Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 14:4 (Fall 1971) p. 249
The Trinity, by Karl Rahner. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.) 120 pp.; $4.95. Translated by Joseph Donceel.
In this small work of scarcely more than 100 pages, the most learned and esteemed Catholic theologian of our day, Karl Rahner, seeks to explain for modern man the ancient dogma of the Trinity. Rahner begins his discussion by posing the problem of the unrelatedness of the formal doctrine of the Trinity to the personal life of the church. In his judgment this dichotomy between faith and life results from the tendency within the western church to begin its talk about God with abstract philosophical discussions of the doctrine of the one God.
From the very first this places God Whom we discuss in the classroom at an unbridgeable distance from the real God who is active in human life. It would be far better, he argues, to begin with the revelational order. He then lays down the general maxim that we must begin with the economic Trinity that is actually revealed to us. We must start with God as He is for us in His revelation of salvation. In this way we come to know God as Father, then in the incarnation we know God as Son, and finally in the life of the church we know God as the Holy Spirit.
The next step in Rahner’s presentation of the doctrine is to lay down the further maxim: The “economic” Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity and the “immanent” Trinity is the “economic” Trinity.
In accordance with this “order of revelation” Rahner makes the point that outside of Christendom and in the O.T. there are no analogies or “preparations” looking towards such a doctrine. Our only source of any information concerning tho three-ness of God is his special revelation within the history of God’s bringing his salvation to men. The doctrine of the Trinity must grow out of the doctrine of salvation, moreover, or it will never overcome its handicap of abstractness and unrelatedness to the life of men. This is proved by the history of the western thinking about the doctrine of the Trinity.
God, in his special revelation, is in reality what he reveals himself to be for us. Therefore we can proceed from our knowledge of the economic trinity to a knowledge of the ontological trinity. Following out his revelational methodology, Rahner notes first the revelation of God as Father to be observed from the Old Testament. At this point the reviewer poses a question of his own. Is it not quite debatable whether or not the
JETS 14:4 (Fall 1971) p. 250
O.T. revelation is exclusively a revelation of the Father? Is it not rather a revelation of the triune God known in his oneness rather than in his three-ness? Is not the wh...
Click here to subscribe