As a consequence of right relations, the religious dimension of reality reveals itself. The "Will of Heaven" is present: the noble person is receptive for Heaven (T'ien ), but does not have T'ien at his or her disposal.(199) Rather, such a person reveres the divine reality (Lun yü 16, 8). This experience of the presence of "Heaven", this "Enlightenment", makes one fearless in the face of one's enemies (Lun yü 9, 5). The path of the human being and the path of Heaven are in unity, even if the "polarity" remains, and one is never identified with the other. "I search here below, but I never penetrate to what is above. It is God who knows me" (Lun yü 14, 37). Such a manner of expression suggests mystical forms. This divine reality does not speak "visa-vis" human beings, "only" the world does that, but it "appeals to a persons in the sense of genuine experience (cf. Lun yü 17, 19). Indeed, the "will of Heaven" reveals itself in silence. In this way Heaven can become "the measure of all things", for the whole world then stands in cosmic order and harmony.
Once again, however, it becomes evident that in proper conduct, in the Jen that finds expression in li, or in other words, in ethical, moral practice, Heaven and Earth reach their polar Harmony (as it is called in Li chi [Collection of Rituals]).(200) At the moment we deviate from right, ethical practice (jen), we sin against T'ien. The field of integration is destroyed; any prayer becomes meaningless (Lun yü 3, 13). In this light, to speak simply of "an indefinite religious attitude of Confucius" is to assume, in my opinion, an untenable position.(201) Indeed, the power of the good, the impulse of humanness is a divine event; it is the presence of Heaven (cf. Lun yü 7, 7). Thus it becomes clear that a person is serving Heaven only when he or she is serving fellow human beings (cf. Lun yü 11, 11). The divine presence is visible in service to human beings. Indeed, anyone who shortens a visit to the sick in order to go to prayer incurs the reproach of the Master (Confucius; Lun yü 7, 34). Jen is divine worship, and only when this is recognized, when Heaven and Earth in this way are one, does sacrifice make sense (Lun yü 3, 12; cf. "If you are offering your gift at the altar . . ." [Mt 5:23], "It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice" [Mt 9:13]).
One cannot wish for a direct access to T'ien; one should rather keep oneself at a distance from the "gods". The only access to living reality is humanness. A warning can therefore be spoken against anthropomorphisms and superstition,(202) and questions about Heaven, the gods, Death, etc., should be avoided (Lun yü 11, 11). Such questions are attempts to evade the jen, to flee unity and objectify knowledge. Priesthood, organization, a prescribed (dogmatic) faith have no meaning in this context. Jen, which finds expression in loyalty and truth, is "the supreme law "(Lun yü 9, 24). When will it take place? "When the Great Truth (= Tao ?) triumphs, the Earth will belong to all men together" (li chi) [Collection of Rituals]).(203)
This integration, Thai chi, the "Supreme Ultimate", this stream of unity", finds a Christian expression in Paul's understanding that God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28; cf. Acts 17:27-28; Phil 2:13). A radical theology of humanheartedness, of deep awareness of one's fellow human beings with the appropriate consequences--such a theology can be recognized in Confucianism. From the vantage point of jen, T'ien can be perceived, determined, experienced, and from there the "gods of nature" and the ancestors. Thence the way is pointed to the origin of the good, love and humanness. God's being emerges therefore in moral practice. It is experienced in human-heartedness (jen).
If this brief sketch can meet with Confucian acceptance, then I see therein such a profusion of parallels to Christianity as is hardly to be found in any other religion and morality. This would be a witness to fundamental human structures which are illuminated in original experiences (Jesus--Confucius), and would represent a broad basis for dialogue towards reaching a possible agreement. In this there unfolds communicative responsibility. The Second Vatican Council teaches that there has been no time in which the reality of God has not made itself manifest through revelation.(204) If this is true, then together with the concept of being human and that of humanity, the concept of revelation is simultaneously posited, and no people or nation can be excluded therefrom. It has been asserted, therefore, not without justification, that Confucianism stands in a dialectical relationship to Christianity similar to that of the Old Testament to the New Testament. A dialogue, however, can take place only if and when the Confucian writings (the Nine Classics) are taken at least as seriously as the Old Testament.
On the suggestive understanding that every religion is a light with a characteristic tinge or hue, and that Christianity always shines forth with a Jewish-Greek tint, one might go further and say that it is necessary for every communicative action that the colors be various, and that by renewed "shading" the light is not destroyed at all, but that it thus manifests itself in a specific historical situation.(205) Once, no "change of creed" from Judaism to Christianity was intended, but rather a liberation of men and women. Similarly, the dialogue of Christianity with Confucianism must not be another name for proselytizing, but for the Christian it must mean instead coming to a genuine reflection on, and awareness of, real Confucian values. Only an honestly critical attitude is able to make the needed metanoia possible.
If it is the case that a person is sound and whole only if he or she is living "in jen", and that this ethical reality opens the only true access to the ontological reality of God, then a striking similarity to Paul's "being in Christ" becomes visible. Jesus Christ is understood, in a Christian sense, as a human being for others; it can consequently be asserted that Christ is jen in person". One decisive question remains, however, namely to what extent Confucian thought sees jen as a "living norm", or as a clear cut matter of nature. Is jen a liberating impulse, , or authority or power of a human being to be free, which liberates him or her over against an historically conditioned li; or is jen only the power of law putting a human being under obligation? To put it another way: is the ethical impulse seen as a dialectical pole to the legal mode of existence (li?), or is this dialectic abandoned, or does it perhaps remain unseen? There would seem to be no question about the fact that God (T'ien; eighteen times in Lun yü [Ti]) is rooted in ethical Will, and that God cannot be meaningfully mentioned apart from the demand for being "in jen".
But here, too, a question arises, as to what extent God has a purely sanctional function for nature and norm, or whether he is to be understood in a dialectical polarity. In my opinion, popular religious practice casts practically no light on the matter (no more than it does in Christianity). To put the question in another way: does Confucianism have a critical, liberating power, or does it function only to stabilize a system? One reads: "The unity of Heaven and Man is a Chinese ideal with the aim of unifying human virtue with that of Heaven. For the acceptance of the moral subject, however, an objective basis and a general norm are to be found only with some effort", then this statement--which the author means as a complaint-seems to imply a liberating impulse.(206)
A critical dialogue between the two confessions might perhaps bring about a mutual broadening, in that on the Christian side jen is considered and reflected upon seriously and earnestly, and on the Confucian side liberation is recognized as a fundamental quality of jen. Should jen express polar unity, then it is not to be distinguished from the Western concept of a person when this is seen as an I-thou-relationship and is understood as a relation-event. In this manner, ontology and ethics form a dialectical unity. A genuine understanding of person is possible in Christian thought only when it means unity of life, which implies (polar-dialectic) relationality.
At this point, I believe, a fruitful dialogue could take place between Confucianism and Christianity. It must, however, be a matter of genuine dialogue, not an attempted "conversion" of one of the partners. Both partners must be in the process of transformation, and this is the program, the message of Jesus.