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Saving Karl Barth

Hans Urs von Balthasar's Preoccupation

By D. Stephen Long

Publication Year: 2014

Challenging recent rejections of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s groundbreaking study of Karl Barth’s theology, Stephen Long argues that these interpreters are myopically impatient with the nuances of Balthasar’s reading of Barth and fail to appreciate the longstanding theological friendship that perdured. Even more, current readings threaten to repristinate the embattled divide hallmarking Protestant-Catholic relations prior to Vatican II. Long contends against these contemporary trajectories in a substantial defense of Balthasar’s theological preoccupation with Barth’s thought. This book offers one of the first full contextualizations of the friendship that developed between Balthasar and Barth, which lasted from the 1930s until Balthasar’s death in the 1980s. Re-evaluating Balthasar’s theological work on Barth, the present volume provides a critical new reading of not only Balthasar’s original volume but a wider account of the systematic engagement Balthasar carried on throughout his career. Within this, a paradigm for fruitful, generous ecumenical dialogue emerges.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Cover

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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s presentation and interpretation of Karl Barth’s theology has fallen on hard times. Once heralded as a landmark analysis of Barth’s theology (even by Barth himself), and a breakthrough in ecumenical relations, Balthasar’s interpretation finds fewer and fewer takers. Significant Protestant theologians charge him with an inaccurate periodization and...

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1 An Unlikely Friendship: Balthasar’s “Conversations” with Barth

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pp. 7-36

Barth and Balthasar’s friendship was unlikely, but theologically significant. The friendship was unlikely for several reasons. When they first met Karl Barth was already fifty-four years of age, a well-known theologian and a professor with an international reputation. Having been removed from his teaching post at the University of Bonn in 1935, he had resided in his birthplace, Basel, Switzerland,...

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2 Presenting and Interpreting Karl Barth

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pp. 37-88

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Balthasar presented Barth’s work to a Catholic audience, offering a nuanced interpretation along with affirmative and negative evaluations. His conversations with Barth, his struggles with the censors, and the constant critiques from Catholic and Protestant theologians resulted in his 1951 publication:...

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3 Collapse of Balthasar’s Interpretation

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pp. 89-128

In a moving passage defending why both he and Catholics should engage in “conversation” (Gespräch) with Karl Barth, Balthasar wrote:

There is another reason why we want to begin a dialogue with Karl Barth: his theology is beautiful [schön]. I do not mean merely that stylistically Barth writes well, though he does. But the beauty of...

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4 The Realm of God

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pp. 129-176

In his 1945 essay on Barth, Balthasar identified what mattered most. The “burning matter of dispute,” he wrote, “decides the realm [Gebiet] of the natural knowledge of God and ethics.”1 Balthasar was both for and against Barth on this all-important question of the “realm” within which knowledge of God and...

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5 The Realm of Ethics

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pp. 177-238

The previous chapter addressed the “burning matter of dispute” between Balthasar and Barth on the “realm” within which theologians pursue knowledge of God. On this matter, Balthasar was both for and against Barth. He was for him in that the de deo uno cannot condition the de deo trino without losing the divine economy. He was against him in that the crucial identity between them...

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6 The Realm of the Church: Renewal and Unity

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pp. 239-282

If the “burning matter of dispute” between Balthasar and Barth, Catholicism and Protestantism, was the “realm” within which we contemplate, practice, and pursue the knowledge of God and ethics, and if the church was a central component of that realm, then the division between Catholics and Protestants become all the more important. When he was in exile from Basel from 1950...

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7 Conclusion

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pp. 283-288

This work began arguing that Catholicism haunted Karl Barth. Theologians should be grateful for it. Had he not suffered Catholicism, he would not have been motivated to turn to dogmatics. Barth sought a robust Protestant theology that could dogmatically stand on “its own two feet” as much as Catholic theology did. In pursuing it, he moved beyond modern theological categories,...

Bibliography

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pp. 289-298

Index of Names and Subjects

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pp. 299-305


E-ISBN-13: 9781451479720
E-ISBN-10: 1451479727
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451470147
Print-ISBN-10: 1451470142

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014