Saturday, September 16, 2006

Karl Rahner on Original Sin


"Original sin" in the Christian sense in no way implies that the original, personal act of freedom of the first person or persons is transmitted to us as our moral quality. In "original sin" the sin of Adam is not imputed to us. Personal guilt from an original act of freedom cannot be transmitted, for it is the existentiell [sic] "no" of personal transcendence towards God or against him. And by its very nature this cannot be transmitted, just as the formal freedom of a subject cannot be transmitted. This freedom is precisely the point where a person is unique and no one can take his place, where he cannot by analyzed away, as it were, either forwards or backwards or into his environment, and in this way escape responsibility for himself. For Catholic theology, therefore, "original sin" in no way means that the moral quality of the actions of the first person or persons is transmitted to us, whether this be through a juridical imputation by God or through some kind of biological heredity, however conceived.

In this connection it is obvious that when the word "sin" is used for the personal, evil decision of a subject, and when on the other hand it is applied to a sinful situation which derives from the decision of another, it is being used only in an analogous sense, and not in a univocal sense...

--Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, p. 111

6 comments:

Death Bredon said...

In substance, I believe, Rahner's definition of origianl sin is essentially what the Orthodox have contended for all along.

I have noticed that Rahner gets a lot of criticsm from conservative RCs. But, what I have read of his work, which is admittedly only a very small percentage, is uniformly impressive and Orthodox within RC formularies.

John C. said...

Is he concerned primarily with a narrow definition, or does he have no doctrine of original sin?

lexorandi2 said...

I will post a section of his understanding of original sin (positively stated) in a future entry...when I find one that is relatively easy to understand. Rahner is tough reading.

Susan said...

Rahner writes magnificently on original sin, a largely misunderstood concept. Also see 'Mary, Mother of the Lord', Karl Rahner, publisher Anthony Clarke.

Anonymous said...

Read 'The Immaculate Conception' in Rahner's 'Mary, Mother of the Lord' (Anthony Clarke). The Immaculate Conception, as it is commonly understood, is also a misunderstood concept, with links to original sin. Rahner writes brilliantly! This article may not be his best but we certainly needed his theological reflections on Qanda ie Richard Dawkin's question on original sin remains unanswered. It needs to be put out there...

Anonymous said...

Rahner is correct - orginal sin is NOT biologically transmuted nor handed down, albeit we are all part of the warp and weft of our societies/deeds/nature/nurture - each unique being therefore requires transcendence through faith, effectively uniting him/her in Christ which is 'infinite access to the open expanses of Godhead'. Living (appropriating) faith thus breaks the power/bondage to 'evil' and transcends original sin. Loving faith and surrender to Christ imparts the gifts and charisms of the Spirit, who now defines our choices and acts in conforming us to (almighty) God in Christ. The power of the Spirit ie sanctifying Grace is 'light, love, strength, freedom and peace'. More comprehensive articles by Rahner offer fuller insights and comprehension of these fundamental elements of Christian faith. Freedom from original sin is essentially transcendence through faith ie making existential decisions in, with and through faith in Christ, hence the power of the Holy Spirit...