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Karl Rahner

Karl Rahner book cover

Jeff Waddington, Glen Clary, and Lane Tipton speak with Camden Bucey about his book, Karl Rahner, and contemporary issues regarding Rahner, modern Roman Catholicism, and contemporary theology.

Arguably the most influential Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Rahner (1904–1984) developed a theology that has influenced much of post-Vatican II Catholicism and its modern inclusivist approach to missions. 

Despite his impact, little has been written on Rahner from a Reformed perspective. In this introduction and critique, Camden Bucey guides readers to an understanding of Rahner’s theology as a whole. Beginning with Rahner’s trinitarian theology, he moves through each of the traditional departments of theology to show how Rahner developed one basic idea from beginning to end.

Rahner set out to explain how God communicates himself to humanity, whom he created specifically for the purpose of fellowship with him. Once we trace this thread, we gain a deeper understanding of his thought and its reach today.

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Endorsements for the Book 

“If you want to understand present-day Roman Catholicism, you must come to terms with Vatican II (1962–65). Everything that Rome now teaches and does is filtered through it. But if you want to understand Vatican II itself, you need to know about Karl Rahner. . . . Part of the confused and naive attitude of contemporary evangelicals toward Rome depends on the lack of awareness of both Vatican II and Karl Rahner. This lucid book is a helpful introduction to this seminal Roman Catholic theologian whose language contains all the key Christian words (e.g., Trinity, Christ, humanity), but whose meaning is significantly different from that of straightforward biblical teaching. It is time that Reformed theologians do their homework in grasping what is at stake with contemporary Roman Catholicism.”

—Leonardo De Chirico, Pastor, Breccia di Roma; Lecturer, Historical Theology, IFED, Padova, Italy; Director, Reformanda Initiative 

“Roman Catholic apologists often boast about their church’s antiquity but seldom mention modern Roman Catholic theology, which often sounds as modern as liberal Protestantism. Karl Rahner, one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, whose prominence was evident at the Second Vatican Council, is one of the best examples of Roman Catholicism’s modernity. Camden Bucey’s fair-minded and careful assessment of Rahner’s theology is valuable in itself, but doubly so for anyone wanting an introduction to modern Roman Catholicism’s own contribution to liberal Christian theology.”

—D. G. Hart, Distinguished Associate Professor of History, Hillsdale College

“Though Karl Rahner is among the most significant Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, he is little known (and seldom read) by evangelical and Reformed theologians. Camden Bucey’s fine study offers an excellent summary of Rahner’s Trinitarian theology that promises to redress this problem. He not only provides a helpful explanation of Rahner’s well-known Trinitarian axiom (‘the “economic” Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity’), but also locates it within the broader context of Rahner’s anthropocentric theology. While Bucey critically engages Rahner’s theology from a Reformed perspective, he does so throughout in a careful, irenic, and constructive fashion.”

—Cornelis P. Venema, President and Professor of Doctrinal Studies, Mid-America Reformed Seminary


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Bavinck’s Christian Worldview

James Eglinton, Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, and Cory Brock speak about Herman Bavinck’s book, Christian Worldview. Sutanto, Eglinton, and Brock together have translated and edited this work and Crossway has brought it to print for the first time in English.

In the book, Herman Bavinck deals with pastoral concerns that arose within a culture that exchanged modernistic certainty for an appreciation of the unrecognizable and unknowable. Apart from the triune God revealed in Scripture, the culture was grasping for meaning.

Christian Worldview marks a new phase in his theological development. He spent the 1880s and 90s in Kampen wherein his main dialogue partners were liberal Protestants or materialist atheists. In 1900, two years before Bavinck moved to the Free University in Amsterdam, Friedrich Nietzsche died and something of a cult of his ideas developed in the Netherlands. Bavinck sought to address these new theological concerns. He developed a wholistic vision of all things and a wholistic way of living. He situated science and wisdom under a broader category of “worldview.”

Nathaniel Gray Sutanto is a teaching elder at Covenant City Church in Jakarta, Indonesia, and an adjunct faculty member at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of God and Knowledge: Herman Bavinck’s Theological Epistemology.

James Eglinton is the Meldrum Lecturer in Reformed Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Trinity and Organism, Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers and Bavinck: A Critical Biography (forthcoming from Baker Academic).

Cory C. Brock serves as minister of young adults and college at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and is an adjunct professor of theology at Belhaven University.


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Socinianism

Carl Trueman joins us to speak about Socinianism, a non-Trinitarian system of doctrine that arose out of the Radical Reformation and developed in Poland during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was named for the Italian uncle/nephew tandem of Lelio and Fausto Sozzini (Latin: Socinus). While the label is not commonly used in our current historical context, Socinianism developed into contemporary Unitarianism. The Socinian system of doctrine is summarized in The Racovian Catechism.

Dr. Carl Trueman is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania and the author of numerous books, including The Creedal Imperative. Along with Aimee Byrd and Todd Pruitt, he is a contributor to the Mortification of Spin podcast.


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Faithful and Fruitful Ordained Ministry

Healthy churches have healthy elders and deacons. When a local congregation is blessed with faithful officers the results are bountiful (Acts 6:7). William Boekestein and Steven Swets speak about ordained ministry in its manifold dimensions. Boekestein and Swets have edited, Faithful and Fruitful: Essays for Elders and Deacons (Reformed Fellowship), which provides current and future church leaders with an exciting opportunity of personal development. 

Like its companion (Called to Serve), this collection of essays offers biblical and practical essays written by seasoned churchmen drawing upon a wealth of leadership knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Engaging study questions for each essay can help readers make the most of the Bible’s instruction and encouragement for those tasked with the responsibility and privilege of leading Christ’s church.


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Kuyper’s Collected Works in Public Theology and Challenging the Spirit of Modernity: A Study of Groen van Prinsterer’s Unbelief and Revolution

Jim Cassidy discusses two recent publications from Lexham Press. In Challenging the Spirit of Modernity: A Study of Groen van Prinsterer’s Unbelief and Revolution, Harry Van Dyke places Groen van Prinsterer’s foundational work into historical context. Van Prinsterer addressed the inherent tension between the church and secular society, and Van Dyke demonstrates how this work still speaks into the fractured relationship between religion and society. Abraham Kuyper’s Collected Works in Public Theology was created in partnership with the Abraham Kuyper Translation Society and the Acton Institute. It marks a historic moment in Kuyper studies.


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History and the Life of the Church

Christianity is based in history. Contrary to the teaching of classic liberalism, without the historical fact of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, Christianity is nothing. Moreover, God has been working in the lives of his people from the very beginning. It is essential that the church would remember God’s dealings with the generations that have gone before in order that she would rightly press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). Our shared memories and the lessons of the past shape our ecclesiastical context and guide our present practice. Dr. Alan Strange and Rev. Brian De Jong discuss the role of history in the life of the church.

Dr. Strange is professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. He is the author of The Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Westminster Standards and The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge.

Rev. De Jong is pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the author of Honoring the Elderly: A Christian’s Duty to Aging Parents.


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The History of Heaven

Lane Tipton speaks about his recent conference addresses and his newly available video course, Foundations of Covenant Theology. In this conversation, we seek to address the question of the Spiritual character of the law as an administration of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament and set the priority for the history of heaven as a frame of reference for understanding covenant theology in general and the law’s relationship to the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace in particular.

In the beginning in Genesis 1:1, “heavens” is a reference to an archetypal temple-dwelling of God. Before God creates an earthly temple or tabernacle, he makes a heavenly temple dwelling that he fills with the glory of his Spirit and populates with angels. The earth is a replica of these invisible heavens. Prior to a history on earth per se, there is a bona fide history of heaven, which results in the Lord being enthroned in heaven at the end of the creation week. Covenant history now moves forward with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to this throne and his return when he will bring his people into this glory.

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The Law and the Spirit in Old and New Covenants

Glen Clary and Camden Bucey speak about their addresses at the recent theology conference. Glen covered the topic of ascending the mountain of the Lord and the role of the tabernacle and sacrificial system in the Sinai Covenant. Camden compared Galatians 2–4 with Romans 7–8 in order to address Paul’s phrase that “the law is Spiritual” in Romans 7:14.


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