Saturday, July 01, 2006

Quarter-final 2: Rahner vs. Jüngel

Since the comments voting have gone so well in the first quarter-final, we'll just continue with that system. Makes interersting reading IMO. The comments count, the poll below is just for fun.

Karl Rahner and Eberhard Jüngel meet for the second quarter-final. Two theological giants both well deserving a place in the semi-final. Who will it be?


byron said...


Rahner's work, while often stimulating and certainly very influentual through Vatican II, lacks a sufficiently sharp gospel focus. Jüngel, while heavily influenced by Barth, takes the master's work further and in fruitful directions. Even so, having said that, I wouldn't be heartbroken if Rahner goes through.

Patrik said...


Rahner is one of my favorites, simple as that. He is a genious when it comes to interpreting the tradition that is at the same time faithful and highly original. I think is famous meditation on the word God in the beginning of Foundations of Christian faith is one of the most profound texts I've ever read and it should be on the mandatory read-list of every theologian, regardless of tradition. (goes for the entire book really.)

He writes in a extremely difficult german, and the english translation of his theological Investigations (14 vol:s) is largely useless. No doubt this is a reason he has not been apprecited fully in the english-speaking world yet. But if I was to pick one name in the 20th century that I would predict for relevance 500 years from now, it would be Rahner.

I can't claim to be familiar with Jüngel. From what I heard, his theology seems to be of the kind that just sort of hangs there, whitout connection to politics and ethics. I see that this is a valid way of doing theology, but it is not my kind of theology.

Scott Paeth said...


Rahner is to Catholic theology what Barth is to Protestant theology (not a view, I know, shared by all Catholics). His "transcendental thomism," bringing together Catholic theology and modern philosophy, was a master stroke, and he's widely acknowledged as the father of Vatican II.

Jungel is interesting, and his focus on mystery is something that Protestant theology could use more of. But my vote's got to go to Rahner.

byron said...

Oh, I forgot to say how important Rahner's little book The Trinity is. Best known for his axoim: the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa. (or did I get that round the wrong way?)

Along with Barth and Llosky in their respective traditions, Rahner helped rehabilitate trinitarian thinking in the 20thC to the point where by the end of the century Gunton could quip "we're all trinitarian now!".

One of Freedom said...


Unfortunatly J�ngel has only recently come onto my radar screen, so I am not familiar at all with his work. Maybe that disqualifies my vote, but I have to be honest.

However, Rahner is familiar to me. I come at it second hand through Metz who is highly critical of Ranher. Metz who I believe was influenced by Moltmann and connected theology with politics, but I might have the details on that mixed up. Metz was concerned that Rahner, while a significant theological voice, did not speak to a full spectrum of humanity. Still without Rahner I am not sure we could have Metz and I am certain that Roman Catholic theology would be much impovrished. So for that reason Karl gets my vote.

Gaunilo said...


I guess I keep answering the question in terms of influence, but there it is. Scott's right - Rahner is the C20 RCC theologian, the equivalent of Barth to Catholic theology. (HUvB may at some point take that title from him, but not yet). And as Byron rightly says, The Trinity single-handedly got the trinitarian revival going (building, ironically enough on Barth's CD 1/1).

Patrick McManus said...


Rahner is Cartesian to the core! His theology is a dead end street that many go down and never come back!

(How's that for polemic...) ;)

No, Rahner is a brillian theologian (although I do insist on the Cartesian charge) but as far as sound theology goes, Jungel is a much better interpreter of the tradition and a much better constructive theologian. What Jungel has taught us is that the metaphysically defined deity (Rahner's, as well as Descartes) is, as Nietzsche and Overbeck have informed us, dead, and as Feuerbach has challenged, theology, the study of said deity, is in the end anthropology writ large! Jungel basically shows us that this is not the God of the gospel. Byron is right, Rahner 'lacks a sufficiently sharp gospel focus', whereas Jungel's theology can be described as marginal gloss on Scripture.

I'm surprised at "One of Freedom's" vote. For such a Moltmann fan, I would have thought your sympathies would lie with Jungel.

Well, looks like Jungel might bite it to Rahner in the end...maybe this is a popularity contest after all!


Patrik said...

Maybe it is a popularity contest, but Rahner has not become popular by any other means than thorough theological work. He is not writing in a "popular" style.

Thomas Adams said...

This one is a no-brainer - Jungel all the way, for reasons I've described elsewhere

Michael Joseph said...

Karl Rahner

All Catholic systematic theology must still have recourse to Rahner. Although I too believe that his supernatural existential keeps one foot in the neo-scholastic tradition, his move into and optimism toward modern philosophy has opened wide doors in theology. Besides, his theory of anonymous Christianity has certainly won the sympathies of not a few bleeding-heart religion scholars.

Jungel, for all he's worth, is but supporting cast on the theological stage that stars Rahner, Moltmann and Balthasar.

kim fabricius said...


Patrick McManus is right - Rahner is a Cartesian (through Kant) - and it is precisely here - in Rahner's acceptance of the turn to consciousness - that Jüngel is at his most oppositional. Indeed for Jüngel, modern theology's acceptance of the Trojan horse of Cartesian foundationalism was the source of the whole "death of God" fiasco.

Not that Jüngel doesn't have his own philosophical mentor, but his is the more theologically user-friendly Hegel.

benkku said...


I know next to nothing about Jüngel and about Rahner only what you can find in introductory textbooks but I give my vote for Rahner just because of his book Trinity. I have found it to be difficult but stimulating.

One of Freedom said...

If I knew J�ngel more I am certain it would be a harder vote. But unfortuntately I just recently heard of him I think on Chris Tilling's blog. However, Rahner, despite my agreement with Metz, is influential. So that is how I had to vote. Maybe in a few years my vote will change, but I can't in good conscience vote for someone I don't know.

But perhaps that disqualifies my vote. I'll leave that in Patrik's hands.

Brian said...


The dominance of "Rahner's rule" is enough to show his influence, which will hopefully grow in the English-speaking world.

Joshua said...


Simply put, love him or hate him (as many Catholic's do) he is the most important Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century. His work on the holy spirit, anthropology, the Trinity, non-Christian religions, philosophy, and nature and grace are all vital for understanding Catholic Theology Today. While I certainly think that there are a host of flaws in his theology (Christology particularly). The claim that his theology isn't Gospel focused is rubbish. The thrust throughout his theology is that God communicates God's self to humanity, through Christ and the Spirit, in creation and redemption. To say that isn't Gospel-focuesd, just because he doesn't follow the lead of Jungel, Moltmann, Pannenberg route is highly suspect.

dan said...


Although I am suspicuous of the philosophical foundations of Rahner's theology (IMO, Kant and Descartes did Christianity more harm than good), his influence cannot be denied. Although renowned for his impact on Vatican II, and for "Rahner's Rule," and, although his most significant work is the Theological Investigations (his comments on Christian mysticism in these documents should be taken to heart be all contemporary Christians), it was really his book The Shape of the Church to Come that had a huge impact upon myself, and upon other people I know who are involved in intentional Christian communities. The Shape of the Church to Come is timely, prophetic, radical, and quite accessible.

I am not overly familiar with Jungel. However, I will say that I don't think Hegelian foundations are any more Christian-friendly than Kantian and Cartesian foundations. Furthermore, the little I've read of Jungel makes me think, "I'd rather just read Barth" but perhaps that's a little unfair.

Regardless, it is safe to say that Rahner has had a much more significant impact upon 20th century theology than Jungel. Thus, despite hesitations I have about the "greatness" of both theologians, my vote goes to Rahner.

byron said...

I didn't say Rahner didn't have a gospel focus, but that he didn't have a sufficiently sharp one. His transcendental method is too anthropologically driven. I'm with patrick mcmanus.

Ben Myers said...


This is a painful one for me, since I deeply admire Jüngel's work. But Rahner is really one of the giants of 20th-century theology. Even if for no other reason, he gets my vote for his role in the development of modern trinitarian thought. Sorry, Jüngel!

Andy Goodliff said...


Very hard to read, but I know him better than Rahner, probably not a good enough reason

Patrik said...

Rahner wins 11-5.