Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Radical New Interpretation Of St. Thomas Aquinas

"holed up in the Vatican armed with some Swiss Guard halberds to await the coming collapse of the modern world."
Further to the right are the fundamentalist vigilantes who each week fill the pages of the National Catholic Register with field reports on what they call the “guerrilla warfare” that faithless liberal theologians are waging against the Pope—the fifth column theory. Then there are those who denounce the treacherous betrayal of the Church by none other than the Pope himself, Paul VI, who intentionally let communist moles into the Vatican—the Antichrist theory popularized by the former Jesuit Malachi Martin. These Catholic survivalists seem to believe they have no choice but to hole up in the Vatican armed with some Swiss Guard halberds to await the coming collapse of the modern world.1 
 What separates Karl Rahner from even the most intelligent of conservative Catholic theologians and what makes his thought so radically innovative lies not primarily in his theology but in his philosophy, the theory of knowledge and being that he forged in the Thirties while studying under Martin Heidegger. In the spring of 1934, just two years after becoming a Jesuit priest, Rahner registered for a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Freiburg, and over the next four semesters he attended virtually every lecture course and seminar that Heidegger gave. He was in the classroom when Heidegger echoed Nietzsche’s condemnation of Christianity as “Platonism for the masses” and when he asserted that “a faith that does not constantly expose itself to the possibility of unfaith is no faith at all but a mere convenience.” The effect of Heidegger’s teaching was overwhelming. Thirty years later Rahner would remark that “although I had many good professors in the classroom, there is only one whom I can revere as my teacher, and he is Martin Heidegger.” 
The experience proved to be an academic disaster for Rahner. In the spring of 1936 he presented as his doctoral dissertation a radical new interpretation of Aquinas’s theory of knowledge from the viewpoint of Heidegger—and he was promptly flunked by the conservative Thomistic philosopher, Martin Honecker, who was his dissertation director. Rahner withdrew from philosophy and eventually took his PhD in theology. Nonetheless the would-be dissertation was published in 1939 as Geist in Welt (Spirit in the World) and was immediately and immensely successful. The book reshaped the foundations of the Thomistic theory of knowledge and being, and it provided the groundwork—as much Heideggerian as Thomistic—for the new theology that Rahner has continued to pour forth since the end of World War II. 2
Link (here) to read the full article at NYBooks