A Scholar’s Faith

Rodin, The Thinker

The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner was once asked in a radio interview why some people didn’t experience God.  His response: ‘I don’t believe you; I just don’t accept that. You have had, perhaps, no experience of God under this precise code-word God, but you have had or have now an experience of God—and I am convinced that this is true of every person.’

Many scholars, especially those in the hard sciences and social sciences, are declared atheists.  Yet these same people can be the most tireless questioners, bringing a sense of wonder to the physical and human worlds.  And there is a universal truth here: no scholar has ever said, “ah, that’s it.  We’ve answered all the questions.  We’ve figured it all out.  Let’s go home.”  Underneath the attitude of the scholar is fundamentally the posture of wonder, the experience of desire.

That’s one thing I mean when I use the word “God.”

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Tim Muldoon
Tim Muldoon is the author of a number of books, including The Ignatian Workout and Living Against the Grain, and teaches in the Department of Philosophy at Boston College.


  1. Would love to have seen the face of the radio interviewer when Fr. Rahner gave this beautiful explanation! And his comments about the scientists are so true – if they came to a point where they could truly say that they’ve discovered everything there is to discover, then maybe the case for a non-God believer could be made. But their continued pursuit of more knowledge is a tacit acknowledgment that a higher intellect, at the very least, laid out a very complex world, and He is waiting to see how much/when we will discover it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bob. But just to clarify: I’m quoting Rahner in the first paragraph above, and the second paragraph is my own commentary on Rahner’s words.


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