Karl Rahner

Karl Rahner

Overview
Karl Rahner, SJ
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 (March 5, 1904 — March 30, 1984) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Jesuit and theologian who, alongside Bernard Lonergan
Bernard Lonergan
Fr. Bernard J.F. Lonergan, CC, SJ was a Canadian Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian widely regarded as one of the most important Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century....

 and Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss theologian and priest who was nominated to be a cardinal of the Catholic Church...

, is considered one of the most influential Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 theologians
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 of the 20th century. He was the brother of Hugo Rahner
Hugo Rahner
Hugo Rahner, was a German Jesuit, Theologian, * 3 May 1900 in Pfullendorf , † 21 December 1968 in Munich. He was Dean and President of Innsbruck University and the elder brother of Karl Rahner.-Early life :...

.

He was born in Freiburg
Freiburg
Freiburg im Breisgau is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In the extreme south-west of the country, it straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and died in Innsbruck
Innsbruck
- Main sights :- Buildings :*Golden Roof*Kaiserliche Hofburg *Hofkirche with the cenotaph of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor*Altes Landhaus...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

.

Before the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

, Rahner had worked alongside Yves Congar
Yves Congar
Yves Marie Joseph Congar was a French Dominican cardinal and theologian.-Early life:Born in Sedan, in northeast France, in 1904, Congar's home was occupied by the Germans for much of World War I...

, Henri de Lubac
Henri de Lubac
Henri-Marie de Lubac, SJ was a French Jesuit priest who became a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century...

 and Marie-Dominique Chenu
Marie-Dominique Chenu
Marie-Dominique Chenu was a progressive Roman Catholic theologian and a founder of the reformist journal Concilium. He entered the French Province of the Dominican Order in 1913. His earlier theological work was on St. Thomas Aquinas, employing an historical method...

, theologians associated with an emerging school of thought called the Nouvelle Théologie
Nouvelle Théologie
Nouvelle Théologie is the name commonly used to refer to a school of thought in Catholic theology that arose in the mid-20th century, most notably among certain circles of French and German theologians...

, elements of which had been criticized in the encyclical Humani Generis
Humani Generis
Humani generis is a papal encyclical that Pope Pius XII promulgated on 12 August 1950 "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine"...

of Pope Pius XII.

His theology influenced the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 and was ground-breaking for the development of what is generally seen as the modern understanding of Catholicism
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

.

Written near the end of his life, Rahner's Foundations of Christian Faith (Grundkurs des Glaubens) is the most developed and systematic of his works, most of which were published in the form of essays.

Among the most important of his essays was The Trinity, in which he argues that "the economic Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

 is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity".
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Quotations

Grace is everywhere as an active orientation of all created reality toward God.

Encyclopedia
Karl Rahner, SJ
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 (March 5, 1904 — March 30, 1984) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Jesuit and theologian who, alongside Bernard Lonergan
Bernard Lonergan
Fr. Bernard J.F. Lonergan, CC, SJ was a Canadian Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian widely regarded as one of the most important Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century....

 and Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss theologian and priest who was nominated to be a cardinal of the Catholic Church...

, is considered one of the most influential Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 theologians
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 of the 20th century. He was the brother of Hugo Rahner
Hugo Rahner
Hugo Rahner, was a German Jesuit, Theologian, * 3 May 1900 in Pfullendorf , † 21 December 1968 in Munich. He was Dean and President of Innsbruck University and the elder brother of Karl Rahner.-Early life :...

.

He was born in Freiburg
Freiburg
Freiburg im Breisgau is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In the extreme south-west of the country, it straddles the Dreisam river, at the foot of the Schlossberg. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Breisgau region on the western edge of the Black Forest in the Upper Rhine Plain...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and died in Innsbruck
Innsbruck
- Main sights :- Buildings :*Golden Roof*Kaiserliche Hofburg *Hofkirche with the cenotaph of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor*Altes Landhaus...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

.

Before the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

, Rahner had worked alongside Yves Congar
Yves Congar
Yves Marie Joseph Congar was a French Dominican cardinal and theologian.-Early life:Born in Sedan, in northeast France, in 1904, Congar's home was occupied by the Germans for much of World War I...

, Henri de Lubac
Henri de Lubac
Henri-Marie de Lubac, SJ was a French Jesuit priest who became a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and is considered to be one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century...

 and Marie-Dominique Chenu
Marie-Dominique Chenu
Marie-Dominique Chenu was a progressive Roman Catholic theologian and a founder of the reformist journal Concilium. He entered the French Province of the Dominican Order in 1913. His earlier theological work was on St. Thomas Aquinas, employing an historical method...

, theologians associated with an emerging school of thought called the Nouvelle Théologie
Nouvelle Théologie
Nouvelle Théologie is the name commonly used to refer to a school of thought in Catholic theology that arose in the mid-20th century, most notably among certain circles of French and German theologians...

, elements of which had been criticized in the encyclical Humani Generis
Humani Generis
Humani generis is a papal encyclical that Pope Pius XII promulgated on 12 August 1950 "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine"...

of Pope Pius XII.

Work


His theology influenced the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 and was ground-breaking for the development of what is generally seen as the modern understanding of Catholicism
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

.

Foundations of Christian Faith


Written near the end of his life, Rahner's Foundations of Christian Faith (Grundkurs des Glaubens) is the most developed and systematic of his works, most of which were published in the form of essays.

Economic and Immanent Trinity


Among the most important of his essays was The Trinity, in which he argues that "the economic Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

 is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity". That is to say, God communicates Himself to humanity ("economic" Trinity) as He really is in the divine Life ("immanent" Trinity).

Although Rahner was emphatic that the identity between "economic" Trinity and "immanent" Trinity does not lead to Modalism, because God could not communicate Himself to humanity as threefold (dreifaltige) unless He were threefold in reality, some (e.g., Jürgen Moltmann
Jürgen Moltmann
Jürgen Moltmann is a German Reformed theologian. The 2000 recipient of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.-Moltmann's Youth:...

) have found his teaching to tend strongly in a Modalist direction.

God's self-communication


Rahner maintained that the fulfillment of human existence consists in receiving God's self-communication, and that the human being is actually constituted by this divine self-communication. This reception of God is only full or complete at the end of time in the beatific vision
Beatific vision
The beatific vision - in Christian theology is the ultimate direct self communication of God to the individual person, when she or he reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven...

, but is present now in seed-form as grace
Actual grace
Actual grace is, in Roman Catholic theology, a share in God's life. It is contrasted with sanctifying grace, which is a state of being that can be permanent, in that it consists only in a passing influence of God on the soul....

.

Transfinalization


Rahner was a critic of substance theory
Substance theory
Substance theory, or substance attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood, positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears....

 and was concerned about the finality
Finality
Finality may refer to:* Extrinsic finality* Intrinsic finality* Finality...

 of liturgy. He proposed instead to re-name transubstantiation
Transubstantiation
In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood, respectively, of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.The Eastern Orthodox...

 into transfinalization. However, this theory was rejected as heretical by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei
Mysterium Fidei (Encyclical)
Mysterium Fidei is an encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI on the Eucharist, published in September 1965.Mysterium Fidei was issued just as the closing session of the Second Vatican Council was beginning. Written in a stern and troubled tone, its purpose was to counter certain theological movements...

.

Awareness of God



The basis for Rahner's theology is that all human beings have a latent ("unthematic") awareness of God in any experiences of limitation in knowledge or freedom as finite subjects. Because such experience is the "condition of possibility" for knowledge and freedom as such, Rahner borrows the language of Kant
KANT
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

 to describe this experience as "categorical."

Such is the extent of Rahner's idea of the "natural knowledge of God" — what can be known by reason prior to the advent of "special" revelation. God is only approached asymptotically, in the mode of what Rahner calls "absolute mystery." While one may try to furnish proofs for God's existence, these explicit proofs ultimately refer to the inescapable orientation towards Mystery which constitute — by transcendental necessity — the very nature of the human being.

Incarnation-grace


For Rahner at the heart of Christian doctrine is the co-reality of Incarnation-grace. Incarnation and grace appear as technical terms to describe the central message of the Gospel: God has communicated Himself. The self-communication of God is crucial in Rahner's view: grace is not something other than God, not some celestial 'substance,' but God Himself. The event of Jesus Christ is, according to Rahner, the center-point of the self-communication of God. God, insists Rahner, does not only communicate Himself from without; rather, grace is the constitutive element both of the objective reality of revelation (the incarnate Word) and the subjective principle of our hearing (the Holy Spirit). Thus grace lies at both sides — without and within.

Mode of grace


Rahner's particular interpretation of the mode in which grace makes itself present is that grace is a permanent modification of human nature in a supernatural existential (a phrase borrowed from Heidegger). Grace is perceived in light of Christianity as a constitutive element of human existence. For this reason, Rahner denies the possibility of a state of pure nature (natura pura, human existence without being-involved with grace), which according to him is a counterfactual.

Anonymous Christianity


Anonymous Christianity is the theological concept that declares that people who have never heard the Christian Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 might be saved through Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

.

Inspiration for this idea sometimes comes from the Second Vatican Council's Lumen Gentium
Lumen Gentium
Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council. This dogmatic constitution was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, following approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,151 to 5...

, which teaches that those "who no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation".

Rahner's development of the idea preceded the Council, and became more insistent after it received its dogmatic formulation. Non-Christians could have "in [their] basic orientation and fundamental decision," Rahner wrote, "accepted the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although [they] may never have heard of the Christian revelation." His writings on the subject were somewhat related to his views about the mode of grace.

Language about God: Univocity and equivocation


Like others of his generation, Rahner was much concerned with refuting the propositional approach to theology typical of the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

. The alternative he proposes is one where statements about God are always referring back to the original experience of God in mystery. In this sense, language regarding being is analogically predicated of the mystery, inasmuch as the mystery is always present but not in the same way as any determinate possible object of consciousness. Rahner would claim St. Thomas Aquinas as the most important influence on his thought, but also spoke highly of Heidegger as "my teacher," and in his elder years Heidegger used to visit Rahner regularly in Freiburg‎.

Some have noted that the analogy of being is greatly diminished in Rahner's thought. Instead, they claim, equivocal predication dominates much of Rahner's language about God. In this respect, similarity between him and other Thomist-inspired theologians is seen as problematic. Others, however, identify Rahner's primary influence not in Heidegger but in the Neo-Thomists of the early 20th century, especially the writings of Joseph Maréchal
Joseph Maréchal
Joseph Maréchal was a Belgian Jesuit priest, philosopher and psychologist at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the University of Leuven who founded a school of thought called Transcendental Thomism, which attempted to merge the theological and philosophical thought of St...

.

Criticism of Jesusism


Rahner criticized Jesusism
Jesusism
Jesuism is the personal philosophy encompassing the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and commitment or adherence to those teachings. Jesuism is distinct from and sometimes opposed to mainstream Christianity. In particular, the term is often contrasted with the theology attributed to Paul of...

, despite his stated respect for the position. Jesusism, he argues, has "the potential to be theologically dangerous because it allows persons to perceive Jesus as an example of moral values or commitments that can be affirmed independently from this example."

Further reading

  • Egan, Harvey J.; Karl Rahner: Mystic of Everyday Life (Crossroad, 1998)
  • Endean, Philip; Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality (Oxford, 2001)
  • Fischer, Mark F.; The Foundations of Karl Rahner: A Paraphrase of The Foundations of Christian Faith, with Introduction and Indices (Crossroad, 2005), ISBN 0824523423
  • Kilby, Karen; A Brief Introduction to Karl Rahner (Crossroad, 2007)

External links