Karl Rahner, a German theologian, is regarded by many as the foremost Roman Catholic thinker of the 20th century. He believes that every human being is essentially spiritual and that the truth about the human person is revealed in God. This he believes is true whether directly adverted to or whether the person opens him or herself to it. Rahner also believes that there are elements of the world that exist, which are not necessarily as they appear to be.
When discussing Rahner and his beliefs, Transcendental Christology plays a major role in his studies. In his book Foundations Of Christian Faith, he explains what he means by the term transcendence. God “calls” human beings to the holy mystery as absolute beings. Rahner believes one of two things will happen. “A person either understands himself as only an empty appearance through which the divinity acts out its own eternal drama, runs away from his responsibility and his freedom, at least in the direction of God, and shifts responsibility for himself and his existence onto God in such a way that his burden no longer in truth really remains his own” (80). What Rahner means by this is that the world of possibility opens up to man and he is given the free choice to either accept himself as an agent of God, deny God, or transcend the very boundaries that these limits present. We therefore as Christians experience this transcendentalism when we can move away from a motivational system which calls us to act in an egocentric fashion. Transcendentalism via Rahner’s definition opens man to that which is unexpected and therefore that which requires him by its fundamental nature to participate in union with his own conscience and his dedication to his God.
Man places everything in question. There is a world of possibility out there and he recognizes existentially his choices. This is the central concept in Rahner’s transcendental theology. To recognize those possibilities for the good and realize their potential, therefore enabling them to transcend themselves.
In thinking of the various ways in which one can apply Rahner’s Transcendental Christology on a more personal level, I found myself thinking back to a situation from my life that occurred a few months ago. One cold and rainy day in the middle of last April, as I was driving home from school along twelfth avenue in Brooklyn, out of the corner of my eye I saw a small puppy standing in the middle of the intersection. She was dirty, wet, shivering and scared. Something inside me told me I had to stop and help her. As I approached her she hesitated at first for fear of me, but I guess she knew that I wanted to help. I picked her up and wrapped her in a towel that I kept in my car. I looked up and down the street wondering if her owner was out looking for her. I asked passers by if they knew whom she belonged to, but nobody had ever seen her before.
I took her into my car thinking of what I should do next. This little dog in my arms was so beautiful, but I never thought that I would be able to bring her home and keep her. I thought about the option of taking her to a dog shelter, but was afraid of what they might do if they could not find her a home. I took her to a friend’s house where we gave her a warm bath and food. I then took her to a vet to make sure she was not sick. He told me she was healthy but malnourished. She was only four pounds. The vet said that she was lucky to have found someone with a big heart to take care of her. He also told me that she was a purebred Maltese and that she was worth about $1300 and that it was very rare to find a dog like that in the street. I felt God by my side and that I had been blessed with this little gift. I felt it was my responsibility to take care of her.
The hardest part I had in front of me was to tell my parents about the dog. My mom thought she was adorable and it was love at first sight. My dad on the other hand liked her, but insisted I try to find her a home. That week I began talking and praying a lot to God. I asked him to help me. At the end of the week she began to grow on him and he began to love her too. I thought to myself that God had answered my prayers. “Snowball” is thirteen months old now and about ten pounds. I thank God for bringing her into my life. I feel that while I performed an altruistic deed, God rewarded me anyway.
I feel as though this personal experience is similar to what Karl Rahner would call transcendental because presented with an opportunity, I chose to make a difficult decision, but one, which I felt, was right in the situation. By choosing as I did, I affirmed myself as a transcendental being, one, which can go beyond the either/or systems, defined in this world.
Rahner, Karl. Foundations Of Christian Faith. The Seabury Press. New York, N.Y. 1978.
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