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A Brief Introduction to Karl Rahner [Paperback]

Karen Kilby

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Karl Raher: A Brief Introduction 3 Aug 2008
By David Roman Smoker - Published on Amazon.com
Many students of theology, or those interested in theology are afraid to approach the work of Karl Rahner. While it is true that Rahner possessed an intellect matched by few philosophers or theologians of his day, his work has left an indelible mark on both Christianity and specifically Roman Catholic theology. An excellent way to approach Rahner's work is to read Dr. Kilby's well written little book on Rahner. Using the format of a systematic approach to Rahner's theology, in just over 100 pp., subjects such as "God and Humanity"; "Sacraments and Symbols"; Rahner's "Philosophy and Theology"; and "Rahner the Man"; are succinctly and deftly explained. Karl Rahner was a seminal figure in theology during the 20th century and Dr. Kilby's book makes a person want to explore Rahner in more depth. This book has been endorsed by Fergus Kerr in "Reviews in Religion and Theology." I'm just a lowly grad-student, but if you don't want to take my word, please read Fergus Kerr's review. This little tome will pique your interest and if it doesn't, it is still a great buy and you won't lose more than one or two day's lunch money to invest in it.A Brief Introduction to Karl Rahner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rahner Primer 10 Oct 2010
By not me - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Karl Rahner believed that human thoughts and actions are inherently bounded by mystery and infinity, leaving us connected to "God" at virtually every moment of our waking lives, even if we aren't aware of it. Armed with this picture of human existence, Rahner tackled diverse theological problems such as the dual nature of Christ and the meaning of the sacraments. To judge by this book, Rahner was a hugely creative thinker who applied philosophical concepts to theological problems yet never got locked into one philosophical system or lost touch with the realities of human experience or Christian faith. I know next to nothing about Catholic theology, but this lucid, well-organized book made me want to read more Rahner. Could there be higher praise for an introduction? And this one is short enough to read on a long plane flight. (I read it between Kabul and Johannesburg.) Recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rahner Simplified 6 Feb 2010
By J. MCMILLAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Rahner can be etherial at times, abstract and challenging to follow in depth. Then again, it's theology, after all, and it is abstract by nature isn't it? Kilby succinctly renders it easily understandable and with sufficient quoted passages to give you some genuine depth. A good primer to undiluted Rahner later if you choose. (And Rahner is great!).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy Introduction 17 Mar 2011
By Wordsword - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Karen Killby is a leading European expert on the works of Karl Rahner. In this text , she easily sums up the thoughts of the great theologian. Before jumping into Rahner's Theological Investigations, it is helpful to have read a summary of his life and works such as in this book by Killby. Also recommended to learn more about Rahner thought is: Karl Rahner: Theologian of the Graced Search for Meaning (Making of Modern Theology).
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rahner's Dynamic and Practical Thought 25 Mar 2011
By Orville B. Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
This was an excellent summary and analysis of Karl Rahner, and his creative thinking that helped reinterpret the Roman Catholic Church in the modern and contemporary context. I had had the pleasure of reading Rahner on occasions over the years, and found him thoughtful, refreshing and creative in trying to clarify the ideas and frames of reference behind the forms of faith and devotion.

Rahner was particularly helpful with his compassionate attitude toward followers of other world religions, in reference to the exclusivist claims of Christianity. One aspect Kilby really brings out well here is how integrated Rahner's personal and academic thought was.

One aspect Kilby really brings out well here is how integrated Rahner's personal and academic thought was. Rahner was an active preacher, teacher, speaker, writer and devotional leader. He wrote meditations and prayers and lived and worked in an active and practical worship context, integrating his thoughtful rational and historical analysis with an application to everyday life and personal worship.

Rahner was able to draw upon certain perspectives in Hegel and Existentialism without becoming a slave to the systems those schools entailed. And his thought presaged the later Process Philosophy movement in taking seriously the relational aspects of a Creator god in entering into true relationship with his human creatures.

I see also powerful aspects of Process Philosophy in his formulations, though Kilby never mentions that, and I do not know if that was ever overtly mentioned by Rahner himself. He works on integrating the concepts of Grace, for instance, in such a way that the experience of Grace is in focus. This emphasis on the experience of Grave, the feeling of forgiveness, the feeling of relationship, fits the pattern of thought and core themes of Existentialism.

Rahner enlivens the discussion about the relationship of symbols to their referent by focusing on the process of mediating Grace. Rahner notes that an observance often becomes part of the experience of Grace, as the prayer form that enables an actual internal prayer focus, the act of kneeling serving to induce the actual reverent attitude it represents. These emphases fit the pattern of Process Philosophy, which emphasizes the idea of change and "becoming."

This Process perspective breathed new life and possibility into western thought after Alfred North Whitehead, then Charles Hartshorne developed this format of handling true, dynamic relational characteristics into the dominant concept of God as Ultimate Other and totally good. More recently Shubert Ogden was the premiere representative of Process Theology in the Christian arena, emphasizing the dynamic aspect of God's personality and the relational character of his acts in what is sometimes referred to as "Salvation History."

Rahner does not overtly reference Process thought in the sections of his writings I have read. But the strong relational theme is active throughout Rahner's thought, in terms very similar to Process Theology. This dynamism is brought out well in Kilby's review of the key concerns in Rahner's thought and published works.

Process Theology enables us to deal more realistically and account more fully for the biblical portrayal of God as a personality who interacts with his human creation, who experiences and initiates real relationships with God. It is not a fad theology of the times, but a serious correction in "Classical Theology" of the Middle Ages.

The Process concepts overcome the conflict of St Thomas' thought brought over from Aristotle, in defining God as an unchanging and and unchangeable entity. In Aristotle, the term "God" did not represent a living entity, but a logical principle, an organizing principle of order and direction that draws the universe to some final ultimate purpose.

Aquinas was unable to successfully overcome this inert idea of God, and western theology has never overcome this impasse, the Protestant Reformers taking this aspect of late medieval theology totally for granted. Luther deals with the dynamics of relationships much better than Calvin, whose followers developed a stultified and mechanical concept of a God who could not change and had in fact predetermined everything in an unchangeable manner.

This was a form of the Rationalist view of an objective universe operating on the basis of "laws." This accounted for the regularity of the external macro universe, and led to a sense of causal mechanism that eliminates any sense of true free will and independent action. That leaves little if any room for any sort of dynamic relational freedom.

Yet the Bible and the historical Judeo-Christian stream of thought and worship has consistently proclaimed that God is in the business of making relational covenants, of interacting with fallible humans. He cannot be unchangeable if he is going to be in a relationship.

Relationships by definition are dynamic. They change as the human participants change and they develop as the relationship progresses. So there were some definitional problems here, and conclusions drawn from some implications that contradicted very basic biblical declarations about God's relational character.

Rahner reclaims this dynamic interrelational aspect of the Gospel, enlivening the various observances of Roman Catholicism with a look behind the observance and ritual to its intent and personal relational meaning. Kilby brings this out admirably in this review, while likewise never overtly mentioning Process Philosophy and its theological derivatives in the 20th Century.

A great example of a similar earlier Catholic thinker was Tielhard de Chardin, who emphasized the progressive character of God's relationship to the creation, and the discovery aspect of the human experience of relationship to the Divine. Rahner is similarly creative in thought and re-evaluates the accepted boundaries and ideas of Thomism, and finds new ways to critically reform Catholic thought.

A strength of Rahner's method and result is that he has reclaimed the focus in creation theology so obscured in medieval European thought (unlike Eastern and Oriental Christian thought) that the creation remains good, and the positive relation of God to the creation, and especially the human creation is still strong.

He emphasizes the image of God inherent in the human entity, and the Presence of God in each aspect of life.
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