THE QUESTION OF 'PERSON' AND 'SUBJECT' IN TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY: MOLTMANN'S CHALLENGE TO RAHNER AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

ANNE HENRY KING, Fordham University

Abstract

Are the terms 'person' and 'subject' adequate and appropriate terms with which to describe the trinitarian character of God? Contemporary theologians are considering what the correct answer to this question might be.^ Karl Rahner maintains that the modern understanding of 'person' is a center of consciousness and therefore the term cannot be applied to the Three in God without leading to a form of tritheism. Becuase of this concern, Rahner takes the traditional trinitarian formulation of "three persons in one God" and reformulates it as "God subsists in three modes of subsistence." Jurgan Moltmann takes issue with Rahner's interpretation. He thinks that Rahner defines 'person' incorrectly, leaving out the aspect of relationality which should be an essential part of a definition of the term 'person'. For Moltmann the use of the term 'person' for the Three in God does not lead to tritheism; on the contrary, it gives us a fuller and richer understanding of God.^ In this study, a brief survey of the current state of the question is included, pointing to why the use of the terms 'person' and 'subject' are an important contemporary problem. Rahner's position is considered in detail, while Moltmann's view of 'person' and 'subject' is presented as a challenge and a contrast to Rahner's viewpoint. Through this contrast the strengths and weaknesses of their respective arguments are determined; finally, the implications of their debate for further research is disucssed.^ Moltmann's challenge to Rahner is found to be an important one, pointing to the problems which result from a too narrowly defined concept of the terms 'person' and 'subject'; yet Moltmann's solution is not completely satisfactory on its own. Rahner's work has a more satisfactory understanding of ontology, whereas Moltmann's work has a better grasp of the contemporary meaning of 'person' and its relationship to other trinitarian terms and concepts. Both approaches are found to be valuable, each serving as a corrective to the other, particularly in regard to the question of how 'person' is to be defined when it is used in reference to the Triune God. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

ANNE HENRY KING, "THE QUESTION OF 'PERSON' AND 'SUBJECT' IN TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY: MOLTMANN'S CHALLENGE TO RAHNER AND ITS IMPLICATIONS" (January 1, 1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8727846.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8727846

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