Karl Rahner is universally recognized as important, but often lightly dismissed. He is not alone in this: it is a fate he shares with many theologians. Figures such as Schleiermacher, Bultmann, Barth, and Balthasar, to name but a few, are so difficult-they write so much, and of such a demanding nature-that few readers, even professional theological readers, manage to become thoroughly knowledgeable, thoroughly at ease, with the work of more than one or two of them. It therefore seems useful, almost necessary, to have some quick way of dismissing a theologian, some good reason not to bother with the difficult business of understanding him or her. In the case of Rahner, the dismissal can take a number of forms: with his famous theory of anonymous Christianity, Rahner is an inclusivist, and inclusivism is fundamentally patronizing towards other religions, and so not a viable option in the theology of religions; or again, Rahner uses “the transcendental method, ” and the transcendental method is essentially reductive, a priori-it levels out all difference and undermines the historicity and particularity of Christianity-so Rahner can be set to one side as representing an interesting but ultimately mistaken route for Christian theology to take.
Those who really know Rahner's work, of course, would not subscribe to either of these wholesale and rather simple-minded rejections. But because he is so hard to understand (in difficulty, if nothing else, Rahner is unsurpassed in the theology of the last few centuries), because there is such an investment of time and effort required before one can enter serious conversation about him, very often those who really know Rahner's work are in fact talking only among themselves, and have little impact on the wider theological world's reaction to him. Or if they have an impact, it may not be the one they intend: some Rahner scholars may, through their admiring emphasis on the unity and coherence of his thought, inadvertantly contribute to the too-easy rejection of Rahner by his detractors.
My aim in this book will be to work against such quick dismissals of Rahner on two levels. One is expository. I hope the book will be an aid to readers in coming to terms with some of Rahner's most difficult and