Master Class on "Karl Rahner’s Distinctive Theology of the Symbol"

Apr 21, 2018
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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  • Fr. Stephen Fields, SJ - Interview

Open to current university students and faculty. A link to the readings will be provided for registrants.

In an era of outstanding theologians who made the teachings of the second Vatican Council possible, Karl Rahner (1904-84) stands out as a titan.  A German Jesuit, he studied under Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) in Freiburg (among others).  He taught on the faculties of Innsbruck, Munich, and Münster; served as a peritus at the Council and as a member of the International Theological Commission.  His chief works include Spirit in the World (1957), a study of Thomas Aquinas’s theory of knowledge; Hearer of the Word (1941), which seeks to justify humanity’s natural ability to receive and assent to a divine revelation; Foundations of Christian Faith (1976), a systematic exposition of Catholic belief and practice; and the renowned Theological Investigations (1954-84), sixteen volumes on a wide range of topics written over the course of his career.

As a systematic theologian, Rahner understood his role as using some criterion according to which the revealed doctrines of Christianity could be shown to be coherent, even while they remain mysteries not fully comprehensible to reason.  His distinctive criterion is called the Realsymbol.  Our Master Class will study what it is, how Rahner develops it, and how he uses it better to understand the realities that we know both by reason and by faith. 


Karl Rahner, SJ, “The Theology of the Symbol,” in Theological Investigations (TI), vol. 4, 221-52; “Oneness and Threefoldness of God in Discussion with Islam,” TI 18, 105-21; “On the Theology of the Incarnation,” TI 4, 105-20. [23 vols, various places, publishers, and dates; originally Schriften zur Theologie (Einsiedeln: Benzinger, 1954-84)].

Stephen Fields, SJ, “Realsymbol as Sacramental,” in Being As Symbol: On the Origins and Development of Karl Rahner’s Metaphysics (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2001), 38-54.


9:30am   Coffee & Pastries
10:00am   Session I
11:25am   Break
11:35am   Session II
1:00pm   Lunch

Professor Fields also gave a lecture on "The Future of Liberalism: Relativism Confronts St. Augustine" on Thursday, April 19.