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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three in one and one in three, 18 Jan 2004
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
Karl Rahner was one of the major theologians of the twentieth century, who ironically often described himself as a theological amateur. Rahner's career as a teacher took place largely in secular universities (oddly enough, his attempt for a doctorate in philosophy under the auspices of the Jesuits failed; one has to wonder by what standards he was being judged), but he never lost his church-focussed orientation for theology, which had both a magisterial academic tone and a practical liturgical side.
Rahner's work is systematic and vast, so it is somewhat ironic that most of his work concerning the subject of the Trinity (a fairly central concern for most Christians, particularly catholic/orthodox ones) is contained within this small text of barely more than 100 pages. Rahner's concern about then-prevailing ideas of the Trinity was that they had become too disconnected from 'reality', that they bordered upon (if not outright journeyed into) fanciful speculation with no real basis experientially or scripturally. The Trinity is a derivative concept, not explicitly formulated in the scriptures (hence the need for continuing refinement of creeds over the centuries).
Rahner's idea to correct this is deceptively simple -- he states that 'the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity' and vice versa. What this means is that the God we experience as the Trinity and who impacts our salvation (the 'economic' Trinity) is not a distinct or different entity from the metaphysical being of God (the 'immanent' Trinity). Rahner states that being an incarnationalist, believing that God became human in the form of Jesus, does not in and of itself imply anything about one's trinitarian concept. God is triune in Godself, and what appears to us in three forms or 'persons' of God are in fact not three separate entities or three different manifestations of one God, but extensions of an internal reality of God.
Rahner places great emphasis on the self-communication of God and the self-possession of God. Self-communication is not merely a verbal expression, nor is it always understandable. Ultimately, the Trinity remains an Absolute Mystery, and much of God's self-communication in Father, Son and Holy Spirit remains incomprehensible to us intellectually.
One of the issues of concern for some readers would the be dependence Rahner seems to create on the importance, or indeed necessity, of creation for the Trinity to really exist -- without a creation to whom to communicate, there is some question about Rahner's ontology. However, as God's self-communication can be within the Trinity also, this need not be a concern. This does raise the question of once again separating out the economic and immanent Trinities from each other, and requires more work that was not completed in this text.
Rahner and Barth share a concern for the identification of God's 'real', ontological being and that God we experience in salvific action and history, although they approach things from different starting points. Ultimately, Rahner sees no real separation between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrines of grace and Christology. Rahner discusses the difficulties of language -- many options for language have been used over time to try to discuss the different 'persons' of the Trinity, such as 'manners' or 'modes' or 'hypostasic union', and Rahner calls to task the idea that these are easily understood concepts. Of particular difficulty is the idea of 'persons', given modern psychological theories that put so much more meaning onto the term.
This is not simple reading. Rahner, who studied under Heidegger and other philosophy professors, was well schooled and well attuned to the kind of academic philosophical language of that discipline, only rarely departs from what one might call a high-German scholastic language. Even in translation, the text remains weighty. It is worth reading and re-reading, however, to show the intricate manner of Rahner's thought.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 29 Aug 2014
This review is from: Trinity (Paperback)
arrived on time and was very helpful..
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Trinity by Carl Rahner (Paperback - 4 Jan 2001)
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