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Posted on 08/19/2004 10:25:15 AM PDT by lockeliberty

Karl Rahner(1904-1984), one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians today, represents a new direction in post-Vatican II Roman Catholic theology. Though whether he correctly represents it is disputable, it is undoubtedly true that Karl Rahner dominated and shaped the Second Vatican Council, as a major theological force, with a strong support of the German Church.1) Therefore, his evaluation of the Council is absolutely positive and full of praise, while his critics devaluated it as a victory of modernist heretics. Frankly, Rahner accepted his critic's charge as true, for he believed that the Vatican II accepted the spirit of modernism:

"Surely the Council has offered to theology an intensified awareness of problems and a greater leeway for free theological investigation...the Council has begun to see, to recognize the spirit of today's world, that is, of a world which is pluralistic, scientific, technological, of tremendous scope and diversity in knowledge and direction, a world of shattered Christianity, of many religions, a world of a tremendously projected future.2) "

Understanding the Second Vatican Council as the official permission of liberal and modemist theology, Rahner advocated "the courage to change" not only church laws but also doctrines and morals to adapt to the spirit of today.3)

Criticism of Traditional Trinitarianism

Unfortunately, what troubled his mind most was the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, because he thought that it has been so scholastic and meaningless even though the doctrine of the Trinity is supposed to be fruitful and practical as the most central, comprehensive, and ultimate doctrine in the whole Christian system of faith. So, he strongly insisted a liberation from the traditional doctrine of the Trinity:

"Any attempt today to present the Christian doctrine of the Trinity must involve a 'liberation' of the usual traditional propositions from their 'splendid isolation', in which they have been encapsulated in scholastic theology.4) "

Therefore, his doctrine of the Trinity begins with a sharp criticism of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, with a purpose of liberation from it. As a whole, he charged that it failed to make the doctrine of the Trinity "a reality in the concrete life of the faithful," suggesting "the fact that, despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere 'monotheists'."5) Further, he insisted that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity has no ability to appreciate the distinct peculiarity of each person in the Trinity. As evidence, he asks a test question: "Could each of the divine persons(if God freely so decided) have become man?" Of course, his answer is No, while he believes that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity has answered Yes.6) In his mind, he is deeply dissatisfied with the tradition which simply stated that God became man, without a strong exclusivistic emphasis that Logos became man, as if which person became man is not so important. But, it is his intentional misleading that the tradition did not pay attention to the fact that Who became man is the Second Person of the Trinity--God the Son, though it humbly confessed that the mysterious divine decree is the reason why the Second Person came to the world to save us and the factor of the Son's obedience--neither destiny nor necessity--is one of the most important element in his incarnation of grace.7) Moreover, he exaggeratively contends that "Our Father" is addressed indifferently to all three divine persons.8) But, these negative criticisms aim at the conclusion that indifference of persons in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity has wrongly molded Christian spirituality as monotheistic, not trinitarian.

His Grundaxiom of Trinity Doctrine

However, those charges are simply untrue, except the fact that the traditional doctrine of the Trinity does not teach that only the Second Person could and should become man, because it is not a biblically warranted idea. Though, why and how dare Rahner insist that? His purely hypostatic proposition that only the Second Person could and should become man is grounded upon his groundless Grundaxiom of the Trinity that "The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity."9) From the biblical point of view, it is groundless and therefore hardly acceptable. But, his idea of "absolute identity"10) has many followers today.11) There must be some attractive and persuasive elements in this idea. Rahner's own explanation seems rather evangelical: a redemptive-historical approach to the doctrine of the Trinity that the Trinity seen in the salvation history (the economic Trinity) is the real Trinity (the immanent Trinity), and that's all, nothing else. The traditional distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity is, he pointed out, the main source of trinitarian confusion and the principal reason for making the doctrine of the Trinity purely conceptual.12) This is partly true because the total denial of their inter-connection results in the trinitarian agnosticism that we are unable to know anything about the triune God Himself and whatever we know about God is not real but only temporarily functional and fictitious. Then, we cannot know even that God is three-personal, and all of our beliefs in God will be confused and shaken.

However, what I cannot agree with Rahner is his radical idea of exclusively absolute identity between the economic and immanent Trinity. The redemptive-historical approach is fine, but it does not necessarily entail the idea of their absolute identity. Rather, a biblical redemptive-historical approach has to humbly recognize the limitation of our ability and accomodation of divine revelation, both of which are logically consistent. But, he rejects not only the incomprehensibility of God, but also any possibility of unrevealed mystery about God. Simply assuming that the agnostic idea that "The dogma of the Trinity is an absolute mystery which we do not understand even after it has been revealed"13) is the traditional position, he disagrees with it.(His intentional polarization--absolute mystery or no mystery-is not fair, because the traditional position is rather a middle one that we can know God as much as revealed by Himself but it is limited due to our humanity and divine revelation, and therefore there is still much of mystery about God.) To him, "the mystery of the Trinity is the last mystery of our own reality."14) It means that, when it is revealed, it will finally break down all the walls of seperation between two worlds of God and man and then open up a new age when there will be no longer any mystery to us and about us. Therefore, he rejects any distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity, which is based on the humble belief that, due to our creaturely humanity, our knowledqe of God has a definite limitation and therefore God revealed only as much as we need and be able to understand, because he believes that now the Trinity is completely revealed and there is no more unrevealed element about the triune God. Therefore, what we know now is everythinq about the triune God Himself. So, he advocated "a theoloqy of knowledqe" instead of the traditional theology which humbly recognizes its limitation and much mystery still unknown to us, and therefore insisted their absolute identity.15)

Transcendental Anthropology

However, until we find out his stronq philosophical motif behind this, our explanation is incomplete. Rahner's general approach to theoloqy is a philosophical reconstruction of traditional theoloqy rather than its biblical reflection.16) From the Reformed point of view, his theological methodology is outrageous. He scarcely refers to the Scripture, while his dependence on philosophy is excessive. Indeed, he confesses his "almost superstitious respect for philosophy."17). Originally, he wanted to become a professional philosopher. Even though his failure in the pursuit of philosophy changed his career to theology18), it is generally agreed that his philosophy called Transcendental Thomism--especially transcendental anthropology-became the structural foundation and methodological principle for his whole theology.19)

Moreover, it is the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology upon which this transcendental anthropology made its most decisive influence.20) This philosophical anthropology is based upon the belief in the transcendental ability of the human being, that is, human capacity to go beyond human limitation.21) Philosophically, it elevates man to the level of the transcendent God, for its starting point is the presupposition of "Man as Transcendent Being."22) This transcendental method was developed by Kant against the traditional idea that our human knowledge is subjective and relative. To him, human reason was objective and absolute, and the knowing subject(man) was, as a transcendental being, the standard for the certainty of knowledge.23) This anthropo-centric epistemology was adopted by Marechal and Rahner for its theological application. To them, man was created as a spirit who has a transcendental ability that is called "obedient potency," which is the human potentiality to be divine. As Kant endeavored to bridge the gulf between two worlds of noumena and phenomena, Rahner attempted to bridge the gulf between two worlds of God and man. Therefore, Rahner understood the triune God from the humanistic point of view and pantheistic world perspective. In this kind of man-centered theology, all theology becomes a maid for anthropology, and the distinction between God and man is fundamentally blurred out. Therefore, his doctrine of the Trinity is not, frankly speaking, about God but it is the truth about us and our own reality. That is why he named the chapter about the doctrine of the Trinity as "Man as the Event of God's Free and Forgiving Self-Communication" in his Foundations of Christian Faith.24)

Evolutionistic Christology

Therefore, his understanding of the Trinity is based on the radical humanistic idea that man is(becomes) God. According to him, it was witnessed and proved in the event of Christ's incarnation. In this context, his Christology forms the main structure of his Trinity doctrine.25) For his doctrine of the Trinity is man-oriented and it is in Christology where theology and anthropology meet.26) Of course, the event of incarnation is very significant in understanding God and man, for it is the essential point of contact between God and man. When we consider the question, that is, "Who made incarnation possible?" we may not totally ignore the human capacity or potentiality for it if we doubt on the possibility of God becoming, in example, an animal. But, it must be biblically right rather to emphasize the omnipotence of God as the crucial basis of incarnation. However, Rahner was so philosophically prejudiced that he attributes Christ's incarnation not to the omnipotence of God but primarily to the human transcendental capacity to assume God.

What he called "Hypostatic Union" is, therefore, central in his thinking, for he would believe that the ultimate purpose of all theology must serve to break down the wall between God and man through the hypostatic union, that is, the union of (hypostases of) God and man. Thus, hypostatic union is not unique or special only in Jesus but it is general in the sense that it could and should happen to all the human beings. Jesus opened up this human possibility in total obedience to God. If hypostatic union which had finally happened in Christ's incarnation should be the ultimate purpose of man in general27), incarnation and creation are inseperable in their purpose. And if creation without incarnation is impossible28), incarnation must be a predestined necessity regardless of the Fall. In this aspect, as Robert Kress correctly pointed out, "Rahner sides with the Scotists against the Thomists in the dispute about the precise motive of the incarnation. For the Thomist school of theology the Word would not have become flesh had Adam not sinned. For the Scotist school the Word would have become flesh even if Adam had not sinned."29) It implies that Christ's incarnation was his destiny and necessity, not his free choice or decision due to the human fallenness and gracious love as traditional theology has believed.

Further, Rahner understood creation as a necessary act of God and the generation of the Son as a preparatory step for it. Though his followers tried to defend him from a heretical formula that creation is a necessity30), they are ambiguous and illogical. For it is the logical conclusion of the absolute identity between economic and immanent Trinity, because it excludes any ad extra only for man regardless of His inner need. What the triune God acts in Himself is identical with what the trine God acts in the world, and therefore the world is the reflection, projection, or at least extension of the triune God. It means that the world is divine in that sense. So, the criticism that Rahner is pantheistic and emanationistic is not groundless.31) But, it was rather Rahner's natural destiny when he followed humanistic philosophy as his theological guide. The method of blurring the borderline between God and the world has been employed by the humanists as their major traditional strategy to upgrade man and degrade God upto the level of equality, as well as to deny the lordship of God over the world and human beings. For it is to abolish the difference between two worlds, that is, of God and man, either by Platonic, Gnostic, Kantian, or now Rahnerian world view. By absolutely identifying the economic and immanent Trinity, Rahner made the triune God merely a slave or member of this world. God is no longer free from this world as its Creator and Ruler in its absolute sense. The destiny of God and the world is inseparable, and therefore God the Judge of the world is non-sense, for God is responsible to the development of the world. Even, God the Son as well as God the Spirit happened to exist exclusively for the world. This cosmogonic Christology appeared several times in Christian history. Typically, it is the Apologists' mistake when they introduced the Logos doctrine of Greek philosophy into the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. And, it is the Arian mistake to degrade the Son into the Logos created to reveal God to the world as a connecting link. All of these ideas were condemned as heretical, but now Rahner is falling into the same mistake again. Even, he attempted to correlate this type of Logos Christology with the modern atheistic idea of evolutionism in his extensive essay entitled "Christology within an Evolutionary View of the World,"32) following the steps of Teilhard de Chardin.

In the essay, Rahner boldly asserts that world history is the process of becoming god by self-transcendence33), and that the incarnation is "the necessary and permanent beginning of the divinization of the world as a whole."34) However, when he says that it is the beginning of divinization, he does not mean that the world process before the incarnation is meaningless. Rather, from the moment of creation and even further from that of the Son's generation for it, world process is divinization and the triune God is in the process of secularization. Accordingly, the moment of incarnation is the peak and climax of the whole history35), for the world had prepared itself enough to "receive God" for the hypostatic union.36) Therefore, it is the beginning in the sense that "the incarnation stands at the beginning of the first really all-human period."37) Now, the task of Christianity is "only the demythologization and secularization of the world" and to promote anthropocentricity.38) Therefore, he insisted that "the statement of God's incarnation--of his becoming material--is the most basic statement of Christology."39) His understanding of incarnation is fundamentally different from its traditional one that it is a means for the redemption of sinful men by the crucifixion and resurrection. The ultimate motif of incarnation is theiosis, i.e., divinization, which is expressed in its classical statement that "God became human in order that humans become God."40) Likewise, he interpreted incarnation and whole Christology in the evolutionary context of God and the world. So, he concluded that "it[Christology] fits into an evolutionary view of the world,"41) and advocated the "Christological evolutionary world-view."42) Therefore, we may call his world-process Christology as evolutionistic Christology, and this evolutionistic view of God the Son greatly affects his view of the Trinity, especially the concept of "person."

Concept of Person

Frankly speaking, he does not believe in three "persons" of the Trinity as "three distinct consciousnesses, spiritual vitalities, and centers of activity."43) For he understood the original meaning of person "almost Sabellian,"44) his concept of person is modalistic. Accordingly, defining tritheism as to "think of three persons as of three different personalities with different centers of activity,"45) Rahner condemned this "false and basically tritheistic conception" as far more dangerous than Sabellian modalism.46) But, it is natural for him to deny the free will of the Son in order to necessitate Him for the evolution of man and the world, because both ideas of freedom and necessity cannot stand together.

Though it is unmistakably true that Rahner belongs to a contemporary group of the Trinity scholars who tend to be modalistic, he did not insist to overthrow the traditional term "person" and attempt to replace it.47) But, he is surely more subtle than Karl Barth, when he once expressed his willingness to keep the term "person" and then suggested to use a new term "distinct manner of subsisting" later.48) Of course, it was invented to make the concept of person weak and expressed in the concept of individuum vagum.49)

The classical formula "three persons in one nature" is formally accepted, but with his own reinterpretation that these two fundamental concepts of "person" and "essence(nature)" are only logical, not ontic.50) Ontologically speaking, he seems to believe only one person--God the Father who is "the one unoriginate God, who is already Father even when nothing is known as yet about generation and spiration."51) God is one Person52), and the concept of "three persons" or "three-ness" is "a later notion."53) The generation of the Son and spiration of the Holy Spirit does not change the fact that God is one Person, and even His fatherhood. It means that the Son and Spirit is something other than person in its strict sense. For Rahner insisted that "'Son' and 'Spirit' should be understood as manners of givenness of the Father."54) This non-personal understanding of the Son and Spirit is clearly seen in his binitarian modalism of psychological analogy. Following the Augustinian psychological understanding of the Trinity, Rahner understood that the two divine processions of the Son and Spirit have certainly something to do with the two basic spiritual activities of knowing and loving."55) Though he insisted that it as a scriptural foundation and "only two!" activities are possible56), it seems not to have enough ground and persuasion. In his theory of God's self-communication, God(the Father) communicates Himself to us through the two ways of self-communication, that is, through the Son and Spirit.57) This idea raises a serious problem, for it presupposes that God the Father cannot communicate directly with us.58) In the Scriptures, however, the Son and the Spirit are not impersonal means of the Father but persons who have "I-Thou" relationship with the Father and each other. And, the Father appears in person together with the Son and the Spirit at the occasion like the baptism of Jesus or Transfiguration. Still, the direct communication between God the Father and us is possible, and it is essential in the Gospel. Moreover, if Father, Son, and Spirit appears as "persons" in the economic Trinity, then they should be "persons" within the immanent Trinity as well, according to his own theory of their absolute identity.59)

However, he arbitrarily listed fourfold double aspects of God's self-communication to justify his idea of the Son and Spirit as the impersonal communicative means of God: (1) Origin-Future, (2) History-Transcendence, (3) Invitation-Acceptance, and (4) Knowledge-Love.60) And then, he forcedly identified one side of four aspects (Origin-History-Invitation-Knowledge) with the Son and the other (Future-Transcendence-Acceptance-Love) with the Spirit, though he himself felt its unreasonableness and difficulty in doing it.61) But, it is totally without biblical grounds. Neither is it rational, for each of three persons possesses all those aspects. When the Scripture says that God is Love, it does not mean that only the Holy Spirit is Love as he does. It is impossible to suppose a personal being with lacking either love or knowledge. And, it is more impossible to suppose such a divine person. The division of personal God into mere functional entities in the psychological Trinitarianism raises a serious problem in the understanding of "person" in the Trinity. This trinitarian functionalism of Karl Rahner is seen as a typical outcome of his man-centered philosophical understanding of the Trinity.

Concluding Remarks

As a whole, Rahner's trinitarianism is a circular reasoning without any entrance or exit, for his radical idea of the Trinity is a pure philosophical speculation. His scholarly ambition to end the ceaseless discussion coming from the difference between economic and immanent Trinity is admirable, but his philosophical addiction to Kantian idealism and Hegelian pantheism is pitiable. Unfortunately, his philosophical motif was too strong to allow him to be a biblically good theologian. For his philosophical conviction in the transcendental ability of man made him to seek ultimately for the glory of man, not the glory of God. Its structure denies the sovereignty of God or the creation of the world for the glory of God, but promotes the divinity of man and naturalization of God.

Therefore, Paul D. Molnar is right when he pointed out that "Rahner does in fact reduce the triune God to his naturally known God."62) In his system of thought, God is something like Nature and therefore the freedom of God is actually denied. God is simply a logical Being without any genuine freedom or will. All is logical, natural, and necessary in the evolutionary process of world history. The Trinity is understood as the symbol of the evolution Law: God is the world, the Logos is the Principle of its evolution, and the Spirit is the world spirit(Weltgeist). In a word, Rahner's view of the Trinity is a Thomistic version of Hegelian evolutionism.

When God's freedom is denied, His grace is denied. Further, all the Christian doctrines like creation, fall, original sin, redemption, salvation, parousia, resurrection, final judgement, and eternal life are either frankly denied or totally reinterpreted in the humanistic terms. Therefore, Joseph B. Bracken is wrong to classify Rahner as a traditional trinitarian.63) Rather, he is exceptionally non-traditional.64) In his trinity doctrine, we could hear a revolutionary voice of process theology and even the death-of-God theology.


1. Robert Kress, A Rahner Handbook (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), p. 9. Though he was under the papal censorship at that time, the strong support of the German Church made him to be chosen as a peritus(expert) for the Council and even dominate the Vatican II. As Wiltgen asserted in his evaluative history of Vatican II, "the Council was dominated by the Germans, who themselves were under the hegemony of Karl Rahner."

2. Rahner, The Church After the Council, tr. Davis C. Herron and Rodelinde Albrecht (New York: Herder and Herder, 1966), pp. 80-81. Accordingly, he contended that the concept of heresy should be changed now. In the spirit of the Vatican II, "a new form of heresy" is not modernism but "the heresy of indifference" to keep the tradition in the Zeitgeist of pluralistic modernism. Thus, he severely criticized so-calfed "dead orthodoxy" in his Nature and Grace: Dilemmas in the Modern Church, tr. Dinah Wharton (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1964), pp. 77-19.

3. Rahner, The Christians of the Future, tr. W. J. O'Hara (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967), pp. 35-38. Traditionally, the changeability of dogma has been denied but Rahner tried to justify it with dialectic logic. First, he agrees with the tradition: "Such a dogma of the Church is truely unchangeable."(22) Next, he denies it: "But the immutability of the Church's dogma does not exclude, on the contrary it implies, that there is a history of dogmas...even the Church's unchangeable dogma can have a history and can change even in spite of its immutability."(23-24) Finally, he synthesizes both positions: "It cannot change back....But it can change forwards in the direction of the followers of its own meaning and unity with the one faith in its totality and its ultimate grounds."(24) According to his understanding, this logic has been developed in the Second Vatican Council, and this change is certainly the work of the Holy Spirit.

4. Rahner, "The Mystery of the Trinity," in Theological Investigations, Volume XVI, tr. David Morland (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), p. 256.

5. Rahner, The Trinity, tr. Joseph Donceel (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), p. 10.

6. Ibid., p. 11; cf. Rahner, "Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise 'De Trinitate'," in Theological Investigations, Volume IV, tr. Kevin Smyth (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1966), p. 80. "For since St. Augustine, contrary to the tradition preceeding him, it has been more or less agreed that each of the divine persons could become man."

7. Cf. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "The Hodgson-Welch Debate and the Social Analogy of the Trinity," Ph.D. dissertation (Princeton Theological Seminary, 1982). I think that Dr. Plantinga's following humble attitude is more biblical and pious than Rahner's blind courage: "Could it not be the case that the Son's and Spirit's functional subordination is only for the historical-redemptive economy of which the Scripture speak? Is it not conceivable that there are other worlds and, therefore, other economies in which the arrangements are quite different? Perhaps there is a novel pactum salutis for each such economy. Surely humility and modesty prevent us from merely waving away such a possibility."

8. Rahner, Trinity, pp. 12-13; "Remarks", p, 80.

9. Rahner, Trinity, pp. 21-22.

10. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction To the Idea of Christianity, tr. William V. Dych (New York: The Seabury Press, 1978), p. 137; Trinity, p. 33. "strictly same".

11. Plantinga, "The Hodgson-welch Debate", p. 20; C. M. LaCugna, "Re-Conceiving the Trinity As the Mystery of Salvation," Scottish Journal of Theology 38(1985):2.

12. Rahner, Trinity, p. 39; Joseph A. Bracken, What are they saying about the Trinity? (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), p. 9.

13. Rahner, Trinity, p. 50.

14. Ibid., p. 47.

15. Ibid., p. 51. "If the incomprehensible God himself opens this horizen of knowledge, we wish to develop a theology of knowledge."

16. Rahner, Foundations, pp.3-14, 24-25.

17. Rahner, Theological Investigations, Volume XII, p. 599.

18.Gerald A. McCool, ed., A Rahner Reader (New York: The Seabury Press, 1975). He failed it, because his mentor Martin Honecker did not approve his dissertation, which later published under the title Geist in Welt, due to Rahner's strong adherence to a philosophical movement called Transcendental Thomism, which is also called as Marechalian Thomism because Joseph Marechal is its founder. Its principal thesis is that "if Kant's transcendental reflection on humnan knowledge is applied consistently, it leads to metaphysical realism and not to critical idealism, as Kant has mistakenly supposed."(xiii) Marechal attempted to synthesize the philosophies of Kant and Aquinas. However, it has remained as a small branch in Thomism without receiving a wide approval among Thomists. "One of the most distinguished Thomist of this century, for example, Etienne Gilson, has never been willing to admit that Transcendental Thomism is either good Thomism or good philosophy. In Gilson's opinion, Transcendental Thomism makes fatal and unnecessary concessions to Kant, and the philosophers who uses this method can never work out of Kant's idealism. Martin Honecker, the mentor of Rahner's dissertation, took an equally negative view of Transcendental Thomism."(xvii) So, he refused Rahner's dissertation.

19. McCool, The Theology of Karl Rahner (New York: Magi Books, 1969), pp. 4-5, 12.

20. McCool, A Rahner Reader, p. xxvii.

21. J. J. Mueller, What are they saying about theological methods? (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), pp. 5-6.

22. Rahner, Foundations, pp. 31-35.

23. Ibid., pp. 14-23.

24. Ibid., pp. 116-137.

25. Ibid., p. 213. "It is only here that the mystery of the divine Trinity is accessible to us..."

26. Kress, A Rahner Handbook, p. 38. "Christology can serve as the nexus of theology and anthropology."; Lacugna, "Re-Conceiving the Trinity as the mystery of Salvation," pp. l4-16. Here, Lacugna pointed out that a man-oriented, soteriological, economic trinitarianism like Rahner's is neither traditional nor Christocentric, when he said as follows: "To bring this about, Jesus Christ must be at the heart of our trinitarian theology...[this type of] trinitarian theology would point up the inadequacy of a Christian theology which in the west, from the fifth century on, has concentrated on the 'immanent' trinity and developed its doctrine in a non-soteriological, a-historical fashion."

27. Kress, A Rahner Handbook, p. 44. "For Rahner, God initially intended the hypostatic union."

28. Cf. Ibid., p. 40. "Creation without incarnation is not unthinkable. But at best it would be a deficient mode of that of which God is capable."

29. Ibid., p. 44.

30. For example, Ibid., p. 44. "From this point of view it is also 'natural' for God to create....This statement in no way places in God a necessity to create. It merely seeks in God the necessary condition of the possibility of creation."

31. Paul D. Molnar, "Can We Know God Directly? Rahner's Solution From Experience," Theological Studies 46(1985): 254ff. As the evidence of his pantheism, he suggested the fact that Rahner accepted a modified version of pantheism in his Dictionary of Theology (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), pp. 333-334. Even, he argued that Rahner denies the creatio ex nihilo in his thinking.; Ibid., pp. 260-261. "This is clearly the emanationism rejected by the tradition. And this thinking leads directly to the Christological idea which has always been the hallmark of Ebionite Christology..."

32. Rahner, Theological Investigations, Volume V, tr. Karl H. Kruger (Baitimore: Helicon Press, 1966), pp. 157-192.

33. Ibid., pp. 178-179. "We want first of all to clarify a little more what exactly we are asking now. It seems to me that we should have no particular difficulty in representing the history of the world and of the spirit to ourselves as the history of a self-transcendence into the life of God..."

34. Ibid., p. 161.

35. Ibid., p. 175; Joseph Donceel, The Philosophy of Karl Rahner (New York: Magi Books, 1969), pp. 25-26. Here, Donceel understood Rahner's acceptance of "anonymous Christian" in this context that whole human race participate in the world process of divinization.

36. Rahner, "Christology within an Evolutionary View," pp. 171-172.

37. Ibid., p. 190.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., pp. 176-177.

40. Kress, A Rahner Handbook, p. 45.

41. Rahner, "Christology within an Evolutionary View," p.176.

42. Ibid., p. 187.

43. Rahner, Trinity, p. 43. Concerning consciousness, Rahner once seems to accept that "each divine 'person', as concrete, possesses a self-consciousness."(p. 75) But, he meant that "there is only one real consciousness in God, which is shared by Father, Son, and Spirit, by each in his own proper way."(p. 107)

44. Ibid., p. 44.

45. Ibid., p. 43; Dictionary of Theology, pp. 516-517.

46. Rahner, Trinity, pp. 43-44.

47. Ibid., p. 44. "Yet the word 'person' happens to be there, it has been consecrated by the use of more than 1500 years, and there is no really better word, which can be understood by all and would give rise to fewer misunderstandings. So we shall have to keep it..."

48. Ibid., pp. 109-115.

49. Ibid., pp. 105, 111. "Of course, the phrase 'distinct manner of subsisting' entails also the delicate problem of 'vague individual,' which we mentioned above in connection with the concept of 'person.' The concrete, the absolute, unique concreteness is here made into an abstract concept, a most abstract concept possessing a minimum of unity."; Kress, A Rahner Handbook, p. 7. Vagueness is a favorite methodology which Rahner uses especially in dealing with conflicts with tradition. Kress says, "How often did we hear what was both Rahnerian self-defense and methodological principle: 'Das Klarere ist nicht immer das Wahrere' (The more clear is not always necessarily the more true)?"; Rahner, Nature and Grace, p. 71. However, it is ironical for him to list vagueness as a mark of modern heresy in the followings: "Hence this latent heresy has two principal methods: on the one hand it avoids coming into conflicts with the magisterium by avoiding clear statements in books, official teaching etc...on the other hand, it keeps to the vague and approximate, the undefined attitude..."

50. Rahner, Trinity, pp. 52-55, 69.

51. Ibid., p. 17.

52. Rahner, "Theos in the New Testament," Theological Investigations, Volume I, tr. Cornelius Ernst (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961), pp. 135-137, 143-144. In this article, Rahner attempted to demonstrate that God, not only in the OT but also in the NT, refers to the Father, while the term "God(Theos)" is not used for the Son and the Spirit. And, he concluded that "ho Theos is being spoken of, it is not the single nature that is seen, subsisting in three hupostases, but the concrete Person[the Father] who possess the divine nature unoriginately..."

53. Rahner, Trinity, p. 59.

54. Ibid., p. 74.

55. Rahner, "Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise 'De Trinitate'," p. 85

56. Rahner, Trinity, pp. 93-94, 116.

57. Ibid., p. 84.

58. Cf. Ibid., p. 41. "When these two are not active, Yahweh has retreated from his people."

59. Bracken, What are they saying about the Trinity?, p. 13.

60. Rahner, Trinity, p. 88.

61. Cf. Ibid., pp. 94-99.

62. Molnar, "Can We Know God Directly?", p. 229.

63. Bracken, What are they saying about the Trinity?, p. 5.

64. Plantinga, "The Hodgson-Welch Debate," p. 15. "Catholic theologians(besides Rahner) kept on publishing discussions of traditional trinity questions."; C. Williams, "Review of Theological Investigations Volume I", The Thomist 25(1962): 450. " the time Fr. Rahner finished with his speculations, there is very little left of the bible or of the teaching of the Church's magisterium."

TOPICS: General Discusssion

1 posted on 08/19/2004 10:25:16 AM PDT by lockeliberty
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To: drstevej; OrthodoxPresbyterian; CCWoody; Wrigley; Gamecock; Jean Chauvin; jboot; jude24; ...


2 posted on 08/19/2004 10:26:00 AM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: lockeliberty

You lost me at "Grundaxiom."

3 posted on 08/19/2004 10:31:02 AM PDT by sitetest
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To: sitetest

Must be Korean for "Grandaxiom". ;)

4 posted on 08/19/2004 10:49:16 AM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: sitetest
You lost me at "Grundaxiom."

This stood out as odd, but I assume it means German for "ground" plus axiom making "the foundational thesis."

5 posted on 08/19/2004 11:22:31 AM PDT by Maximilian
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To: lockeliberty
Therefore, his[Rahner's] evaluation of the Council is absolutely positive and full of praise, while his critics devaluated it as a victory of modernist heretics.

Not quite true. Here's an account of Rahner being quite critical of one of the final drafts of Gaudium et Spes, a document of the Second Vatican Council:

During the summer of 1965 German-speaking experts and bishops subjected this [latest] draft to severe criticisms. Karl Rahner found the text uncritical in its analyses, confusing in its attempts to relate the natural and the supernatural, moralizing in its interpretation of contemporary movements. It lacked, he said, an adequate theology of sin and its ineradicable depths, as well as of the cross and its implications. The draft's optimism replaced "the legitimate and necessary 'pessimism' that Christians must profess before the world," "the antagonism between a world under the power of the Evil One and the disciples of Christ [that] will never be mitigated but will grow ever more bitter in the course of time."
(Source: Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, "Dealing with Diversity and Disagreement," The Fifth Annual Lecture of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (New York: National Pastoral Life Center, 2003), pp. 9., quoted in Rev. Edward T. Oakes' lecture "Vatican II: A Liberal or Conservative Council?")
Therefore, his understanding of the Trinity is based on the radical humanistic idea that man is(becomes) God.

[...] The ultimate motif of incarnation is theiosis, i.e., divinization, which is expressed in its classical statement that "God became human in order that humans become God."

I worry that the author, or the readers, may think that all doctrines of theosis are heretical. In fact, it's taught by that stalwart of orthodoxy, St. Athanasius. In his work De Incarnatione he states that "The Son of God became man so that man might become God." See also St. Peter's line about us becoming partakers of the divine nature in his letters. Or St. Paul counseling us to be imitators of God in Ephesians 5.

I have not read any Rahner, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the criticism. I have heard several other theologians doubt about Rahner's orthodoxy, so the author of this piece is certainly not alone.

6 posted on 08/19/2004 11:27:56 AM PDT by Dumb_Ox (Ares does not spare the good, but the bad.)
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To: lockeliberty

Whew! I'm still trying to figure out whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and Son and what exactly does that mean.

7 posted on 08/19/2004 11:39:27 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: Dumb_Ox
See also St. Peter's line about us becoming partakers of the divine nature in his letters

It seems to me that becoming partakers or communing with the divine nature is much different than having the essence of the divine nature. I don't believe we ever will lose our "creature" status.

8 posted on 08/19/2004 11:46:08 AM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: lockeliberty
Very true. Aquinas makes the analogy of a poker held in a fire, which takes on the attributes of the fire, yet remains a poker. Or as the Wikipedia article on theosis notes, "Naturally, the crucial Christian assertion, that God is One, sets an absolute limit on the meaning of theosis - it is not possible for any created being to become, ontologically, God or even another god."
9 posted on 08/19/2004 12:03:13 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox (Ares does not spare the good, but the bad.)
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To: Maximilian

Dear Maximilian,

I find it difficult to take folks seriously who write this poorly.


10 posted on 08/19/2004 12:46:01 PM PDT by sitetest (Even orthodoxy benefits from clear writing.)
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To: Dumb_Ox

Thanks for the link, it provides a nice summary. If I'm not mistaken, the concept of transformation in the Protestant tradition is congruent to theosis in the Catholic traditions. Or as St Paul says, "...and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."

11 posted on 08/19/2004 10:03:47 PM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: HarleyD

C'mon man. We've only just begun. How 'bout some more Rhee? 8?P

12 posted on 08/19/2004 10:07:33 PM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: sitetest
As we speak, there are scrub-faced believers in hand-wringing dudgeon over Grundaxiom.

I'm not sure we can survive the weekend over this theologumenon.

13 posted on 08/19/2004 10:08:53 PM PDT by sinkspur ("Is it OK to send watered silk to the dry cleaners"?--Cardinal Fanfani)
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To: HarleyD
Whew! I'm still trying to figure out whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and Son and what exactly does that mean.

I used a bible search engine like and "Spirit proceeds" on the NASB and got this:

John 15:26 (NASB) John "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me"

1) This is Christ who is saying it, so this is fully authoritative.
2) The Spirit proceeds from the Father.
3) and Testfies about Christ

What does it mean? That the Father has authorized and sent the Spirit to do the job. When? The Spirits activity as we know it came at Pentacost. What does it mean to us? That the Spirits activity in our lives is fully authorized by the Father, that the Holy Spirit has a role in our lives and that we should be listening to Him.

How do we know the Holy Spirit is speaking to us?

The answer is 'Test it' (See 1 John 1:4[NASB]) "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1) What the Holy Spirit says is fully compliant with the Scriptures. This is the number one test.
2) It is in argreement with good Church Doctrine.
3) It is usually in agreement with Godly Church authorities.
4) The circumstance usually are lined up.

If all these are lined up, it is a good chance that the Holy Spirit is trying to talk with you.

14 posted on 08/20/2004 7:28:31 AM PDT by sr4402
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To: sr4402

Thanks for researching this. Your explanation makes sense to me. The Trinity is something I've been thinking about for some time.

15 posted on 08/20/2004 8:18:03 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD
The Trinity is something I've been thinking about for some time.

The scripture says that "No one seeks after God", "No not one". So if you are thinking about the Trinity (I.E. God) then rejoice; the Holy Spirit has been at work in your life! Any time those 4 line up, rejoice! God is at work in your life :)

16 posted on 08/20/2004 12:54:28 PM PDT by sr4402
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