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Philosophy and Theology

Volume 30, Issue 2, 2018

Brent Little
Pages 575-600

An Anonymous Christian along the Ganges?
Grace and Symbol in Rahner’s Theology and Endo’s Deep River

Although not ignored, Rahner’s theology has not played a significant influence on the interdisciplinary scholarship between Catholic theology and literature, perhaps because Rahner’s thought is often considered to lack a theological aesthetics. This article encourages a reevaluation of this impression by bringing Rahner’s theology of symbol and his argument for the anonymous Christian into dialogue with the last novel of the acclaimed Japanese Catholic Shusaku Endo, Deep River (1994). Endo’s novel challenges theologians to consider Rahner’s insights in concrete, multi-cultural, and non-Christian contexts, and demonstrates the importance of thinking about Rahner’s theology of symbol in terms of narrative. At the same time, Endo’s novel prompts a reconsideration of Rahner’s controversial argument for the anonymous Christian, for Rahner’s thought and Endo’s novel present two different approaches to the issue of religious pluralism. In this dialogue between novelist and theologian, the Incarnational foundation of Rahner’s argument for the anonymous Christian emerges more clearly, a foundation that can be easily missed amidst his abstract rhetoric.

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