Foundations of Christian Faith Summary

Karl Rahner


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

While the prolific and influential Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner developed no systematic overview of his ideas, Foundations of Christian Faith approaches that end. In this volume Rahner organizes his ideas about the way humankind comes to know God, the ways God offers himself to humans as a means of their salvation, the role of Jesus Christ in God’s plan for salvation, and the role of the Church in both human and salvific history. Although Rahner insists in his preface that he is writing for an audience of literate readers who have little familiarity with theology or philosophy, his careful exploration of fundamental questions regarding God’s relationship with humankind has proven difficult for many to comprehend without significant glosses by subsequent commentators.

One of Rahner’s principal aims in Foundations of Christian Faith is to make traditional Catholic theology understandable for modern believers. To structure his argument, he relies heavily on twentieth century philosopher Martin Heidegger and to a lesser extent on other existentialist philosophers. He also makes use of the theories of Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. His theological arguments are grounded in the work of Catholic theologians, especially Saint Thomas Aquinas. Rahner offers this study, which was not intended to convert skeptics, as a way of explaining how and why believers in the modern world can have assurance that God exists and that God communicates with humans who are open to receiving his presence. He also wants to explain the relationship between Christianity and human existence.

Combining philosophy and theology as disciplines of equal importance in his analysis, Rahner begins with a long chapter describing what it means to be human. He asserts that humans are free subjects whose very nature leads...

(The entire section is 757 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Fischer, Mark F. The Foundations of Karl Rahner. New York: Crossroad, 2005. Critical paraphrase of Foundations of Christian Faith, explaining key terms Rahner uses to delineate humankind’s encounter with God. Outlines Rahner’s view of key concepts of Christianity. Includes a topic index keyed to the Dych translation.

Hines, Mary E. The Transformation of Dogma: An Introduction to Karl Rahner on Doctrine. New York: Paulist Press, 1989. Examines Rahner’s writings on dogma to demonstrate how the philosopher explains the function of dogma in helping Christians meet modern religious challenges.

Imhoff, Paul, and Hubert Biallowons, eds. Karl Rahner in Dialogue: Conversations, and Interviews, 1965-1982. Translated by Harvey D. Egan. New York: Crossroad, 1986. Overview of Rahner’s work and an explanation of his methodology, intended as an introduction to his thought.

Kress, Robert. A Rahner Handbook. Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1982. Critical summary of Rahner’s thought and a commentary on his philosophical and theological sources. Reviews major criticisms of his work. Contains a glossary of specialized terms used throughout Rahner’s work.

Marmion, Declan, and Mary E. Hines, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Karl Rahner. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Essays by noted Rahner scholars exploring the philosophical and theological background to his work, his major theological investigations, and his significance for future studies in theology, especially within the Catholic tradition.