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The Thomist 64 (2000): 127-30 NOTE ON BALTHASAR'S TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY1 BERTRAND DE MARGERIE, S.J. Paris, France I. THE THEOLOGY OF THE MYSTERY OF THE FATHER Certain views recently propounded by P. Ferlay and Hans Ursvon Balthasar presentdifficult problems for Trinitarian theology. The fundamental thesis upheld by the former is that God is a "certain community where each realizes his end fully in forgetfulness, in dispossession."2 The latter carries this same thesis even farther: "Inherent in the Father's love is an absolute renunciation: he will not be God for himself alone. He lets go of his divinity and, in this sense, manifests a (divine) God-lessness (of love, of course). The latter must not be confused with the godlessness that is found within the world, although it undergirds it, renders it possible and goes beyond it," wrote the great Swiss theologian in his Theo-drama (4:323-24). Neither theologian seems to have taken account ofthe fact that certain analogous views, apparently held by Joachim de Fiore, had already been considered and dearly rejected by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. "No one can say that the Father has transferred his substance to the Son in begetting him, as if he had given it to the Son without keeping it himself; in that case it would have ceased to be substance. It is therefore dear that the Son in being begotten has received without any diminution the substance of the Father and thus the Father and the Son have the same substance." This declaration is presented as an "orthodox 1 Adapted from Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., "Trinite," in Catholicisme (Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1997) (translated by Gregory F. LaNave). 2 P. Ferlay, Precher la Trinite (1973), 237, 258, etc. 127 128 BERTRAND DE MARGERIE, S.J. and catholic" explanation of the faith concerning the consubstantiality of the Father and of the Son, in light ofJohn 10:29 (Denz.-Schon. 805). We have here a paradox: some modern authors, evidently concerned with spirituality, have unwittingly fallen into a conception of the divine Being that is overly materialistic. The Father, in giving himself, does not lose his omniscience, nor his knowledge of himself. We, as men, can and must lose ourselves -that is, not what is good in us and comes from God, but our sinful tendencies which result from original sin or our actual sins; but God cannot "deny himself" (2 Tim 2:13). It must be noted that Balthasar perceived the difficulty to which his thought leads: "the Father, in uttering and surrendering himself without reserve, does not lose himself" (Theo-drama, 4:325). While glossing over certain excesses that we find in his formulations, it is preferable to interpret them benignly, understanding them within a fundamental intention of orthodoxy. Yet there is another formulation of Balthasar's that we cannot see how to justify: "The Father, too, owes his Fatherhood to the Son who allows himself to be generated" (Theo-drama 5:245). This is unacceptable even on the level of human analogy: the earthly father is father before his son can consent to it. It is also unacceptable on the divine level: the will of the Father and of the Son is one. One cannot say that the Son voluntarily consents to a will the Father had to beget him and which would be different from his own will. A kind of human psychologism risks drawing the readers of the Swiss theologian in the direction of tritheism. II. THE THEOLOGY OF THE MYSTERY OF THE SON Given the strong affirmations in the Gospels of the unity between the Father and the Son-affirmations reiterated by several ecumenical councils in underscoring their consubstantiality-we cannot accept the dialectical, obscure, and, above all, dangerous language of Balthasar, who appears to affirm and to deny it at the same time: "God the Father can give his divinity away in such a manner that it is not merely 'lent' to the Son: the Son's possession NOTE ON BALTHASAR'S TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY 129 of it is 'equally substantial.' This implies ... an incomprehensible and unique 'separation' of God from himself" (Theo-drama, 4:325). The inverted commas inserted...


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