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Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity

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Karl Rahner is one of Catholicism’s most influential, and yet difficult to understand, theologians. This remarkably comprehensive volume gives a page by page explanation of Rahner’s great summary Foundations of Christian Faith. With an excellent introduction and helpful indices, this book is an indispensable addition to every theological library.


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Karl Rahner is one of Catholicism’s most influential, and yet difficult to understand, theologians. This remarkably comprehensive volume gives a page by page explanation of Rahner’s great summary Foundations of Christian Faith. With an excellent introduction and helpful indices, this book is an indispensable addition to every theological library.

30 review for Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    If you want to be sure that you hav read the most important work by one of (if not the) mot important philosophical Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, this is it! Do not let the subtitle fool you, though. Although "an introduction to the idea of Christianity" this magnum opus of Karl Rahner, SJ is no introductory book - or perhaps it is introductory in the way that Thomas Aquinas says that his Summa Theologica is an introduction to the basics! Rahner is perhaps best known for his corr If you want to be sure that you hav read the most important work by one of (if not the) mot important philosophical Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, this is it! Do not let the subtitle fool you, though. Although "an introduction to the idea of Christianity" this magnum opus of Karl Rahner, SJ is no introductory book - or perhaps it is introductory in the way that Thomas Aquinas says that his Summa Theologica is an introduction to the basics! Rahner is perhaps best known for his correlation of Christian theology (particularly a retrieval an renewal of St. Thomas' thought from the ossified confines of pre-Vatican II neoscholasticism) with existential philosophy, particularly as expressed by Martin Heidegger. This forms the basic thrust of his theolgical approach in this book and elsewhere, as he seeks to provide an intelligent explication of the Christian faith in te new circumstances created by Enlightenment and post-enlightenment thought. Arguing that the human person is fundamentally open in his or her very existence to the transcendent reality, and that this experience is (necessarily) mediated through the categorical and historical experiences - in particular the definitive self-communication of God in the person of Jesus Christ - Rahner seeks in this book to both retain traditional Catholic orthodoxy while recognizing that the philosophical categories that have been used to express this faith may be freighted with understandings that actually hinder a properly orthodox understanding. He therefore uses the book as a way of showing how a contemorary theology which takes as its concrete starting point the concrete human person existing in history and in his / her existential reality can provide an enhanced foundation upon which Christianity can continue to be intellectually robust and honest in the contemporary world. Rahner is certainly no leftist. His comprehensive vision has suffered from baseless attacks of heterodoxy, however, partially because the denseness of his German is pregnant with multivalance. (That's the Rahneran equivalent of saying He says a lot with few words!) However, the book assumes a familiarity with the Denzinger manuals of theology - the hallmark of neoscholasticism - with which he takes issue in articulating his own method, mostly because he considers them no longer adequate to the task of fundamental theology. Thus, those that don't know the manuals and don't know their technical vocabulary as well as that of existential philosophy, run the risk of misunderstanding and mischaracterizing this quite orthodox Catholic thinker. On the whole I tend to think Rahner is right on target as far as he goes, however, he has been criticized as focusing on the existential reality of the individual believing Christian and not enough on the social, political, and ecclesial dimensions of the faith. His later works represented a turn in this dirction but he died before he could develop these ideas further, and that taks has fallen to his students such as Johann-Baptiste Metz and others. However, it can never be denied that this book, and Rahner's other works, have offered a coherent theological vision and helped bring about a substantive and important renewal in Catholic theology, its understanding of the human person, and the truths of the faith in a way that is not only intellectually substantive, but can even be spiritually inspiring!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    So in the very first pages of this book, Rahner states essentially that one of the challenges of his book is people approaching it who are not smart well-read enough will find it very challenging and might dismiss it out of hand. I am that person, though I tried to work with it and meet the text where it was at. Needless to say, I would have gotten way more out of this book if I had a stronger grounding in like very basic theology and philosophy. This isn't to say it was wholly worthless to me-- So in the very first pages of this book, Rahner states essentially that one of the challenges of his book is people approaching it who are not smart well-read enough will find it very challenging and might dismiss it out of hand. I am that person, though I tried to work with it and meet the text where it was at. Needless to say, I would have gotten way more out of this book if I had a stronger grounding in like very basic theology and philosophy. This isn't to say it was wholly worthless to me--some sections I found super enlightening and powerful, especially the section on the church, and there are specific parts I would love for everyone to read to better understand how Catholicism works and functions as a religion, as a body composed of a church and of individuals. More challenging sections that I would probably need to return to a couple of times include the chapter on Jesus Christ (yes, hilarious that is the chapter I didn't understand the most in a book about Christianity,) and the one about eschatology. Still probably the most comprehensive book about Catholic theology I've ever read, and despite some of the challenges in terms of density, I would say Rahner's writing is very approachable, and even funny at times. (His section about the use of the word God in particular had me giggling.) Would say definitely a necessary read and I hope I can some day come back to this with a better appreciation for the nuances and a better understanding overall.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gene Bales

    Rahner's work is always challenging and this book is no exception. I was helped by having read and digested his early works (Hearers of the Word and Spirit in the World), both of which are much influenced by Heidegger's ontology. I don't think this work is all that "introductory", but it is a fascinating overview of theology. Rahner's work is always challenging and this book is no exception. I was helped by having read and digested his early works (Hearers of the Word and Spirit in the World), both of which are much influenced by Heidegger's ontology. I don't think this work is all that "introductory", but it is a fascinating overview of theology.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Monica Mitri

    Dense, difficult and absolutely superb! This is one of the books that profoundly informed my theological understanding and metaphysical paradigm. It is only in the depths that one touches Karl Rahner's profound mystical ground of being: the transcendent Mystery that is always immanent, the divine origin, reality, orientation, home, and future of all creation. Dense, difficult and absolutely superb! This is one of the books that profoundly informed my theological understanding and metaphysical paradigm. It is only in the depths that one touches Karl Rahner's profound mystical ground of being: the transcendent Mystery that is always immanent, the divine origin, reality, orientation, home, and future of all creation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tomáš Sixta

    Dílo tak těžký a rozsáhlý, že nevím, kolik jsem toho zvládl pobrat, ale stálo to asi za to :-).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    In the mid-20th century, Karl Rahner was one of the most important Catholic theologians and Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity serves as a digest of the themes which were so brilliantly pursued by this scholar. The easiest way to describe this book is to say that it is a transcendental theology in the sense that his primary thesis is that human beings are the only ones who know that they are finite, but that those who know existentially that they are fini In the mid-20th century, Karl Rahner was one of the most important Catholic theologians and Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity serves as a digest of the themes which were so brilliantly pursued by this scholar. The easiest way to describe this book is to say that it is a transcendental theology in the sense that his primary thesis is that human beings are the only ones who know that they are finite, but that those who know existentially that they are finite have already begun to transcend their finiteness (p. 20). The book is not intended to be an overtly apologetic work. He states from the outset that even though rational arguments cannot establish faith, they should be part of faith (p. 8). In building his theology, Rahner comes back again and again to this personal awareness of transcendence. He recognizes theology as reflective thoughts on one’s personal transcendence (p. 69) and rejects the idea of a non-personal God as not fitting with our personal experiences of transcendence (p. 75). In other words, if we are longing for an experience beyond the finite in order to be more than we are, it is because we have a sense of that beyond the finite which beckons us. Naturally, at this point, I felt like Rahner was completely in tune with Anselm’s ontological arguments and didn’t think Rahner was breaking much new ground. I liked this idea of reflectively thinking about God based on our longing for completeness within and beyond ourselves, but I originally thought this was where it was going to stop. It wasn’t where it stopped. Having established his rationale for a theology “from above,” Rahner began building on personal experience and God’s role as a guarantor of freedom (p. 105) to establish a theology “from below.” Ontological understanding of God is not enough for Rahner and shouldn’t be for any human who is honest. Authentic experience is historically based within the experience of time—even though it may point beyond time. Hence, much like my personal theological schema of “Presence in tension with Authority,” Rahner shows how imminence and transcendence must work together (p. 119) such that the “cause” (as argued by Aquinas) becomes an intrinsic, constituent part of the effect itself (p. 120). Indeed, during his discussion of Christology, Rahner coins a phrase for this tension of which I speak. His idea of “mutual conditioning” is very similar to my Authority/Presence schema (p. 208). This is very significant when Rahner speaks about the God-Man relationship within the historical person of Jesus. He says that spirit and matter are essentially different, but the God-Man demonstrates that they are not to be understood as essential opposites (p. 184). As a result, he is able to explore why saving power (soteriological significance) rests in neither Jesus’ death nor resurrection separately (p. 266). He is quick to point out that Eternity subsumes time, particularly as it relates to death (p. 270), so that he can argue that resurrection is not to be confused with resuscitation—life is more than existing (p. 267) [I know the page numbering doesn’t make sense in terms of a linear argument, but Germans sometimes give you the punch line before they give you the body of the argument.:] As he explores other theological themes, it all builds to a conclusion when he says, “…in Christology, man and God are not the same, but neither are they ever separate.” (p. 447) As a Baptist minister (as well as professor at a Catholic University), I was particularly interested in Rahner’s approach to the Church. It was amazing to see how open he was to the dogma of Evangelical Christianity and how he explained Catholic understandings. For example, how many times have Protestants been told that Catholics “worship” Mary, the mother of Jesus. Rahner says, “The dogma [of the Assumption of Mary:] says nothing else but that Mary is someone who has been redeemed radically.” (p. 387) He warns about the dangers of idealizing the church (p. 390) because it shackles a believer to a SYSTEM instead of allowing said believer to be led through the multiplicity of reality into a sophisticated and enduring experience of life (p. 407). Perhaps, it is best to end this review with Rahner’s definition of humankind: “…a being who exists from out of his present ‘now’ towards his future.” (p. 431) Being open to that future via God’s self-communication is the challenge. This book is the kind of volume that I end up reading 10-15 pages at a time. I have to think about what’s been said and consider where it fits with my thoughts, my studies, and my interpretation of Scripture. It is a challenging, mind-expanding experience that I expect to revisit from time to time. It will have an honored place on my shelf.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    An important book in terms of recent theological developments. The Roman Catholic Church divided at the time of Vatican II into two mainstream lines of theological thought. Rahner led the leftist or progressive side that rallied behind him. Joseph Ratzinger (who later became pope) led the opposition. Rahner was an integral theologian at Council. His central ideas are spelled out in this volume. The primary concern is with the notion of grace or the "supernatural existential" or the "pre-conceptu An important book in terms of recent theological developments. The Roman Catholic Church divided at the time of Vatican II into two mainstream lines of theological thought. Rahner led the leftist or progressive side that rallied behind him. Joseph Ratzinger (who later became pope) led the opposition. Rahner was an integral theologian at Council. His central ideas are spelled out in this volume. The primary concern is with the notion of grace or the "supernatural existential" or the "pre-conceptual" apprehension of God who is then defined thematically with revelatory symbols. God remains the ultimate "ground of being" or "absolute mystery" that is intrinsic to human existence. Logical consequences such as the "anonymous Christian" who is existentially Christian (albeit barring the thematic content) or the notion of sacraments that draw grace from the naturally supernatural state of mankind were deduced from Rahner's re-ordering of theology along finer shades of modern thought. Interestingly Rahner befriended Heidegger who influenced him significantly. Much of Rahner's thought is in Heidegger absent the mapping of Christian Revelation onto the existential framework. An important book for the aspiring theologian that is penetrable when the main ideas have been grasped adequately.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Sverker

    I'm sad to say, but this was a real disappointment for me. I'm usually quite okay with there being a fair amount of terminology in theology, but I just had the feeling that there was mostly words and not much progress in this book. Rahner talks much about transcendence, self-interpretation, self-giving of God, presence and freedom. All interesting things, but I don't get interested the way he relates them to each other, or maybe the problem is that I don't quite see how he relates them. It seems I'm sad to say, but this was a real disappointment for me. I'm usually quite okay with there being a fair amount of terminology in theology, but I just had the feeling that there was mostly words and not much progress in this book. Rahner talks much about transcendence, self-interpretation, self-giving of God, presence and freedom. All interesting things, but I don't get interested the way he relates them to each other, or maybe the problem is that I don't quite see how he relates them. It seems that a fundamental problem for Rahner is how he wants to take the experience of transcendence as the basis for his theology, yet I can't see that he ever resolves how such an emphasis on transcendence can square with the Christian belief of a (very much) immanent God. Yet, a few chapters in he simply seems to assume that God for his theology. The further problem I found is that he links both the story of original sin (aeteological) with the present, as well as eschatology with the present in the way that what we think about the too is a reflection of our present condition. He does, however, argue well against a completely feuerbachian view of religion, but I still don't quite see how he will be able to move away from this complete focus of the present.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Russ Booton

    This book was a challenge, but a rewarding one. I don't think I could have comprehended it without another book, The Foundations of Karl Rahner by Mark Fischer -- a very useful summary / paraphrase. There was a lot in this book I loved. His emphasis upon humanity's capacity for transcendence was something I pondered for weeks. His explanation of the Trinity is very helpful (the best I've read, I think), and I've still working through his Christology in my head. I certainly enjoyed his exploratio This book was a challenge, but a rewarding one. I don't think I could have comprehended it without another book, The Foundations of Karl Rahner by Mark Fischer -- a very useful summary / paraphrase. There was a lot in this book I loved. His emphasis upon humanity's capacity for transcendence was something I pondered for weeks. His explanation of the Trinity is very helpful (the best I've read, I think), and I've still working through his Christology in my head. I certainly enjoyed his exploration of the Christian's relationship with Jesus Christ. His understanding of the Church and especially of the Scriptures, however, don't work for me, and seem to need further development. All in all, though Rahner is now definitely one my favorite theologians, probably this is not the book I will come back to, but the anthology The Content of Faith (which is a bit more accessible).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    I'm not going to give this book a rating because I don't think I understood it well enough to adequately interact with it on any sort of actual level. This is, hands down, one of the most difficult and unpleasant experiences I've had while reading. Rahner's language is muddled, his sentences regularly run in excess of 100 words, and his thought is so couched in Heidegger and phenomenology that unless you understand those two things you will be lost. Highly abstract with almost no concrete theolo I'm not going to give this book a rating because I don't think I understood it well enough to adequately interact with it on any sort of actual level. This is, hands down, one of the most difficult and unpleasant experiences I've had while reading. Rahner's language is muddled, his sentences regularly run in excess of 100 words, and his thought is so couched in Heidegger and phenomenology that unless you understand those two things you will be lost. Highly abstract with almost no concrete theological reflection. I doubt I'll be revisiting this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alizadeh

    This book had not written for normal people sondern for experts.I Think it is too hard to understand his idea. I have read the german version of this book and found it too hard. I try to read more and more and learn more about his idea. But his centeral idea in this book is anonymus christian and it is based on "selbsmitteilung Gottes". This book had not written for normal people sondern for experts.I Think it is too hard to understand his idea. I have read the german version of this book and found it too hard. I try to read more and more and learn more about his idea. But his centeral idea in this book is anonymus christian and it is based on "selbsmitteilung Gottes".

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tom Phillips

    This was perhaps my hardest read, ever. Fr. Rahner writes like a philosopher, meaning almost unfathomable. But, as with some other of the great works I've read, I read this for the passages of flight out of philosophy and deep theology, into the mystical and the mystical had a great deal to do with living each day. This was perhaps my hardest read, ever. Fr. Rahner writes like a philosopher, meaning almost unfathomable. But, as with some other of the great works I've read, I read this for the passages of flight out of philosophy and deep theology, into the mystical and the mystical had a great deal to do with living each day.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    All of the philosophical heaviness and technical vocabulary we've come to expect from a 20th-century, German-speaking theologian, but without any of the dynamism or charm of his Protestant counterparts. All of the philosophical heaviness and technical vocabulary we've come to expect from a 20th-century, German-speaking theologian, but without any of the dynamism or charm of his Protestant counterparts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Danes

    Extremely hard to read,not least because KR invented a technical language of his own. Nonetheless if you can get past that it's the standard work on Existential Neo-Thomism. As though we care. Extremely hard to read,not least because KR invented a technical language of his own. Nonetheless if you can get past that it's the standard work on Existential Neo-Thomism. As though we care.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Wow.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Dimattia

    Marc said it well, though I might add that this is an essential book for for any reasonable thinker who wants to understand why Christ is such a mystery.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Claudio Laferla

    Rahner is also one of my favourite authors. He is deep. As indicated, this is a reference book which should be frequently consulted. A 'must have' in my opinion. Rahner is also one of my favourite authors. He is deep. As indicated, this is a reference book which should be frequently consulted. A 'must have' in my opinion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Phil Lawless

    Astonishing

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bjørn Peterson, PhD

    Some of the best explanations of Catholic "grace." Some of the best explanations of Catholic "grace."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Are you kidding? Can't understand a word!!! If you can slog through, the concepts are incredible. Are you kidding? Can't understand a word!!! If you can slog through, the concepts are incredible.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    A great introduction into the modern Catholic academic understanding of Christian faith

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Dense reading - but worth the effort!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gerry Riguera

    Another fine work of one of the most influential Jesuit theologians.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  26. 4 out of 5

    Binh Luu

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel Bluefield

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wallace Roark

  29. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily Nelms Chastain

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