Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Semi-final 1: Moltmann vs. Rahner

For the finals we will again vote by polls, although I hope you will make much use of the possibility to comment also, it makes a more interesting game.

However, instead of just one poll, this time we have three. This means you may vote for both theologians, in case you find choosing difficult.

We will vote on three questions:

1. Which theologian is more influential, in theology, the Church and society? You may motivate you vote in any way, as long as it regards the influence of the theologian.

2. Which theologian is more creative, that is which has brought more new ideas, or more important ideas to the theological discussion?

3. Which the is more consistent, that is which theologian is more thorough, more exact, more stringent in his arguing?

Do take the opportunity to argue for you choices in the comments!

The winner will be the on that wins the most polls.


Patrik said...

I voted Rahner for for the more creative and consistent, but Moltmann as the more influential.

I think Rahner is the most important theologian of the century, his influence is undeniable in the areas of trinity and the doctrine of God, as well as his discussion with existenitalist philosophy. He is almost always coming with interesting interpretations while reamining faithful to his tradition.

The vote for Moltmann is motiveated by him being more accessible, Rahners writing being extremely difficult at times.

Scott Paeth said...

Oooh, this IS going to be a squeeker!

Scott Paeth said...

Ok, a bit more: I think Moltmann wins it over Rahner on the creativity front, hands down, though you've got to give Rahner a lot of credit for moving RC theology out of the Middle Ages.

As for influence, that's a toss-up for me. Rahner had a HUGE influence on Vatican II, which could easily be argued to translate into a HUGE influence on worldwide Catholicism. But on the other hand, the conservative backlash against Rahner seemed to begin almost immediately. Alas! These days, it seems most Catholics are more Balthassarian than Rahnerian, and thus Rahner's influenced is diminished.

But on consistency, I've got to give it to Rahner, do doubt. My continual complaint with Moltmann is that he's either inconsistent, or unclear about the way in which his thought is consisent. In fairness, because he claims to be offering a set of "systematic contributions to theology" rather than a "systematic theology," the lack of consistency can be understood to be the result of the evolving theological circumstances in which he was writing.

And anyway, even Barth changed his mind.

Gaunilo said...

I voted for Rahner across the board; there's no question he's more consistent (Moltmann would lose to my grandmother on that point, much less somebody as rigorous as Rahner).

And though Moltmann is highly influential, Vatican II isn't really thinkable without Rahner, and Vatican II is revolutionary for the Catholic church in the 20th century. He's also a highly influential reader of Thomism, and his book on the Trinity will be a milestone for centuries (far more than Moltmann's awful The Trinity and the Kingdom).

As for creativity, the prima facie obvious choice is certainly Moltmann; but I would argue that theological creativity lies in the skillful and apt handling of the material of tradition, canon, and philosophy in new and innovative syntheses that does justice to each element. Rahner gives a profoundly deep and cogent articulation of the Christian faith; Moltmann too often is merely eclectic, the worst kind of bricoleur who comes up with interesting ideas and sources, but they are often merely juxtaposed and jumbled without rationale or consistency - to say nothing about any kind of literate respect for tradition, canon, or philosophy.

kim fabricius said...

If consistency implies being uniform or unchanging, then it is a bad thing, certainly for theology, which is not a Euclidean project ("systematic" in the bad sense of the word), but is always in via. And not just because of changing circumstances and contexts, or because of noetic sin, but above all because God himself major semper est.

I am suspicious of any theology that is too "tidy" (e.g. fundamentalism with its "theology of facts"). Wittgenstein said: "What is ragged should be left ragged." That Moltmann is a more "ragged" theologian than Rahner, for me, counts in his favour. (If he were incoherent, that would be a different matter.) Therefore I will simply not cast a vote in the third section.

By the way, speaking of Karl Barth changing his mind - in a lovely little book edited by Donald McKim called How Karl Barth Changed My Mind (1986), Barth's son Christoph fondly and thankfully remarks that "there was something special in my father's search for truth that always strongly affected me. . . Positively, I mean his awareness of the necessity, or rather the chance and permission, to start once again from the very beginning, as ignorant searchers, every time we venture to speak about God. Theology is a business constantly questioning itself, questioned by its own subject, or it is inevitably 'bad' theology!"

One of Freedom said...

Moltmann across the boards.

His influence is obvious, even post Rahnerites like Metz moved away from Rahner's bourgoise(sp?) theologizings because of Moltmann! Moltmann has even influenced beyond his field (Ricoeur for example) and will continue as a lasting voice for centuries to come.

Moltmann is a frickin' poet! I'm reading a bit of Volf right now and you can see how he is trying to emulate Moltmann's style, but no one comes close to the mastery of Moltmann. Heck, I'm reading him in translation and I am enraptured by his use of language!

Consistancy. Well that is tougher, but one thing that I love about Moltmann is that he is consistent in his approach to theology. He is always dialectic, always provocative and always willing to take risks!

Michael Joseph said...

Influence: Rahner--The situation in the the Catholic academy today is quite Rahnerian. Rahner is taught EVERYWHERE in Catholic universities. Balthasar, on the other hand, is rarely taught. Balthasar's influence is more evident among the European hierarchy and popular Catholicism, though he has made some head-way into academia (and will continue to do so). Is Moltmann taught EVERYWHERE in Protestant institutions? This doesn't seem to be the case. That's my deciding factor on influence.

Creativity: Rahner--However successful the endeavor was, Rahner put Aquinas into conversation with Kant, Fichte and Heidegger. Beginning with Spirit in the World through his Foundations, Rahner emerges as the most innovative, creative 20th century thinker I know of. Moltmann, it seems to me, simply incorporated popular political and social motifs into his theology. Cute, but not as impressive.

Consistancy: Rahner--I agree with Kim's comments abount ossified theology. In this case, Rahner stuck with principles and faith, but adapted his ideas across four decades of European, Latin American and Asian influences in Catholic theology. The foundation was always there: grace is encountered in every place, person and institution.

Gaunilo said...

[not a vote]

Kim -

Incoherency is precisely what Moltmann is, imho! :-)

Pontificator said...

I am surprised that Moltmann is winning in the influential category. Rahner's influence has been huge in the Catholic world---and that's a much bigger world than the rapidly shrinking world that reads Moltmann. Åt one point, more dissertations were being written on Rahner than on anybody else (at least so I am told, though I cannot provide documentation).

Moltmann is of course very accessible and a pleasure to read. He's provocative, imaginative, and at times poetic, as one of the commentators above notes. He's a popular writer. When I want to write on the crucifixion, The Crucified God is the first book I pick up. I imagine a lot of preachers feel the same way about one or more of his titles. But that does not make him truly influential, not in the way that Rahner and Barth are influential.

One of Freedom said...

Pontificator, Moltmann's influence goes well beyond just being read. I find references to his work all over the place. But the brilliance is that, as you admit, frontline practitioners (ministers) are pulling out his works in relation to their ministerings. And what is amazing is that Moltmann has incredible traction even in the Pentecostal world where theology is almost a four-letter world. Moltmann also has a lot of traction in the emergent church movement which spans all denominations (including the RC church). What makes Moltmann so influential is that he is writing to address the systems within our structures that we know have failed us. He brings us back to the core of things and dares us to dream beyond the boxes we've known. Rahner is great, but he is no Moltmann. Rahner will always have traction within certain spheres, but Moltmann's influence continues to grow.

Joshua said...

This is a tough one for me, especially since I spend much of the last 6 months working on both of them. In the end, I think their is no question that Rahner is more influential. Moltmann certainly has a broader readership, especially in the non-West. However, one cannot underestimate Rahner's impact on Vatican II, his openess to questions of liberation theology, women's ordination, and Islam. His work on the Trinity set the stage for Moltmann's own writing.

As for creativity and imagination...I'll give the nod to Moltmann. Certainly, Rahner's ability to interact with neo-scholasticism, Aquinas, German idealism, and the nouvelle movement is amazing. Yet, Moltmann has a imagination that seems unmatched (even if a bit off) in theology. His work in Crucified God, Theology of Hope, and his later six contributions of Theology are filled with creative rethinking.

Finally, there is no question that Rahner is more consistent. He is a better reader of other theologians, a more astute critic, and consistent draws insights throughout his writing. Maybe this is because of his preffered essay over book, which inevitably dodge issues with the statement, "we don't have space." Moltmann draws on haphazard sources, caractures patristics, Barth, and even Rahner. Moltmann might need to stop being creative at times and trust the insight of tradition.

In the end, Rahner gets my nod and I hope he advances to an all Catholic Final. Bring on von Balthasar!!!

D.W. Congdon said...

To be honest, I cannot believe people think Rahner is more consistent than Moltmann. Moltmann gives the same post-metaphysical, social trinitarian, political, spirit-focused theology through all of his works. Rahner, on the other hand, in his "theological investigations" is more of an occasional writer who pens what happens to be on his mind at that time. It is sprawling and disjointed. I think Rahner is a better theologian than Moltmann, but he is not more consistent. Moltmann just happens to be more consistently wrong.