Christ and Analogy
The Christocentric Metaphysics of Hans Urs von Balthasar
Publication Year: 2013
As one of the pillars of the nouvelle theologie movement, a main influence upon the Second Vatican Council, and one of the few figures to complete a full-scale multi-volume systematics, Hans Urs von Balthasar is undoubtedly one of the towering figures of twentieth-century theology. Until now, the structural undergirding of von Balthasar’s main contribution, a weighty 15-volume, three-part “triptych” dogmatics, has not been assessed. In this volume, the author presents an analysis of von Balthasar’s work in dogmatics and provides the structural linchpin for understanding the whole of this massive (and massively important) systematic theology by reconstructing the metaphysics of von Balthasar. Taking the person of Jesus Christ as the metaphysical starting point, the project highlights the fundamental connections to key doctrinal, historical, and philosophical issues. This is a critical volume for professors, scholars, and students in systematic theology, philosophical theology, and the study of twentieth-century Catholic and Protestant theology and history.
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Series: Emerging Scholars
Title Page, Copyright
In The Glory of the Lord, Hans Urs von Balthasar speaks of the need to find an “index of interpretation” when we come to the task of attempting to understand God’s self-manifestation in the world. The inadequacy of any worldly form to be this index of interpretation should be clear from a proper understanding of the nature of God, and yet in many ways it is the argument of the first volume...
The history of theology has left us no small number of examples of intellectual genius coupled with remarkable industry attesting to that genius. Even among such a rich company, however, the contribution of Hans Urs von Balthasar stands out. Not only the amount of text he produced (as writer, compiler, and editor), but also the scope of topics and literature that he ranges over set him...
2. Exemplarity and Expression: Rejection of the Pure Difference Thesis
At the outset, our task must be to draw von Balthasar’s ideas back to a few
fundamental ideas that can be taken as foundational for everything else. This
requires an examination of the basic metaphysical questions in order to discern
where von Balthasar’s primary interest (the incarnate Christ) falls. What are the
basic metaphysical questions?
Classically speaking, metaphysics must account for the basic...
3. The Positivity of the Other: Rejection of the Identity Thesis
Our reconstruction of von Balthasar’s metaphysics has so far been concerned with answering the question (Q): “What is the nature or character of the God-creature relation?” So far, we have seen that the relationship is not to be construed according to the Pure Difference Thesis—rather, the language of archetype, exemplar, and participation in the analogical, katalogical, and ideal...
4. Analogy: A Theological and Philosophical via Media
We turn now to the Analogy Thesis, which has survived as the only possible option for cognizing the relationship between God and the world. However, our explication to this point has shown that it is not von Balthasar’s position by mere process of elimination: its logic has been invoked to deny both the other competing theses. Therefore some examination of the historical arguments for...
5. Personhood and von Balthasar’s Two Metaphysics
Before we can approach the point of union between likeness and unlikeness, we should pause and realize that we have reached the point in the development of the system where it is possible at last to bring Christ fully into view as the first principle of the metaphysics. In doing so, we also bring in the question of the Incarnation, the fact that this divine person became human, and that it is as...
6. Analogy of Being in Trinitarian and Christological Keys
Participation turned out to play an important role in the analysis of the Ideal Metaphysic. Participation was found to require primary reference to the analogy of being; in fact, our analysis of the Ideal Metaphysic supports the conclusion that the analogy of being is the content of participation. Moving forward, the question now becomes how to understand the participation of...
7. Participation, Love, and Kenosis
We saw in the previous chapter that the highest moment in the explication of the metaphysics was at the same time the beginning of the ability to speak in a properly theological mode. The point where the highest principle of created reality, as both its source and goal, comes into view is simultaneously the point at which a doorway is opened into the eternal life of the uncreated, and to...
Our study has illustrated from the philosophical side the momentous importance von Balthasar attaches to Incarnation—it is here that the Ideal Metaphysics of the exemplar pass over to and are fulfilled in the Historical Metaphysics of the one who is the concrete analogy of being, the embodiment and measure of every interval between God and humans. This focus on the...