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Rahner on Freedom and Grace

Although I disagree with the extent to which Rahner takes God’s self-communication in his salvidic theology, there is much in his theology that I whole heartedly embrace and appreciate. His insights into freedom and grace have provided two enlightenment that have made a positive change in my understanding of my faith.
To understand freedom, one must first understand grace. Grace, simply stated, is God’s self-communicatiom. I believe that to mean the same as what others have called God’s self-revelation. It is God revealing himself to everyone, all the time. Although I hold to the doctrine of original sin, the faulty inheritance we have received from our original parents cannot and does not prevent God’s self-communication. In fact, I can imagine the possibility that the original sin was an act of grace that occurred so that man would have a deeper revelation of God’s love and mercy. I also agree with Rahner that even though grace is all the time and for everyone, it is not the grace that is a special grace a transcendental or transforming grace. To me this special grace is the true grace of salvation. This special grace is something that each of us has to experience individually and is a unique experience that transcends all other experiences of our life. So how is this grace revealed.
Freedom, using Rahner’s explanations, reveals several characteristics of freedom. First, both God and humans have freedom to conduct themselves as they choose. This free will does not bind or obligate human beings to God nor does it bind or obligate God to human beings. God and humans are totally free. The difference between the two beings lies in eternity. Man is limited, finite while God is infinite. Our freedom is a grace in that as we live, we are constantly dying. We experience death, death in our failures, death in our sorrows, and death in our losses. These losses allow us to see and become painfully aware of our inability to control any aspect of our life. In turn, this painful awareness of our being finite, lead us to the true freedom of being mastered by our God. “The freedom of his mastery of things come from his being mastered.”(P.7) It is this one decision of becoming mastered by God that frees us to become whom we were intended. As Rahner pointed out, “True freedom is not the power constantly to change one’s course of action, but rather the power to decide that which is to be final and definitive in one’s life, that which cannot be superseded or replaced, the power to bring into being from one’s own resources that which must be, and must not pass away, the summons to a decision that’s irrevocable.”(P82) If I might add, for clarification, the decision that controls all future decisions.
What about concupiscence? (Romans 7) In actuality, according to Rahmer, our selfish desires and acts should be viewed as resistance within us to our freedom in Christ. It is our wanting to take back responsibility for and control over our lives even though we have previously seen and determined that this attitude actually imprisons us and prevents the freedom of our being. It is my feeling that Rahmer sees concupiscence, the flesh, as our “determining something about ourselves.” I would imagine that Rahner would say that in determining who we are, we must remember our first and most important free choice, that of being mastered by the Master. It is choosing to have no will but in total submission to the creator that we enjoy freedom of who we truly are. I relate this to the Two standards meditation within the Spiritual Exercises which Rahner, being a Jesuit, must have surely been intimately familiar. The question of the meditation is, “Will I follow Christ or will I follow my own choices?”
So how does this apply to us? It is the heart of our being disciples of Christ, especially in ministry. We, as priests of Christ, shepherds, it is for us to make ourselves available to used by the “Good Shepherd.” (John 4:10) Knowing that God is at work in every life revealing himself, we need to become extremely aware of how he is revealing himself to each person, to us, and especially to those with whom he has entrusted his care. It is when we become aware of God’s self-communication in the other and are mastered by the Master ourselves that we can join with God in making himself known and bring each and every soul into the pleasant pasture of the special grace of resting in the freedom of God to work in our lives.


Written by John Hannah

November 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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