Saving Karl Barth
Hans Urs von Balthasar's Preoccupation
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
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Title Page, Copyright
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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...
1 An Unlikely Friendship: Balthasar’s “Conversations” with Barth
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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,...
2 Presenting and Interpreting Karl Barth
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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:...
3 Collapse of Balthasar’s Interpretation
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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...
4 The Realm of God
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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...
5 The Realm of Ethics
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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...
6 The Realm of the Church: Renewal and Unity
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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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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,...
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Index of Names and Subjects
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014