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(1,913 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. “Works” came into theology from St. Paul, who condemned the notion of justification through the “works” of the law and saw justification coming to man from the free, merciful grace of God, which is had in faith. Works (of the law) and faith are contrasted (Rom 3:20, 27f.; 4:2, 6; 9:12, 32; 11:6; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 10; Eph 2:9; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5), as mutually exclusive. There can be no doubt, of course, that in the NT the word “work” (ἔργον) does not necessarily have the meaning which was sometimes given it by St. Paul. It can mean the obedient fulfilment of the …

States of Man, Theological

(1,743 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. General concept. “State of man” is here understood in the theological sense — not in the biological sense of “natural state” or the like, nor in the ecclesiological sense of the lay, clerical or religious state, nor again in the social sense of class or calling. We are dealing with the fundamental inward and outward situations of man in the history of salvation which determine his relation to salvation and are constituted either by the free action of God or of man or of both. 2. The realities comprised under the term “states of man” — the state of man before the Fall; the stat…

Grace and Freedom

(2,430 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The problem, a) The problem of the relation between grace and freedom, as a specifically theological question within Catholic theology, is how to maintain that man is really free in his salutary acts and could therefore refuse the grace offered for such an act, and that at the same time he necessarily requires interior divine grace for this salutary action. This grace does not become effective simply and solely through man’s actual consent to it, but the consent itself is given by God’s grace…

People of God

(1,858 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Preliminary note on method. “People of God” is a biblical term, recently brought to the fore again in the Second Vatican Council ( Lumen Gentium, chs. i and ii). It characterizes the relationship between God and a certain group of men — Israel, the Church, humanity. “People” is of course a profane reality, part of the order of creation, produced by God like all primordial human realities. But this of itself does not justify the formation of the phrase “people of God” in scriptural and ecclesiastical language. For thi…

Potentia Oboedientialis

(1,497 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The formal notion. The actual term, though used in a somewhat looser sense, is already found in Thomas Aquinas and Peter of Tarantasia. It is not found in early scholasticism. In a very general sense, it means the capacity of the creature, obediently accepting the disposition and action of God, to receive a determination for which the creature is not “in potency” in such a way that this determination is “due” to it. The potency is not such that if not actualized by the determination in question …

Theology - Nature

(5,682 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Theology: 1. Nature 2. History A. Introductory Remarks 1. On the history of theology see Theology II. 2. The general principles of the theory of knowledge which are important for the understanding of theology can only be given in outline here. a) Man’s conscious and articulate knowl- edge of himself (scientific and pre-scientific) is not the whole of his self-understanding, but the interpretation of a self-understanding grasped directly and historically in the act of existence. (One may compare logic or ethics. Man does not act l…

Penance - Virtue of Penance

(1,209 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Penance: 1. Virtue of Penance 2. Sacrament of Penance 1. Essence. Penance as a virtue denotes the morally and religiously appropriate human attitude, bestowed by the grace of Christ, in regard to one’s own sin and to sin generally. Its central act is contrition in its various forms, but its full nature includes not only the specific act of contrition as a turning to God and away from past personal sin, but also all the other interior and external Christian attitudes to sin: courage to face the fear …


(2,174 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Concept. Contrition is an element or aspect in that process of individual salvation which is usually called metanoia, conversion (in the sense of change of heart and life), repentance, justification. It can therefore only be correctly understood and judged in that larger context. Since it is a rejection of sin, it presupposes a theologically correct understanding of sin and guilt. 2. The teaching of the Church. The Council of Trent describes contrition as “sorrow of heart and detestation for sin committed, with the resolution not to sin again” ( D 897, 915). The Church’s doctrine …

Virtue - Love as the Key Virtue

(7,084 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Virtue: 1. Acquired and Infused Virtues 2. Love as the Key Virtue A. Methodical Preliminaries 1. Love is here understood in such a way that it can be predicated of the relationship of God to man, of the relationship of man to God and of men among themselves (on which last aspect see also Charity II). Such a use of the word means that its scope is so enlarged and at the same time so manifold that it can only with difficulty escape being reduced to a sort of barely intelligible code-word. 2. The word “love” takes in so much in Christianity that it can no longer denote only a partic…

Devil - The Devil

(1,901 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Devil: 1. Demons 2. The Devil 1. Methodological considerations. a) By “the devil” we are to understand, in a sense to be defined, the “highest” of the evil spirits. It is clear that the background for a theologically correct idea of the devil will have to presuppose and include all that has been said in the article on Angel. Explicit reference must be made to it. b) Firstly, the devil (leaving out of account for the moment the question of his exact relation to the other demons) is not to be regarded as a mere mythological personification of evil in the w…

Order - Supernatural Order

(2,505 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Order: 1. Concept of Order 2. Order of Creation 3. Supernatural Order 4. End of Man 1. “Order” may be understood to denote an interrelated system of distinct realities differing from one another in various ways, in which interrelation the individuals achieve the fulfilment proper to them (to their “essence”), mutually contribute through their interdependence to this fulfilment of their nature, and so form a meaningful whole. The problem of order is therefore ultimately that of unity in multiplicity and mu…

Missions - Salvation of the Non-Evangelized

(1,360 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Missions: 1. Church and Mission 2. Salvation of the Non-Evangelized 3. Theological Problem of Adaptation 4. Non-Christian Missions 5. Missiology There is an apparent contradiction between the “classical” motives of the mission and modern notions of an “implicit” Christianity and an “anonymous” grace. But in fact the real motivation of the mission has become still clearer. The Christian knows that man must believe in God in order to be saved, and not only in God, but in Christ. Faith is not merely a positive c…

Faith - Way to Faith

(2,603 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Faith: 1. Way to Faith 2. Faith 3. Motive of Faith 4. Preambles of Faith 1. Theological presuppositions. a) As a result of God’s universal salvific will and the offer of the supernatural grace of faith as an abiding feature of man’s mode of existence as a person, every human being; even previous to the explicit preaching of the Christian message, is always potentially a believer and already in possession, in the grace that is prior to his freedom, of what he is to believe (i.e., freely accept): God’s direc…


(6,456 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. Introduction and Preliminary Remarks 1. The teaching on Jesus Christ is the central mystery of Christianity, which of course takes its name from him. The doctrine of the one God who, as an infinite transcendent person creates, conserves and guides the world to its goal, the doctrine of the nature and dignity of man as a free person with an eternal, blissful destiny, and the doctrine of the unity of love of God and the neighbour as the ultimate purpose and saving activity of human existence, are al…


(3,004 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Introduction. It cannot be said that the theology of death usually receives in scholastic theology the attention which the theme deserves. People think they know from everyday experience what death is, and quickly turn to the question of what comes after death, as though the theology of death only began there. Yet death necessarily also contains within itself all the mysteries of man. As the Constitution Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II notes, it is the point where man in the most radical way becomes a question for himself, a question which God himself must answe…

Revelation - God’s Self-Communication

(1,651 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Revelation: 1. Concept of Revelation 2. God’s Self-Communication 3. Primitive Revelation 4. Private Revelation 1. In order to explain what is meant by this expression in terms of traditional scholastic theology, we shall start with the theological doctrine (though not defined in all its consequences) of the immediate vision of God as constituting the content of eternal life. According to Benedict XII, God in glory is seen directly, and no created reality serves as “object” “mediating” this knowledge. Th…

Church - Universality of the Church

(1,793 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Church: 1. History of Ecclesiology 2. Ecclesiology 3. Constitution of the Church 4. Universality of the Church 5. Membership of the Church 1. This article should be regarded as supplementary to the articles Church II (Ecclesiology) and Church and World. To some extent it stands midway between them. Its theme is a topical one, for it is only at the present time that the Church has manifestly and in historical fact become approximately a world-wide Church, as was clearly shown by Vatican II. Quite considerable' consequences follow from this fact for the Church’s action. 2. In a first…

Beatific Vision

(1,503 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. In theological language “beatific vision” usually means perfect salvation in its entirety, though verbally it particularly stresses the intellectual component in the single whole which constitutes salvation. This is the full and definitive experience of the direct self-communication of God himself to the individual human being when by free grace God’s will has become absolute and attained its full realization. Since this absolute will (efficacious grace of perfect salvation in predestination)…

Trinity in Theology

(4,217 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. Introduction to the State of the Question We are not enquiring here into the content of the doctrine of the Trinity and the problems which it raises, but the situation of the doctrine itself as such. Here the question arises both on principle and in terms of a given epoch. 1. On principle, one may ask where the treatise on the Trinity should fit into dogma. Its ordinary place, which it has occupied for a long time now, is in the dogmatic treatise De Deo (Uno et Trino), at the beginning of dogmatic theology, after the usual preambles. Here a further question arises. Should one fo…

Order - End of Man

(4,032 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Order: 1. Concept of Order 2. Order of Creation 3. Supernatural Order 4. End of Man 1. Introductory: the notion of “end”. a) Man first learns what an “end” can be from his own immediate internal experience. He strives for a certain good (value) which he has before his mind and which he wills to attain. He chooses appropriate means — possibly by co-ordinating a number of parts into an instrument or machine; — and sets them in motion towards the end in view. He sets himself an “end”, consciously and deliberately chosen, and realizes it. b) He then recognizes in the course of reflection…
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