Reading Rahner & Pannenberg


So i have finally began reading Pannenberg and Rahner.  I’ve really been wanting to start looking into both of these amazing thinkers.  My 1st book for Rahner is The Trinity, which i have heard is amazing.  For Pannenberg, I’m actually starting with a compilation of essays about Pannenberg’s thought and its implications, with him writing an autobiographical essay and a response to his twelve critics.  I thought that this would be a good place to start with him, although the book is a little dated (1988), so after his systematic theology was written some of their criticisms may have been dealt with effectively. 

So my question for my readers is this: have any advice or wisdom for how to read and/or understand either of these guys?

11 responses to “Reading Rahner & Pannenberg

  1. My journey with Pannenberg began with Jesus and God, then the book on Anthropology. I read his Systematics in order. However, my suggestion would be to start with the section in Volume 3 on Church and Mission (Chs 12 and 13I), then go to the little introduction book (which briefly covers some important issues addressed in the books on cosmology and metaphysics, then read the Christology in Volume 2 (Chs 9&10), then read the rest. As far as a summary text, Grenz is quite good.

  2. Fernando,

    Thanks for your thoughts. This is just the sort of advice i was looking for! In addition, any thoughts on his style of writing? Barth, for example, sometimes can lose you in the adjectives/adverbs, so if you are aware of that, it is easier to stick with him. Any advice in the same vein for either Pannenberg or Rahner?

  3. I would start with Jesus – God and Man for Pannenberg. His systematic theology is definitely worth reading at some point. A lot of his essays deal with revelation, history, and science, and these are all very important for his thinking.

    I don’t really care much for Rahner. His trinitarian rule is very important, but Rahner is generally an obscure metaphysician. If you like that kind of thing, then go for it.

    Both Pannenberg and Rahner are hard to get into. Neither writes very well, and their theology is highly academic in nature. They are interesting on an intellectual level, but they don’t have the joy of theology evident in someone like Barth.

  4. Congdon,

    Thanks for your take here. Would you say that both still have something to offer the church today, or is their work, particularly rahner’s, too esoteric to be of any practical use today?

  5. I’m sure both have things to offer — more so Pannenberg than Rahner. Pannenberg knows his theological history, and that is always worth going back to. But Rahner is a speculative theologian who knowingly and willingly collapses theology into anthropology. I don’t think there is much a future for Rahnerian theology. Pannenberg has a future because of his groundbreaking work on theology and science and hist fascinating understanding of revelation as history. I don’t agree with his “retroactive ontology” (the resurrection has retroactive ontological implications), but I think he still has plenty to offer.

  6. To really get Pannenberg, do a lot of reading in Hegel; and for Rahner, spend time with Kant (even though he “seems” to be more Heidigerian). The book that really put Pannenberg together for me was Theology and the Philosophy of Science, because of the rational grounding of theology as having a legitimate and crucial place in the “secular” university.

    As for Rahner, it was Foundations of the Christian Faith (which I read in one sitting, the first time). But the thing I really got out of him was the transcendental perspective, where he’s trying to elaborate the prior conditions (what the world has to be like) which would make faith possible and to some extent understandable.

  7. Jim, thanks for your comment. I will try to keep your insightsin mind when i read. Take care,


  8. I actually like Rahner very much. I think that he has a very healthy perspective on the relationship between philosophy and theology. This perspective is found in his early work, Hearer of the Word. In fact, I believe that Rahner’s two earliest works, Hearer of the Word and Spirit in the World provide the philosophical framework for Rahner’s theology. What Spirit in the World makes clear is that while Rahner deals with modern philosophers and studied under Heidegger, the center of his theology is Thomistic. His whole anthropic argument for God, the transcendental ground of being, is rooted in Thomistic principles then lensed out through Heideggerian existentialism. His engagement with modern and post-modern thinkers is particularly notable that in Foundations of Christian Faith during the course of his discussion he destroys the Wittgensteinian argument that the term ‘God’ is meaningless.

    What this means then is to deeply understand Rahner, one must first read volume 1, questions 75 – 90 of the Summa Theologica. Then read Spirit in the World, in which Rahner deeply engages question 84, article 7 of the Summa. After this, one can read Hearer of the Word and be set in the philosophical framework in which Rahner engages theology.

    Although, be aware that while I am playing up Rahner’s philosophical framework he is truly a philosopher in the same sense as Aquinas. Namely, that his philosophy is in service to his theology – sub ratione Dei – all under the reason of God. He is a theologian first and a philosopher second but his theology occurs within a particular philosophical framework.

    Of course, one need not go through all this to come to some understanding of Rahner. My point is that in order to go deep, engage, and possibly tease out principles and ideas that are relevant today, one must engage Rahner at the core of his thought.

  9. Pingback: Pannenberg Round-Up « Sola Intellectum

  10. Excellent suggestions ! I loved the specifics , Does someone know where my assistant would be able to access a template a form version to complete ?

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