Article in “First Things” (May 2013) by R. R. Reno: “Rahner the Restorationist - Karl Rahner’s time has passed.”
"Vatican II emerged with a relational metaphysics. Carl Rahner remained with a substantialist metaphysics souped up with transcendental accessories. Rahner lost. Vatican II is yet to be understood but coming into its own with Pope Francis. Life is self-gift.
"R. R. Reno’s “Rahner, the Restorationist” is a helpful example of the epistemological shift that must take place if we are to solve the crisis of Christ and modernity. Reno offers himself as a disenchanted Rahnerian who had high hopes that his conventional scholasticism – powered with transcendental accessories on the subjective side – could introduce a metaphysics of Being and living the life of holiness with Christ in the modern world. Rahner wanted to add subjectivity to a philosophy of the object that could not bear it.
Vatican II was a full turn to the subject as ontological. The shift that took place was described by Wojtyla as passing from one epistemological plane to another, from “it” to “I.” He explained that the fathers of the Council were not interested in ascertaining anything about this or that objective truth of faith, but rather to consider faith as the experience of a subject from within. And “experience” in this case is important. It means contact with reality, “being.” They wanted to know what it meant to be a believer receiving the Word of God along the lines of how the Virgin received Him and engendered Him from within. So much was this the case that he wrote in his “Sources of Renewal” (24) that “(a)wareness of faith is not identical with knowledge, even with a complete knowledge of the content of revelation; rather it is based on the existential factor, since it is faith that gives meaning to human existence. The believer’s whole existence constitutes his response to the gift of God which is revelation. The postulate of conscious faith should be understood accordingly.”
And so, the level of knowing of Vatican II is not primarily conceptual knowing, but consciousness of the acting self as an integral part of experiencing reality. This is the meaning of Vatican II as “pastoral council.” As a lived consciousness of Christ, faith becomes and is culture. It is work as self-gift. It is human and divine as Christ is human and divine. It is the whole self-acting as an “integrity” that goes out of itself like Christ Who is totally out of Himself as Son. As the supernatural and the natural are one in Christ, so the believer is integrally supernatural and natural in the act of ordinary secular work.
Rahner ultimately disappointed Reno because he inserted two phony “transcendentals,” the epistemological transcendental of “Being” as accompanying every cognition, and the “supernatural transcendental” as completed in Christ. Both represented Rahner’s nod to modern subjectivity. But it was bogus. What is needed is the living act of faith of the whole subject transcending self as gift to God and others. That done, one becomes Christ at the center of a truly and duly secular (not secularized) society. This is Reno’s ontological “ballast”…
As written in First Things August-Sept. 2013:
Reno’s reply to blogger:
To Robert Connor: I appreciate
the intellectual power and theological
fruitfulness of Karol Wojtyla's
personalist philosophy. However, it is
quite wrong to imagine that Vatican
II articulates, endorses, or requires
a particular metaphysical outlook.
Also, I get anxious when Catholics
start talking like Harvey Cox.
I have never doubted Rahner's
orthodoxy, nor do I think he set out
to weaken the Church's witness. But
he was a man of his times. From the
French Revolution onward, the men
who governed the Church reacted
with horror and amazement as European
culture ejected them from
their central roles as guardians of the
political. moral, and cultural imagination
It was against the background
of these traumatic experiences that
dreams of restoration came to define
modern Catholicism. We need to understand
Vatican II as part of those
dreams. Yes, the great neoscholastic
Joseph Kleutgen outlined a theology
of restoration. But so did Henri de
Lubac, as his great book Catholicism:
Christ and the Common Destiny of
Rahner was cut from the same historical
cloth and dreamed the same
dream. Thus his great influence. Thus
his present irrelevance.
Overview of the Exchange: As Two Ships Passing in the Night