Karl Rahner (1904–1984)
Arguably the most influential Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Rahner developed a theology that has influenced much of post-Vatican II Catholicism and its modern inclusivist approach to missions.
Despite his impact, little has been written on Rahner from a Reformed perspective. In this introduction and critique, Camden Bucey guides readers to an understanding of Rahner’s theology as a whole. Beginning with Rahner’s trinitarian theology, he moves through each of the traditional departments of theology to show how Rahner developed one basic idea from beginning to end.
Rahner set out to explain how God communicates himself to humanity, whom he created specifically for the purpose of fellowship with him. Once we trace this thread, we gain a deeper understanding of his thought and its reach today.
“If you want to understand present-day Roman Catholicism, you must come to terms with Vatican II (1962–65). Everything that Rome now teaches and does is filtered through it. But if you want to understand Vatican II itself, you need to know about Karl Rahner. . . . Part of the confused and naive attitude of contemporary evangelicals toward Rome depends on the lack of awareness of both Vatican II and Karl Rahner. This lucid book is a helpful introduction to this seminal Roman Catholic theologian whose language contains all the key Christian words (e.g., Trinity, Christ, humanity), but whose meaning is significantly different from that of straightforward biblical teaching. It is time that Reformed theologians do their homework in grasping what is at stake with contemporary Roman Catholicism.”
—Leonardo De Chirico, Pastor, Breccia di Roma; Lecturer, Historical Theology, IFED, Padova, Italy; Director, Reformanda Initiative
“Roman Catholic apologists often boast about their church’s antiquity but seldom mention modern Roman Catholic theology, which often sounds as modern as liberal Protestantism. Karl Rahner, one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, whose prominence was evident at the Second Vatican Council, is one of the best examples of Roman Catholicism’s modernity. Camden Bucey’s fair-minded and careful assessment of Rahner’s theology is valuable in itself, but doubly so for anyone wanting an introduction to modern Roman Catholicism’s own contribution to liberal Christian theology.”
—D. G. Hart, Distinguished Associate Professor of History, Hillsdale College
“Though Karl Rahner is among the most significant Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, he is little known (and seldom read) by evangelical and Reformed theologians. Camden Bucey’s fine study offers an excellent summary of Rahner’s Trinitarian theology that promises to redress this problem. He not only provides a helpful explanation of Rahner’s well-known Trinitarian axiom (‘the “economic” Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity’), but also locates it within the broader context of Rahner’s anthropocentric theology. While Bucey critically engages Rahner’s theology from a Reformed perspective, he does so throughout in a careful, irenic, and constructive fashion.”
—Cornelis P. Venema, President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies, Mid-America Reformed Seminary