Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Christianity and Non-Christian Religions in Karl Rahner's Vision

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Christianity and Non-Christian Religions in Karl Rahner's Vision

Article excerpt

Homo religiosus as a "hearer of the Word"

The issues of the philosophy of religion (Religionsphilosophie) and of religious phenomenology (Religionsphänomenologie) were the concerns of the catholic theologian Karl Rahner (1904-1984) even early in his life. In his doctoral thesis in philosophy, Geist in Welt / Spirit in the world, Rahner presented the general data of the metaphyisics of knowledge1 and pointed out how they can be transcribed in the phenomenological plan. In his intimate structure, the human being is endowed with a universal and permanent noetical dynamism towards the absolute Mystery. This dynamism cannot be perpetually ascending unless we admit the reality of the boundless knowledge of the divinity.

The human being is not open only towards the world and existence, generally, but also towards the Being. The opening towards the Being and the willigness of the human spirit to hear and understand the Being's language were presented by Rahner in the other philosophical work written by him, Hörer des Wortes / Hearer of the Word2, a work in which he wished to present the foundations of a philosophy of religion. For the German theologian, the philosophy of religion can mediate knowledge of the real relationship that unites the human being with the divine Absolute. Scientifically founded with the help of metaphysics, the philosophy of religion has the same foundation and the same object as metaphysics itself. Ultimately, the philosophy of religion and metaphyisics, although distinct, meet in the metaphysical anthropology. And together, the philosophy of religion and the metaphysical anthropology, conceptually interpreting the existential relationship of the human being with divinity, describe how knowing God is possible, as well as human being's union with the supreme Being.

Certainly, any philosophy of religion, implicitly asserting the human subject, by this becomes a metaphysical anthropology. But if viewed from the point of view of its content, the philosophy of religion is nothing else but fundamental theological anthropology. At its turn, teologia naturalis, as an internal moment of general metaphysics, of ontology, is originally and permanently united with the metaphysical anthropology 3.

As to the relationship of the philosophy of religion with the revealed theology, Rahner pointed out that the philosophy of religion, as a fundamental theological anthropology, cannot however determine a potential revelation of God or the content of this revelation. And this because God remains free in the act of His revelation, which is an absolutely unpredictable and free gift. Certainly, the human being has the inner willingness to hear the Word and to reach, by this free act, a deep understanding of his own existence, but we must not forget that the willingness to hear the Word is God's work, before being the man's work. From this we understand that the philosophy of religion cannot found theology and that theology, as a Word of the God revealed to the human being, has its foundation in itself4.

Rahner expressed his conviction that there existed an original unity between the knowledge being, knowledge and the object of knowing. Any object of knowing has a certain degree of intelligibility. And, in point of fact, any entity can be an object of knowledge, because "the being of entities is intelligibility" and every creature has its own reason for being, bears a transcendent sense. Every entity is inwardly directed towards the human being, as a knowing being and as a transcendence of creation, in such a way that, by self-transcendence, "the being of entities and knowledge form an original unit"5. "The being of entities and knowledge are therefore correlative because they are identical in their foundation"6. In the end, knowledge is self-possession, the return of the knowledge being to his self or, in Thomist words, reditio subjecti in seipsum. Germinal or causal principles (logoi spermatikoi/rationes seminales), scattered in the world through the creative act, are re-gathered, through the act of knowing, in the human reason. …

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