The doctrine of God and his Christ, according to Karl Rahner

Dogmatic after the Council. Foundation of theology, doctrine of God and Christology. Works, volume 22/1b

by Karl Rahner

Under the direction of Vincent Holzer

Venison, 480 p., €40

The 22nd volume – of the 39 already published in German between 1995 and 2018 – of the complete works of the theologian Karl Rahner is part of the third of the four major chronological series, that of texts written immediately after the Council, called “Deployment (1964-1976)”. It is itself divided into three volumes: the first, published last year, dealt more with Revelation.

The second, which has just appeared, is divided into two parts of roughly equal size, the first on the doctrine of a triune God and the second on Christology. It includes 17 articles, of which only three exceed twenty pages.

Bringing Trinity Theology Back to the Heart of Theology

In the first part, a chapter entitled “Trinity God, transcendent foundation of the history of salvation” stands out from the lot, by its dimensions (113 pages) and its interest. Rahner begins by lamenting the insignificant role that Trinitarian theology has hitherto played: “One cannot help thinking that, if there were no Trinity, nothing, absolutely nothing, would have changed, if not to the letter of the catechism, at least to the way in which the Christian, in his head and in his heart, the Incarnation is represented, he writes.

Hence his effort to repatriate the theology of the Trinity not only within but at the very heart of all theology: “Christology and the doctrine of grace, if we stick to their essential content, are indeed Trinitarian doctrine, since, in speaking to us of Christ and the Spirit, these two treatises are not strictly nothing other than the two chapters of the Trinitarian doctrine on the two processions and divine missions “ad intra” and “ad extra”. »

The second part, therefore Christological, comprises twelve texts. In a slightly more developed text (47 pages), soberly titled “I believe in Jesus Christ”the Jesuit theologian clearly and firmly emphasizes that when we speak of faith in Christ, the starting point is always a “someone’s radical trust in someone else”, not know it. A faith-trust which is inseparably linked to an active love: “One must think that full faith in Christ can be nothing other than what is done to him: this act is the act of love towards one’s neighbor and vice versa. »

“We are all beginners in Christianity”

At the end of this very beautiful chapter, marked by an undeniable spirituality, Rahner writes: “We are all beginners in Christianity. But Christianity means accepting Jesus Christ as the one who is the beginning and the end of all reality, of our life too. » And he continues: “Not that that would make everything clear. On the contrary (…) to welcome him means to accept in concrete life that the incomprehensibility into which he lets himself fall is eternal light and eternally valid love”…

The other chapters deal with particular questions, which can sometimes be sensitive, such as the virgin birth of Christ, “the understanding of the human-divine mystery of Jesus” or his resurrection. As in the first part, we find the marked interest of the teacher of Munich and Innsbruck for non-Christians, in particular in these two texts: “The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the Universality of Salvation” and “Jesus Christ in Non-Christian Religions”.

The doctrine of God and his Christ, according to Karl Rahner