Karl Rahner

Karl Rahner

Karl Rahner, SJ (March 5, 1904 — March 30, 1984) was a German theologian, one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century.

He was born in Freiburg, Germany, and died in Innsbruck, Austria.

His theology influenced the Second Vatican Council and was ground-breaking for the development of what is generally seen as the modern understanding of Catholicism. 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 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., Moltmann) have found his teaching to tend strongly in a Modalist direction.Fact|date=September 2007 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, but is present now in seed-form as grace.

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 to describe this experience as "transcendental."

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.

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".

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. This is the foundation of his notion of Anonymous Christian.

Thomas Aquinas is among the most important influences on Rahner's theology and philosophy, always interpreted by Rahner through the lens of contemporary continental philosophy. Rahner also attended lectures by Heidegger in the University of Freiburg.

Further reading

*"The SPCK Introduction to Karl Rahner" by Karen Kilby (SPCK: London, forthcoming, April 2007) ISBN 978-02810-5842-6

External links

* [http://www.krs.stjohnsem.edu/ Karl Rahner Society] with Biography and Bibliography
* [http://www.ub.uni-freiburg.de/referate/04/rahner/rahnerma.htm Bibliographical aids]
* [http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes_800_rahner.htm Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology: Karl Rahner]
*worldcat id|id=lccn-n79-66426

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