Rahner's Christian Pessimism: A Response to the Sorrow of Aids

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SAGE Publications


In pale imitation of Francis, this article focuses on the wound of AIDS. I wish to acknowledge the sorrow of that disease but also to grasp the hope that comes only from facing its reality and its mystery. I want to suggest that Karl Rahner/s theology of "Christian pessimism"3 offers a theological hermeneutic within which the experience of AIDS can be interpreted and pastorally embraced. While other theological avenues are possible, Rahner's approach is particularly apt. The starting point for his theology is an unflinching acceptance of the full reality of the human condition, a commitment to truth—to begin with what is the case. Furthermore, Rahner's is a solidly Christocen-tric theology, pushing through the central motifs of the revelation of God in Jesus and finding their focus in the interstices of human existence. A theology such as this, rooted in the real, centered on Christ, and clarified in human existence itself, can point us beyond the present situation toward a horizon of hope; it can ground a compassionate response to the sorrow of AIDS and, by analogy, to other experiences of human sorrow. If theology is an account of our hope, this article intends to be an exercise in theology in that most foundational sense.


See also “Rahner’s Christian Pessimism: The Problem of Perplexity.” Philosophy and Theology 9/1–2 (1996) 151–76 [published later but dated earlier]