It will be clear to the reader that what has been developed in this book is neither a defense of the truth and consistency of everything Rahner ever said, nor a fundamental criticism of his theology. The reception of Rahner has suffered, I believe, from the fact that too many people have written about him either as disciples convinced that all criticism must be based on misunderstanding, or as critics striving to show that some fundamental decision “at the beginning” of his thinking vitiates all that follows. The two camps, of course, are not unrelated. Those who have suggested that one cannot question any aspect of Rahner's thought without endangering the whole “synthesis” have in some sense played into the hands of those inclined towards wholesale rejection. The enthusiasm of the defenders, it is arguable, has contributed to the hostility of the critics.
If this book is neither wholesale defense nor wholesale attack, it is nevertheless intended as defense of a kind. What is needed to bring out the best of Rahner, it seems to me, is not so much a vindication of his treatment of particular issues, but rather a Gestalt shift, a fundamental change in the way he is perceived, and it is this that I have been pointing towards in suggesting that Rahner can be read as a nonfoundationalist. True, Rahner is a philosophically dense theologian. True, Rahner makes central use of the notion of a universal experience. But this need not mean that philosophy is his starting point, nor that he attempts to build his theology on an appeal to experience.
Many of those who have wanted to reject Rahner's theology wholesale have pointed to the supposed philosophical basis of his thought, or to its supposedly anthropocentric, “from below, ” starting point. Such criticisms, if the reading which has been developed here is adopted, will not stick. This does not of course mean that one has only to take up a nonfoundationalist interpretation and all difficulties with Rahner magically disappear. Difficulties there are and will remain, and criticism of Rahner is needed: Rahner is a profound, creative, and fresh thinker, but he is also sometimes reductive, and sometimes unpersuasive. If a nonfoundationlist