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Philosophy and Theology

Volume 30, Issue 2, 2018

Sarah A. Thomas
Pages 549-573

Karl Rahner’s Theology of Love in Dialogue with Social Psychology and Neuroscience

The commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 25:39) is central to Christian discipleship. How does the concrete way that we express love enhance or diminish our ability to love? This paper brings Karl Rahner’s theology of neighbor love into dialogue with a description of altruism and compassion provided by social psychologist, C. Daniel Batson, and neuroscientists Tania Singer and Olga Klimecki. For Rahner, grace enables and sustains love. In addition, a mutually reciprocal relationship of unity exists between human love for God, neighbor, and self. Furthermore, Rahner contends prayer as one way to cultivate compassion for another. The scientific research presented here examines aspects of the relationship between self and other known as empathy and compassion. The research of Batson, Singer, and Klimecki shed light on the role of self-love in compassion as well as the ways our capacity to empathize conditions our potential for altruism.

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