Kerygma for the Modern World         Jason J. Simon   Masters of Divinity Program   Fr. Michael Connors, C.S.C.         Ma...
Introduction          Christians have the duty and privilege to preach the Good News to all the world.It is a service to a...
unity he displayed between the message and the messenger. Jesus was the Good News.Because of this, he witnessed to the Goo...
but as a person with a name and a face.6 Therefore, he wrote that the Kingdom of Christcannot be separated from the Kingdo...
be received by the listener in faith. For this reason, Rahner states that ultimately“kerygma has the character of a call t...
Interestingly, the kerygma changes substantially when Peter and Paul proclaim itto Gentiles. Obviously, Israel’s history i...
preaches in Jerusalem.13 He makes several moves in order to build bridges between hisreligious framework and that of the A...
this point of emphasis. When Paul preaches in Athens, for example, he points to thepast when God looked past the ignorance...
humans. The second dimension is death, or the loss of spiritual or physical being. Thethird dimension is feelings of absur...
The study began in 2004 when more than 112,000 first-year undergraduatestudents from all over the United States responded ...
results showing that less than 50% of the students feel secure in their religious views, thisdata shows a real opportunity...
American teens with more effective coping mechanisms for navigating through life’sstresses and problems.19         The U.C...
of their life and experience. To probe these experiences and engage these questions is towrestle with realities beyond our...
3       This supernatural life is given to us as grace. It is God’s own life               that we are allowed by God to s...
It is obvious that Hofinger’s kerygma includes sin as part of the schema, but theoverall Good News does not rely on it as ...
Rahner notices that modern people do not seem to be concerned with sin or theneed for justification. He thinks one reason ...
them out of themselves. Finally, and perhaps most poignant of all, humans experiencetheir transcendence in the experience ...
Kingdom is at hand. He embodies this communion; he embodies the Kingdom. He isthe very message of closeness that he preach...
Figure 4: Karl Rahner’s kerygma     1       Humans are created with God at their deepest core and with an             awar...
Toward a Concise, Useable, Modern Kerygma       This following version of the Christian kerygma is informed by the threeaf...
life within us. This kerygma also relies on what Rahner calls the “supernaturalexistential.” That is, the fundamental orie...
Pat                                                              New job        Birth                     Grandpa         ...
? What do you think this means?           (write some answers under the ground line)                                      ...
5) Jesus   -   Walks on water, shows that it’s safe.   -   Drinks it and is satisfied.   -   Shows confidence and victory ...
g. Jesus is the picture of how close God wants to be to humans. He wants              to be one with them. Just as a husba...
Christianity. Merton, Hofinger, and Rahner showed us examples of shaping kerygma inthe twentieth century. Finally, I have ...
BibliographyBarna, George. “Most Adults Feel Accepted By God, But Lack a Biblical Worldview.”       http://www.barna.org/F...
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Kerygma for the Modern World

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In this paper I examine the evangelical task of proclaiming the Christian kerygma in the modern world. First, I contextualize proclamation within the overall task of witnessing to the Gospel. Next, I show how the early Christian kerygma was shaped by the apostles according to their particular audience. Following this, I look broadly at the modern American audience and suggest some important points of emphasis and de-emphasis in our shaping of kerygma for them. Finally, I suggest a method for sharing the Good News that begins to integrate the results of this discussion.

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Kerygma for the Modern World

  1. 1. Kerygma for the Modern World Jason J. Simon Masters of Divinity Program Fr. Michael Connors, C.S.C. March 28, 2007 Synthesis Seminar Project University of Notre Dame
  2. 2. Introduction Christians have the duty and privilege to preach the Good News to all the world.It is a service to all of humanity because the world is “oppressed by fear and distress.”1In the Church’s teaching and public prayer, the great events and truths of the Gospel areproclaimed to the People of God. Outside of these occasions, however, proclaiming theChristian message, or kerygma, is more difficult. Obviously, the Gospel’s proclamationshould not be confined to the Christian assembly. Jesus’ mandate is universal, even to“all creation” and “every nation”.2 But how can we most effectively proclaim the GoodNews to modern humanity? In a cultural context that is well-acquainted with quips suchas “don’t preach at me” and “don’t judge me”, proclaiming the Christian kerygmarequires careful discernment. In this paper I will examine the evangelical task of proclaiming the Christiankerygma in the modern world. First, I will contextualize proclamation within the overalltask of witnessing to the Gospel. Next, I will show that the early Christian kerygma wasshaped by the apostles according to their particular audience. Following this, I will lookbroadly at the modern American audience and suggest some important points ofemphasis and de-emphasis in our shaping of kerygma for them. Finally, I will suggest amethod for sharing the Good News that begins to integrate the results of this discussion.Proclamation as Witness The act of verbally proclaiming the Gospel is but one part of evangelical witness.John Paul II, in Redemptoris missio, taught that Jesus’ mission was effective because of the1 Evangelii Nuntiandi 12 Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19. 1
  3. 3. unity he displayed between the message and the messenger. Jesus was the Good News.Because of this, he witnessed to the Good News not only through his words and actions,but through his very being.3 John Paul writes that Jesus revealed the kingdom of God through his words,actions, and person. People learned both the demands and characteristics of thekingdom through his witness. He showed that the kingdom of God is meant for allhumankind, even victims of oppression and rejection. The kingdom transformsrelationships and grows through sacrificial love. Jesus summed up the whole Law withlove and gave the people a new commandment to “love one another.” Building thekingdom involved liberating people from physical and spiritual evils. Because of this,John Paul II points out that Jesus’ kerygma was the Kingdom of God.4 The apostles and early Christians, on the other hand, preached the kingdom ofChrist. The New Testament books of Ephesians, 2 Peter, and Revelation all refer to thekingdom of Christ or of our Lord Jesus Christ.5 This is not an example of a sort ofsupersessionism, however. John Paul says that the kerygma of the Kingdom of God andthat of the Kingdom of Christ are complementary and should be held together in ourevangelical witness. John Paul II wrote that proclaiming the Kingdom of God could be seen as thepromotion of the kingdom values that Jesus exhibited and taught during his ministry,such as peace, justice, and freedom. He saw this kingdom is not a concept or doctrine,3 Redemptoris Missio 13.4 Ibid., 14-15.5 Ibid., 16. 2
  4. 4. but as a person with a name and a face.6 Therefore, he wrote that the Kingdom of Christcannot be separated from the Kingdom of God, and vice-versa. The Kingdom doesdemand the promotion of human values; they are intimately tied to the Gospel and arecentral to the mission of the Church. However, without Christ, the pursuit of theseideals becomes a merely ideological goal. Therefore, the promotion of these values mustnot be separated from the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel. Spreading andpromoting “gospel values” serves the Kingdom, but this effort remains incompletewithout the eschatological promise of Christ’s salvific life.7 John Paul’s teaching, then, provides a strong case for maintaining the unity ofword, deed, and being in Christian witness. Karl Rahner taught that if the proclaimedkerygma was a reality within a Christian, her proclamation of it would make the Gospeltangibly present to her listener. Revelation, he taught, was actualized in its proclamation.In this way, proclaimed kerygma is not the communication of a truth from the past.Rather, it is the promise of God made present in the moment. Through the kerygmaticproclamation, all of salvation history, from beginning to end, becomes present in JesusChrist. Rahner saw this evangelical message as a committing and judging power. It hasan inner-dynamism that not even the most resistant person can completely destroy. Itopens up reality and seeks not to be merely valid, but to elicit a decision in favor of thesalvation offered. It seeks to be fruitful. While the message is dependent on its witness,there is an otherness about the message. It is as if the proclaimer is the vessel for a livingpresence that reaches out to the listener and invites them to embrace this savingpresence. Proclaimed kerygma becomes an event of love that is offered by God and can6 Ibid., 18.7 Redemptoris Missio, 20. 3
  5. 5. be received by the listener in faith. For this reason, Rahner states that ultimately“kerygma has the character of a call to a decision.” 8Kerygmatic Adjustments In order to facilitate the actualization and invitation of Revelation through themessage proclaimed, the message must resonate with the audience. But how can thesame message resonate with modern ears the way it resonated with individuals inantiquity? Is the Christian message something that can be updated or even changedaccording to the whims of a new generation? Both of these concerns are legitimate andshould be taken seriously. However, the New Testament book of Acts illuminates thisissue with its testimony of the apostle’s shaping of the kerygma according to theiraudience. The book of Acts contains a total of eight missionary discourses.9 Five of thespeeches are delivered to Jewish audiences and three to gentiles. Both Peter and Paulpreach the Gospel to the Jews; their sermons look remarkably similar in shape andcontent. The kerygma proclaimed to the Jewish audiences is fairly standard. Thesespeeches commonly include the following points: Israel’s history with God, God sendinga message of salvation to Israel in the person of Jesus, the Jews incriminated in Jesus’death, God raising Jesus from the dead, and a call to repentance and conversion. Thekerygma to the Jews also relies heavily on Scripture to show Jesus as the fulfillment ofGod’s revealed promises.8Karl Rahner and Karl Lehmann, Kerygma and Dogma, p. 19.9Raymond Brown et al, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 724. These discourses are listed as 2:14-19;3:12-26; 4:9-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 17:22-31. 4
  6. 6. Interestingly, the kerygma changes substantially when Peter and Paul proclaim itto Gentiles. Obviously, Israel’s history is not recounted, but there are other importantdifferences. In Peter’s kerygma to Cornelius’s household, he emphasizes God’simpartiality. Peter explains that God is not a local or national deity, but a God of all whohas no favorites. Peter also names the desire that Gentiles have for God and identifiesJesus as the visible and audible expression of the God to which they are attracted.10 InLystra and Derbe, Paul also abandons the kerygma he used when preaching in thesynagogue. Instead, he appeals to his audience to turn from “worthless things,” i.e.polytheism, to the “living God,” whom he describes as the Creator God. This CreatorGod can be seen in nature and is the sustainer of human life. Paul does not explicitlymention Jesus, but proclaims biblical understandings about idols (worthless), God asCreator, and God’s revelation through nature.11 He proclaims these truths in a way thatcan be received by his audience without introducing religious jargon that would distractthem. Paul’s speech in Athens is another example of kerygma being shaped in order toappeal to and be received by a particular audience. Space limitations do not allow athorough exposition of this text, but several points deserve mention. First, Paul’ssermon to the Athenians is rhetorically crafted in a manner that would have beenappropriate for the Athenian discursive culture.12 Paul also seems to use classical Greekwhen addressing this crowd. This is juxtaposed against his use of Aramaic when he10 James L. Mays; HarperCollins Bible Commentary, p. 1001.11 Ibid., p. 1005.12 Ibid., p. 1005. 5
  7. 7. preaches in Jerusalem.13 He makes several moves in order to build bridges between hisreligious framework and that of the Athenians. First, he links himself to the Athenians’cultural religious experience by referring to their unknown god. Gone is the recountingof Israel’s history or expositions of Scriptural texts that are fulfilled in Christ. Instead,Paul refers to an altar dedicated to an “unknown god.” Making a similar move as Peterdid at Cornelius’s house, Paul identifies the god they already know as present to themwith the God of Jesus Christ and offers to teach the Athenians about him. Finally, heintroduces Christian-specific theological concepts without mentioning Jesus Christexplicitly. He preaches a call to repentance as well as the judgment of the world by theman whom God appointed and raised from the dead. Paul’s method of shaping thekerygma for the Athenians proved to be effective for many who desired to hear morefrom Paul following the end of his speech. This, surely, was the effect Paul intended bythe manner in which he shaped his proclamation of the kerygma. Commonalities are scarce between the kerygma preached to the Jews and thatpreached to the Gentiles. However, in every missionary discourse, God’s new, decisiveaction in history in a major point of emphasis. This climactic event, of course, is Jesus,and the kerygma at least points to him as the inauguration of a new way in which Godrelates to the world. In Peter’s kerygma seen in Acts 2, he focuses heavily on theprophet Joel’s prophecy of “the Day of the Lord.” This is understood as the climacticevent of the Spirit outpoured in order to empower the mission and enact conversions.14Of course, in other sermons to Jewish audiences, Peter and Paul recount Israel’s historyin order to point to the climactic event of Christ’s coming. Even to the gentiles we see13 Simon J. Kistemaker; “The Speeches in Acts,” (Criswell Theological Review) 40.14 The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 732. 6
  8. 8. this point of emphasis. When Paul preaches in Athens, for example, he points to thepast when God looked past the ignorance of trying to fashion gods from silver or gold.However, now Paul says a dramatic shift has taken place; God has appointed one tojudge the world and all peoples are called to repent. These examples clearly show that the apostles did not hesitate to shape thekerygma for their audience. The momentous event of salvation that is Jesus is at leastimplicitly present in these discourses as the Good News and the ultimate reason forrepentance and conversion. Peter and Paul’s obvious tailoring of kerygma shows theimportance of adjusting the message for the audience.Modern Humanity’s Felt Existential Need The most common versions of Christian kerygma today rely heavily on thetheological concept of sin. This is, of course, consistent with the witness of theScriptures and Tradition. However, if the primary need that the listener feels is not sin,the Good News might be “ok” news at best. According to a Barna research study, nineout of ten adults already feel “accepted by God.”15 Given this, and the prevalence ofkerygma that already responds to sin as a felt existential need, exploring a shape ofkerygma that enters through a different felt need seems worthwhile. This is not to suggest that we abandon the theological concept of sin. Instead, itcalls for an expansion of our conception of the sin that Christian kerygma addresses.Gerald O’Collins gives three dimensions to sin. The first dimension of sin he outlines isalienation. This consists in deficient or ruptured relationships between both God and15Barna, George; “Most Adults Feel Accepted By God, But Lack a Biblical Worldview,”http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=194. 7
  9. 9. humans. The second dimension is death, or the loss of spiritual or physical being. Thethird dimension is feelings of absurdity. This refers to the absence of meaning and truththat people feel in their life. O’Collins’ outline of sin provides a fuller view of theexistential needs of humanity.16 Christian kerygma addresses sin, in all of its dimensions.Effective kerygma should be able to address the most prominent dimension that thelistener is experiencing. Also, given that most of our culture does not have all threedimensions in view, one should use caution when using the word “sin” while sharingwith someone. It is also crucial that we assess the most prominent manifestations of sinin people’s lives as we are sharing the kerygma. Many studies and demographics could be examined to identify the existentialneeds that modern humanity experiences within. This paper will limit itself to twosources that examine the experiences and perspectives of youth and young adults inAmerica. Of course, this cursory look does not attempt to make claims about a primaryor defining existential need within all of humanity. It only serves to point to prominentfelt needs among this demographic. The University of California—Los Angeles is in the process of conducting anextensive study of the spirituality of college students. In preparation for the study, theresearchers facilitated focus groups in order to guide the formulation of their surveys.Questions that flowed from these discussions included: • What is the meaning of college? • What am I going to do with my life? • How will I know I am going in the “right” way? • What kind of person do I want to be? • How am I going to leave my mark when I finally pass away.16 Gerald O’Collins, S.J.; Christology (Oxford: Oxford, 1995) 280. 8
  10. 10. The study began in 2004 when more than 112,000 first-year undergraduatestudents from all over the United States responded to surveys regarding their presentspirituality. It produced copious amounts of data regarding the spirituality of first-yearcollege students. Figure 1 shows some of the results. Figure 1: Results relating to college students’ spirituality17 75% Searching for meaning/purpose in life 74% Feel a sense of connection with a higher being that transcends self 63% Disagree with the notion that “people who don’t believe in God will be punished” 56% Perceive God as “love” or “creator” <50% Feel “secure” in their religious views 49% Perceive God as “protector” Clearly, a search for meaning and purpose defines a large majority of first-yearstudents in the surveyed population. Both the initial focus group questions and the studypointed strongly to this search for meaning. These young adults are concerned withfinding the “right” path in life and with leaving a mark on history when they pass away.In the midst of this search, most of the students feel a connection to a divine presencebeyond themselves. Interestingly, however, many of the students are unsure about thenature of this presence. Slightly more than half would describe God as “love” or“creator” – and less than half as “protector.” This seems to indicate some confusion onthe nature of God from the perspective of Christian kerygma. When combined with the17Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA, Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of CollegeStudents’ Search for Meaning and Purpose. This study is available online athttp://www.spirituality.ucla.edu/spirituality/reports/FINAL%20EXEC%20SUMMARY.pdf 9
  11. 11. results showing that less than 50% of the students feel secure in their religious views, thisdata shows a real opportunity for sharing the Good News of Christianity. However, ifthe kerygma is only presented as addressing humanity’s separation from God as a resultof sin, much of the student population will be unresponsive. The study revealed that74% of the students feel a connection with a higher being. The opportunity lies, instead,in addressing the people’s search for meaning, purpose, and God’s identity. Christian Smith, a sociologist with the University of Notre Dame, has doneextensive research on the relationship of youth and religion. His work points to the lifeangst that youth experience as a driving existential force among teens. Sociologically, hepoints out that religion responds to these challenges by “enhancing well-being and thelife capacities of youth.” 18 He says that religion has Good News to offer this teen angst.His conclusions are that such practices as prayer, meditation, confession, and smallgroup sharing serve as resources to address teen trials. Furthermore, belief in a loving,omnipotent God that is in control of one’s life is of great comfort to many. Otherhelpful religious beliefs are that all things work together for good, God understands andshares in one’s suffering, ultimately good is rewarded and evil punished, and God givesstrength to confront and overcome injustice. He says that whereas a secular maximmight offer “it will all work out in the end,” religion offers “nothing can separate youfrom the love of God.” Whereas popular culture offers books such as “Chicken Soupfor the Teenage Soul,” religion offers the opportunity to participate in “millennia-year-old” liturgy along with countless youth. Thus, Smith concludes that religion may provide18Christian Smith, “Theorizing Religious Effects Among American Adolescents” (Journal for the ScientificStudy of Religion 42:1; 2003) 23. 10
  12. 12. American teens with more effective coping mechanisms for navigating through life’sstresses and problems.19 The U.C.L.A. study and the analysis by Smith highlight the power of “boundaryexperiences” and “limit questions.” Boundary experiences plunge us below the surfaceof everyday life as we realize the limits of our existence and come into more explicitcontact with the mystery. 20 Examples of boundary experiences are death, suffering,saying goodbye, accepting new opportunities, moving away from home to college, orchanging grades in high school. Limit questions, much like boundary experiences, move us to a deeper level toencounter mystery. Unlike boundary experiences, however, they arise out of our normal,everyday lives.21 An example of a limit question might be a college student whowonders, in the midst of walking to class, if there is more to life than success in makingmoney for herself and others. A teenager, also, might experience the limit question ofwhy he cares so much about what his friends think of him. These questions probedeeper than the life he or she currently experiences and beyond the individual’s capacitiesfor problem solving. They probe the mystery of human transcendence and fulfillment. A modern kerygma would do well to be shaped in a way that brings people intocontact with their own boundary experiences and limit questions. It is in these momentsthat people have already come face-to-face with their finitude. In the same way, theperson has also discovered their transcendence in being able to think beyond the limits19 Smith, p. 24.20 John Haught; The Revelation of God in History (St. John, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1988) Chapter 5.21 Ibid. Haught refers his readers to David Tracy’s work, Blessed Rage for Order [New York: The SeaburyPress, 1975], pp. 91-118. 11
  13. 13. of their life and experience. To probe these experiences and engage these questions is towrestle with realities beyond our lives—an obvious doorway to the Gospel.Modern Versions of Kerygma In the 20th century, several Catholic thinkers have reshaped the Christian messagein order to better suit modern concerns and needs. Thomas Merton conveys a versionof kerygma that flows out of his personal struggles prior to becoming a Christian.Johannes Hofinger was a Jesuit theologian and a leader in the post-Vatican II catecheticalrenewal. He proposed a new approach to catechesis that focused and flowed out of theChristian kerygma. Finally, Karl Rahner’s whole theological project was to outline asystematic theology that would be salient to modern ears. His conceptualizations of thehuman existential need and of the good news of the Gospel are, therefore, very usefulfor this project. Thomas Merton’s conversion came in the midst of a boundary experience. Hebecame very ill and in the midst of the sickness, reevaluated his life. He realized that forall his searching for satisfaction, he remained defeated. But Thomas says that in hisdefeat was ultimate victory. Figure 2 shows a version of Christian kerygma that Thomassuggests as a result of this experience.Figure 2: A Version of Kerygma from Thomas Merton22 1 By itself, human nature is unable to settle its most important problems. 2 God didn’t create humans ordered toward themselves, they are ordered to a supernatural life.22 Merton, Thomas; Seven Story Mountain (Orlando: Harcourt, 1976) p. 169-170. 12
  14. 14. 3 This supernatural life is given to us as grace. It is God’s own life that we are allowed by God to share. 4 Christ draws us to himself so that we can share in God’s life. 5 The Church was established by Christ so that we might lead one another to Christ. Merton compares the human soul to a crystal left in darkness. He says that thecrystal is perfect in its own nature as it sits in the darkness. However, only when lightshines on it is it fulfilled because it finally becomes what it was truly created to be.23Merton’s kerygma hinges on the deep questions humans face and their orientation to thesupernatural life. It does not depend on a person’s understanding sin as the obstacle totheir connection with God. Johannes Hofinger presented another path of kerygma within his catecheticalwork. Hofinger’s kerygma came to the Church as he argued that the proclamation ofkerygma should be at the forefront of the catechetical task. He urged catechists to begintheir catechesis with a compelling invitation to the Gospel. Hofinger insisted thatcatechesis should not assume an initial act of faith, but should invite students to it beforeteaching other tenets of faith. Figure 3 shows the Good News as laid out by Hofinger.Figure 3: Hofinger’s kerygma24 1 Christ reveals the Father’s loving plan for humans. 2 The Father set us free from the slavery of sin, law, and death through the Passion and Resurrection of his Son. 3 The Father calls us now to the freedom of His very children. 4 With his Son, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to help us to live as his true children. 5 The Holy Spirit helps us to respond appropriately to this call.23 Ibid., p. 170.24 Johannes Hofinger, S.J.; Our Message is Christ (Notre Dame: Fides, 1974) p. 9. 13
  15. 15. It is obvious that Hofinger’s kerygma includes sin as part of the schema, but theoverall Good News does not rely on it as a hinge. In the traditional post-reformationalschema, remedying sin is easily construed as the sole impetus for the life, death, andresurrection of Christ. Hofinger’s kerygma, while wonderfully mentioning thesubsequent victories of the Christ event in history, hinges on the Father’s loving plan forhumanity. In this, Hofinger follows Irenaeus and others in Christian tradition, whoemphasize that Christ vindicates the Father’s plan for creation and proves the Father’slove for and goodwill toward his creation.25 It seems that Hofinger is addressing asimilar existential need as Irenaeus, namely, the threat of ignorance regarding theCreator’s intentions. Christ reveals, definitively, that creation and all of history are mostaccurately seen as part of the Father’s loving plan for humanity. This salvific truth givesmeaning and hope to those who feel confused and abandoned. The Father has a lovingplan for them individually. The encouraging words of Jeremiah 29:11 can find a homewithin this kerygma, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans toprosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Another approach to the Christian kerygma can be seen in the work of KarlRahner. His great Foundations of Christian Faith was written in order “to reach a renewedunderstanding of this (Christian) message” and “as far as possible to situate Christianitywithin the intellectual horizon of people today.”26 This work does not offer anenumerated or even succinct kerygma, but does provide helpful windows of insight intohuman need and redemption.25 Against Heresies, III.XX.2, “…that He might accustom man to receive God, and God to dwell in man,according to the good pleasure of the Father.”26 Karl Rahner, S.J.; Foundations of Christian Faith (New York: Crossroad, 2000) xi. The parentheses aremine. 14
  16. 16. Rahner notices that modern people do not seem to be concerned with sin or theneed for justification. He thinks one reason for this is that modern social sciences haveoffered thousands of ways of unmasking guilt as a false taboo. 27 Rahner says that ratherthan blaming humanity for the misery and absurdity of the world, modern people blameGod and demand that he justify the situation. For modern people, God is the one whois in need of “justification.” He is the one who is the cause of the world’s condition. So,even though a person might experience fragility, finitude, and confusion in realizing thegap between who he is and who he should be, these emotions are seen as a part of theworld’s absurdity and something for which God is ultimately responsible.28 As C.S.Lewis also noticed, God is in the dock and on trial for modern humans.29 One of Rahner’s concerns is with the Anselmian explanation of redemption. Heworries about the idea of a removed God needing satisfaction for sin before communionis possible. For Rahner, this puts God at too great a distance from humanity, even asGod saves humanity. Rahner’s theology of redemption emphasizes God’s closenessprior to and especially through his redemption of humanity. For Rahner, God is separate from humanity in that he is ineffable mystery, butthis God is also within individual humans as their deepest reality and source of being.Because of God’s presence, humans experience themselves as transcending themselvesthrough their life experiences and emotions. They reach beyond themselves when theyquestion the world in which they live. They experience both anxiety and joy that seem tosurpass their own understanding. They feel compelled by moral obligations that move27 Ibid., p. 9128 Ibid., p. 92.29 See Lewis’s essay, “God in the Dock” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970). 15
  17. 17. them out of themselves. Finally, and perhaps most poignant of all, humans experiencetheir transcendence in the experience of absolute powerlessness in death.30 Thesemoments show humans that they are not defined by or completely at home in a lifedefined by the five senses—they are driven deeper. These transcendental experiences arecrucial to humans because they have the potential to reveal God’s presence in their livesand in their very being. When a person remembers one of these experiences and has thecourage to look into its depths to its ultimate truth, she can see this experience as anevent of God’s self-communication (grace). This means that these experiences don’t justreveal the presence of an impersonal “higher power,” but that they have the potential tobe God’s personal, intimate communication.31 Like Merton, Rahner sees humanemptiness as God’s creative intention and desire that they find fulfillment in his self-communication, i.e. the life of grace. Humans need to see and receive God’s life in theirlife experiences in order to fill their emptiness. God created humanity with this need forsalvation so that the fullness of God could save them.32 The definitive statement of God’s will to save is his definitive self-communication to humanity—Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus, humanity sees a person soopened and filled with God so as to actually be God. Jesus shows humanity God’sintention of closeness and ultimate plan of divinization. He definitively reveals God’swill to save humanity and draw them to their ultimate homeland of sharing in God’s lifefor eternity. Furthermore, he shows that this communion can and should happen withinearthly life. Jesus proclaims this communion as the Kingdom of God and says that this30 Rahner; Foundations, p. 70.31 Rahner, Foundations, p. 132.32 Rahner, Foundations, p. 123. 16
  18. 18. Kingdom is at hand. He embodies this communion; he embodies the Kingdom. He isthe very message of closeness that he preaches. In Jesus, God and humanity becomeone in perfect communion. The radical freedom of humanity makes them able to form themselves definitelyin or against God’s life of grace and this offer of communion. The life and death ofJesus is a life lived out of a continual embrace of God’s presence—a life completelyoriented toward this transcendental reality within himself. This orientation is tested andbrought to fruition, ultimately, in his submission to death on the cross. The cross revealsJesus’ fundamental openness and obedience to the Father’s will, only possible out of hisprior life of obedience and conversion. This prior obedience definitively formed Jesusfor this radical act of surrender. As a result, Jesus became our sacrament of salvation.He reveals humanity’s salvation while at the same time accomplishing that which hereveals. In receiving the divine offer and revelation of salvation in Jesus, humans acceptthe presence of God in the depths of their being (transcendence) and orient their livestoward receiving God’s loving self-communication in all of their experiences. Throughthis life of surrender and openness, they follow Jesus and, like Jesus, are increasinglyfilled with, and definitively defined by the very life of the Trinity. Given this brief explanation of Rahner’s schema of salvation, Figure 4 is anattempt to outline a formula for Rahner’s version of kerygma. 17
  19. 19. Figure 4: Karl Rahner’s kerygma 1 Humans are created with God at their deepest core and with an awareness of reality beyond the corporeal.33 2 Humans were created to be fulfilled by God alone, by orienting themselves to a continual acceptance of God’s self-communication through life’s experiences.34 3 Humanity would not know that God desires to be so close as to continually speak to his creation through their ordinary and extraordinary experiences, unless God chose to reveal this. 4 Christ embodies and reveals the radical closeness of God to humanity—truly God and truly man. 5 Christ’s life, death, and resurrection cause God’s salvific will in the world by making it historically present, and therefore, irrevocably offered to humanity. 6 God calls humanity to receive and become God’s closeness by accepting God’s irrevocable call to closeness in the person of Jesus. 7 This acceptance takes place through the concrete love for the God- man, Jesus Christ. This concrete encounter and relationship with the man Jesus, opens the individual person to God’s infinity and becomes an initiation into the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.35 8 Through a personal relationship with Christ and the resulting entering into the mysteries of his existence, humans follow Christ and accept God’s self-communication as the fundamental orientation of their life. 9 Through this orientation, initiated and sustained by God, a Christian is filled with God’s life and eventually enjoys eternity with God.Obviously, Rahner’s kerygma is not as straight-forward as Merton’s or Hofinger’s.However, contained within his system are insights that will complement their simplerversion. What follows is an attempt to move toward a version of kerygma that might beuseful to people when the opportunity arises to share the hope they have Christ.33 Rahner, Foundations, p. 310.34 Ibid., p. 123.35 Ibid., pp. 310-311. 18
  20. 20. Toward a Concise, Useable, Modern Kerygma This following version of the Christian kerygma is informed by the threeaforementioned versions of kerygma. Rather than taking the form of enumeration, thiskerygma’s shape is that of an image. The image is colored in by different truths of theGospel, using the experiences of the listener. In this way, this mode of sharing theGospel can be dialogical, relying on the individual’s personal experiences to give it life.The more the evangelist can lay her experiences on the table in the conversation, themore effectively she can show the Gospel to be a beautiful blanket that covers theexperiences and draws them together. Using the findings of the U.C.L.A. study, the work of Christian Smith, and theBarna Research Group, this version of kerygma most directly addresses sin as alienation(identity of God) and absurdity (absence of meaning/purpose). This kerygma is shapedso as to allow the evangelist to incorporate his own stories and experiences. It also isintended to elicit responses from the listener that drive the conversation deeper as itprogresses. Obviously, this thrust lies in Rahner’s belief that God’s self-communicationis present in all of our experiences. As experiences are shared, God’s presence willimplicitly be recalled, further preparing for the Good News of Christ. Following Mertonand Rahner, this kerygma’s starting point is the person. One could use God as thestarting point, as does Hofinger. I chose, however, to start with the person in order toensure a conversational tone. However, by emphasizing the ambiguity of God’s identityapart from Christ, this message picks up Hofinger and Rahner’s concern that the Father’slove and care for creation be revealed in Christ. In Christ, also, the waters of life areshown not to be hostile to our existence, but rather the very means of nourishing God’s 19
  21. 21. life within us. This kerygma also relies on what Rahner calls the “supernaturalexistential.” That is, the fundamental orientation of the human person toward theinfinite horizon (God). In this illustration, the vessel knows that a harbor exists andwants to orient itself toward it. However, only in Christ is the direction clear. The end of this kerygma leads to an opportunity for the person to open their lifeto Christ’s presence. Christ’s desire to be near is conveyed, but also the freedom thatRahner emphasizes. Throughout the illustration, the decision to be near to Christremains solely that of the subject. Though God offers himself in Christ, the person isalways free to reject the offer. This kerygma attempts to compel the listener to sayingyes by showing the beauty of being near to Christ. Being close to Christ, in this kerygma,promises direction, purpose, meaning, satisfaction, wisdom, etc. Also retained in thisillustration is the initiative of God in bringing a person to salvation.Kerygma of V.O.Y.A.J.E. Pat 1) Vessel. - This is us—our person—being. ? Who are you? (write down some answers on the boat) 20
  22. 22. Pat New job Birth Grandpa High Died School2) Outside the Boat- This is our life and all of our experiences. ? What are some major events from your life? ? Tough events? ? Joyful events? (put the events under different types of waves)3) Yearn for answers to life’s questions. ? What are some questions that people have about their life? o Why am I here? Who am I? Is there a purpose to my life? ? Do you know anyone who has asked themselves these types of questions? There are a lot of threats and unanswered questions about the voyage. ? What’s under the water? ? Can I drink the water? ? How deep is the water? ? What else would be unknown about the water? Pat New jobBirth Grandpa High Died School Support Source Strength4) The Answer to all our questions.- God is the ground of our being. 21
  23. 23. ? What do you think this means? (write some answers under the ground line) Safe Harbor fog Pat New jobBirth Grandpa High Died School Support Source StrengthThe boat is on its way to the Harbor – not out to sea forever. The same is true forhumans. Eventually, the boat is going to land in the Safe Harbor if it goes in theright direction. ? What do you suppose the Safe Harbor represents?- can’t see it for sure, but feel like there’s land out there o this is the supernatural existential for Rahner – or Merton’s idea of being created for the supernatural life.- But a sort of fog blinds humanity from seeing the harbor or from knowing that it for sure exists. ? Have you ever doubted that heaven or God exists? ? What are some things that lead people to doubt the existence of God or heaven? (write these things in the fog)- Know the answer exists, but still have questions. o How far away is the harbor, in what direction? o How deep is the water, how far away is the ground (sea bottom)? ? How to people react to being far from God? Safe Harbor fog Pat New jobBirth Grandpa High Died School Support Source Strength 22
  24. 24. 5) Jesus - Walks on water, shows that it’s safe. - Drinks it and is satisfied. - Shows confidence and victory over whatever might be in the water. - Shows concern and resolve to help us in any way that he can. - Sometimes our life experiences help us to see that there is more to life than what our 5 senses can perceive. - Shows us how to experience God in all of our life experiences. We realize God’s presence with us in some of our experiences. (Draw the ground coming above the water to form a little island around that experience.) a. Has this ever happened to you? Just as an island is a sort of taste of the land at the safe harbor, these experiences can give us foretastes of God and even heaven. Even in the midst of sadness and misery, we can realize that we are eternally cared for.Transition to more direct Theology, using images already present. 1) God has revealed himself in history – but only periodically and only from a distance – like out of the fog. 2) Do you think some people feel that God is far away from them? How do they react to this? b. They still have a lot of questions – don’t know much about the water (their life) and how to direct their vessel toward the Harbor. c. They’ve just been told that a Harbor exists – only half-believe it. d. They keep their distance and do what they want e. They feel meaninglessness in their life. f. They don’t believe in God anymore. 3) What was needed was for God to just tell humanity that he is close to them, right? He did better than that—he told humanity by becoming human. 23
  25. 25. g. Jesus is the picture of how close God wants to be to humans. He wants to be one with them. Just as a husband and a wife are joined together, God wants to be joined with humanity. He shows us this perfectly in Jesus. i. He walks in the water (what does this show us about our lives and about God? 1. Water is not deep – God is close to us 2. Can drink water and taste God 3. Victory over any threats that might be in the waters of our lives 4) Jesus doesn’t just want to show us what to do with our lives (the water), but wants to guide us to the Harbor. Asks if we want him to be with us in our boat. a. Won’t just climb in, waits to be invited. b. Will show how to see the Harbor in life’s experiences. See this high school experience you had, here’s where I was showing myself to you… c. Will help you get through – or even overcome – the storms of life that hit you. 5) This is the good news. Each of us is on our way somewhere. God wants to guide us to his harbor of heaven to be with him forever. Jesus shows us that God is not far off while we’re on our voyage. God is actively close. Receiving Jesus into our boat is the way to salvation: 6) Our most fundamental questions are answered 7) The meaning within our lives becomes clear 8) The way to the harbor is revealed definitivelyConclusion This paper attempted to show the need to adapt the modern Christian kerygmafor the culture. In order for the Good News to be good news, it must address needs thatare truly felt by the culture. The studies quoted here hint that people in Americanculture do not strongly relate to the idea of personal sin separating humanity from God.However, they do feel the ramifications of sin in their lack of purpose and meaning.They also feel it in their confusion regarding God’s nature. The Acts of the Apostlesdemonstrates the need to shape Christian kerygma from the earliest sermons of 24
  26. 26. Christianity. Merton, Hofinger, and Rahner showed us examples of shaping kerygma inthe twentieth century. Finally, I have outlined some guiding principles for modernkerygma and a model that attempts to incorporate these guidelines. Whatever itsweaknesses, it is an attempt to engage the data and theological conclusions contained inthis project. One can hope that Christians will continue to explore how to engage theworld with the Christian message in a relevant way. People may no longer be as open tomessages preached from street corners, but they remain very open to thoughtfulconversations that reflect their experiences of the world. 25
  27. 27. BibliographyBarna, George. “Most Adults Feel Accepted By God, But Lack a Biblical Worldview.” http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=194Brown, Raymond, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, Roland Edmund Murphy. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall: Penguin Putnam. 1990.Haught, John. The Revelation of God in History. St. John, Minnesota: Liturgical Press. 1988.Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA. Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose. http://www.spirituality.ucla.edu/spirituality/reports/Hofinger, Johannes, S.J. Our Message is Christ. Notre Dame: Fides. 1974.Irenaeus. Against Heresies.Paul VI, Pope. Evangelii Nuntiandi. 1975.John Paul II, Pope. Redemptoris Missio. 1987.Kistemaker, Simon J. “The Speeches in Acts.” Criswell Theological Review. 1990.Mays, James L. HarperCollins Bible Commentary. San Francisco: HarperCollins. 2000.Merton, Thomas. Seven Story Mountain. Orlando: Harcourt. 1976.O’Collins, Gerald, S.J. Christology. Oxford: Oxford. 1995.Rahner, Karl, S.J. Foundations of Christian Faith. New York: Crossroad. 2000.Rahner, Karl, S.J. and Karl Lehmann. Kerygma and Dogma. New York: Herder and Herder. 1969.Smith, Christian. “Theorizing Religious Effects Among American Adolescents.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion; 42:1. 2003. 26

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