Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - SCU Access Only


Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.

Degree Name

Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)


Dr. Thomas Cattoi


This dissertation explores the theological epistemologies of the Cappadocian thinker Gregory of Nyssa (c.335–c.395) and the German Jesuit Karl Rahner (1904–1984). After examining the topic of the knowledge of God according to each thinker from an anthropological perspective, the thesis sets out to investigate how each author conceptualizes the act of knowledge from an epistemological point of view, concluding with an evaluation of the soteriological and eschatological relevance of divine knowledge in each author.

After setting forth each thinker’s understanding of the anthropological, epistemological, and soteriological dimensions of the way human beings apprehend the divine, the study brings into conversation Gregory and Rahner from a variety of different angles. The discussion presents the theological vision of the two thinkers and underscores their respective contributions to the contemporary debate on the human understanding of God—a debate whose terms are often set by our need to confront different currents of secular thought.

This study argues that knowing subjects are invested with an ontological affinity to the unlimited divine object of their knowledge, even as they are only capable of a limited insight into its reality. It then demonstrates how the known divine object is neither extrinsic, nor indifferent to the knowing subject. Thirdly, it elucidates how the transcendent God, through the dynamic process of creation, Incarnation, and redemption, ii communicates Himself to human beings and enables them to transcend their creaturely finitude by way of a dynamic, ongoing process of self-transcendence. Fourthly, this dissertation will underscore how epistemic apprehension of the divine does not entail mastery and possession of the divine; rather, the dialectic of immanence and transcendence in the process of God’s self-disclosure is understood as both the ontological ground of the chasm between God and creation, and the bridge overcoming this very chasm. God is the foundation of humanity’s being, freedom, and knowledge.

In conclusion, we will see how knowledge of the transcendent God lays the foundation for humanity’s self-knowledge, self-realisation, and self-transcendence. Such a foundation leads all of us always to become fully and perfectly human and to seek to participate in the Being of God. The broadened notion of reason underpinning both Gregory’s and Rahner’s vision compels us therefore to challenge the limitations of rationalism and broaden our epistemic horizons in order to eschew the pitfall of scientific reductionism.

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