Man-Centrism and Karl Rahner

Time to take a pause from the environment and to examine a theologian at the root of many contemporary ills. Fr. Karl Rahner. A quote:

“The tendency today to talk not about God, but about one’s neighbor, to preach not about the love of God, but about the love of neighbor, and to use not the term “God,” but “world” and “responsibility for the world” – we can see that this tendency has an absolutely solid foundation.” Foundations of Christian Faith (Crossroads, 64).

A very jarring statement. And a pious person’s first reaction to this – revulsion – is in the end the reaction with the greatest wisdom. This very difficult and subtle thinker, Fr. Karl Rahner, often strikes the pious – upon first impression – as impious. Whatever may have been his intentions, one is wise to be revolted. Yet, note that I said “first … in the end”. Reason: This very subtle thinker has some keen insight. Nor is it just “philosophical”. It is, rather, and very seriously, akin to the monastic insights. In short: He wants to be very clear that God is INFINITE. You cannot put God in a box, not even the box of your thought. That said, once again and in the end, we have to say that this is a comment to be found revolting.

And Rahner himself issues an immediate caution:

“HOWEVER, going to the extreme of banishing God and of being radically silent about him is and remains false and does violence to the true nature of Christianity” (ibid.).

In the end, Rahner will reduce God’s role in your life to a function of your own dynamic operations / tendencies. You are the kind of knower that puts labels on things, and in putting a label on, say, the Advil Pills, you transcend the individual; you also distinguish this kind of thing – Advil – from other kinds of things. So, for instance: Headache pills vs. Cold pills. Again, Medicine vs. Food. Again, Health Materials vs. Recreation. Again Things for Man’s good vs. Things just there (sun, stars). Again, possible things out there, etc. Ultimately, your mind is heading to BEING as SUCH – I.e., what is and what can be. Your mind has a vector like Toy Story: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! (Sorry!).

How now can “GOD” come in the picture? Not as an object of focal concern. Why? Every object about which you can have focal concern is finite! But God is infinite. Hence, he cannot be that about which you can exercise focal concern. Instead, note that in having focal concern about any object, your mind goes beyond it towards … infinity. Hence, God must rather be the ultimate whither of your mind’s vector of transcending. That means, he cannot appear to you, show you his face, lest he cease to be God. This is the grounding anthropology of Rahner. To be sure, he squeezes grace and the beatific vision into this, but he will not let this determinative and determining foundation go. Hence, in the end, he gives us that about which we can have focal concern: NOT GOD!

The result is ironic: In preserving God’s transcendence, Rahner practically banishes God from man’s mind.

Indeed, this banishment is doubly ironic since, if we truly reflect on the “ultimate whither” of our mind as Rahner sees it, we note that it truly is POSSIBLE BEING. That is, ENS COMMUNE / THE SET OF POSSIBLE BEINGS OF FOCAL AWARENESS is really what constitutes the vector. That truly is infinite, for there is no limited range of what can be. But Possible Being is not Subsistent Being. Hence, the ultimate whither of my transcendental experience thus defined is not God but Possible Finite Beings.

This is far from “very good”. This is “not good”.