Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Karl Rahner, the man who turned Catholicism upside down

I've referred to an eye-opening recent article by Peter Kwasniewski on the late Karl Rahner, a big name in the Catholic community's autodestruction in the 1960s. He finished what the Modernists in his Jesuit Order and others started about 50 years earlier. (Modernism: no truth or truth is unknowable; doctrine's temporary.) Do read it but here are important points if you're pressed for time.

This is Christianity, shared by the ancient high churches such as Orthodox and Catholic and by classical Protestantism:
God, Who is three Persons in one nature, created man in order to bring him to eternal happiness in union with Himself. The first man, Adam, was entrusted with the supernatural gifts necessary for arriving at this union, and he was supposed to pass them on to all his descendants. By sinning against God, Adam lost these supernatural gifts, and passed down his sin to his descendants instead, so that each of us is born with a real guilt, although not a personal guilt. Since we could not save ourselves, the second Person of the Trinity took on a human nature and became a man, known as Jesus Christ, and offered His life as a sacrifice for all men. Anyone who puts faith in this sacrifice and follows Christ’s directions on how to incorporate himself into that sacrifice can be saved from Adam’s sin and from his own sins, and can arrive at eternal happiness in union with God.
This is Rahner:
Rahner takes one new idea and places it at the very center of Christianity. This is the idea of the “transcendental experience.” It is hard to grasp exactly what he means by this, but one can give some impression of it at least. While all creatures are limited and finite, man is the only creature who can reflect on his limitations and finitude; in so reflecting on them, he transcends them, reaching out beyond his limitations to the “transcendent,” to the Unknown Beyond which calls him and urges him to move beyond his limitations. The Unknown Beyond, the “term of transcendence,” is what Christians call God. And since a man operates within his limitations in every action he does, then every action of a man has the transcendental implicitly within it, simply waiting for the man to reflect and make it explicit; hence God (Who is that Unknown Beyond discovered in a transcendental experience) is the implicit horizon of every human action.

Although a man may not fully understand what the Unknown Beyond is calling and urging him to, it is in fact God’s call to the beatific vision. So a man’s fundamental duty in life is to respond to the call to transcendence, and seek union with the Beyond which is at the same time utterly Beyond and intimately close as the horizon of his every action.
If a man does this, he is saved.
The war in the Catholic Church is ultimately between those who still believe the first and those who don't anymore.

More from Gordon Anderson:
The Pontificator says on one of the comments that readers of his blog would most likely not agree with the theology of Karl Rahner, or his contemporaries, such as Schillebeeckx, Lonergan, David Tracy, and (obviously) Küng. And I imagine that he is probably right! And yet Rahner is taught in all of the Catholic seminaries, and has been for a long, long time. How very interesting.

We were force-fed all those guys mentioned above, and especially Rahner, in seminary. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the Rahnerian phrase "transcendental openness" in my classes! His thought permeated every single class — from fundamental theology, to liturgy, to moral theology. For those of you who do not know, Rahner was a student of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, so he builds his theology on those categories, much like the Anglican John MacQuarrie (who translated "Being and Time"). Many traditionalists believe those ontological categories are unsuitable to serve as a basis for Christian theology.

Honestly, I don't think Rahner is going anywhere in the Catholic Church. He has been taught in the seminaries for so long already, and was a major influence during Vatican II (indeed he was peritus — the theological expert — for almost all of the German bishops during that time). And insofar as the Catholic seminary system is built around the documents of Vatican II, he is going to be around for a long time. So in a word, if one is Catholic and does not like Rahner, he must simply learn to deal with it, and accept the fact that his priest and bishop are probably ardent disciples of Rahner — preferring him over St. Thomas Aquinas.

1 comment:

  1. Man having to seek union with the Beyond and thereby saving himself sounds to me like a semi-pagan version of Pelagianism to. Also, Rahner's adapting the philosophy of Martin Heidegger to his theology and JPII adapting Edmund Husserl's phenomenology to his (the Pope's) theology of Christian personalism has given me an appreciation for Orthodoxy's tendency to reject philosophy in support and defense of the Christian faith.


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