It may indeed be true that within the network of human relationships it is impossible for each individual to know everything that is necessary and useful for life and that, therefore, our possibilities for action are based on the fact that we ourselves participate by faith in the knowledge of others. Nevertheless, we remain all the time within the sphere of human knowledge that is always in principle accessible to all men.
When, however, we speak of faith in revelation, we pass beyond the boundaries of that knowledge which is typical of human life. Even if the hypothesis could be granted that the existence of God could become an object of ‘knowledge’, at least revelation and its contents would remain an object of faith for each one of us, something that surpasses those realities that are accessible to our knowledge.
Consequently, in this field there is no one in whom we could put our trust or to whose specialized knowledge we could refer, since no one could have a direct knowledge of such realities on the basis of his own personal studies.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 83-4
Reflection – Ratzinger here is referring to the point, undeniable once it is made, that all of us live by faith to some degree, because all of us take the word of others for all sorts of things. None of us has personally proved every scientific hypothesis that we believe to be true, and every time we step foot outside our door we take a leap of faith that all the people driving the roads are neither homicidal or suicidal, and most possess at least minimal driving competence. And so on and so forth—human life really is a tissue of faith, supplemented by direct knowledge.
But there is a difference, and Ratzinger is happy to point it out, between this human species of faith and faith in God and in Christ. All the human data we accept on faith we could indeed find out for ourselves, given enough time and talent. But who God is, what life is about in its essence, whether or not that which has been given us in the Scriptures is true—no amount of human probing and searching can quite get us there, can it? As Ratzinger says, there is no expert, no one with direct knowledge here.
And so in matters religious, in matters pertaining to the essential and absolute questions of life, we are (it seems to me) thrust into radical faith, into a radical choice to take the word of Another—some Word of some Other at any rate—and go with it, live by it. It seems to me that this is unavoidable and undeniable.
To suspend a decision on these matters is to make a decision. To say, I cannot know, and no human being can really know, and so I will hold back from any definite belief, is to say essentially that it doesn’t really matter much anyhow. And to say that is to make every bit as radical a statement about reality as any religious person would ever make.
And so we are confronted by the necessity of faith, not only in the web of human relationships that surround us each day, but in the absolute meaning and value of life. We must commit ourselves to some course of action that by definition we cannot prove to be the right one. To make no commitment is to make a commitment that is every bit as absolute and radical, and every bit as unfounded.
Faith—no way around it! I have chosen, for reasons I have detailed before on this blog, to live by the faith revealed in Catholic Christianity. What’s your choice?