Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction

Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction

Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction

Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction

Synopsis

The enormously prolific Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was marginalized during much of his life, but his reputation over time has only continued to grow. He was said to be the favorite theologian of John Paul II and is held in high esteem by Benedict XVI. It is not uncommon to hear him referred to as the great Catholic theologian of the twentieth century.

In Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction Karen Kilby argues that although the low regard in which Balthasar was held from the 1950s to 1960s was not justified, neither is the current tendency to lionize him. Instead, she advocates a more balanced approach, particularly in light of a fundamental problem in his writing, namely, his characteristic authorial voice -- an over-reaching "God's eye" point of view that contradicts the content of his theology.

Excerpt

A striking feature of twentieth-century Roman Catholic theology is the reversals of fortune which mark the careers of so many of its great figures. Henri de Lubac, S.J., for instance, lived under a cloud for a decade — his own order removed his books from sale, asked him not to teach fellow Jesuits, and even stripped his works from their libraries — but in the early 60s he had a major hand in drafting the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and he finished his life a cardinal. Yves Congar, a Dominican, was forbidden to teach, preach, or write for some time by his superiors, but again emerged as an extraordinarily influential figure in the Second Vatican Council, and he too was made a cardinal before his death. Comparable stories can be told of Marie-Dominique Chenu and to some extent of Karl Rahner.

More spectacular than any of these, however, has been the turnaround in intellectual fortunes of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Like many of the other great theological figures of the century he was ecclesiastically marginalized in the 1950s, but in his case this did not come to an end by 1962; alone among his generation of theologians, he stayed home during the Second Vatican Council. Some time thereafter, however, Balthasar began to be reintegrated, and to gain recognition as a major theological player. As the decades have passed his reputation has only continued to grow. He was said to be the favorite theologian of Pope John Paul ii, and is held in high esteem also by Benedict XVI; he is the preferred choice when Anglicans and Protestants look to engage with a Catholic thinker; increasing numbers of Ph.D. dissertations are being written on him . . .

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