GRACE IN THE THEOLOGY OF KARL RAHNER: A SYSTEMATIC PRESENTATION

THOMAS LOUIS KNOEBEL, Fordham University

Abstract

The synthetic quality and remarkable consistency of Karl Rahner's theological positions constitute his uniqueness among twentieth-century Roman Catholic theologians. The mystery of God's self-communication as grace is at the very heart of Rahner's theological system. Thus this dissertation seeks to determine the adequacy of his theological synthesis as it finds expression in Rahner's understanding of grace. As the primary intention of the dissertation is to discover and test the internal coherence of Rahner's system, we have not sought to compare or contrast his positions with those advanced by other contemporary theologians except insofar as such study contributes directly to a clearer understanding of the intent of Rahner's own theological interests.^ The dissertation begins by accepting the metaphysics of Rahner's early writings. The transcendental anthropology developed in his two early philosophical works undergirds his entire theological system. The study of Rahner's metaphysical understanding of human knowing and willing supports the presentation of Rahner's positions on the relationship of human nature and grace. This leads to the critical understanding of the supernatural existential as an a priori condition of the possibility of the divine self-communication which is essential to the human person as "gracefully" created by God. Ultimately, the supernatural existential is to be associated more with uncreated grace, with God's own self-communication, than with any finite aspect of the human person.^ Indeed it is uncreated grace which constitutes Rahner's primary understanding of grace. This dissertation attempts to demonstrate that, in Rahner's system, all other conceptions of grace are either a priori conditions for the possibility of receiving uncreated grace, or effects of its reception. Thus, as a primary ramification of this position, in Rahner's theology the essence and function of created grace are given definitions which differ really and not simply verbally from the definitions assigned to them in the theological system which Rahner inherited. For Rahner, the communication of the triune absolute mystery to the human person--which is uncreated grace--demands as the condition for the possibility of its being grasped a recipient who is already within the order of grace. Creatd grace--the created ontological modification of the human person--renders the human subject capable of receiving the divine mystery.^ Rahner's theology of uncreated grace rests upon his general metaphysics of the real symbol. Rahner's metaphysics of the real symbol provides the philosophical grounding for the bond in being between the central mystery of the Trinity and its self-communications.^ Precisely because it is the self-communication of the Trinity, uncreated grace is linked ontologically to the Incarnation, to the inhabitation of the Holy Spirit in the individual soul and to the Church. Uncreated grace, in its incarnational aspect, is tied to faith in Christ and, in its ecclesial aspect, is linked to membership in the Church. Rahner grounds this linkage in the universal ontological reality of the Trinity's self-communication to the human spirit in uncreated grace. In other words, when Rahner's ontology of uncreated grace is explained systematically, the outcome is Rahner's theology of the anonymous Christian.^ The dissertation concludes by discussing Rahner's theology of grace and freedom. Once again, foundational principles derived from Rahner's philosophical anthropology are brought forward in an attempt to demonstrate that Rahner presents a theological explanation for the coexistence of divine transcendence and human freedom which is metaphysically coherent and dogmatically orthodox. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

THOMAS LOUIS KNOEBEL, "GRACE IN THE THEOLOGY OF KARL RAHNER: A SYSTEMATIC PRESENTATION" (January 1, 1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8020068.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020068

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