Trinitarian Axiom of Karl Rahner

Author: Jowers, Dennis W.
The widely-accepted Grundaxiom of Karl Rahner’s doctrine of the Trinity, “The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa,” functions in contemporary theology as a means of reconciling the seemingly contradictory claims that (a) God has revealed the doctrine of the Trinity to the Church, and (b) God has not disclosed this doctrine verbally in Scripture. Rahner’s Grundaxiom thus serves to legitimate theologies of the Trinity that do not presuppose the verbal inspiration of Scripture.


“The renaissance of the doctrine of the trinity in recent theology has often been noted. In large measure, this dates from Karl Barth’s positioning of the doctrine at the outset of the Church Dogmatics, a hermeneutical decision of enormous significance. For Barth and other writers, the coordination of the immanent with the economic trinity is vital ... In this study, the nature of [Rahner’s] Grundaxiom is explored with particular attention to its epistemological justification. To what extent is this a necessary presupposition of the Christian doctrine of God, a reflexive movement of faith, and an article grounded in Scripture and tradition? These important questions are explored by Dr. Dennis Jowers in a searching and provocative treatment of Rahner’s work.” – (from the Foreword) Professor David Fergusson, School of Divinity, New College

“ ... when Dr. Dennis Jowers calls Karl Rahner’s Trinitarian axiom into question in this book, he is placing himself in direct opposition to the dominant paradigm of Trinitarian theology in the second half of the twentieth century ... Dr. Jowers’ insight about Rahner’s view of revelation is simple enough, and quite obvious once he draws our attention to it: Rahner’s anti-propositionalism is a pervasive and consistent theme in his work. But no previous author has identified this problem so sharply nor traced its implications for Rahner’s Trinitarian axiom. Dr. Jowers has indeed tapped a rich vein that runs straight through Rahner’s Trinitarian theology ...” – Professor Fred Sanders, Biola University

Table of Contents

Foreword by David Fergusson

Chapter 1
I. The Relevance of Rahner’s Philosophy to His Theology
II. Rahner’s Philosophy Itself
III. Outlook

Chapter 2
I. Revelation as Such
II. The Revelation of the Trinity
III. Conclusion

Chapter 3
I. Introduction
II. Divine Transcendence and Self-Communication
III. Bert Van Der Heijden
IV. Conciliar Authority and the Consistency of Rahner’s Views
V. Conclusion

Chapter 4
I. Introduction
II. The Impossibility of a Non-Verbal, Non-Conceptual Revelation of the Doctrine of the Trinity Other Than the Beatific Vision
III. Christ’s Anointing with the Holy Spirit as a Test Case for the Grundaxiom
IV. Conclusion