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Resurrection of the Body and Transform ation of the Universe

in the Theology of Karl Rahner
Denis Edwards
Flinders University

At the end of his life, Rahner pointed to the need for a fully systematic theol
ogy that
brings out the inner relationship between Jesu s Christ and the universe put bef
ore us
by the natural sciences. In this article, it is argued that Rahner had long been
this theological agenda. His various contri butions on this topic are brought to
and discussed within a framework of six sy stematic elements that are found in h
work: self-bestowal as the meaning of cr eation; self-transcendence as the way o
divine action; resurrection as the beginning of the transformation of the univer
se; God
as Absolute Future; human action as finally significant; hope as trust in God i
n the
midst of perplexity. This synopsis of Rahner s work on resurrection and the
transformation of creation leads to critical reflections on his achievement.

It is remarkable how much attention Ra hner gives to the dialogue between scienc
and theology in his late essays. Many of the articles in volume 21 of his Theol
Investigations either explore or touch upon this in teraction. In one of these
Rahner outlines an agenda for Christology. Among other things, he identifies a
to develop the thought of Teilhard de Char din with more precision and clarity,
showing the intelligible and orthodox c onnection between Jesus of Nazareth and
Christ as the Omega point of world evolu tion (TI 21: 227). In a nother article
on the
redemption, he points to the need for a sote riology that is worked out in rela
tion to
contemporary cosmology (TI 21: 252). What Rahner seems to be calling for at the
of his life is a truly systematic theology of the risen Christ in relation to
the evolving
My proposal is that Rahner had already long been involved in the work of
constructing such a theology. His contributions on this theme are widely spread
throughout his work, appearing in short articles on a variety of topics. My focu
s will
not be on the range of Rahner s eschatology- -an excellent synthesis of this can b
found in Peter Phan s critical study (Phan, 1988)--but on his view of the relatio
between the resurrection of Christ and the transformation of the universe.
I will attempt to gather his thought into a short synthesis, built up around si
interrelated systematic elements. By consider ing his work in this way I hope to
how Rahner s various and scattered contributions form a coherent theology. I will
argue that the first two elements, divi ne self-bestowal and creation s self-
transcendence, form the twin systematic f oundations for the rest. I will concl
ude with
brief reflections on the signi ficance of Rahner s contribu tion and discussion of
critical issues.
1. Self-Bestowal as the Meaning of Creation
Rahner sees God as creating in order to give God s self to creation as its fulfil
God wills to bestow God s very self in love, and creation comes to be as the addre
of this self-bestowal. This means that grace and incarnation ar e not thought o
f as
additions to creation. They are not simply a remedy for human sin, although they