Spirit in the World1 is a dauntingly difficult book. And one of the implications of my own argument will be that grappling with Spirit in the World is not quite so vital for coming to terms with Rahner's theology as is sometimes supposed. Why then devote a chapter to it?
There are two reasons. First, although I will be suggesting that Rahner's writings are not best read as one entirely coherent whole, and arguing that the later theology need not be taken to depend logically on the earlier philosophical arguments, it does not follow that there are no connections whatsoever between Spirit in the World and Rahner's later theology. Some of the crucial ideas he uses later do indeed make their first appearance, or one of their first appearances, here. If it is, as I believe, a mistake to think of the theology as resting on Spirit in the World (and perhaps Hearer of the Word) as on a foundation, it is equally a mistake to suppose that the former has nothing to do with the latter.
Even if Rahner's theology is not founded upon his philosophy, then, one's understanding of the former can still be enhanced by getting some sense of what he was up to in the latter. The converse of this is that without at least some knowledge of Spirit in the World, of its contents and of the kind of work it is, the student of Rahner will find it difficult to feel confident in coming to terms with Rahner's theology-there may always be the lurking fear (even if to a large degree unjustified) that a major piece of the puzzle is missing.
The second reason for including a chapter on Spirit in the World is rather different. I shall be devoting the final section of this chapter to the exposition and critique of one important strand of Spirit in the World, Rahner's argument for the Vorgriff auf esse, the “pre-apprehension of being.” This argument is by no means the whole of Spirit in the World or its sole purpose, but it is one of the most notorious and widely disputed elements of the work. Furthermore, if anything were to be in a philosophical foundation to Rahner's thought, it would have to be, or at least to include, this Vorgriff. To argue, as I will, then, that the case-the philosophical case-Rahner makes for the Vorgriff is thoroughly unpersuasive, is to give an added urgency to the interpretive issue of this volume.