Karl Rahner has said that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he won’t exist at all.”
All of my Christian conservative readers are probably getting nervous right now after reading that quote. The fear is, among some people, is that Christians must hold tightly to rationality and reason lest they become sucked into a kind of spirituality that is more based on feelings, stirrings, and wild movements that deviate from scripture.
I get it and understand the fear. I fear this myself and know in my younger, more innocent days, I experimented with a dangerous emphasis on feelings. But in some people’s emphasis on a perfectly logical faith, they have sucked all of the life out of following Christ.
The over emphasis on reason and rationality may have gotten us in the predicament we find ourselves in with faith and politics. Because a particular political party embraces some of the ideals that are important to Christians, reason tells us that we must support that party at all cost even though the nature of politics can be so seedy and unsavory and un-Christlike. This kind of marriage of faith and politics begins to hurt Christianity much more than it improves politics. The priorities of Christian belief gets tainted and soiled by its seeming reliance on politics. All of this happens because we think reason dictates us to act in this way.
What Rahner is saying is that the path of pragmatic Christianity is fading and has proven to be unsatisfying and that the Christian of the future will be one who has no problem with reason but uses reason in the context of a constantly growing, developing, and cultivated spiritual life. These Christians will “know Christ and the power of his resurrection” and that will make the difference in their life, not a well organized belief system. The Christian of the future will be known for their spiritual nature, maybe even their changed behavior. This will mark them, not their ability in apologetics or boldness on issues, except in matters of the heart.
This may all be pie in the sky thinking on the part of Rahner and others but I doubt we will see any thriving and life giving Christian communities in the future if we do not see an element of the mystical and the transcedent present in them.