A notion of contemporary theology usually connected with the name of Karl rahner, who proffered it as a way to maintain the universalism of Christianity within the present context of heightened consciousness of religious pluralism. Since Christians believe not only that God wills the salvation of all men (1 Tm 2.4) but also that no man is saved except through Christ (1 Tm 2.5–6), it follows that all men must be affected by God through Christ. For most men this grace is real but hidden; it constitutes the possibility of an authentic though implicit faith without which salvation is impossible (Heb 11.6). This implicit faith, this personal fides qua creditur, is genuine whenever a man does the will of the Father even if he has never really heard of the Lord. Since Christ is the effective paradigm of the de facto salvific significance of human self-transcendence, wherever true humanity is realized Christians celebrate the hidden dynamism of the grace of Christ. Correlative to the universality of grace is general revelation, through which every man can acknowledge the unfathomable thrust of existence toward the infinite.
This notion presupposes a broad Christian anthropocentrism which intrinsically connects creation (nature) and redemption (grace) as two moments of God's self-communication to man. As such it recalls the lofty Chris-tocentric streams of the tradition: the cosmic Christ texts of the New Testament, the Logos doctrine of the Apologists (cf. Justin, Apology 1.46), Irenaeus's theory of recapitulation, the anima naturaliter christiana theme of Tertullian, and, among the scholastics, the Scotist thesis on the finality of the Incarnation. Rahner presented this doctrine as a "comfort of objectivity" for anxious Christians in a secular and pluralistic situation.
Bibliography: h. ott, "Existentiale Interpretation und anonyme Christlichkeit," Zeit und Geschichte: Festgabe R. Bultmann, ed. e. dinkler (Tübingen 1964) 367–379. k. rahner, "Christianity and the non-Christian Religions," Theological Investigations 5 (Baltimore 1966) 115–134; "Anonymous Christians," Theological Investigations 6.390–398. a. rÖper, The Anonymous Christian (New York 1966).
[m. j. scanlon/eds.]