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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…


(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…

Existence - “The Existential”

(1,820 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Existence: 1. Concept of Existence 2. Philosophy of Existence and Existential Philosophy 3. “The Existential” A. Philosophical The term “existential” or “existentials” was introduced by M. Heidegger in his Sein und Zeit (1927; E. T.: Being and Time [1962]). Since then, it has been used in many different senses, in Protestant theology, for instance, by Bultmann, Fuchs and Ebeling, in their existential interpretation of the NT, in Catholic theology by K. Rahner, with his concept of the “supernatural existential”. Heidegger hims…


(1,211 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. A being which is changing, which acquires new determinations, states and attributes, requires certain conditions either intrinsically in itself or in its external circumstances, if it is to be able to receive the new determinations, etc. These conditions are called a disposition for the new determination, to which the disposition stands in the relation of potency to act (in the widest sense of the term). This relation may be found in all orders of reality, so that there are physical, juridica…

Dogma - History of Dogma

(4,228 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Dogma: 1. Theological Meaning of Dogma 2. Development of Dogma 3. History of Dogma 4. Dogmatics A. As a Theological Discipline History of dogma as a theological discipline and an integral part of dogmatic theology itself, is the methodical, systematic investigation and exposition of the history of the various individual dogmas and of the whole Christian understanding of faith, studying the mutual relations of its various constituents and its relation to the themes and epochs of the history of ideas. In contras…

Christianity - The Essence of Christianity

(8,862 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Christianity: 1. The Essence of Christianity 2. Absoluteness of Christianity A. Preliminary Observations on Method 1. The question what Christianity “really” is in “essence”, is not one which arises only when doubt is thrown on the unique character of Christianity, its absolute claim. Since the beginning of modern times the question has of course been raised in that way in ever more insistent and explicit terms. As a consequence, the question has been misconstrued. Contrary to the nature of a unique conc…


(889 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. A theologumenon is a proposition expressing a theological statement which cannot be directly regarded as official teaching of the Church, as dogma binding in faith, but which is the outcome and expression of an endeavour to understand the faith by establishing connections between binding doctrines of faith (see Analogy of Faith) and by confronting dogmatic teachings with the whole of secular experience and all a man — or an age — knows. Such a proposition need not necessarily materially differ from one which is actually of faith. It can be im…

Angel - Doctrine of Angels

(2,846 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Angel: 1. Problem and History of Angelology 2. Doctrine of Angels A. Introduction The great danger at the present time is that affirmations about angels in the teaching of the Christian faith will be rejected as a mythology which is no longer credible, and so succumb to demythologization. In all particular statements about the angels it must, therefore, be kept clear that such assertions are meant as elements of a theological anthropology and Christology. In other words, it is the insertion of the ange…

Transcendental Theology

(2,176 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. The approach to the concept. The term “transcendental theology” was modelled on the analogy of transcendental philosophy to indicate a certain receptivity to the latter in Catholic thought (since Maréchal; see. O. Muck), with important influences on Catholic theology. This does not mean that transcendental theology is merely the application of a transcendental philosophy to theological subjects. The main thing is that a historical context is indicated in which a procedure always in use in theology…

Penance - Sacrament of Penance

(10,362 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Penance: 1. Virtue of Penance 2. Sacrament of Penance Penance is the sacrament in which, through the authoritative pronouncement of the priest, the Church removes, in the power of Christ, the sins of the repentant sinner which he committed after baptism. A. The Church’s Teaching The most important pronouncements of the magisterium on penance are contained in the condemnations of Montanism and Novatianism, in the doctrine of the Fourth Lateran Council, in the medieval doctrinal decisions regarding the existence of the seven sacraments…

Grace - Structure of De Gratia

(1,683 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Grace: 1. Biblical 2. Theological 3. Structure of De Gratia 1. Definition and divisions. a) The theology of grace ( De gratia) is that part of a theological anthropology which deals with man as redeemed and justified. Rightly understood, therefore, this treatise should not speak in the abstract about grace but about man endowed with grace. For where man’s reality is not envisaged in all its dimensions, the concept of grace in formal abstraction remains either an “experience” of the nature of man or a moral hel…

Scripture and Tradition

(2,946 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. Introduction 1. The question of the relationship between Scripture and tradition seemed to have been cleared up for Catholic theology by the declaration of the Council of Trent ( D 783 f.), which affirmed that the pure gospel was Contained and handed on “in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus”, and that both modes of the presence of revelation were to be greeted “pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia". tia”. (This was repeated by Vatican II, Dei Verbum, art. 9, though “Sacra Traditio” was substituted for “traditiones’’.) In post-Tridentine times, the declaration of Tren…

Freedom - Theological

(1,280 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Freedom: 1. Biblical 2. Philosophical 3. Theological 1. The elaboration of the ecclesiastical and theological notion of freedom was carried on from the start in a dialogue with the philosophical notion of freedom throughout its history. To a great extent the two concepts were almost indistinguishable, and they always acted and reacted on one another. For the moment, however, the influence of modern thinking on freedom — in the debate between metaphysics and “after metaphysics” — has only been felt here and there. In the documents of the magisterium, freedom is usually un…

Revelation - Private Revelation

(969 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Revelation: 1. Concept of Revelation 2. God’s Self-Coxmmunication 3. Primitive Revelation 4. Private Revelation 1. The formal concept. A negative definition is possible. Private revelation is genuine revelation which is not addressed (directly) to the Church but to an individual. It imposes no obligation of belief on all. It is not given to the Church to be preserved and preached. Such private revelation is possible at all times. But it is usually only the object of theological reflection when it occurs wi…


(2,076 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Notion. Monogenism is the doctrine which affirms that the whole of mankind, at least those who lived after original sin, stem biologically from one single pair of ancestors. Monogenism is thus opposed to polygenism, according to which the evolutionary transition from beast to man took place in a number of cases, though it is assumed that the starting-point in the animal world was one and the same species. Thus the differentiation of the various races of man took place solely within the biologi…


(5,277 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
The question of indulgences offers dogmatic, psychological and pastoral difficulties. To have a sound basis for discussion, we begin with the teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind, however, that most of the declarations of the magisterium (all, in fact, except the Council of Trent, which is very reserved) are not irreformable decisions and that they are often the echo of a theology which is not in all respects of a strictly binding character. As regards the notion of temporal punishment…

Trinity, Divine

(6,621 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. The Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity 1. The Old Testament. Since revelation and salvation come in historical form, it cannot be expected that the Trinity of God should have been explicitly revealed in the ОТ. The ОТ as such is part of the revelation of God in word, though this word is essentially a moment and an interpretation of God’s saving acts. Hence as long as God’s self- communication in Jesus Christ was not yet an irreversible reality and the Spirit of God was not yet a triumphant eschatologic…


(6,018 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
A. History of the Doctrine The history of the doctrine concerning the magisterium is in the concrete almost identical with the history of the self-understanding of the Church itself, which cannot but understand itself essentially except as the bearer of the gospel message. To ask about the bearers of the message in the Church and their right to demand faith is always a question about the essence of the Church, and vice versa. Hence as regards the history of dogma and of theology in this connection, it will suffice to a great extent to refer to the articles Church II, III, Word of God, Bible I, Tradi…

Church - Constitution of the Church

(2,092 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. If one wishes to speak in terms of sacred law of a “constitution” of the Catholic Church on the grounds that it is a societas perfecta, then the actual details of such a constitution have already been dealt with in other articles. The Church is, among other things, a social reality, a juridically constituted society, the highest governing body of which is the universal episcopate which has as its …

Dogma - Theological Meaning of Dogma

(2,590 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Dogma: 1. Theological Meaning of Dogma 2. Development of Dogma 3. History of Dogma 4. Dogmatics A. Dogma in Christianity 1. For an understanding of dogma and its necessity in terms of a philosophical anthropology, it is to be noted that there is a transcendental necessity for man as mind and spirit (and consequently for every human society) to affirm certain truths absolutely. And this in principle has to be done through their conceptual formulation (though in certain circumstances this may be of a merely pre…

Parousia - Theological Doctrine

(1,379 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Parousia: 1. Exegetical Findings 2. Theological Doctrine 1. The parousia, as understood in theology, is the permanent blessed presence of Christ in the manifest finality of the history of the world and of salvation which is perfected and ended in the destiny of Jesus Christ. It is the fullness and the ending of the history of man and the world with the glorified humanity of Christ — now directly manifest in his glory — in God (Mt 24:36; 25:31 ff.; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Thess 2:2ff.; Rev 20:11 ff.; 22:17…

Dogma - Dogmatics

(2,746 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Dogma: 1. Theological Meaning of Dogma 2. Development of Dogma 3. History of Dogma 4. Dogmatics 1. General description. Dogmatics is the science of the Church’s dogma, i.e., systematic reflection undertaken on methodological principles appropriate to dogma and aiming at as comprehensive a grasp of it as possible. This involves reflection on everything necessary or helpful, in method or content, for the understanding of dogma. As in every branch of knowledge, reflection on its own history is an integral part…

Angel - Problem and History of Angelology

(3,247 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
Part of Angel: 1. Problem and History of Angelology 2. Doctrine of Angels A. Problem of Angelology The doctrine of the angels, even where it inalienably belongs (when placed in its correct context) to the content of the Christian message, meets with special difficulties at the present time. People nowadays in fact, though without justification, do not like to be told to look beyond the range of elementary immediate experience. Furthermore, even in their knowledge of what concerns salvation, they see no reason to…

Church and World

(8,617 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner
1. Introduction. The Church’s reflection and teaching on the mutual relation of world and Church have to some extent entered on a new stage with Vatican II. The Church has always of course been concerned with the theme. Scripture itself raises the question of the significance of secular authority and of the obligation and limit of Christians’ obedience to it. The patristic period, the Middle Ages and modern times, all dealt in theory and in actual practice which often involved bitter conflicts, w…

Revelation - Concept of Revelation

(8,852 words)

Author(s): Norbert Schiffers | Karl Rahner
Part of Revelation: 1. Concept of Revelation 2. God’s Self-Communication 3. Primitive Revelation 4. Private Revelation A. The Basic Notion 1. History of religion, a) Though the science of religion has not succeeded in proving the existence of a primitive revelation, it would be wrong to assume that all notions of revelation outside the Jewish and Christian religions are merely philosophy. Critique of religion may lead one to affirm that procedures aiming at self-deliverance, using either external or internal means, st…

Grace - Theological

(7,459 words)

Author(s): Johann Auer | Karl Rahner
Part of Grace: 1. Biblical 2. Theological 3. Structure of De Gratia A. History of Doctrine The doctrine of grace propounds the theological problem at the heart of Christian faith, insofar as faith reveals man’s understanding of himself, the world and God. The task of human life in the world is here displayed in all its tensions: the doctrine of the divine choice, call and election which integrate human responsibility into the order of a world regulated by the goodness and holiness of God; the doctrine of the re…

Resurrection - Resurrection of Christ

(8,894 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner | Joseph Schmitt
Part of Resurrection: 1. Resurrection of Christ 2. Resurrection of the Body A. Preliminary Considerations If the resurrection of Jesus is to be proclaimed credibly at the present day as a fundamental dogma of Christianity, then (logically) we must first establish the a priori horizon within which it can “dawn” intelligibly and credibly. This postulate cannot be vitiated by the objection that a “transcendental” question of this kind only arises after the historical experience, whereas the answer is supposed to provide the conditions of possibility of the experience…

Salvation - Theology

(10,422 words)

Author(s): Karl Rahner | Franz Lakner
Part of Salvation: 1. Universal Salvific Will 2. Biblical Concept 3. History of Salvation (“Salvation History”) 4. Theology A. Redemption 1. The fundamental problem, a) Redemption objectively presupposes a need of redemption and subjectively the admission (the acceptance) by man of his need. The startingpoint must therefore always be the question whether there is such a need of salvation, what constitutes it and how man can be brought to take an honest attitude to this fundamental fact of existence. (i) In the first place this need for deliverance signifies the condition i…

Person - Man

(8,272 words)

Author(s): Joseph Möller | Alexander Sand | Karl Rahner
Part of Person: 1. Concept 2. Man A. Philosophical 1. The question posed by the definition. The best known definition of man is animal rationale, which probably goes back to the Peripatetics. According to Iamblichus (De Vita Pythagorica, 31) the definition was already given by Aristotle himself. It was adopted by the scholastics, e.g., Boethius, Isagoge Porphyrii, Commentarium, editto prima, I, 20 ( PL, LXIV, col. 35); Anselm of Canterbury, Monologion, cap. 10; De grammatico, cap. 8; Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II/II, q. 34, a. 5; Summa contra Gentiles, II, 95; III, 39; De Potenti…

Salvation - History of Salvation (“Salvation History”)

(11,892 words)

Author(s): Klaus Berger | Adolf Darlap | Karl Rahner
Part of Salvation: 1. Universal Salvific Will 2. Biblical Concept 3. History of Salvation (“Salvation History”) 4. Theology A. Theological Analysis 1. Biblical approach: The genesis of “history of salvation” as a scriptural concept. a) An exegetical investigation of the concept of “history of salvation” must examine the relationship of a purely political interpretation of events to a theological one, in the various biblical traditions. No event is “chemically pure”, but presents itself with various meanings. Since this is so, in…

Bible - Introduction

(14,719 words)

Author(s): Josef Schreiner | Klaus Berger | Karl Rahner
Part of Bible: 1. Introduction 2. Versions 3. Biblical Hermeneutics 4. Scripture Reading A. Exegesis 1. Old Testament a) Name and contents of the Old Testament. The collection of books which Jesus, the primitive community and the sub-apostolic generation regarded as sacred Scripture is known to Christians as the Old Testament, in the form later determined by the fixing of the canon. The term “Old Testament”, by which it is distinguished from the New and honoured as the attestation of the first divine plan of salvation, …
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