Monday, August 05, 2002
"Person" and "Symbol" in RahnerIn his classic text The Trinity Karl Rahner questions whether the word "person" is of any use in contemporary reflection on the Trinity because as the word has developed it has gained a connotation of autonomy that is incompatable with the characteristic of the three persons of the Trinity. Yet, in his essay on real symbols, he not only defends, but promotes the use of the word "symbol" in reference to the Eucharist. It is a very good essay with which I agree, but I think the word itself, "symbol" has the same problem he attributes to "person." It has a connotation in contemporary thought--the connotation is the modifier "mere"--which renders it problematic when used in contemporary discourse, especially on the popular level. I think we either have a choice. We use the terms and explain the nuances, as Rahner does in his treatment of "symbol," or we look for different words, as he seems to advocate in the Trinity book. I think he's inconsistent. And I think the use of "symbol" is more problematic than the use of "person" in public discourse. I still think, though, I'd advocate 'splainin' rather than innovation. For that reason I think biblical translations should translate words and phrases that are interpreted as "non-inclusive" exactly as they appear, then their inclusive sense should be explained, in homilies, for instance.
Posted by Robert Gotcher at Monday, August 05, 2002