How Things are in the World: Metaphysics and Theology in Wittgenstein and Rahner

Paperback / softback
The Word was made flesh is the foundational Christian assertion. Some two thousand years later, Christians are still reflecting upon its meaning. What is the relationship of words, or language, to our experience of God? Is God beyond words? Christianity has, in one venue or another, asserted just that, all the while maintaining the necessity of an explicitly religious life, one formed and focused upon words and that which might be called the language of ritual. The very word revelation seems to evoke the question of language: words, concepts, assertions, judgements, etc. It's true that Christianity asserts that what God ultimately reveals in Jesus Christ is a person, not a message, or rather, that the person is the message, but words like message, communication, and even communion raise the question of language. If, on the one hand, God lies beyond all telling, and if, on the other, human life in the age of communication seems to be nothing more than a telling, a spinning, and the creation of realities formed by language, where do God and humanity meet? What does it mean to assert that the Word became flesh? The first half of this book is a theological examination of the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein who, with a small brace of others, stands as a progenitor of twentieth century thought. The work of Karl Rahner clearly stands as the center of postconciliar Roman Catholic theology, and of contemporary Christian theology in general. Rahner wrote voluminously and well. Although his own style of writing is dense and heavily weighted with continental philosophy, his treatments of so many basic theological questions have been popularized by innumerable secondary authors. It would beno exaggeration to say that Rahner's work has been a theological pivot for the second half of the 20th century. The time seems right, then, to take another look at Rahner and his Wittgensteinian critics. What is immediately apparent is that both men were intentionally seeking to respond to the Copernican revolution in philosophy inaugurated by Descartes' turn to the subject. Both viewed Kant's assault upon the presuppositions of traditional epistemology as having forever changed the course of Western philosophy. Each, in his own way, consciously, and sometimes perhaps unconsciously, molded his thought as a response to the Kantian critique.