Sacramentum Mundi Online

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Karl Rahner with Cornelius Ernst and Kevin Smyth.
Advisor for the online edition: Karen Kilby, Durham University

Sacramentum Mundi Online is the online edition of the famous six volume English reference work in Catholic Theology, edited (in 1968-1970) by Karl Rahner, one of the main Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology was originally published by Herder Verlag, and is now available online at Brill.

For more information:

Absolute and Contingent - The Absolute

(1,928 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Part of Absolute and Contingent: 1. The Absolute 2. The Contingent 1. The notion of the absolute is that of the unconditioned in general. The opposite notion is that of the relative. The absolute excludes entirely any dependence in its existence from anything else. This substantive use of the word means absoluteness of being, not merely an unconditioned validity or concept, which latter is called absolute if it does not imply a relation to something else. The absolute in general, being a singulare tantum, is more than the independence which may to a certain extent be attribute…

Absolute and Contingent - The Contingent

(1,031 words)

Author(s): Walter Kern
Part of Absolute and Contingent: 1. The Absolute 2. The Contingent 1. The concept of the contingent in philosophy is that of the accidental, that which does not exist by virtue of its essence. Hence, from the purely logical point of view, its actual existing has to its essence the relation of an accident (from accidere, ad-cadere), which “falls to” the lot of the essence “from outside”. In the broader sense of the term, the contingent stands for that “which can not be”. Thus it is the contradictory of the absolute and necessary, which cannot but be, …


(2,649 words)

Author(s): Oskar Köhler
A. Notions and Forms Absolutism means the rule of one individual legitimated solely by descent (hereditary monarchy), his power being essentially indivisible, allowing of no relatively autonomous intermediate authorities, and limited as to competence only by his own judgment. Forms of absolute sovereignty first appeared in the advanced civilizations of antiquity. The main basis of authority was the ruler’s connection with a god: he might be the representative of the god, or his son, or even the real…

Act and Potency

(2,365 words)

Author(s): Oswald Schwemmer
1. In the Aristotelian and Thomist tradition act and potency are the constitutive principles of finite beings. The doctrine, which has been called the “essence of Thomism” (Manser), is used in Scholasticism as a basic instrument of thought. To show that act and potency are the basic structure of all the beings we meet with, that is, of all finite beings, we must investigate them in our primordial experience of reality. a) None of the beings we encounter presents itself to us in the simple fullness of its being. It is never wholly “there”. When we are confronted wit…


(1,999 words)

Author(s): Anton Vögtle
“Aeon” is a transcription of the Greek word αίών which corresponds to the Hebrew 'ōlām. These terms can be adequately rendered in translation only by a number of different expressions. Thus, for a full understanding of the term we must examine the history of the related concepts. A. Usage In the older books of the ОТ 'ōlām signifies a distant, hidden period, one whose beginning and end is lost in darkness; hence it can mean “antiquity” as well as “the future”. Amos in the 8th century speaks of the time of David as the “days of old” (Am 9:11 LXX: αί ήμέραι τοũ αίώνος). 'ōlām is, therefore, in gener…


(1,186 words)

Author(s): Humbert Cornélis
Belief in survival after death seems to go very far back into prehistory. Funeral rites of the late paleolithic age (deposits of arms and food, red ochre) leave little doubt as to the existence of a conception of the “living corpse”, such as is to be found amongst many primitive peoples, as well as in the popular mind in advanced cultures possessing a more elaborate form of eschatology. The special value attached to the cranium implies perhaps the localization in the head of the faculties essent…


(1,088 words)

Author(s): Jörg Splett
While general scepticism doubts on principle the possibility of true knowledge, agnosticism is a particular form of scepticism which declares that there can be no knowledge of anything beyond the reach of the senses and hence denies the existence of metaphysics as a science, and in particular the knowability of God. The word was introduced by T. H. Huxley (1825–1895) to distinguish his position from metaphysics (that of the “Gnostics”). In the strict sense, the representatives of all forms of positivism, pragmatism and materialism are agnostics. Against these, the…