Philosophy and theology together: Karl Rahner’s way of thinking

Domingos Terra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Karl Rahner’s thinking can be understood by looking at several of its coordinates. First, it unfolds in close connection with the fundamental dynamics of human existence (thinking with a reference). Second, it is prompted by a personal and immediate experience of God, namely, the one of the author himself (thinking with a motivation). Third, it is influenced by the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (thinking with an inspiration). Fourth, it aims to show the reasonableness and, therefore, the credibility of the Christian faith (thinking with a purpose). Fifth, it is guided by intellectual honesty that leads to facing reality without reduction or concealment (thinking with an attitude). Finally, it combines philosophy and theology, more precisely, treats philosophy as a necessary moment in theology (thinking with a method). Karl Rahner is remembered for operating the “anthropological turn” in theology. This means that, in his view, one should not reflect on God without reflecting on the human being as well. Rahner is particularly interested in examining the human’s ability to receive what comes from God’s self-revelation. It is an aspect that gives occasion to the discussion that Hans Urs von Balthasar has with him. At the heart of Rahner’s anthropology is the “transcendental experience”. It is originated by the absolute mystery that is present in human existence, precisely that mystery that Christians call God. It is such a fundamental experience that it must be taken into account when leading one’s own existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1523-1558
Number of pages36
JournalRevista Portuguesa de Filosofia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Christian faith
  • Experience
  • God
  • Mystery
  • Philosophy
  • Subject/person
  • Theology
  • Transcendence


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