Theologians

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Karl Rahner

Rahner was born in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1904. He joined the Jesuit order in 1922 and was ordained a priest in1932. Rahner studied in both Frieburg and Innsbruck and was later appointed to the theological faculty of the University of Innsbruck in 1936.

The inter-war period was one of reaffirmation and revival within Catholic theology. It sought to address the challenges of modernity. Admist this background Rahner, along with many of his contempories, was heavily influenced by a variety of vigorious neo-Thomistic and neoscholastic movements in Catholic philosophy and theology. This revised Thomist metaphysics attempted to address the criticisms of the enlightenment and imparticular the highly influencial philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Philosophically, Rahner was influenced by the existentialism of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). Rahner expounded his theological/philosophical position in his Geist in Welt (Spirit in the World) in 1939. In it Rahner interpreted in existential terms Aquinasí doctrine of perception as the grasping of intelligible being through the medium of the senible species.

After the war he returned to Innsbruck in 1948. In 1949 he became Professor of Dogmatic Theology. In 1962 Rahner became an official theological consultant to the Second Vatican Council. In 1964 he was appointed Professor at Munich. In the 1950s he spent much time editing various theological encyclopeadias. Later in the 1960s he was responsible for editing the supplementary documents on the Second Vatican Council.

Rahnerís christology is very traditional with a strong emphasis on the significance of the incarnation and eschatology. Rahner was not so much interested in the historical Jesus but rather the subsequent christology; providing a mediation between transcendence and immanence. Rahner, therefore, does not put forward any specific image of Jesus but rather provides a framework. This framework can be seen in the next generation of Catholic theologians e.g. Jon Sobrino and Edward Schillebeeckx. Christ is the very grace of God which mediates between God and creation. The relationship between grace and nature is a traditional Catholic theme which Rahner develops. Rahnerís work is a detailed consideration of how one is to understand and appriecate grace not only in the incarnation but also in the Church, the sacraments and Godís creation. As a Catholic theologian, Rahner wanted to emphasise the potentiality of humanity rather than its falleness. For Rahner people are basically religious. Hence, Rahner does not rule out the possiblity of grace outside the Church. This led to his famous proposal of Ďanonymous Christiansí.

Rahner retired from teaching in 1971. He died on March 30th, 1984.

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