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Sin - Punishment of Sins

(1,795 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Sin: 1. Sin and Guilt 2. Punishment of Sins 1. Preliminary remarks on method and matter. The theological understanding of what punishment of sin means must not start from a notion based on the penalties imposed by civil law on a criminal for offences against society. The special relationship of God to the world, not that of a particular cause within the world but that of the transcendent origin of the world as a whole, would risk being distorted by this approach. And there are other anthropomorphic notio…

Hell - Doctrine

(1,644 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Hell: 1. Doctrine 2. Descent of Christ into Hell 1. In the history of revelation the notion of hell as the place and state of those who are finally lost goes back to the ОТ notion of Sheol as the place and state of the dead — the “underworld”. In a long, slow process of theological reflection, the state in question came to be understood differently of the good and the bad, in keeping with their life on earth. The “sheol of damnation” (1 Q Hodayot [Qumran Thanksgiving Hymns], 3, 19) was the final lot of the wicked (Gehenna; cf. LTK, V, cols. 445 f., with bibliography). The notion of the f…


(2,344 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The concept. The figure of the prophet, in various modifications, is a phenomenon in the history and sociology of all religions which are constituted within a major cultural potential. In spite of a certain possible fluidity of roles, and an actual identification at times, the prophet is different from the priest, who is the minister of divine worship. Worship is in more or less set terms and gestures, its validity is established by tradition and it can be passed on to new officials in an insti…

Original Sin

(5,072 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Introduction. a) The fundamental Christian doctrine of original sin meets with a threefold misunderstanding today. (i) It is felt to be in contradiction to that present-day conception of man in which he feels himself from the start, by his very nature and essence, to be good, sound and whole. Men regard the existing individual and social defects of man (sickness, crime, inner or social disharmonies) as merely secondary products of civilization and society or as progressively eliminable phenomena of friction …

Predestination - Theological Explanation

(1,046 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Predestination: 1. Concept and History of the Problem 2. Theological Explanation Predestination is only one aspect of the mystery of the universal causality of God in relation to the independent freedom of the creature. It is merely the application, on the level of action, of the mystery of the co-existence of the infinite divine reality with created beings which really are. They are genuine realities, different from God and valid even before him, and as such utterly and entirely upheld by God. Thus predestination means the eternal “divine” decree, ordained to t…

Last Things

(1,451 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. In religious language, especially in catechetical instruction, we find the term “the last things” ( novissima) used to designate the realities which form the limit — or lie beyond the limit — separating time, history of salvation or loss and free acts from their definitive and eternal fulfilment. Hence the last things are the various partial aspects of the one total definitive state of man, as individual before God, as member of humanity and as mankind entire. This total, definitive state of history can be i…

Heresy - History of Heresies

(3,645 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Heresy: 1. Concept 2. History of Heresies 1. Basic considerations. a) The history of heresies is to a large extent parallel to the history of dogma. Most of what has to be said about it is in substance said in the history of dogma. It can therefore be regarded as historical writing about the historical course, doctrinal content and historical effects of heresy, and this historical writing in turn has its own history. It can, however, mean the actual course of the heresies themselves. If the word is…


(4,353 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. In Philosophy 1. Concept and incidence. Philosophically speaking atheism means denial of the existence of God or of any (and not merely of a rational) possibility of knowing God (theoretical atheism). In those who hold this theoretical atheism, it may be tolerant (and even deeply concerned), if it has no missionary aims; it is “militant” when it regards itself as a doctrine to be propagated for the happiness of mankind and combats every religion as a harmful aberration. We speak of the practical at…

Evolution - Theological

(6,246 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Evolution: 1. Anthropological 2. Theological A. Evolution 1. The unity of the world of mind and matter. Philosophical and theological reflection proceeds on the assumption that the fact of evolution is established by natural science. With the resources of theology or philosophy this can neither be proved nor rejected as impossible. a) Since according to Christian philosophy and theology every created being, because finite, is in a state of becoming and changing and is part of the unity of the world which is directed towards a single goal o…

Jesus Christ - History of Dogma and Theology

(13,293 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Jesus Christ: 1. Biblical 2. Quest of the Historical Jesus 3. Christology 4. History of Dogma and Theology A. Jesus Christ in Classical Fundamental Theology 1. Fundamental theology traditionally considered Jesus as legatus divinus, i.e., as one of many bearers of revelation who confirm their message by miracles and are therefore worthy of credence. The miracles of Jesus were invoked in the same way. Among these miracles added extraneously to the prophetic message, the miracle of his resurrection was certainly given partic…


(2,585 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The word “mystery” is certainly one of the most important key-words of Christianity and its theology. Vatican I expressly declared (D 1816; cf. 1671- -3; 1795 f.) that there are mysteries properly so called which can only be known through actual revelation by God (against Gnosticism, Rationalism and Semi-Rationalism). It follows that revelation and faith cannot be superseded and abolished by philosophy and understanding. Vatican I also affirmed that, despite their abidingly mysterious charact…

Philosophy and Theology

(3,537 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. Introductory It is hard today to define philosophy. Any answer to what philosophy is proves to be Itself one of the many philosophies which now exist. Naturally — because philosophy differs from “regional” thinking by including its own nature in its thought and hence neither can nor will exclude anything from its questioning a priori. (Hence it can on principle take in a self-understanding of man based on revelation, since philosophy finds it at least a datum of history.) Then again, in spite of its claim to absolute “universality” in its object …


(3,526 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
This article will not deal with the Last Things in general or in detail. What is intended is a fundamental reflection on the nature of the theological treatise on eschatology. The question is not merely of theoretical and learned interest but has its importance for the proclamation of the Christian message itself. In a world which is now in movement, which is programming its own future, even if only for this world, a great eschatological aspiration is certainly bound up with (though not really d…


(2,185 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The notion and the discussion. For the word “unbelief’ (ἁחίστία incredulitas) see, for example, Mt 13:58; Mk 9:24; Rom 3:3; 4:20; 11:20, 23; Heb 3:11, 19. Unbelief is the deliberate rejection of faith. It is presupposed that faith and unbelief (in the case of men capable of a decision) are not two possibilities among others, but that everyone either believes or refuses to believe and that there is no way of avoiding this choice. When the concept is so defined, the question at once arises as to whe…

Theology - History

(4,055 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Theology: 1. Nature 2. History The history of theology can be regarded as forming with the history of dogma a part of Church history. Or it can be regarded as forming with exegesis a presupposition and element of historical and systematic theology. But as a branch of Church history, the history of theology would have to contain many elements which would not be directly of use to systematic theology. Patrology, if not treated merely as the history of literature in patristic times, may be regarde…


(2,996 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Sections A and В of this article will deal with the wider notion of conversion as amendment of life; section C with the problem of conversion in the narrower sense, that of a baptized person from a Christian community to the Catholic Church. A. Theology 1. Methodology. a) The content of the theologically important and indeed central concept of conversion will be presented here from the point of view of dogmatic theology, but that of biblical theology will also be taken into account. b) It is difficult to distinguish the concept precisely from related theological concepts: faith (as fides qua…

Man (Anthropology) - Theological

(4,140 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Man (Anthropology): 1. Philosophical 2. Biblical 3. Theological Among the things directly spoken of by the word of God is man’s knowledge (e.g., Rom 1:19ff.; D 1806); it follows that methodological reflection by theology on its own activity is itself theology. What is intended here is, therefore, a theological reflection on theological anthropology, not on the secular sciences which in their various ways deal with man a posteriori and not on the basis of the revealed word of God. How a theological anthropology is distinguished from an a priori, transcendental understanding of…

Salvation - Universal Salvific Will

(3,234 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Salvation: 1. Universal Salvific Will 2. Biblical Concept 3. History of Salvation (“Salvation History”) 4. Theology 1, Introduction. The Christian doctrine of God, his infinite goodness and holiness (D 1782f.) and that of the total origin of all other reality from God by creation imply the fundamental Christian conviction that in itself the whole of reality is (objectively) “good”, i.e., that it must be positively accepted as meaningful and worthy of love, in that fundamental act of our existence (in knowledge and lo…

Ecumenism - Catholic Ecumenism

(1,649 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Ecumenism: 1. Ecumenical Movement 2. Movements for Church Union 3. Catholic Ecumenism 4. Ecumenical Theology 5. Christian-Jewish Dialogue 6. Christian Denominations 1. What has to be said under this heading is in substance a repetition of what was said in the Vatican II Decrees on Ecumenism and on the Eastern Catholic Churches. For details, reference may be made to these decrees generally, and in particular to chapter ii of the Decree on Ecumenism. The very fact that the possibility of dialogue and co-operatio…

Virtue - Acquired and Infused Virtues

(1,822 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Virtue: 1. Acquired and Infused Virtues 2. Love as the Key Virtue 1. Introduction and general concept. Virtue in the widest sense is any perfectly developed capacity of man’s spiritual soul, or the development itself. There can therefore be virtue, for example, in the domain of cognition: intellectual virtues. In the narrower sense, virtue is the power (ability, skill, facility) to realize moral good, and especially to do it joyfully and perseveringly even against inner and outer obstacles and at the cost…
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