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L'individuazione della pista epistemologica che orienta l'escatologia di Hans Urs von Balthasar è lo scopo pri
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although Hans Urs von Balthasar’s earliest publication is from 1925, and although he was a mature forty years old in 194
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although Hans Urs von Balthasar’s earliest publication is from 1925, and although he was a mature forty years old in 194
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Von Balthasar speaks from the heart in an interview giving his views on some of the most controversial topics of the day
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This book offers a new reading of Hilarys Trinitarian theology that takes into account the historical context of Hilarys
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The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Trinitarian Theology of
Hans Urs von Balthasar An Introduction
B ren da n McI n ern y
University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana
Copyright © 2020 by the University of Notre Dame University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 undpress.nd.edu All Rights Reserved Published in the United States of America Library of Congress Control Number: 2020932827 isBn: 978-0-268-10757-4 (hardback) isBn: 978-0-268-10760-4 (WebPdf) isBn: 978-0-268-10759-8 (Epub)
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at [email protected].
3/5/20 11:08 AM
For Clarey, Eilish, and Frankie
To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. —Gospel of John
Trinity! Higher than any being, any divinity, any goodness! Guide of Christians in the wisdom of heaven! Lead us up beyond unknowing and light, up to the farthest, highest peak of mystic scripture, where the mysteries of God’s Word lie simple, absolute and unchangeable in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence. —Pseudo-Dionysius
List of Abbreviations
1 God Is Love: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of the Immanent Trinity
2 A Confluence of Diverse Tendencies: The Sources of Balthasar’s Immanent Trinitarian Theology
3 Unless You Become Like This Child: Deification as Trinitarian Adoption
4 A Blessed Wilderness: The Trinity and Divine Incomprehensibility
15 45 85 125
L i s t o f Abb r e v i a t i o n s
Works by Hans Urs von Balthasar CL ET 1–5 GL1–7 HW KB MP MWR P PT TD1–5 TL1–3 TS
Cosmic Liturgy Explorations in Theology, vols. 1–5 The Glory of the Lord, vols. 1–7 Heart of the World The Theology of Karl Barth Mysterium Paschale My Work: In Retrospect Prayer Presence and Thought Theo-Drama, vols. 1–5 Theo-Logic, vols. 1–3 Two Sisters in the Spirit
Works by Others CD1–4 DN ST TI 1–4
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vols. 1–4 Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, vols. 1–4
God’s truth is, indeed, great enough to allow an infinity of approaches and entryways. —Hans Urs von Balthasar, Glory of the Lord
T h e C h a l l e n g e o f R e a d i n g B a lt h a s a r
Any interpretation of Balthasar’s theology must contend with the profoundly ambivalent reception of his thought in the church and academy, an ambivalence caused in part by the peculiarities of Balthasar’s work itself. Throughout his academic career, Balthasar avoided or resisted the normative forms of theological writing. He began his intellectual career with a dissertation on German literature and philosophy. After he entered the Jesuits, his early theological studies were profoundly unsatisfying for him. He found the then-standard neo-scholastic theology an affront to the real glory of divine revelation.1 Significantly, Balthasar never did theology according to neo-scholastic form or method, and in many instances he worked with a clear disregard for its categories. In the first stage of his theological work (1929–45), he found himself transmitting primarily the thought and work of others through translation in both literature and theology. From his exposure to Henri de 1
2 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
Lubac, Balthasar’s interest turned toward Greek patristic figures: Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, Evagrius, and Pseudo-Dionysius.2 This interest in Greek patristics led to Balthasar’s first major theological monographs on Origen (1938), Gregory of Nyssa (1939), and Maximus the Confessor (1941). This association with de Lubac and his rejection of neo-scholasticism placed Balthasar outside then-normative Catholic theology. His decision in 1940 to serve as a university chaplain in Basel, Switzerland, further isolated Balthasar and distinguished him from many of the other great midcentury Catholic theologians, such as Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger. Unlike his peers, Balthasar never had students under his direction. He never had “firsthand” scholarly interpreters of his work, who in turn could form further generations of scholars. As such, by and large there is no Balthasarian theological school because there is no Balthasarian theological pedigree, even as his popularity has waxed and waned in the past five decades. The ecclesial-academic isolation of Balthasar continued when he left the Society of Jesus in 1950, to help his close friend and mystic Adrienne von Speyr run the Community of St. John. As a result, Balthasar could find no bishop to incardinate him and was therefore “forbidden by canon law to celebrate mass publicly, to preach or hear confessions.”3 The promulgation of Pius XII’s Humani Generis and its condemnation of nouvelle theologie also occurred in 1950. For Pius XII, “new theology” was suspect because those associated with it “destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.”4 The solution to this error was a renewed commitment to neo-Thomism.5 Balthasar was now an ecclesial pariah in his native Switzerland and his theological association with nouvelle theologie, especially with de Lubac, put him under the suspicion of Rome.6 Despite being supported exclusively by von Speyr and her husband, Balthasar continued to challenge the status quo. In 1951, he published his book on Karl Barth, whose lectures in Basel he attended and whose friendship he made. As director of Johannes Verlag, the newly founded publishing house for the Community of St. John, Balthasar had an immediate outlet for an antiestablishment theological vision. Significantly, the first books published were Hans Küng’s own work on Barth, Justification, and Rahner’s Free Speech in the Church.7 In 1952, he published his
own clarion call for church reform, Razing the Bastions. He also published works on Thérèse of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity in those years. Though he collaborated and supported church reform before the Second Vatican Council, Balthasar was not a participant in it. In contrast to Rahner, Congar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, and many of the other leading names in Catholic theology at the time, he had no demonstrable impact on one of the most theologically significant events of the past century. Indeed, as a result of the preparation and work of the council, Balthasar’s most significant and unique contribution to theology to date, the first three volumes of The Glory of the Lord—and thus the start of his massive trilogy—fell on otherwise preoccupied ears.8 As Fergus Kerr argues, “The shock waves that [The Glory of the Lord] should have had in Roman Catho lic theology were overtaken by unanticipated events” surrounding the work of the council.9 Furthermore, by the time the council had ended, and other theologians were becoming aware of the importance of this work, his contributions therein were read in light of his 1966 polemical critique of Rahner, and “liberal” theology in general, The Moment of Christian Witness. Thus, Balthasar was perceived “as the leading adversary of trends in post- conciliar Catholicism,” and perhaps even an enemy of the Second Vatican Council, despite the fact that in many respects the council’s vision of reform matched his own.10 As early as 1967, Balthasar argued that what he saw as “liberalism” in theology was actually obscuring “the greatness of [the council’s] program” of renewal.11 But quickly thereafter, Balthasar became for many a paragon of postconciliar theological conservatism. For anglophone theologians, the tendency to read Balthasar as a whole through his postconciliar polemics was exacerbated by the fact that, as of 1968, the only works in English translation were his books on Thérèse and Elizabeth (1953 and 1956, respectively); Prayer (1961); Science, Religion and Christianity (1958); his work on Martin Buber (1961); A Theology of History (1963); two volumes of essays in theology (1964 and 1965); Man in History (1967); the collection of essays on the church (1967); Love Alone (1968); and The Moment of Christian Witness (1968).12 While these are not necessarily insignificant works, they do create a skewed picture of Balthasar and his theological impulses, one that depicts him first and foremost as a reactive polemicist and writer of “spirituality,” as well as, perhaps, not a worthy theologian in his own right. By the time his major works, such as his book on Barth (1971, abridged) and the first volume of
4 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Glory of the Lord (1982), were translated into English, Balthasar was perceived as little more than “a Barthian, a mystic, a papalist.”13 Even with access to Balthasar’s major works, the forms, style, and references of his writing serve to isolate him. As already indicated, Balthasar presented his theology in a wide variety of literary genres. He wrote in aphorisms, prose poetry, meditations, and polemical pieces; theological, historical, and literary studies of individual authors; essays and short monographs; and massive multivolume scholarly works. The variety of literary genres, many of which provide Balthasar’s positions at best indirectly, encourage a disjointed reading of his thought. Moreover, even when Balthasar was working out his own arguments, he rarely presented his positions in a linear manner. His preference was rather to address something cyclically, contemplating a single theme again and again on new, ever-deeper planes. In the description of Lucy Gardner and David Moss, There can be little doubt that reading Balthasar’s work is to read an intensely “compacted thinking,” which is to say that part of the remarkable achievement of his great theological oeuvre is precisely the repeated rehearsal of fundamental theological (and metaphysical) commitments in ever new configurations which seek to illuminate the same mystery. Thus, if one were to speak of the “systematic impulse” in Balthasar’s work, we should recognize that this does not reside in any riveting of “parts” on to an empty frame, nor in any correlation of God to his creature, but rather in the “ever more deeply plumbed repetition” yielding a formidable density of the same mystery.14 In some instances, this cyclical movement is accomplished over many pages, in which Balthasar approaches the topic at hand through a reading of a profusion of earlier theological interpretations of the theme. One is thus left with nonlinear and indirect argumentation, which often relies on an extraordinary number of literary, philosophical, and theological references. Perhaps most significant for the argument here, Balthasar tended to avoid writing in a more typical systematic manner. As already noted above, Balthasar eschewed the normative theological form in which he was educated. While he shared his rejection of neo-scholasticism with many of his contemporaries, unlike many of his peers, Balthasar did not retain the
neo-scholastic habit of doing theology according to distinct theological themes. At no point did Balthasar write an essay or book or “tractate” on standard doctrinal topics, such as Christology, the Eucharist, or the Trinity. Even in his principal, most “systematic” work, his massive fifteen-volume trilogy (sixteen including the Epilogue), Balthasar does not present his thought through discrete theological loci but rather presents divine reve lation through the platonic transcendental attributes of being: the Beau tiful, the Good, and the True. Positively, this gives Balthasar’s theology the feel of a “seamless garment,” in which no doctrine or position is isolated from any other. On the other hand, traditional theological topics are thus treated almost opportunistically as Balthasar encounters, or thinks of, them in the course of his writing. Even the overarching structure of doing theology from the vantage of the transcendentals does not result in consistent structures within and between his theological aesthetics, theo-dramatics, and theologic. At least from first appearances, the trilogy would seem to be not a single work in three parts but three independent works, were it not for Balthasar’s clear indications that they constitute a whole. As we will see, the unity is supplied not by the literary structure but by theological content. Beyond the trilogy, the material becomes even more chaotic. It is no wonder that the reception of Balthasar has been so varied. For some, Balthasar’s work is a paramount example of contemporary, orthodox thought, faithful to the long tradition of Christian theology yet creatively a response to new challenges. He has been described as a new father of the church.15 In his funeral homily for Balthasar, the future Pope Benedict XVI said that, through Pope John Paul II’s elevation of Balthasar to the cardinalate, “the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the Faith, that he points the way to the sources of living water.”16 Balthasar’s fierce polemics against Rahner and “liberal” theology in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, his appointment to the International Theological Commission in 1969, his cofounding of the journal Communio, and his defense of controversial positions held by Paul VI and John Paul II that were the prerogatives of the hierarchy have generally served to reinforce the impression of Balthasar’s stalwart “traditionalism,” in contrast to the theological innovation of his peers. Despite the praise of Balthasar, less favorable readings of his thought exist. Though the terms of the critiques vary, Balthasar’s thought has long been suspect. Initially, these critiques resulted from the debate between
6 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
neo-scholasticism and the new theology already mentioned. Even after the Second Vatican Council’s renewed embrace of theological diversity, however, specific elements of Balthasar’s thought came under scrutiny and have remained so. Beginning in the 1960s, and stretching through the work of Alyssa Pitstick today, particular criticism has been leveled against Balthasar’s theology of Christ’s descent into hell.17 Karl Rahner associated his use of kenosis with Gnosticism.18 The radical orthodox thinker John Milbank provided a litany of Balthasarian errors in his short work on de Lubac, The Suspended Middle. According to Milbank, Balthasar was a voluntarist, who disregarded the ontological difference between Creator and creature, eliminated divine simplicity, confused person and consciousness, and gave creation too much “independent ontological space.”19 Balthasar has been criticized with equal vehemence from other quarters. Feminist, liberationist, and political theologians have also noted dangerous tendencies in Balthasar’s theological anthropology and apparent disregard for the social, economic, and political demands of the Gospel.20 Most recently, in Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction, Karen Kilby has articulated what might be an unidentified and unspoken intuition for many who are apprehensive of Balthasar’s work. According to Kilby, Balthasar’s limitations as a theologian do not stem primarily from any material position but rather from the fact that he “frequently seems to presume . . . a God’s eye view,” which sets him “above his materials—above tradition, above Scripture, above history,” and against his own desires to remain epistemologically humble.21 T h e T r i n i t y i n B a lt h a s a r ’ s Wo r k
Against this background of ambivalence, this book offers a critical account of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. Despite the variety among the critical voices, many share a common concern that something is awry in Balthasar’s doctrine of God. Whether these critics attribute it to epistemological hubris (Kilby, Rahner), a deficient understanding of the God- creature relationship (Milbank, Beattie, Dalzell, Bauerschmidt), or a faulty interpretation of the work of the economic Trinity (Pitstick), they suggest the need to examine the content, sources, methods, and, most importantly, the rationale of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology.
A brief overview of the appearances of the Trinity in Balthasar’s work suggests that coming to grips with this area of his thought provides a key insight into Balthasar’s thought as a whole. Though he never wrote a single treatise on it, the Trinity appears as a major theological topic in work as early as Balthasar’s on the Greek fathers, especially Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor, in the 1930s and early 1940s. In his work on Gregory, Balthasar evinces a definite interest in both the nature of the personal difference of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as in the relationship between the Trinity and deification.22 Indeed, Balthasar’s articulation of these distinct but deeply related topics pre sents the germ of his later thought, in which he articulates how Gregory sees the necessity of God having an equally divine partner. As he writes, drawing on Gregory’s Contra Eunomius, “There cannot be loneliness in God. . . . ‘A glory without a radiance would be dark and blind, closed in on itself.’ ”23 Moreover, it is precisely the distinction of the Father and his image, the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, that enables the deification of men and women. By the Spirit, we are elevated “to the plane of the uncreated Image” (the Son) and become the co-objects of the Father’s love.24 Other seeds of Balthasar’s developed trinitarian theology appear in his work on Maximus, originally published in 1941. There, one can find foreshadowing of Balthasar’s understanding of the relationship between the divine unity, threeness, negative theology, and revelation. Following Maximus, who himself was following Pseudo-Dionysius, Balthasar places number under the negative edge of the analogy of being. He writes, “Anything one could say about [the Trinity] would be based on number and could never attain the absoluteness of the Divinity or its identity of essence and being. . . . In the end we can only say with Pseudo-Dionysius, ‘He is neither trinity nor unity.’ ”25 However, the inapplicability of number, which is a category of created nature, nevertheless does not indicate a complete lack of knowledge of God’s inner life. We are not left merely speculating. Rather, “the Christian knows about God’s triune being from divine revelation; it is not simply revealed as a ‘fact’ to be believed, but it is revealed already in the ‘facts’ that the incarnate Christ is the revelation of his Father and that the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from both, is given to those who believe as the spirit who makes them holy and adopts them as children.”26 Balthasar also makes a detailed study of Maximus’s technical
8 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
vocabulary (hypostasis, ousia, etc.) that will in large part undergird his own later positions on both Christology and the Trinity.27 Despite the presence of these trinitarian seeds, this first stage of Balthasar’s work on patristic figures lacks several key elements of Balthasar’s thought. In particular, the themes of immanent trinitarian “distance” and kenosis, or self-giving, are absent or rejected.28 In 1945, with the publication of the poetic Heart of the World, Balthasar provides the first small but clear glimpse of the emerging importance of “distance” in the Trinity. Within the final chapter, in which Balthasar depicts the immersion of the creature in the “wilderness” of God’s love, Balthasar writes, “We step back into distance. Love is found only in distance, unity only in difference. God himself is unity of Spirit only in the distinction of Father and Son.”29 In 1951, in his book on Barth, Balthasar refers to “the intradivine distance between the Persons in the Trinity” as the foundation of the distance between Creator and creature, and therefore the foundation of the analogy of being and the whole of the God-world relationship.30 In the same text, one can find references to the I-Thou relationships between Father, Son, and Spirit, the divine and human obedience of Christ to the Father, inner-trinitarian prayer and conversation, the immanent Trinity and the analogy of being, and the manner in which the creature comes to share in this life by grace.31 Balthasar’s works on Thérèse of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity also include important commentary on the Trinity and an indication of the trajectory of his own thought. In the case of Thérèse, the importance of the Trinity comes through Balthasar’s negative evaluations of Thérèse’s “subjective theology.” As he argues, Thérèse at times narrows the Gospel and the Christian mystery by her focus on experiential theology, in which doctrinal themes have importance for her only if they can be “lived.” This focus on lived doctrine explains, according to Balthasar, Thérèse’s almost complete silence about the immanent life of God.32 Even though she speaks frequently about being a child of the Father, she fails to clearly ground this in the eternal begetting of the Son from the Father. As Balthasar then argues, this lacuna in Thérèse’s work is compensated for by the complementarity of Elizabeth’s “objective,” mystical theology. Published in 1952, Balthasar’s work on Elizabeth revolves around what he sees as the central idea of her theology, and what will become a central tenet of his own: our predestination in the Son to be children of
the Father.33 As Balthasar makes clear, such adoption in the Son is not a vague or metaphorical adoption, but a real participation in the eternal processions of the Trinity itself.34 These references to the immanent Trinity and what I term trinitarian deification in his early work are not peripheral to Balthasar’s theological vision, indicating nothing but idle speculation on a matter of little real concern. Rather, they indicate what occupies a central, or foundational, topic in his theology as a whole. As he indicated in the foreword of a book by Adrienne von Speyr in 1951, he held that the doctrine and theology of the Trinity are the foundation of all Christian thought and practice: the fundamental “perspective” grounding all Christological, ecclesiological, and anthropological perspectives.35 However, despite holding this conviction that the Trinity ought to ground all other perspectives, Balthasar later laments the lack of creative reflection on the theology of the Trinity in his 1952 Razing the Bastions. He asks, What place does the doctrine about the triune God have in Christian existence? And what place does it have in theology, in which the doctrine seems to have stood still, half-congealed and dried up after Augustine’s psychological speculation? There would be so many other paths besides that of Augustine, perhaps ever better paths (for ultimately, the solitary structure of the soul cannot supply the supreme image for the living exchange of love in the eternal God). Why does no one seek these paths and follow them out? Christian proclamation in the school, from the pulpit, and in the lecture halls of the universities could be so much more alive, if all the theological tractates were given a completely trinitarian form!36 Though, as noted above, he himself refrained from writing in the form of theological tractates, this passage from this “programmatic little book” articulates the direction Balthasar’s own thought would take.37 By 1955, with the publication of Prayer, the components of that more mature trinitarian vision began to take form. Here, one finds those elements of trinitarian thought for which he has become especially well-known: kenosis, self-giving, dialogue, and prayer. Six years later, Balthasar published the first volume of The Glory of the Lord, the beginning of his magnum opus: the multivolume trilogy made
10 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
up of The Glory of the Lord, Theo-Drama, and Theo-Logic. All the elements of his trinitarian theology mentioned above appear throughout this work, though they are more fully developed: the stress on the difference—even “distance”—of the Persons; the presence of I-Thou relationships between them, including dialogue, joy, and adoration; inner-trinitarian kenosis, self-sacrifice, and self-giving; the basis of creation in the begetting of the Son from the Father; and our eschatological goal, realized already in this life, to participate in the Son’s relationship to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is, however, more than just one theme among others in the trilogy. Indeed, as Balthasar claims in the general introduction to the first volume of Theo-Logic, the focus of the trilogy as a whole is the Trinity.38 The trilogy is neither a progressive argument, with each part building on the last, nor a rough appropriation of the trinitarian persons to a divine attribute, as Rahner thought.39 Rather, each part of the trilogy approaches the one mystery of the Trinity in its self-manifestation (aesthetics), self-giving (dramatics), and self-uttering (logic) in created being for the sake of the creature’s salvation and incorporation into the life of God. Creaturely being, assumed by God in Christ, serves as a kind of prism of the triune God, refracting the white divine light into the distinct colors of the “spectrum” of creation: the Beautiful, the Good, and the True. The Trinity, and its appearance and saving work in Christ and Spirit, gives the sprawling trilogy its deep unity. His work on the trilogy continued almost to the end of his life, but Balthasar did publish works, often collections of essays, outside the trilogy. Despite their uneven tone—ranging from polemical and sarcastic to beautiful meditations—the Trinity appears again and again. Fittingly, one of the final texts he produced, Unless You Become Like This Child, p resents in brief this beating heart of his theology, which he held in some form virtually throughout his career: the manner in which we come to share in the Son’s relationship with the Father in the Holy Spirit.40 “God the Father empowers his Son to have us begotten or born together with him from God.”41 Moreover, “to be a Child of the Father . . . holds primacy over the whole drama of salvation.”42 Surprisingly, for a theologian who so habitually disregarded established theological forms and structures, and who so regularly engaged in self-indulgent projects on such disparate topics, there is extraordinary consistency in Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. While there is development,
this development is not a result of changes in his position or even of his wrestling with possible ideas but rather of his filling out of a sketch already in hand. At virtually all stages of Balthasar’s career, and across the wide variety of literary genres in which he wrote, he maintained an immanent trinitarian theology built around the dynamic love of the three divine persons for each other. As his career progressed, Balthasar depicts this love in an increasingly vivid manner. This love depends on the absolute personal difference of the Father, Son, and Spirit, which Balthasar associates with “infinite distance”; it includes joy, adoration, and thanksgiving but also self-giving, self-sacrifice, and kenosis. In the economic sphere, too, Balthasar emphasizes the character of the personal interrelations between the incarnate Son and the Father, through the mediation of the Holy Spirit (what Balthasar terms the trinitarian inversion). The incarnate Lord manifests his eternal relationship with the Father in the Spirit through his human life. The cross is the climax of this economic manifestation of the trinitarian life, as, through his obedience unto death, Christ reveals the divine distance of the Father and the Son, as well as their invincible unity in the Spirit. By descending into the hell of human sinfulness, Christ reveals the trinitarian love of God, which is ever greater than the world’s rebellion, and swallows and dissolves human sin in the abyss of divine love, which thus becomes the new sphere of human existence. As observed by Karen Kilby and suggested by many others, Balthasar’s trinitarian theology is highly integrated with his theology as a whole.43 The Trinity weaves its way throughout Balthasar’s corpus, remaining more or less consistent but hardly ever appearing in full. This integration has made secondary scholarship on Balthasar’s trinitarian thought highly focused or incidental to other concerns. One finds critique and commentary, for example, on the relationship between Balthasar’s theology of the cross and that of the Trinity; on the use of gendered language in describing the inner life of God; and on the relationship between Balthasar’s trinitarian theology and the question of divine immutability and divine impassibility, or its relation to specific sources of his theology.44 As appropriate, I will refer to this literature throughout the book, especially those instances in which my own argument diverges from my peers. Despite the many contributions of this scholarship, questions remain as to the content, methods, and rationale of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology as a whole. This book seeks to provide just such a comprehensive
12 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
overview of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. It seeks to answer the question as to what the theological function of Balthasar’s trinitarian claims is. For what reason did he claim that there is an I-Thou-We relationship in the Godhead? To what end does he say the Son is turned toward the Father in prayer and thanksgiving, even before the Incarnation? What theological work does divine amazement or a council of the Trinity do? More broadly, what is the purpose of speaking about the Trinity or trini tarian doctrine? In other words, why does Balthasar say what he says about the immanent Trinity? By addressing such questions, I hope to offer another avenue for an internal critique of Balthasar, one that grapples with his own deepest priorities.45 If nothing else, understanding Balthasar’s trinitarian theology helps us to better understand and critique Balthasar. This book argues that Balthasar constructs his immanent trinitarian theology in order to provide the ontological foundation for his vision of the relationship between God and the world. For Balthasar, this relationship has its end in the adoption of men and women as sons and daughters of the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. This adoption of grace is not for Balthasar merely metaphorical, indicating nothing more than a newfound intimacy of the creature with God. Rather, by the work of the Holy Spirit, men and women become by grace what Christ is by nature—the sons and daughters of the Father. That is, we come to share in the Son’s trinitarian relationship with the Father. God’s creation, redemption, and eschatological glorification of us are but distinct episodes in this single event, in which God calls forth creation and incorporates it into his trinitarian life.46 Because Balthasar sees the God-world relationship as ordered toward our real participation in the triune life of God, immanent trinitarian discourse—the things we say about the triune God and the grammatical rules of these claims—is not a luxury or a peripheral theological theme. It is the needed means by which Christians give an account of how God is outside his relationship with creatures, so that he might freely create, save, and draw the world into communion with him. Immanent trini tarian theology aims, like all theology, at manifesting in creaturely words and concepts something of the “one, single, indivisible truth” of God: that he is eternal love.47 In Balthasar’s thought, therefore, it is appropriate for immanent trinitarian theology to be vivid. “Minimalist” immanent trinitarian theologies,
which speak of the divine hypostases as modes of divine being or immanent conditions for the possibility of God’s self-communication to creatures, fail to adequately disclose, manifest, or linguistically “represent” the reality of the triune love in which we come to participate. While striving to maintain strictly analogical predication, as a result of the absolute ontological difference between God and creature, Balthasar nevertheless embellishes the basic structure of classical trinitarian theology with striking details. The dynamics of divine love, the “movement” of the divine essence from the Father to the Son in his begetting, and to the Spirit in his spiration, are depicted as events of inner-divine “kenotic” outpouring, self-sacrifice, and self-giving occurring between infinitely different, even “distant,” persons. Moreover, Balthasar characterizes this love further as full of joy, wonder, gratitude—even praise and adoration. This vividness is not the result of epistemological hubris. It is rather the concrete means by which Balthasar shows God’s incomprehensibility. The profusion of trinitarian claims one finds in Balthasar provides not only a foundation, framework, or structure to his soteriology but also the glimpse of the ever-greater difference of God from the world. In Balthasar’s work, trinitarian discourse is often a jarring movement from one way of looking at the Trinity to another. Though not purely anarchic, these countervailing claims, and the host of metaphors, oxymoronic statements, and paradoxes that accompany them, preclude trinitarian theology from becoming a discourse of “prediction and control.”48 Instead, the sheer wildness of Balthasar’s trinitarian representation is an apophatic strategy manifesting the incomprehensibility of the divine life, an incomprehensibility fittingly characterized as a “wilderness.”49 My method throughout will be one of destructive synthesis. The vision of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology I have suggested is not the product of a focused reading of a single text or even an interpretation of trinitarian theology within the trilogy alone. I have taken Balthasar’s trinitarian speculations from their original settings throughout his corpus, including what are typically considered “minor” works, to present this picture. What unifies these fragments is not their context but their thematic content. Though this approach will not necessarily illuminate any particular text of Balthasar’s, it will nevertheless give greater insight into Balthasar’s trinitarian thought as a whole. By doing so, it will also provide greater insight into Balthasar as a thinker.
14 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
It must also be said that, though his trinitarian theology is of principal import for many theological themes, this book of necessity is selectively limited in its scope. I have tried to focus on what I consider the central matters of the theology of the immanent Trinity, deification, and apophaticism. This work unavoidably touches on a host of other issues, which have animated various secondary interpreters but which I have chosen not to pursue. For instance, at no point do I dedicate extended analysis of Balthasar’s understanding of the analogy of being. The topic is present throughout, as perceptive readers will see. Nevertheless, because it exercises such a gravitational pull, treating it directly would have been a distraction from the specifically trinitarian dimensions of Balthasar’s thought. Most importantly, given my claims about what deification is in Balthasar’s work, I largely refrain from examining the ecclesiological and personal dimensions of our participation in the triune life. The Eucharist figures prominently in chapter 3, but I have left unaddressed the visible structure of the church, holy orders, and Balthasar’s figuring of the church’s Marian, Petrine, and Johannine dimensions. Moreover, Balthasar’s understanding of the manner in which Christians live out their divine adoption is a topic too vast for these few pages.
C h a pt e r 1
God Is Love Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of the Immanent Trinity
How should God, the One and Absolute, be eternal love, if he were not triune? —Balthasar, Convergences
As noted in the introduction, on regular occasions, and in a variety of ways, Balthasar indicated that the Trinity is the center of his theological program. To recognize that the Trinity holds a central place in Balthasar’s theological vision does not, however, bring us closer to knowing what he says regarding the immanent Trinity. This chapter explicates Balthasar’s theology of the immanent Trinity and uncovers the reasoning behind Balthasar’s peculiar depiction of it in immanent trinitarian terms—that is, here we inquire into what internal trinitarian logic governs his claims. As I will show, Balthasar’s depiction of the immanent Trinity is based on his conviction that immanent trinitarian theology and doctrine give an account of the mystery that God is love. Only because God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can such a claim be made. Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology is thus highly person centered, focusing on the processions, relations, and distinctions between the three persons 15
16 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
as the form of divine love. Moreover, for Balthasar, “God is love” cannot be a vague, amorphous idea. Rather, love implies certain concrete dispositions and active, reciprocal relationships, without which the term is empty. As will be made clearer in chapter 2, this places Balthasar in a tradition of trinitarian theology that approaches the Trinity neither in terms of intramental processions nor with the minimal goal of showing that the doctrine of the Trinity is not irrational. How Balthasar can justify such vividness epistemologically on the basis of the revelation of God in Christ, while nevertheless still maintaining that God is utterly incomprehensible, will be the subject of chapter 4. Before turning to Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology proper, however, it is important to establish from the outset two principles of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian claims. The first concerns the relationship between his immanent trinitarian speculations and the economic Trinity revealed in scripture. The second concerns the necessity of analogical speech. With regard to the relation between the economic and immanent Trinity, Balthasar is clear that we come to know of the immanent Trinity only through its economic revelation and work. He writes, There is, however, no access to the trinitarian mystery other than its revelation in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. No claims about the immanent Trinity can afford to lose their footing in the New Testament. Otherwise, they will plunge into a void of abstractions without pertinence to this history of salvation. Only Jesus’ way of relating to his Father and to the Holy Spirit can teach us anything about the intratrinitarian relations of life and love in the one and only God.1 Similar passages abound in Balthasar’s writing. Three additional examples will suffice to show the tenor of his thought. “Contemplation’s object is God, and God is triune life. But as far as we are concerned, we only know of this triune life from the Son’s incarnation.”2 And “A doctrine of God and the Trinity really speaks to us only when and as long as the [theologia] does not become detached from the [oikonomia], but rather lets its every formulation and stage of reflection be accompanied and supported by the latter’s vivid discernibility.”3 Finally, “It is in the unique form [of revelation in Christ], and only in it, that the mystery of the ‘super-form’ within
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the Godhead, of the Trinity as absolute love and thereby as the ‘essence’ of God, is made known.”4 Though Balthasar clearly wishes to ground immanent trinitarian speculation exclusively in the economy of salvation, and in particular in the revelation of Christ, his point is not to reduce the Trinity to its economic manifestation. Therefore, while the human being requires the revelation of God in Christ Jesus to disclose the truth of the immanent Trinity, the event of God’s saving deeds and revelation depends on the “background” or “inner presupposition” of the immanent Trinity in order to be intelligible. As he explains, “It is not simply that the full doctrine of the Trinity can be understood only on the basis of a theology of the Cross . . . and is inseparable from it: rather, we must see the doctrine of the Trinity as the ever-present, inner presupposition of the doctrine of the Cross.”5 The cross, and by extension the whole economy, and immanent Trinity are in a hermeneutical relationship: neither can be interpreted without the light of the other. The question is, given the intimacy of their relationship, how does one know what can be said of God in se, and what can be said only of the economy? Balthasar explains this relationship of the economic and immanent as an exercise in negative theology. We are bound to the data of the economy, but we must deny that his relation with creatures exhausts God’s being if we are to properly understand what is being revealed. He explains, “There is only one way to approach the trinitarian life in God: on the basis of what is manifest in God’s kenosis in the theology of the covenant—and thence the theology of the Cross—we must feel our way back into the mystery of the absolute, employing a negative theology that excludes from God all intramundane experience and suffering.”6 The absolute transcendence of God, above all intramundane experience and suffering, shapes, in turn, the rules of theological speech. God cannot be confined to the terms of creaturely existence. Balthasar says, for instance, “It is only analogously (where the similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we can speak of persons in God, only analogously (where the similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we can speak of ‘begetting’ and ‘inspiration,’ only analogously (where the similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we can speak of ‘three,’ for what ‘three’ means in relation to the absolute is in any case something quite other than the inner-worldly ‘three’ of a sequence of numbers.”7 This analogical principle, by which the
18 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
similarity between God and creature is overruled by an ever-greater dissimilarity, applies to virtually everything Balthasar articulates about the Trinity below. At times, Balthasar seems to presuppose this analogical rule rather than demonstrate how it works. He does not regularly engage in the “threefold motion of affirmation, negation, and eminence,” of terms that characterize much analogical speech.8 Nevertheless, we need not conclude that Balthasar is inconsistent with respect to analogy—claiming its necessity on the one hand and ignoring it on the other. For Balthasar, while analogy is presupposed, it is not a neutral method of speech that enables us to move from the world to God. Perhaps fittingly, Balthasar addressed theological method in his early poetic work, Heart of the World: The teachers said: the Ways of Knowledge are three. The Way of the Yes, the Way of the No, and, more sublime than either, the Way of the Ultimate Beyond. The first would have me find you in all creatures, since each of them reflects as in a fragment a ray of your light. The second would have me forsake all creatures, since their hard contours cannot contain your infinitely flowing Being. The third way would, finally, have me smash the shell of their perfections and dilate them until they became the measureless measure of your eternity. But I learned that these ways are no way at all. The Yes is a dictum, and the No a contra-diction. They become entangled with each other, and in the end they both lead to the abyss, while the third way is but the impossibility of crossing it.9 Rather than being a human way to know God, analogical speech works only insofar as it is grounded in the concrete form of the God-world relationship: Christ, the concrete analogia entis. Any method, or “way of knowledge,” that is not grounded in Christ himself fails.10 Christ, moreover, cannot be properly understood outside of his trinitarian relationship with the Father in the Spirit. We will return to these epistemological claims and their significance in chapter 4. What is important here is that analogical speech is not the only means by which Balthasar seeks to preserve divine incompres sibility. In addition, one finds in Balthasar a principle that guides not only how to interpret specific claims but also the way to make claims in the first place. Gerard O’Hanlon noted in his work on the doctrine of divine
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immutability in Balthasar that “what is distinctive among theologians like Balthasar is precisely the explicit attempt to combine the static with the dynamic, to preserve the category of state while being open to that of event, to avoid the rationalism of an essentialist ontology, not by giving priority to the notion of ‘process’ but rather by retaining the ontological, without denying the abiding truth of the notion of ‘becoming.’”11 What O’Hanlon observes and describes in terms of the divine being applies as well to the specifics of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. This device is not accidental but a deliberate strategy of doing trinitarian theology. In Balthasar’s estimation, such combinations of multiple perspectives prevent the theologian from limiting God in human terms, concepts, or models, even as such terms, concepts, and models disclose something of God’s life. Balthasar is especially critical of a kind of trinitarian propositionalism found in scholastic thought. Contrary to Kilby’s conclusion that Balthasar provides no “breaks and safeguards against [the] presumption of a God’s eye view,” Balthasar’s claims of “epistemological humility” are born out in the substance of his trinitarian theology.12 As we will see below, Balthasar applies this method of paradoxical speech to many different aspects of the triune life, not only with respect to the divine attributes, as O’Hanlon demonstrates, but also in relationship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as both distinct and interrelated persons. It is this method of making countervailing claims—claims built from the irreducible components of his various paradoxes—that provides a key to both the general structure and the content of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology. T h e Fat h e r , S o n , a n d H o ly Sp i r i t
The Father and the Divine Essence Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology begins not with the divine essence but with God the Father.13 Balthasar rejects those approaches to the Trinity that attempt to deduce the existence of the three persons on the basis of God’s nature as spirit. In the first place, Balthasar rejects the Anselmian position that the Father possesses absolute knowledge and freedom by virtue of the divine essence but nevertheless produces the Son and Spirit subsequently.14 As Anselm explains,
20 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Father is consciousness, the Son understanding, and the Spirit, love. Yes. But it is necessary to understand that the Father does not stand in want of the Son or the Spirit. It is not as if the Father, by and through himself, can only be conscious, and needs the Son in order to understand and the Spirit in order to love. And the same goes, mutatis mutandis, for the Son and Spirit: none of them needs the others in order to be conscious, understand and love. This is a necessary truth because each of the three is, as an individual, the supreme essence and wisdom, and each is the supreme essence so perfectly that the supreme essence and wisdom is conscious, understands and loves, through itself.15 In Balthasar’s reading, Anselm’s position fails to explain why the Father generates the Son and breaths the Spirit. The Father is conscious, understands, and loves by virtue of his possession of the divine essence. His personhood is disjoined from his trinitarian relationship with the Son and Spirit. Taken to its extreme, Anselm’s position would lead to Arianism. Balthasar’s initial response is, therefore, to turn to Thomas’s approach to the persons. In Thomas, the persons are known according to their unique relation with one another. And, since there can be no accidents in the divine life, these relations are subsistent, identical with the divine essence. To be a divine person is to be in relation with the other divine persons. However, these very relations are the product of the processions. The relations between the persons “signify only the bond between two termini,” established by procession.16 In his loose adaptation of Thomas’s insights, we can see here for the first time Balthasar’s use of two irreducible propositions: in this case, one that “expresses an act and terminus [procession]” and another that expresses a “bond between two things [relation].”17 Put otherwise, and following Balthasar’s own habit, procession denotes the movement of the one divine life in begetting and spirating, whereas relation denotes the person in their “unrepeatable uniqueness.”18 Much of Balthasar’s trinitarian speculation moves between these two countervailing and irreducible components. On the one hand, Balthasar speaks of the persons in their identity with their act. On the other, Balthasar speaks of the persons in their “objective” identity, as the subjects of their act. This Thomas- inspired approach to the Trinity through the personal relations of Father, Son, and Spirit avoids the near identification
God Is Love 21
of the Father with the divine essence as in Anselm. Nevertheless, despite his impressive conceptual refinement on the topic, and accepting the need for using two countervailing propositions, Balthasar distances himself from certain elements of Thomas’s position. In particular, Balthasar rejects Thomas’s use of Augustine’s intramental analogy and adopts an approach more similar to Richard of St. Victor. We will return to the issue of Balthasar’s sources in the next chapter. What concerns us now is Balthasar’s reasoning in rejecting the intramental analogy. If Anselm seemed to err by providing no logic as to why the Father generates the Son (and together with him breaths the Spirit), Thomas errs by locking the Trinity into the supposedly necessary logic of the intramental analogy. For Thomas, because God knows and wills himself, and these intramental acts cannot be accidents in God, God’s self-knowing and self-willing must produce “subsistent relations,” identical to the essence but distinct according to their relation and known in their relation of opposition to one another. In this line of reasoning, the procession of Word and Spirit are necessary if one is to hold that God knows and wills. Contra Anselm, Balthasar believes like Thomas that there is a logic to the generation of the Son and the breathing of the Spirit. However, contra Thomas, Balthasar does not think this logic is that of necessary intramental activity. Thomas’s trinitarian logic fails to adequately show how intramental acts produce distinct persons capable of reciprocal acts—a reciprocity required if God is to be love. Moreover, however these processions occur, the divine essence appears like a fourth thing, giving rise to the trinitarian persons (by virtue of being mind), and yet reposing unmoved behind or above the persons.19 In order to avoid these difficulties, Balthasar argues that “there is nothing fruitful in God other than the Father.”20 The one divine essence is not the subject that produces the persons but is itself “in motion” in the Father’s act of begetting the Son and in their breathing forth of the Spirit.21 The divine essence is, as it were, that which is given in the processions themselves.22 Indeed, it is “identical” to the movements between the persons.23 The being of God is an eternal event, an eternal “happening,” which begins with the Father.24 He is the ground, the origin, and source of the whole divinity.25 Furthermore, the Father does not produce the Son and Spirit according to necessary intramental acts that would reduce the Son to the Father’s self-knowledge and the Spirit to his self-willing. Rather, the Son and Spirit both come forth, though in different ways, from
22 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
the single wellspring of the Father’s groundless, unfathomable love. Only this approach dissolves “all suspicion of divine solipsism.”26 Balthasar does not hesitate to call this unfathomable love “gratuitous,” because there is no necessity or ground to this act other than itself.27 It is “why-less,” beyond the worldly categories of freedom and necessity.28 God is “free to do what he will with his own nature. That is, he can surrender himself.”29 Yet apart from this self-surrender, the divine nature “would not be itself.”30 This gratuity of the divine processions from the Father is thus “the primal ground of the mystery of God,” “behind which no thought can probe.”31 Everything, created and divine, comes forth “from the secret and mystery of the Father.”32 The human question, “why?” can find no higher rationality than the love of the Father, who begets a Son and who with him breathes forth a Spirit. Necessity and freedom, being and gratuity, coincide in God. The Father, however, cannot be thought as existing before or outside his primordial act of love. To do so in anything more than a notional manner would be Arianism. Balthasar repeatedly asserts that the Father is identical to his act of begetting: “[The Father] remains eternal Father only insofar as he has eternally given over to the Son all that is his, including the divinity.”33 The Father is “always already giving himself away.”34 “From all eternity he ‘is’ Father by eternally giving his all.”35 Put most drastically, The Father’s self-utterance in the generation of the Son is an initial “kenosis” within the Godhead. . . . For the Father strips himself, without remainder, of his Godhead and hands it over to the Son; he “imparts” to the Son all that is his. “All that is mine” ( Jn 17:10). The Father must not be thought to exist “prior” to this self-surrender (in an Arian sense): he is this movement of self-giving that holds nothing back. 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).36 The Father’s act of kenosis—the act that makes the Father the Father— is a real and complete giving over of the divine essence to the Son. The Father does not retain something for himself.37 It involves the real “risk” of loss.38 Nevertheless, this act does not mean the Father loses his divinity in his act of generating the Son. There is no tragedy in the Father’s act of begetting.39 Balthasar agrees with the position of the Fourth Lateran
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Council: “For the Father, generating the Son from eternity, gave him his substance . . . it cannot be said that he gave him a part of his substance and retained a part for himself, since the substance of the Father is indivisible, being entirely simple. Nor can it be said that in generating him the Father transferred his substance to the Son, as though he gave it to the Son and did not retain it himself, for if so he would have ceased to be substance.”40 In other words, “The Father, in uttering and surrendering himself without reserve, does not lose himself. He does not extinguish himself by self- giving, just as he does not keep back anything of himself either.”41 Balthasar can hold these two apparently contradictory statements (that the Father gives away his entire essence but does not lose his essence) through the identification of the divine nature with the divine person, who is himself identical to his act of procession. Because the divine essence is “in motion” in the persons and their processions, the one essence is “determined by the unrepeatably unique participation of the Father, Son, and Spirit in this event and so would never exist except as fatherly, sonly, or spirit-ually.”42 In Balthasar’s eyes, and as will be treated in greater detail below, the common element of fatherliness, sonliness, and spiritliness is gratuitous self-giving love. The only principle that could constitute the Divine Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—at least if we wish to maintain the divine unity—would seem to be pure love or selflessness. Since this love must have existed from all eternity, it follows that the Person of the Father is the mystery par excellence. . . . But then what is left for the essence shared by the Divine Persons if not pure love? God’s characteristic personal selflessness would not, of course, entail any negation of the person, since it is the order governing the divine processions that constitutes the Divine Being as absolute love.43 In other words, “God, from his very origin in the Father, is the miracle of that love whereby he can be himself only in giving himself.”44 The Son and Trinitarian Personhood While the trinitarian persons are constituted by self-giving love, it is not the case that Balthasar imagines them as being like “something not too far
24 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
from persons in our ordinary sense,” or, “three centers of consciousness, three ‘I’s’ with three wills which are, in principle at least, distinct.”45 As we will see, in some respects Balthasar’s position can appear this way. However, Balthasar is clear that “person” is not a univocal concept, whether it is used of either the trinitarian or human persons. He notes, for instance, that “what the Fathers call tropos tes hyparxeos—the divine mode of ‘personal’ existence—is different and specific in the case of each divine Hypostasis, and so it is theologically impossible to define this ‘specificity.’ . . . Thus the term tropos tes hyparxeos (and other terms such as idiotes, idioma) is used to indicate three different modes of being God, but not in the sense of a generic term that would subsume the various cases univocally.”46 And again, “Let us not forget that in God there can be no genus to subsume a univocal concept of person or that the application of ‘three’ to him has nothing to do with what can be counted quantitatively.”47 It is not the case, therefore, that person univocally means something like distinct center of consciousness, or Boethius’s individual substance of a rational nature for Balthasar. Person is an apophatic term that can, at best, refer to an incommunicable existence determined by the processions/relations of the Trinity.48 This means that there can be no question of the I-like character of the Father, Son, and Spirit being separated from their dynamic relations. The Son’s personal mode of existence, stemming from the Father’s act of self-giving, therefore, is a “second way of participating in (and of being) the identical Godhead” irreducible to the first.49 Those elements that make the trinitarian persons appear as individual self-conscious subjects (including engaging in reciprocal acts of love) stem not from an a priori definition of personhood but from Balthasar’s specific claims about the persons and the Trinity as love. Love requires reciprocity and reciprocity requires difference. This reciprocity from difference is made possible by the Father’s act of begetting. But in contradistinction to the Thomist position, the Father begets the Son in an act of “spontaneous love,” not out of necessary intellection.50 Rather than an act of the mind thinking itself, begetting is “life that transcends itself, life that can no longer hold itself back but, rather, lets itself go, becoming poor out of wealth and impotent out of potency. Begetting is the manifestation of life’s power to die over into the life of another.”51 “We must envisage [the Father] sharing his full divine freedom with the Begotten, and sharing it ultimately, irrevocably and forever.”52
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The Son is thus generated as the “‘Thou’ to whom [the Father] says, ‘Thou art my beloved.’”53 Nevertheless, the Godhead is not irrational. Unlike Anselm, who disconnected the generation of the Son from any clear logic, Balthasar maintains that the logic in play is precisely the divine “logic of love.”54 The Father begets because the Father is a wellspring, an unfathomable and inexhaustible ocean of love and out of this love he begets the consubstantial Son. This groundless act is the foundation of all truth.55 Because the Son is equally divine, he is the perfect representation, mirror, image, and expression of the Father’s essence and love. God is eternally expressed and expressible in the Logos.56 Balthasar, following Bonaventure, emphasizes the “outward” movement of the Logos’s expression, rather than Thomas’s insistence that the Logos is an internal, mental word of God.57 As Balthasar acknowledges, both Thomas and Bonaventure connect the generation of the Word with the creation of the world. However, by conceiving the Word as an “outward” expression in the Trinity, Balthasar sees in Bonaventure a better formulation of the Word’s expressive character in two ways. First, by being the Father’s perfect expression, the Logos is the “unique expression of someone unique” and expresses this person “in every respect.”58 The Word, therefore, is no mere mental image or lifeless copy but expresses in his own unique person the Father’s unique person and the Trinity as a whole.59 He is God as expressed and therefore, he expresses “God’s inner, personal fruitfulness,” the Holy Spirit as well as the Father.60 Second, by virtue of its expressing the Father and all he is, the Word is also the archetypal expression of creation. It is in this light that Balthasar identifies the Son as the divine locus of the transcendentals of worldly being: “In God himself the total epiphany [beauty], self-surrender [goodness], and self-expression [truth] of God the Father is the Son, identical with him as God, in whom everything that is possible for God—is expressed.”61 The world comes to be as a kind of echo of the Word’s eternal coming to be. As Balthasar sees it, with this emphasis, Bonaventure overcomes Augustine’s “truly infelicitous” idea that any divine person could become incarnate. Bonaventure has recognized, rather, that “the Logos alone is incarnabilis [incarnable].”62 We will return to the connection of the Logos and creation in chapter 3. For now we must focus on the consequences of Balthasar’s claim that the Logos images the Father’s person in his own unique person. This
26 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
movement from the Logos as outward expression of the Father to the Logos’s “personality” is decisive for Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. For it is in this movement that the dialogical elements of his thought emerge. Indeed, in Balthasar’s (theo-)logic, the Son would not be the expression of the Father if he were not also a unique “I.” Because the Father actively loves, and the Logos is the perfect image and expression of the Father, the Logos must actively love in turn. Balthasar writes, “The Son receives [the Father’s love] as such, not ‘passively’ as the Beloved, but (since he receives the Father’s substance, his Father’s love) actively as a Lover, returning love, as one who responds to the totality of the Father’s love and is ready to do everything in love.”63 True, the Son is God “in the mode of receptivity.”64 But because he really is God and really expresses the Father, the Son is the Father’s eternal “beloved and glorified ‘thou,’” who “can do nothing other than ‘turn back’ to the Father.”65 The Son’s response to the “gift of the Godhead (of equal substance with the Father) can only be eternal thanksgiving (eucharistia) to the Father, the Source—a thanksgiving as selfless and unreserved as the Father’s original self-surrender.”66 The Son, in his thanksgiving response to the Father, as his perfect expression, is obedient, “at the Father’s disposal,” even in the immanent Trinity.67 Paradoxically, however, because the event of the Son’s begetting is not temporal, and he is equally as eternal and free as the Father, Balthasar speaks of the Son giving “antecedent consent to be begotten.”68 “The eternal Child perpetually comes forth from the bosom of the Father, who eternally begets him into freedom.”69 The Son is, therefore, not simply the perfect image or product of the Father by virtue of their common essence, but is “infinitely Other of the Father” in their personal distinction.70 The groundless love of the Father finds its expression in the mirror of the Son’s own groundless consent to, and thanksgiving for, being begotten.71 Groundless love meets groundless love. The Holy Spirit and the Excess of Love Because the Son images the Father perfectly, and therefore “turns back” to the Father in loving gratitude, the Son does not complete the trinitarian processions. As the image of the Father’s outpouring love, the Son, too, pours himself out to a further “totality that can only be described as absolute
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love per se,” absolute love “beyond” word and expression.72 However, since the wellspring of the Father is “absolute love per se,” this outpouring of the Son can be conceived also as an outpouring back toward the Father. The Spirit can thus be thought of as coming from the Father, through the Son, and therefore positioned beyond the Son. Or the Spirit can be thought of as coming from the Father and the Son, positioned between them. Balthasar thus takes a distinct position on the issue of the filioque.73 While it is clear that he affirms the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, he can accept the formula that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Balthasar is critical, therefore, of extreme positions in both Eastern and Western pneumatology. Balthasar’s central critique is that both East and West fall into an untenable formalism. In the case of the West (Augustine, Anselm, Thomas, Florence), the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son as though from one principle. Because the divine nature is the only common element that could make the Father and Son one principle, this position seems to make the Spirit a product of the divine nature itself. The East (paradigmatically in Photius) rejects this very construction for either confusing the Son and Father or making the Spirit a cause of his own procession on the basis of the common nature. In extreme forms, the East thus adopts a position whereby both Son and Spirit proceed from the Father alone. Balthasar’s response is simple and rests on two claims: “first, the impossibility . . . of using the concept ‘person’ univocally for the divine hypostases . . . and second, the name of ‘“Love,’” given to God by John (I Jn 4:8, 16).”74 As Balthasar explains, Each divine hypostasis retains its own, irreducible mystery: the Father, in that he is able to be both utter self-giving (relatio) and yet One who gives himself; the Son, the answering Word, in that, while giving himself to the Father, he is able to share in the latter’s originating power in such a way that, in union with this power, he can not only be love, but produce it; and the Spirit, in that he is both the highest divine, sovereign freedom and perfect self-lessness, only existing for Father and Son.75 The Spirit proceeds, therefore, not from one source, whether conceived of as the Father alone or the single principle of the Father-Son, but manifests
28 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
the “transcendental plurality” that makes divine love of the Father and the Son not only dilectio, self-love, but caritas, love for another.76 Whether it is conceived, therefore, as between the Father and Son or from the Father through and beyond the Son, the procession of the Spirit is connected to the begetting of the Son. That is, the Spirit’s origin is “the love between the Father and the Son.”77 However, the Spirit’s origin in the love of the Father and the Son must be thought of in two countervailing senses. On the one hand, the Spirit is the “subjective” love of the Father and the Son itself. On the other hand, the Spirit is the “objective” witness and fruit of the love of the Father and the Son.78 Insofar as the Spirit is the “subjective” love of the Father and the Son, he is their unity-in-distinction. Balthasar writes, “Proceeding from both, as their subsistent ‘We,’ there breathes the ‘Spirit’ who is common to both: as the essence of love, he maintains the infinite difference between them, seals it and, since he is the one Spirit of them both, bridges it.”79 The Spirit as the love of the Father and the Son itself brings together a correspondence between the Father’s love and the Son’s love.80 Drawing from Heribert Mühlen, we can say that the Spirit joins the Father and Son together by being their common activity. He makes the Father and the Son into a “We,” beyond the Father and Son’s “I” and “Thou.”81 He is the “identity of the gift-as-given and the gift- as-received in thanksgiving.”82 The Spirit, thus, “rounds out God’s entire being as love.”83 This “subjective” character of the Spirit as the common love of Father and Son is what gives the Spirit his peculiar anonymity and “facelessness.”84 The Spirit, from the subjective point of view, does not seem to have a distinct place of his own. He seems to dissolve into the Father and the Son in their mutual love. In the economy, the Spirit witnesses only to the Father and the Son, never to himself.85 It is perhaps for this reason that Kilby criticizes Balthasar’s pneumatology “as a kind of afterthought” to the considerations of the Father and the Son.86 However, even in the “subjective” anonymity of the Spirit, he is vital to Balthasar’s trinitarian thinking. As Balthasar explains in an important essay, “The Unknown Lying Beyond the Word,” “the love that makes the Father a Father as the one who begets and the love that makes the Son a Son as the Word which expresses him are one single, concrete Spirit-being.”87 Without the Spirit, in other words, God would not be either One or Love.
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In order to prevent a reduction of the Spirit to his “subjective” place as the love of Father and Son, Balthasar shifts to the countervailing “objective” character of the Spirit. The Spirit is not simply the “We” of the Father and the Son, he is the third person of the Trinity. He “comes forth from [the] fellowship [of the Father and the Son] as the miracle of eternal fruitfulness.”88 The “interplay” of the Father and Son’s absolute love “that would seem self-sufficient . . . is characterized by such an excess that, ‘incidentally’ (as it were), and precisely as excess it produces another One.”89 He is thus not only the love of the Father and the Son; in its excess, he is the unhoped-for fruit, gift, proof, and witness of this love. At times Balthasar even compares the Spirit to human children, who are the fruit and proof of the love between their parents.90 Indeed, Balthasar considers the human family “the most eloquent imago Trinitatis that we find woven into the fabric of the creature. It not only transcends Augustine’s self-contained I, but also allows the ‘condilectus’ that Richard’s model imports from the outside to spring from the intimacy of love itself—precisely as fruitfulness—while avoiding the dangerous tendency of the dialogicians [e.g., Martin Buber] to allow interpersonal encounter to slide into a mere two-way monologue (with a religious background, to be sure).”91 Nevertheless, this most eloquent image is also limited. For, unlike the human child, the Spirit is “not begotten” by the Father and the Son.92 The Son alone is begotten, alone is the divine Child and archetype of all childhood.93 The procession of the Holy Spirit, as the excessive fruit of the love of the Father and the Son for each other, finally accomplishes the miracle of divine love that originates in the Father. He confirms that divine love is absolute, infinite, free, and incomprehensible. Moreover, because the Father and Son’s love pours out in the infinite expanse of the Spirit, God is not only “ever-greater” for us but also for himself.94 Triune love “is the eternal miracle that remains a miracle to itself in all eternity, because it is logically incomprehensible that this ineffable element should continually put forth fresh blooms even higher than what seemed to be the highest point of fulfillment between lovers, and that the lovers in turn should be prompted to new games and inventions by the unhoped-for quality of their power, their achievement, their inner reward and crowning.”95 Even as the love of the Father and the Son is infinite, this infinite love transcends itself by bearing infinite fruit in the person of the Holy Spirit. God
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transcends God. With the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the confirmation that God is ever-greater for himself, Balthasar’s depiction of the divine life does not stop at dialogue but includes surprise, wonder, prayer, adoration, and glorification. A n a ly s i s o f t h e C h a r act e r i s t i c s o f B a lt h a s a r ’ s T r i n i ta r i a n D e p i ct i o n
Kenosis Perhaps the most striking feature of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology is his use of the notion of kenosis, self-emptying, in describing the eternal processions and interrelations of the persons, beginning with the Father’s kenotic begetting of the Son. Biblically, the term has its primary use in Paul’s passage in Philippians 2:6–8: Who, though he was in the form of God, Did not regard equality with God As something to be exploited, but emptied himself, Taking the form of a slave, Being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. The reference here is to the Incarnation, the descent of Christ into the world and unto execution. Balthasar, too, sees kenosis as not only applying to the Son in his incarnation, passion, and death but also as a possible, if potentially problematic, term for God’s relation to creation.96 The question immediately arises, how does the Son’s kenosis into the world of sin and death connect to the Father’s trinitarian kenosis? Balthasar’s reasoning from the Incarnation to the Father rests on two conceptual movements. First, Balthasar establishes that the Son is somehow obedient or kenotic in the immanent Trinity. Balthasar reasons back
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from the “superstructure of the Incarnation” to expose the substructure of “the eternal will of the Son within the Trinity to obedience.”97 This movement is, according to Balthasar, dangerous and should be understood as an exercise of negative theology. He writes, We cannot entertain any form of “process theology” that identifies the world process (including God’s involvement in it, even to the extent of the Cross) with the eternal and timeless “procession” of the Hypostases in God. Accordingly, there is only one way to approach the trinitarian life in God: on the basis of what is manifest in God’s kenosis in the theology of the covenant—and thence in the mystery of the Cross—we must feel our way back into the mystery of the absolute, employing a negative theology that excludes from God all intramundane experience and suffering, while at the same time presupposing that the possibility of such experience and suffering— up to and including its Christological and trinitarian implications— is grounded in God.98 The self-emptying and obedience evident in the event of the Incarnation and death of the Son is therefore not added to the divine Son by the human nature. Rather, the event of kenosis presupposes the continuity of the divine subject, and, by emptying himself, the Son reveals he can empty himself, that he can be obedient. Therefore, Balthasar argues, in his kenosis, Christ’s “self-abasement and self-emptying were no contradiction of his own essence, but corresponded precisely to this essence, in a way that could never have been thought.”99 The missio of the Son into the world is an extension of and reveals his processio: “The Cross is not an alteration of his filial attitude; rather, it is his assumption of the estranged world into himself in order to be in that world the same person he always was in God.”100 Self-emptying, though with no tragic dimensions and therefore by analogy, is present in the Trinity. Balthasar’s second move follows the reasoning about the Son’s relation to the Father laid out above “in reverse.” If, as we saw, the kenosis of the Son in Incarnation-unto- cross shows his intratrinitarian thanksgiving, self-surrender, and obedience within the conditions of a fallen world, and the Son is the perfect image and expression of the Father, then the kenotic incarnation of the Son indicates that the Father is the source of kenosis.
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Balthasar’s kenotic trinitarian theology, then, follows the taxis of the divine persons but nevertheless allows for their equality.101 On the one hand, it is the Father’s act of begetting that is the principium, the foundation, of the triune life. On the other, as an act of divine kenosis, in his generation of the Son, the Father is not more divine, more loving than the Son. Expanding on a passage already quoted above, we can see this paradox at work: [The Father] cannot be God in any other way but in this “kenosis” within the Godhead itself. (Yet what omnipotence is revealed here! He brings forth a God who is of equal substance and therefore uncreated, even if, in this self-surrender, he must go to the very extreme of self-lessness.) It follows that the Son, for his part, cannot be and possess the absolute nature of God except in the mode of receptivity: he receives this unity of omnipotence and powerlessness from the Father. This receptivity simultaneously includes the Son’s self-givenness (which is the absolute presupposition for all the different ways in which he is delivered up to the world) and his filial thanksgiving (Eucharist) for the gift of consubstantial divinity. . . . His thanksgiving is the eternal Yes to the gift of consubstantial divinity (that is, a divinity that is equally absolute). It is a Yes to the primal kenosis of the Father in the unity of omnipotence and powerlessness.102 The Son is only because the Father gives. He is dependent on the Father. Balthasar can even apply the words of the Incarnate Son, “The Father is greater than I” ( John 14:28), to the immanent relations: “[The Father] is irretrievably greater in so far as he is the origin of all things, even of the Son, and the Son never thinks of trying to ‘catch up’ to this his Source: by so doing he would only destroy himself. He knows himself to be sheer Gift that is given to itself and which would not exist without the Giver who is distinct from the Gift and who nonetheless gives himself within it.”103 However, the Father’s kenosis is a total self-surrender, a “(divine) God-lessness,” a “risk,” a “death,” a “super-death,” a “sacrifice,” though one that entails no suffering whatsoever.104 And, because it is so total, because the Father’s divinity is not merely lent to the Son, the Son’s response is equally groundless and gratuitous; therefore, it is not “owed” at all.105
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Secondary scholars have taken Balthasar’s argument that the Son responds to the Father in self-giving love as an indication that to be a (trinitarian) person is to engage in kenosis. According to this line of thinking, the Father initiates the trinitarian kenosis in the begetting of the Son, who performs his own kenosis in his obedience, and, finally, the Spirit also engages in his own kenosis through his anonymity. Edward Oakes suggests such an interpretation of Balthasar in his Pattern of Redemption: “Another of Balthasar’s innovations is his willingness to speak of the Spirit’s kenosis, as well as the Son’s. Indeed, it will be no surprise for the reader who has followed the argument thus far to hear that Balthasar holds the very ability of the Son to empty himself and take on the human form of a slave is rooted and conditioned in the prior kenosis or emptying of each Person for the other.”106 Aristotle Papanikolaou and Matthew Levering interpret Balthasar similarly. For Papanikolaou, Balthasar simply understands divine personhood as kenosis.107 In Levering’s analysis, “every intra-divine relation involves mutual kenosis.”108 Oakes, Papanikolaou, and Levering are correct that intratrinitarian self-giving is a vital component of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. In a number of passages throughout his work, Balthasar identifies how each divine person engages in self-giving.109 However, these same interpreters overlook two peculiar elements of Balthasar’s discussion of intratrini tarian kenosis. First, Balthasar never speaks of kenosis in the plural. There is only a single intratrinitarian kenosis. Second, if to be a person means to be kenotic, then Balthasar would be denying the personhood of the Spirit when he claims, pace Oakes, that “there is no self-emptying in the case of the Holy Spirit,” whether in the economic or immanent Trinity.110 A passage from Balthasar illustrates both points: “We spoke of a first ‘kenosis’ of the Father, expropriating himself by ‘generating’ the consubstantial Son. Almost automatically, this first kenosis expands to a kenosis involving the whole Trinity. For the Son could not be consubstantial with the Father except by self-expropriation; and their ‘We,’ that is, the Spirit, must also be God as he is to be the ‘personal’ seal of that self-expropriation that is identical in Father and Son.”111 The first kenosis expands to a kenosis involving the whole Trinity. The singularity of intratrinitarian kenosis rests on the coincidence of the countervailing propositions of the being and processing of the persons. Because the Son is and gives thanks in his being begotten, and he is begotten in the kenosis of the Father, the Son
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is and gives thanks in the kenosis of the Father. There is thus only “the kenosis (or selflessness) of the love of Father and Son,” not two distinct kenoses of the Father and the Son.112 The Son’s self-surrender in thanksgiving and obedience is “kenotic,” but never is another kenosis symmetrical, as it were, to the Father’s.113 The Holy Spirit, as the identity of the love of the Father and Son, does not engage in another kenosis in turn. Rather, according to his objective character, the Spirit witnesses to this one trinitarian kenosis that includes both the primary kenosis of the Father and the responsive self-giving of the Son.114 Papanikolaou’s claim that “the divine persons are constituted in and through movements of kenotic self- giving and receiving” is accurate, therefore, so long as we understand “kenotic self-giving and receiving” to refer to the relations of the persons in the inviolable taxis.115 To be a (trinitarian) person is not to be kenotic but to be the incommunicable Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, all of whom are by their active and passive interrelations. By speaking of a single trinitarian kenosis and explicitly denying a kenosis of the Spirit, Balthasar rejects any attempt to reduce the trinitarian persons to a common, generic category—even the category of kenosis. As he summarizes, God’s essence is not “(univocally) ‘kenotic.’”116 The communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit remains, therefore, utterly mysterious. It cannot be adequately compared either to a community of human persons or to a threefold self-emptying. For, “[T]his community is not generic; it is what is most singular, but it is this precisely as community.”117 Speaking of Trinitarian Difference In order to underscore the distinction of the divine persons from each other, Balthasar utilizes a series of closely related and irreducible binaries, derived, in principle, from creation, ranging from the traditional active/ passive to giving/receiving to the more novel masculine/feminine. In each case, Balthasar exhibits his regular pattern of making paradoxical claims. Active/Passive; Masculine/Feminine As we have seen, Balthasar sees the divine life welling up out of the love of the Father. He gives away his essence in the act of begetting the Son. The Father begets. The Son is begotten. The Father is active. He gives. The Son is passive. He receives. Nevertheless, the Son, in his response to the
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Father’s complete gift of divinity, loves in reply, together with the Father breathing forth the Spirit. The Father is active while the Son is primarily passive and derivatively active in the responsive love.118 Translating these categories into those of masculinity and femininity, which repeat the same insight in a new key, Balthasar identifies the Father as “(super-) mas culine.” The Son is “(super-) feminine,” with respect to his being begotten, but “(super-) masculine,” with respect to the breathing of the Spirit with the Father. Finally, the Spirit appears as “(super-) feminine.”119 The nature of the repetition of the active/passive categories into sexual difference reflects Balthasar’s “classical” understanding of the relationship of men and women in sexual reproduction. Other than providing a possible link between the personal distinctions of the trinitarian persons and fruitfulness, it is difficult to see what this repetition accomplishes in terms of the immanent Trinity. Critics have noted the danger of the connection between trinitarian supersexuality and the relationship between men and women, which always seems to result in the secondary, derivative nature of woman from man, despite Balthasar’s overtures to the essential equality of men and women. We will return to this issue in the concluding chapter. As soon as Balthasar uses these categories in describing the persons and their interrelationships, however, he qualifies them. In his “active actio” of begetting, the Father’s giving over of divinity is so total that the coeternal Son and Spirit determine the Father. They offer “antecedent consent,” a “passive actio” that lets the Father be the origin of divine giving.120 This means, therefore, that “there is even something (super-) feminine about the Father too,” insofar as he passively accepts the consent of the Son and Spirit.121 From these foundations, Balthasar can use human speech about the Trinity and the divine attributes in often surprising and paradoxical ways. God can be both omnipotent and powerless: omnipotent, “since he can give all,” and powerless, “since nothing is as truly powerful as the gift.”122 God is also simultaneously rich and poor: “rich in no other way than by dispossessing himself of all he has.”123 Giving is identical with having.124 What is antithetical in the created realm is “outstripped” in the Trinity.125 The approach to the divine persons by way of paradoxical speech is, once again, an instance of Balthasar using countervailing, paradoxical propositions to hold in tension what cannot be discarded or subsumed one into the other. In this instance, only by speaking in such terms can both the irreversible order of the trinitarian taxis and the absolute equality
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and distinction of the persons be maintained. What prevents such speech from falling into the irrational and the absurd, however, is its basis in the kenosis of the Father. Distance In addition to conceptual binaries like active/passive and masculine/feminine, Balthasar also uses distance or space (though they are not typically paired with nearness or closeness) to conceptualize the personal distinctions of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Balthasar’s use of distance, however, is not a means to identify how the persons as persons are distinct from the others. Rather, distance is for Balthasar an overarching concept that denotes the quality of the difference of the persons itself. Interestingly, we can detect a development in Balthasar’s thinking on the use of this analogy. Early in his career, Balthasar seemed to rule out the use of spatial concepts of distance in trinitarian theology. In his study of Gregory of Nyssa, Balthasar writes, “In God all diastasis is excluded, be it in the distinction between his Persons or in his nature as such.”126 And the “difference [between the trinitarian persons] radically excludes that which forms the foundation of all distinction in the world: spacing.”127 However, in Heart of the World, the connection between distance, distinction, and love appears, and in his monograph on Karl Barth, finally, Balthasar refers several times to intratrinitarian “distance” of the Father and the Son, which exists “for the sake of nearness” in the Holy Spirit.128 Intratrinitarian distance is a product of intratrinitarian kenosis. It does not imply a physical separation.129 Balthasar writes, “This divine act that brings forth the Son, that is, the second way of participating in (and of being) the identical Godhead, involves the positing of an absolute, infinite ‘distance.’”130 Just as kenosis is most properly singular in the Trinity, so too distance does not refer to any of the personal distinctions but specifically to the distinction between the Father and the Son. The Spirit “maintains the infinite difference between them, seals it and, since he is one Spirit of both, bridges it.”131 It is crucial to note that Balthasar does not see the “eternal separation” of the Father and the Son as “tragic,” and “the Spirit’s bridging of the distinction [as] the sublation of tragedy, that is, ‘comedy.’ ”132 Moreover, Balthasar explains, “We should not see the ‘distance’ in opposition to, or in conflict with, the ‘closeness’ (of circumincessio in the one divine nature).”133
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What, then, is the purpose of speaking of distance at all? Rowan Williams has stated that the term Balthasar often uses, Abstand, means both “distance” and “difference.” Williams, therefore, translates the passage from Theo-Drama 4, 323 quoted above as “This divine act that brings forth the Son . . . involves the positing of an absolute, infinite ‘difference.’ ”134 In her analysis, Karen Kilby follows Williams’s lead. I quote Kilby at length: Another way to come to see the precarious nature of this notion is to turn to a slightly different question of what exactly it might mean to talk of infinite distance in the eternal Trinity. . . . Rowan Williams suggests that we might take the German here (Abstand) as “difference,” so would we perhaps make more headway if we ask what might be meant by the infinite, absolute difference between the Father and Son? This too is, prima facie, difficult to grasp, given that the Persons of the Trinity are consubstantial. That everything the Father is, he gives to the Son, is a traditional claim, and one also reaffirmed by Balthasar. The difference cannot lie in the “what” that is given, then; the only place left to locate the difference would seem to be in the fact that in one instance something is given, in the other received. Can this difference, distance, separateness, of which Balthasar speaks—the infinite and absolute difference, distance, separateness—be a matter of the difference between total gift and total reception? Perhaps. But there is still quite a lot of room for questions.135 As Kilby recognizes, and as we have seen, Balthasar’s own understanding of what results from the total kenosis of the Father—the consubstantiality of the Son, who then gives himself in turn—seems to undermine the difference between the two.136 In Kilby’s understanding, if distance/ difference refers to the difference between giving/receiving and the Father and Son both give, then Balthasar’s position is not comprehensible. The Father and the Son are not infinitely different/distant at all because both give/receive. Kilby’s line of reasoning, however, does not do justice to Balthasar’s own for two reasons. First, Kilby ignores the importance of paradox when considering the trinitarian persons. As we saw above, Balthasar
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considers the Father, Son, and Spirit each according to their identities as acts of procession, as well as in their unrepeatable personal uniqueness. For Balthasar, these two contrary approaches are irreconcilable, but both are necessary. When considering the place of difference and distance in Balthasar’s theology, Kilby seems to forget the latter set of propositions. Kilby demonstrates that she can identify the person with his procession: “the eternal Son just is his processing from the Father.”137 However, she struggles to see the person as the terminus and subject of the act of procession in this context. And, as Balthasar asserts, “God cannot be dissolved into mere relations.”138 Second, and on the basis of this first oversight, Kilby’s understanding of difference according to giving/receiving is abstracted from Balthasar’s concrete trinitarian taxis. As we saw above, the Son’s self-giving to the Father is responsive. There can be no equating of the self-giving of the Father in generating the Son and the Son’s Eucharistic self-giving response. Even where Balthasar speaks of “antecedent consent” to being begotten (or, for the Spirit, breathed), it can never be said that the Father depends on the act of the Son in order to be the Father. In other words, the Father, Son, and Spirit “are not interchangeable.”139 The difference of Father and Son can, from the point of view of procession, be identified as the difference between divinity-as-given and divinity-as-received. But, insofar as the persons are not simply acts but actors, their difference is not reducible to the difference between giving and receiving. If these two errors are kept in mind, it is not surprising that, when she follows Williams’s misleading identification of distance and difference, Kilby can make little sense of the claim that there is distance between the Father and the Son and cannot see why Balthasar insists on speaking of it. Balthasar himself reveals his rationale, however. He sees two (interconnected) reasons for speaking of intratrinitarian distance: “first, in order to hold fast to the personal distinctness of each Person both in being and acting; and second, in order to establish the basis within the Trinity for what, in the economic Trinity, will be the possibility of a distance that goes as far as the Son’s abandonment on the Cross.”140 While the two concepts are closely related, and at times can be substituted (as Williams shows above), “distance” is not simply another way of saying “difference.” The primary meaning of the word Abstand is not generic “difference” but “to stand apart from.” Abstand implies a spatial relationship.
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For Balthasar, therefore, the distance of the Father and the Son refers to the “letting be” and “making room” that result from trinitarian self-giving and make possible “further” free expressions of love.141 Williams demonstrates his awareness of the connection between difference/distance and freedom, though his close identification of the terms distance and difference remains misleading. Nevertheless, his summation helpfully explains Balthasar’s thinking. He writes, “[Balthasar] argues that the infinite difference between Father and Son in the divine life necessarily entails infinite mutual freedom. The Father does not determine the Son, but rather gives his Son infinite space to be who he is. And in this free being-who- he-is, in free acceptance of the freedom the Father has given, the Son gives infinite space to the Father to be who he is.”142 To give greater precision, distance makes possible the kind of difference that love requires. As Balthasar states, “The Father’s act of surrender calls for its own area of freedom; the Son’s act, whereby he receives himself from and acknowledges his indebtedness to the Father, requires its own area; and the act whereby the Spirit proceeds, illuminating the most intimate love of Father and Son, testifying to it and fanning it into flame, demands its area of freedom. Something like infinite ‘duration’ and infinite ‘space’ must be attributed to the acts of reciprocal love so that the life of communio, of fellowship, can develop.”143 According to Balthasar’s reasoning, without this analogical distance that enables space and reciprocity, the Trinity would be, at best, the threefold repetition of the same divine being. Without it, God would not be Love, which requires a consubstantial other, who “has space” to be himself.144 Balthasar claims, “Love is found only in distance, unity only in difference. God himself is unity of Spirit only in the distinction of Father and Son.”145 Balthasar sees this intratrinitarian space as opening the possibility of divine “play,” especially for the Son.146 Intratrinitarian distance also allows for the possibility of intratrinitarian spontaneity, surprise, adoration, and worship. Balthasar writes, “The Father’s begetting and the Son’s letting himself be begotten; the Father’s and Son’s spiration of the Pneuma and the Spirit’s letting himself be spirated—all of this is both eternal act and eternally complete result, which can therefore never grow distant from the act itself. This is why God’s eternity is eternally youthful and surprising, why it is an abyss of newness.”147 As we will see, this has important consequences for Balthasar’s understanding of creation. If the Father begets the Son,
40 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
who is not the Father, in love, then this “not,” this otherness, is “absolutely good,” and, therefore, created otherness is not a fall from divine unity but a reflection of triune glory and love.148 Dialogue The question immediately arises, of what does reciprocal, trinitarian love consist? Balthasar frequently refers to this love as “dialogue,” or “conversation” between the Father and the Son in the Spirit.149 The means by which Balthasar reaches this conclusion is through an application of the “doctrine of antecedence,” which we will examine in greater detail in the next chapter. Put simply here, because human beings are called to become dramatic dialogue partners with God, we must suppose that God already includes dramatic dialogue in himself, lest we arrogate to ourselves a divine necessity to be.150 Because the Godhead includes such a dialogue, moreover, when God determines to do something, such as create the world, and when he accepts all the consequences for that act, the Father, Son, and Spirit arrive at this decision “through the mutual integration of the Persons’ ‘points of view.’ ”151 Here, Balthasar’s reasoning hinges, once again, on the interplay between the consubstantiality of the utterly distinct persons and the taxis. We must on no account think that, because the Father is origin, he “commands” the other two; the Son and the Spirit are not, so to say, his obedient executors. The Son and Spirit have proceeded from the Father coeternally with him. Therefore it retroactively affects the origin itself without neutralizing the order of origination. The Son’s and Spirit’s equality of rank with the Father gives them equal share in the properties and modes of conduct of the one God; the hypostases determine in their circumincessio what God is and wills and does.152 Because the Father gives away his essence in the begetting of the Son and their joint “spiration” of the Spirit, the Son and Spirit are both the “two hands” of the Father, executing his will. But so too does the Father “renounce” lordship over the Son and Spirit. The divine will, as well as the other properties, is thus fully shared in the kenotic self-giving of the
God Is Love 41
Father. The Father does not hold something—in this case decision making—from the Son and Spirit, just as the begotten and breathed forth do not oppose the Father. Balthasar describes this dialogue more vividly as “the interplay of reciprocal wonder and worship, of infinite reciprocal gratitude . . . and reciprocal entreaty.”153 The reciprocity of divine love is therefore the reciprocity of divine worship, adoration, and prayer. As with the other characteristics of the Trinity, Balthasar insists that they can be reached from what is present in the economy. When we see Jesus praying to the Father, we are not, says Balthasar, seeing only the action of the human nature but rather the incarnate Son. He explains, “And when Jesus addresses the Father as Thou, as in the High Priestly Prayer, this ‘Thou’ is, to be sure, a human vocable, but it must also be the expression of an eternal relation in God himself—a relation in which the Son turns to the Father in knowledge, love, adoration, and readiness for the Father’s very wish. And this in God himself.”154 The stance of Jesus to the Father is thus the translation of his immanent relation to the Father into the “language” of a human life. This adoring, worshipping character of divine love is especially obvious in the case of the Son, whose reception of divinity results in his eternal thanksgiving and obedience to the Father. It is a small move from thanksgiving and obedience to worship and adoration.155 Balthasar, however, includes the Father in gratitude and worship. As we have already seen, the Father does not simply beget the Son as a passive object, but paradoxically receives antecedent consent from the Son to his begetting. The Father, accordingly, is thankful to the Son for this antecedent consent.156 On a deeper level, this thanksgiving, mutual worship, and adoration result from the infinite otherness of the divine persons from each other. When the Father and Son turn toward each other, they do not “see” the common essence. Rather, they behold the incommunicable, utterly unique divine person. Therefore, “when God stands before God,” adoration and worship are the result.157 Balthasar quotes Adrienne von Speyr at length: “All worship has its primary basis in the other’s otherness. Where there is mere oneness, worship is not possible. The Son does not worship the Father because the Father is like him; that would mean that the Son found himself worthy of worship and that he worshipped himself. Worship is the relation to a Thou, a relation so strong and pure that only the
42 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
Thou is of any account.”158 In their personal distinction, the Father, Son, and Spirit engage in a “ceaseless round of reciprocal glorification.”159 The divine life, “begun” in the Father’s kenosis, culminates in the circumincessio/perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which itself consists of mutual divine adoration. This reciprocal worship and adoration are the concrete form of God being ever greater than himself: “The comparative is the linguistic form of amazement.”160 Insofar as they are utterly distinct, incommunicable persons, who exist from and as the eternal, ever-new acts of procession, “wonder need not be banished from the realm of the Absolute.”161 Because the Father truly risks all by giving away his essence to the Son, and the Son gives all back to the Father, and the Spirit proceeds as the witness and gift itself, each of the persons possesses the same groundless freedom as the Father himself. Accordingly, No one can predict, for instance, how the Son will “use” the one and only divine freedom in order to invent ideas and acts of love; since the Son and the Spirit are consubstantial with the Father, it is equally their privilege, on the basis of the one divine freedom, to do surprising and astounding things, as it is the privilege of the Father, as original Source of all things. Only in the finite realm can the fulfillment of an expectation denote a conclusion, something that produces stagnation of life, boredom, satiety and surfeit (koros); in eternal life this is never possible.162 The divine life is thus dramatic in the mutual love of Father, Son, and Spirit; and, as dramatic, “contains and surpasses all possible drama between God and a world.”163 Moreover, even as the trinitarian persons are “perfectly transparent to one another” in this drama, “they possess a kind of impenetrable ‘personal’ mystery.”164 It is for this reason that Paul can say that the fully divine Spirit “searches the depths of God” (I Cor 2:10). In the Spirit, God himself is “occupied” by the “unimaginable mystery” of the groundless love of the Father and Son “for a whole eternity,” the mystery of love that he himself is.165 The love of the triune God thus includes, together with absolute knowledge, something like faith, because “eternal life, in order to be life, transcends itself to infinity. There can be no suggestion therefore that the divine life is somehow limited by either
God Is Love 43
blind faith or rigid certainty, for “any limitation would cause this life and exchange of love to weaken and grow cold.”166 Mystery and being, and mystery and truth, are thus not opposed but coincident. This insight will be highly significant when we turn to Balthasar’s understanding of the relationship between divine incomprehensibility and trinitarian theology in chapter 4. Balthasar’s trinitarian theology culminates in a picture of incredible dynamism and fluidity. Whether we consider his insistence that the divine essence happens in the event of the processions, the coincidence of the distinct persons and their actions, or the paradoxical assertion of the Father’s monarchy and his equality with the Son and Spirit, Balthasar’s depiction of the trinitarian life defies easy comprehension. Balthasar explains, however, that this dynamism and fluidity are not “formless” or “indefinite” but rather are positively determined in the Godhead.167 Trinitarian theology, therefore, is not lawless or irrational but works in light of interconnected principles. The most fundamental principle for Balthasar is that God is love in himself. This claim that God is love rests, in Balthasar’s thought, on kenosis. Kenosis in turn functions as a “hinge” between the various counterclaims he makes. Kenosis, as the act of the Father, establishes at once the hierarchical taxis of the persons as well as their equality. Kenosis, as the outpouring without loss of the divine essence, binds the trinitarian persons in the unity of the essence-poured- out, as well as maintains their intradivine distance. It is this distance-in- unity that makes possible the reciprocal dialogue that makes God love. Intratrinitarian kenosis establishes intratrinitarian “distance,” which in turn makes possible intratrinitarian, reciprocal dialogue, all within the unity of the one Godhead. In the eternal kenosis of the triune God, therefore, “relation-to-self and relation-to-other, eternal repose-in-itself and eternal striving and loving can be identical.”168 As we will see in subsequent chapters, these insights matter a great deal for understanding the God-world relationship. On the one hand, they preserve divine sovereignty. By being love in himself, God does not require creation. Trinitarian speculation, even in Balthasar’s highly vivid form, discloses not only the truth of divine being but the truth of the world. Balthasar can thus affirm Thomas’s explanation for why knowledge of the Trinity is necessary for us. Thomas argues,
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The knowledge of the Divine Persons was necessary . . . for thinking correctly about the creation of the universe. For by our saying that God made all things by his Word, the error of those who assert that God produced the universe out of necessity of nature is ruled out. Moreover, by the fact that we affirm in him a procession of love, it is shown that God did not produce creatures on account of some need, or for the sake of any cause outside himself, but for the sake of the love of his own goodness.169 In light of the Trinity, the world finds itself, from the outset, afloat on a sea of divine gratuity. It need not be at all but only is because of the excess of divine love. On the other hand, the same insights establish the condition for the possibility of a “positive” relation between God and creation, a relation which, while maintaining the absolute difference between God and creation, achieves its goal in the communion of God and creation in Christ. In Balthasar’s words, “The revelation of the Trinity throws an unexpected bridge across this (abiding) abyss. If, within God’s identity, there is an Other, who at the same time is the image of the Father and thus the archetype of all that can be created; if, within this identity, there is a Spirit, who is free, superabundant love of the ‘One’ and of the ‘Other,’ then both the otherness of creation, which is modeled on the archetypal otherness within God, and its sheer existence, which it owes to the intra divine liberality, are brought into a positive relationship to God.”170 We will return to the relation between the immanent Trinity, creation, and deification in chapter 3. We turn now to a closer investigation of the sources of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology.
C h a pt e r 2
A Confluence of Diverse Tendencies The Sources of Balthasar’s Immanent Trinitarian Theology
Never will looking backward toward the sources and the basic elements replace a looking forward that endeavors to grasp the synthesis that has been effected, the irreducible novelty that has been attained. The fruit of these labors, even though it is contained in the roots, is always something new and unexpected. —Balthasar, Presence and Thought
Critics of Balthasar have charged him with a disregard—unwitting or otherwise—of the theological tradition. Put most succinctly by Karen Kilby, Balthasar’s theology, including his trinitarian theology, is or appears to be “unfettered.” This chapter will show that, to the contrary, Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian thought builds on a wide range of voices other than his own, even in its most idiosyncratic elements. Though Balthasar’s trinitarian vision is not simply the sum of his sources, it is only by recognizing these influences that his theology can be adequately grasped. Given the breadth of Balthasar’s scholarship, it should be unsurprising that earlier thinkers shaped the trinitarian vision described in the previous chapter. But in many respects, his engagement with theological and 45
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philosophical tradition is among the most frustrating aspects of his the ology. It is well established that Balthasar was influenced by such figures as Karl Barth and Erich Przywara and sought to engage trends in modern philosophy and literature, as well as to draw from patristic and medieval thought.1 Among the most ambitious of these projects is Cyril O’Regan’s two-volume work on Balthasar’s theology as a response to philosophical modernity in the figures of Hegel and Heidegger.2 Because of the sheer breadth of Balthasar’s scholarship, his indirect modes of argumentation, and his fondness for reading the tradition as “symphonic,” identifying the “real” sources of any given theological position is incredibly difficult. Balthasar only occasionally specifies his resources, even in the midst of extended commentary on other theologians, and often his assessments are contradictory. Moreover, the sources employed do not all have equal stature in Balthasar’s work. At times, an influence seems all pervasive, with correspondingly frequent references. At other times, however, Balthasar’s thought reflects that of thinkers he engages briefly or in “minor” texts of his theological corpus. In this chapter, I proceed under the methodological assumption that sources can and do exercise “subterranean” influence—that is, at times Balthasar is not necessarily aware of his trinitarian sources. Because of this, I employ a comparative method. Certain elements and concepts within Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology will be compared with those of figures we know he read, whose thought most clearly illuminates his own position and who, therefore, can reasonably be considered sources for his own thought, whether Balthasar acknowledges the influence or not. This chapter provides neither a chronological nor hierarchical reading of the influences on Balthasar’s theology. Balthasar gives little or no indications that his trinitarian theology developed over time, and it is not possible to determine his earliest exposure to particular thinkers. Moreover, because of the complexity of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology, ranking his sources according to importance would result in a skewed impression. No one thinker supplies the “essence” of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. The absence of such a singular influence is owing in part to Balthasar’s understanding of the theological tradition. Early in his career, Balthasar rejected the theological-historical narrative of Aeterni Patris, which promoted Thomas as the confluence of all earlier Catholic thought and the
A Confluence of Diverse Tendencies 47
“fountainhead” of the “purest streams of wisdom.”3 In contrast to the linear narrative of neo-Thomism, Balthasar was struck by the irreducible polyphony of the tradition. Balthasar writes, In the new constellations of intellectual history there break out from time to time from the midpoint which is beyond history new and original perceptions which certainly, in the succession of the ages, are related to one another, indeed often expressly measure themselves one against another, and enrich the great tradition or stand aside from it; but all this never consists in a mere further weaving of threads that are already to hand, but rather in the power of a total vision. . . . In this realm there is no more scope for development as such, as there is or could be in mysticism, or in philosophy. . . . This observation could place a gentle mute on any enthusiasm for the development of theological doctrine.4 What binds disparate theologies together is their witness to the one reve lation of God in Christ.5 This attitude gives Balthasar the freedom to move about from thinker to thinker, synthesizing ideas from wildly different historical contexts. His trinitarian theology is no exception to this pattern. As will become evident below, his immanent trinitarian theology, especially in its most idiosyncratic elements, relies in particular on medieval and contemporary thought.6 In many instances, one could credibly offer multiple figures as sources of single ideas (e.g., the existence of immanent trinitarian dialogue) or a single figure providing the source for a number of individual themes. This is especially the case with respect to Adrienne von Speyr, whose thought closely parallels Balthasar’s in virtu ally every particular. As a result of this difficulty, and in order to avoid repetition, this chapter is divided by theme rather than figure. T r i n i ta r i a n P e r s o n h o o d a n d P ro c e s s i o n
As established in the previous chapter, Balthasar regularly identifies the trinitarian persons with their act of procession. This identification is most obvious in the case of the Father. As quoted already, “[The Father] remains eternal Father only insofar as he has eternally given over to the
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Son all that is his, including the divinity.”7 Similarly, and as a correlative assertion, the Son is identical to his (passive) act of being begotten and the Spirit as being breathed forth. The question is whence Balthasar derives such claims. Recent scholarship, both laudatory and critical of Balthasar, has tended to read Balthasar as drawing on—or at least intending to draw on—Thomas Aquinas’s theology, specifically Thomas’s understanding of the trinitarian persons as relations. For instance, as Karen Kilby argues, By going so far as actually to identify Jesus’ person with his mission, Balthasar is, furthermore, offering a still more striking integration. In an account such as one finds, for instance, in Thomas Aquinas, not only are the relations of the Persons of the Trinity described in terms of procession—the Son is generated by the Father, the Spirit spirated from Father and Son—but the Persons simply are these relations. This seems, normally, one of the more ungraspable aspects of trinitarian thought, and I am not persuaded that Thomas himself tries to present it in such a way that we can in fact get a grasp on it. But in his Christology Balthasar offers quite concrete working out of this: Jesus . . . simply is his mission. If one follows Balthasar to the point of saying that Jesus is the one in whom Person and mission are identical, then it will not perhaps seem such a conundrum to say that the Son just is his processing from the Father.8 Katy Leamy has made Balthasar’s Thomist understanding of the trini tarian persons a central argument of her recent monograph.9 Leamy is correct about both Balthasar’s modification of Bulgakov and the importance of Thomas’s doctrine of the real ontological difference between a creature’s essence and existence for Balthasar’s rejection of certain elements in Bulgakov. My own reading of Balthasar’s relation to Bulgakov as discussed below is in substantial agreement with hers. However, Leamy and Kilby have misidentified Balthasar’s intended medieval source. From an early point in his career, Balthasar noted the rela tive weakness of Augustine’s trinitarian approach. As Balthasar explains, “The solitary structure of the soul cannot supply the supreme image for the living exchange of love in the eternal God.”10 Thomas’s trini tarian theology falls under the same critique. It should not be surprising,
A Confluence of Diverse Tendencies 49
therefore, that Balthasar nowhere adopts characteristically Thomist trini tarian concepts. Though Thomas remains an important interlocutor, Balthasar is more indebted to those sources depicting the Trinity in terms of a “living exchange of love.”11 If we compare Balthasar’s identification of the Father, Son, and Spirit with their act of processing to medieval accounts of trinitarian personhood, Balthasar’s theological distance from Thomas’s trinitarian account is evident. Balthasar is more fruitfully read as occupying a place in a distinct, and distinctly non-Thomist, tradition of trinitarian theology. Two Medieval Accounts of Trinitarian Personhood For medieval theologians, one of the central questions that trinitarian theology was meant to answer was how to conceive each person as really distinct from the other two while maintaining their essential unity.12 More specifically, this question centers on how to interpret the “personal properties”—those specific markers that make the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who they are. Person and Relation of Opposition Thomas offers one account whereby these personal properties are understood according to the Aristotelian category of relation. For Aristotle, relation is a category of accident that denotes not how a thing is in itself, but how it is “toward another” (ad aliquid). Relation, unique among the other categories of accidents, does not imply substantial composition. Drawing on a theological commonplace since at least Augustine, Thomas identifies the relations of the Trinity (paternity, filiation, active/passive spiration) as “subsistent,” that is, identical when considered with respect to the essence but distinct when considered with respect to another. Thomas explains, “Relation’s particular characteristic is to refer to another. Thus, a relation can be considered in two ways in the divine: either through comparison to the essence, and in this way it is only rationally distinct; or through compari son to what it refers to, and in this way the relation is really distinguished from that [to which it refers] by the particular characteristic proper to relation. But the persons are distinguished through comparison of a relation to its correlative opposite, and not through comparison of the relation to the essence.”13 Put concretely, paternity (or filiation, or spiration) is identical
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with the divine essence. It does not add anything nonessential and disappears when compared with the essence. However, when the relation is considered with respect to its correlative opposite relation, they indicate real differences. Paternity implies filiation. Similarly, active spiration implies passive spiration. These relations of opposition cannot be identical with one another, though they are themselves identical with the divine essence. It is through their real difference from one another that the relations of opposition point toward the distinct trinitarian persons. Significantly, for Thomas, and others following his approach, there can be no acts of procession without persons, and there cannot be distinct persons without these relations of opposition. To be Father, Son, or Spirit is to be in a particular relation of opposition to the others, and it is on the basis of these real distinctions that the processions occur. Person and Procession The alternative, “processional” account of trinitarian personhood understands the personal properties according to a specific type of Aristotelian relation, that between “producer” and “product,” which is grounded “on action and passion, on acting and being acted upon.”14 For trinitarian theologians of this school, “production is the reason for there being a relation in the first place, and hence in some logical, non-temporal sense, the origination or the production of the Son from the Father must be ‘prior’ to the relations between them.”15 In light of this reasoning, the constituting principle of the trinitarian persons (their personal property) comes to be understood according to the distinct manner in which they process within the Godhead. Richard of St. Victor and Bonaventure provide excellent examples of the processional account of trinitarian personhood. For Richard, procession or emanation is part of the very definition of trinitarian personhood. Developing beyond the then-common Boethian definition of person (“an individual substance of a rational nature”), Richard defines “person” as “incommunicable existence.”16 This new definition allows Richard to do two things. First, it enables Richard to avoid the danger associated with Boethius’s definition of seeing the divine nature as itself a fourth person, insofar as it is technically an individual substance of a rational nature.17 By seeing person as entailing incommunicability, the communicable divine substance is ruled out and the distinction between nature (a what) and
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person (a who) is maintained and strengthened. Second, through his etymological breakdown of “existence,” Richard identifies how the incommunicability of the divine persons stems from their being from someone else (ex-sistere, “being from outside”).18 The divine persons are, and are known, by virtue of their (incommunicable) personal property determined by their relation to their origin (their ex-sistere). Bonaventure adopts a similar approach. As he articulates in the Breviloquium, “Concerning the plurality of Persons within the unity of nature, true faith bids us believe that, in one nature, there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The First does not originate from any of the others; the Second originates from the First alone through generation; and the Third, from both the First and the Second through spiration or procession.”19 Here, the persons are “marked” by virtue of how they have their origin, not the logical corollary relations. In the accounting of the persons, therefore, the act of procession logically precedes person, which precedes relation. Put otherwise, there can be no relation without persons, and there are no persons if they are not produced. A Comparison of the Two “Schools” For contemporary readers, such disagreements may seem esoteric or inconsequential. After all, Thomas begins his trinitarian section in the Summa with an account of the two processions, and Bonaventure’s processional account uses relations of opposition. More significantly, Thomas argues, for example, that “real relations in God can be understood only in regard to those actions according to which there are internal, and not external, processions in God. . . . In respect of each of these processions [of the intellect and the will] two opposite relations arise.”20 If Thomas can argue that the relations of opposition arise from the two processions, is there an actual debate? Despite the similarities in argumentation between advocates of the two approaches, they are, nevertheless, in “systematic disagreement . . . regarding the way in which we conceive of the Trinity.”21 As Friedman shows, the disagreement is particularly manifest in the respective treatments of God the Father and of the Holy Spirit. In the twenty-seventh distinction of the first book of his Sentences, Lombard asks whether the Father is Father because he generates the Son or whether the Father generates because he is Father. Bonaventure argues that the Father is Father because he generates. The Father is identical
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with his act of begetting. In contrast, Thomas argues that the Father generates because he is Father. Thomas explains, contra-Bonaventure, “If it were said that ‘it is through origin alone that the hypostasis is determinately brought about,’ one understands by ‘origin’ either relation of origin, and this is our view, or origin is signified as being an operation, and, [understood in the latter way], origin does not at all make the hypostases distinct, indeed, [origin as a personal operation] comes from a distinct individual. . . . And thus we say that in the divine there is no other source of distinction except relation.”22 Thomas’s point here is that to identify the trinitarian persons with their acts of procession, or their “operation,” creates a considerable logical lacuna: there would be no subjects to perform these acts. Therefore, in the case of God the Father, he cannot be identified with his act of begetting but must first (logically) be established according to his relation of opposition. “For Aquinas, then, the Father generates because he is the Father, and he is the Father because of the opposition of the relations paternity and filiation.”23 It is on this specific point that Kilby and Leamy have misread Thomas. Both interpret Thomas’s “relation” in an “active” sense, as “to relate,” and therefore incorrectly identify relation and procession by a kind of transitive property. Thomas intends rather to distinguish between relation as a state of being and act. As Bonaventure argues, however, such an approach appears reasonable only in the case of the Father and makes no sense when approached from the point of view of the Son. As Bonaventure explains, the Son has his existence, and that he is the Son, by virtue of the Father’s begetting him. Therefore, the Son, in order to relate by filiation to the Father, must “first” be begotten, must first emanate from the Father. However, since trinitarian relations are mutually determinative and simultaneous (that is, since fili ation is the Son’s correlative relation to the Father’s paternity), the Father’s paternity cannot conceptually precede his act of producing the Son. Therefore, one must say that the Father is Father because he generates. The Processional Character of Balthasar’s Theology Balthasar offers lengthy engagements with Thomas’s and Bonaventure’s trinitarian thought in both Theo-Logic II and III. Balthasar initially seems to accept Thomas’s position that “the relation that constitutes the producing person is logically prior to the procession: the paternity that founds
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the Person of the Father is logically prior to his act of generating.”24 Balthasar sees in Thomas’s position the means to avoid a hidden subordinationism. However, despite the note of approval for Thomas, Balthasar nevertheless adopts the very stance that Thomas does not. For Balthasar, as for Bonaventure, “In the pure act of self-pouring-forth, God the Father is his self, or, if one wishes, a ‘person’ (in a transcending way).”25 Unlike Thomas, if Balthasar were to take up Peter Lombard’s question, he would appear to answer that the Father is Father because he generates, not that he generates because he is Father. Examining his trinitarian depiction substantiates his kinship with the processional approach to the Trinity, though Balthasar voices certain reservations. As already mentioned, Balthasar’s use of the distinction between giving and receiving in the taxis is emblematic of the processional account. Though this kind of distinction is not lacking in Bonaventure, on this point Balthasar more clearly reflects the thought of Richard of St. Victor. Richard explains the personal properties in terms of the modes of true love. True love can be gratuitous, as “when someone gives gratuitously to someone else, from whom he receives no benefit,” or due, as “when someone returns love to someone else, from whom he has received it gratuitously.”26 The Father, then, because “he gives abundance of his own fullness to those proceeding from him,” loves in complete gratuity.27 The Son possesses both gratuitous and due love. By virtue of receiving everything from the Father, the Son loves the Father with due love, and, by virtue of loving without receiving anything from the Spirit, the Son loves gratuitously.28 The Spirit, finally, by virtue of “proceeding without having any other person proceeding from him,” loves the Father and the Son with due love.29 Richard summarizes his argument as follows: At this point, now, we clearly know how to distinguish the single [persons’] properties—according to these thoughts. In fact, we have proven that in only one of the three we find supreme and solely gratuitous love. In another one, we have supreme love but only of a due kind. In the remaining one, lastly, we find a supreme love, which is both due, on the one hand, and totally gratuitous, on the other. This is the threefold distinction of properties in supreme love. Nonetheless, in all [of the persons] there is only one and the same love, the love [which is] supreme and truly eternal.30
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In his essay “Summa Summorum,” Balthasar uses this language of “love that owes itself ” to describe the Son.31 In one of his last works, however, Balthasar determines, with explicit reference to Richard of St. Victor, that such language fails to convey the consubstantiality of the Son.32 In his later thought, Balthasar thus wishes to retain the language of gratuity but discard the reduction of the persons to a schematic combination giving/ receiving love. In addition to using language of giving and receiving, albeit in a modified fashion, Balthasar shares the processional account’s emphasis on the primacy of the Father. For processional accounts, such as that of Bonaventure, the primacy of the Father is the “positive” aspect of his property of innascibility or unbegottenness. Unlike Thomas, who sees innascibility as a purely negative property, Bonaventure sees in it the implication that the Father is the principium of everything that exists, including the other trinitarian persons; therefore, he is the fecund, “fontal” source of everything. This position takes on a systematic necessity in Bonaventure’s thought. After the debate between Thomas and Bonaventure on the logical order of concepts, Thomas points out that actions require subjects and, therefore, without the logical priority of the relation paternity, the Father cannot be known as a subject capable of generating. At least in the case of the Father, as a result, relation must have logical priority. In Bonaventure’s thought, the Father’s primacy/innascibility serves as the means by which to mark the Father as a person logically before his act of generating.33 To summarize Bonaventure’s logic, “The Father is Father because he generates, and he generates because he is God innascible.”34 To say the Father is the trinitarian person without origin is thus to imply that he is the trinitarian person primed to generate others.35 Jan van Ruusbroec too speaks of the Father in these terms. The Father is the “eternal beginning of the Persons,” whose fruitfulness brings about the generation of the Son.36 A characteristic of processional accounts of trinitarian personhood is therefore a divine “proto-Father,”—to use Friedman’s term—a figuring of the Father (nontemporally) before he generates. This proto-Father is strictly notional but gives processional accounts a particular way of speaking about the Godhead. Appropriately, Balthasar warns his audience that “the Father must not be thought to exist ‘prior’ to [his] self- surrender (in an Arian sense): he is the movement of self-giving that
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holds nothing back.”37 Nevertheless, Balthasar exhibits the same rhetorical habits as other processional accounts. The Father is the “ground and source of the Godhead, who, by his immeasurable fullness, is able to bring forth the ‘Word.’ ”38 He is the origin without origin of the “bottomless spring” of the Godhead.39 Echoing von Speyr, who herself seems to echo Bonaventure, Balthasar argues that “there is a primal beginning in which the Father is ‘alone,’ even if he was never without the Son, for ultimately it is he, unique and alone, who begets the Son.”40 As quoted in the previous chapter, Balthasar even understands Jesus’s assertion in John’s Gospel that “the Father is greater than I” as indicative of the Father’s immanent trinitarian primacy.41 In an excellent summary passage, Balthasar writes, That he is Father we know in utmost fullness from Jesus Christ, who constantly makes loving, thankful and reverent reference to him as Origin. It is because he bears fruit out of himself and requires no fructifying that he is called Father. . . . Jesus’ words indicate that this fruitful self-surrender by the primal Origin has neither beginning nor end: It is a perpetual occurrence in which essence and activity coincide. Herein lies the most unfathomable Mystery of God: that what is absolutely primal is no statically self-contained and comprehensible reality, but one that exists solely in dispensing itself: a flowing wellspring with no holding trough beneath it, an act of procreation with no seminal vesicle, with no organism at all to perform the act.42 This language of God the Father being origin, ground, source, wellspring, fruitful, and immeasurable fullness all echo the processional account’s themes of the Father’s primacy. They are also largely foreign to Thomas’s trinitarian thought. Balthasar’s dependence on processional accounts of trinitarian personhood can also be seen in his treatment of the nature of the Spirit’s procession. Friedman highlights the way in which processional accounts after Bonaventure tend to treat the procession of the Son and Spirit according to the mode of nature and that of will.43 Balthasar rejects this particular subset of processional accounts.44 Balthasar does, however, use another common “processional” way of speaking of the Holy Spirit as colove [condilectio] of Father and Son. This manner of understanding the Spirit’s
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procession is first developed by Richard of St. Victor, but is also taken up by Bonaventure and Jan van Ruusbroec. Richard’s pneumatology rests upon the insight that God’s “greatest goodness” implies “highest love.” “Yet,” argues Richard, “none is said to possess charity-love in the truest sense of the word if he loves himself exclusively. It is, thus, necessary that love be aimed at someone else in order to be charity-love. If a multiplicity of persons is absent, there can be no place for charity-love.”45 For Richard, insofar as goodness, which defines God’s essence, includes the highest love, God must have an other to love. Furthermore, as greatest goodness and love also imply greatest happiness or blessedness, such love must be reciprocal, for “there can be no joyful love that is not also reciprocal.”46 Richard determines that the plurality must be such that God has another to love and who loves in reply.47 Finally, this other must be the equal of God to be worthy and capable of supreme love.48 We will return to this theme of trinitarian reciprocity below. The turn Richard makes to a third person is probably the most noteworthy feature of his trinitarian reasoning. As God’s goodness, love, happiness, and glory all imply a second person, so too do they imply for Richard a third. His reasoning is as follows: Just as supreme charity-love cannot lack the highest greatness [which leads to the conclusion that there is a second in the Godhead], similarly, it cannot lack the greatest excellence. And in authentic charity-love the greatest excellence seems to be this: to will that someone else be loved just as we are. Actually, nothing is more precious and more admirable in reciprocal, burning love than one’s desire for someone else to be loved in the same fashion by him who is supremely loved, and by whom one is supremely loved. Therefore, the witness of perfect charity-love consists in desiring to share [with someone else] that love of which one is the object.49 In other words, the Son enjoying being loved by the Father so much wishes that there be a third (the Spirit), who can also be loved by the Father (and so too the Father desires the Spirit to share in being loved by the Son). If God is to be truly the greatest goodness, love, happiness, and glory, then the first and second person will both desire a third to be an object of the first and second’s love as well. The desire for a third, of course, produces a
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third, and this third must also be equal to the first and second, following the same logic as above (he must be supremely worthy and supremely satisfying in his response of love, and therefore equal). With this third, moreover, the reciprocal love of Father and Son expands and unifies in “colove” (condilectio). Their love becomes “fused so to become only one, because of the third flame of love.”50 This way of envisioning the place of the Spirit in the Trinity is in clear contrast to Thomas’s. In the Thomist, relational account, the Spirit is constituted not by the reciprocal love of Father and Son but by the Spirit’s relation of opposition to the Father and Son as though from one principle.51 While Thomas acknowledges a limited appropriateness of saying the Father and Son spirate as distinct persons, the logic of the relational account demands a single principle of spiration. For Thomas, this is because the Godhead is one in everything except in their relations of opposition. Since there is no relation of opposition between Father and Son where it concerns the breathing of the Spirit, they must constitute a single principle of spiration. Thomas’s trinitarian logic is thus composed of two sets of oppositional relations. On the one hand, there is the paternity- filiation opposition marking Father and Son. On the other hand, there is the active spiration-passive spiration opposition marking Father/Son and Spirit. In this scheme, the Spirit’s procession has no direct connection to the mutual relationship of the Father and Son. Richard, Bonaventure, and Ruusbroec’s pneumatology depends, in contrast, on the Father and Son being “over and against” each other. As Ruusbroec articulates, “From this mutual contemplation of Father and Son flows an eternal pleasure, the Holy Spirit, the third Person, who flows forth from the other two. For he is one will and one love flowing back in into the nature of the Godhead.”52 Indeed, it is because the Father and Son are distinct persons that the Holy Spirit proceeds.53 As the mutual love of Father and Son, the Spirit actively rounds-out their distinction in perichoretic unity.54 Ruusbroec can thus speak of the Trinity in incredibly dynamic terms, as a circular movement from Father to Son and back together in the Spirit. The Spirit is the means of the “flux and reflux” between the Father and Son.55 The Trinity is a “fathomless whirlpool,” “living and fruitful in eternity,” a “flowing and ebbing sea.”56 Without question, Balthasar’s own pneumatology, particularly in its “subjective” aspect, follows these original insights of Richard, Bonaventure,
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and Ruusbroec. As we have seen, for Balthasar, the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son in their distinction as both the union and fruit of their love. Originating in the love of Father for the Son and the Son’s love for the Father, the Spirit “overtakes” this love in a “higher unity,” “fulfilling” their reciprocity.57 The Spirit is “the identity of the gift-as-given and the gift-as-received in thanksgiving, which can only be such by attesting, maintaining and fueling the infinite distinction between Father and Son. Thus, within the distinction, the gift is not only the presupposition of an unsurpassable love: it is also the realized union of this love.”58 The Father’s self-giving in the generation of the Son “intends the ‘always more’” of “communio” in the Spirit.59 For Balthasar, like Ruusbroec, the Holy Spirit draws the Father and Son back into the unity of their essence. In this sense, the Spirit uniquely realizes the truth that God is love, and not only loving. Despite following Richard, Bonaventure, and Ruusbroec in many of his formulations, Balthasar does distance himself from the deductive form of their trinitarian logic. In the case of Richard, echoing Anselm, following the lead of faith, the human intellect can offer rational “proofs” for the Trinity. Since God is known to exist necessarily, God’s existence is open to “necessary reasoning”—that is, God must exist in the way that God does because God must exist. It is this belief in necessary reasoning that allows Richard to move seamlessly from the discussion of the divine attributes in books 1 and 2 in On the Trinity to the demonstration of the Trinity of persons in book 3. For Richard, the lynchpin is the deduction of fullest love, which requires a plurality of persons, from God’s supreme goodness. As he writes, “It is certain that God alone is supremely good; so only God must be supremely loved. Therefore, a divine person could not show supreme love towards another person lacking divinity. Besides, fullness of divinity could not have been present without fullness of goodness. Fullness of goodness, on the other hand, could not have been present without fullness of charity-love; and fullness of charity-love [could] not [have existed] without plurality of divine beings.”60 Bonaventure synthesizes Richard’s deduction with Pseudo-Dionysius’s claim that the good is self-diffusive. As the highest Good, God is most self-diffusive, and therefore diffuses his essence in the “highest degree”: the production of Son and Spirit.61 This position can be found in Ruusbroec as well.62 Balthasar rejects any such deduction because it risks undermining the mystery of the Trinity. The self-diffusion of the good is not a law
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to which God is subject.63 Balthasar thus accentuates the “spontaneity,” “the groundlessness,” of the Father’s initial act of generating. John Milbank has argued this emphasis on the monarchy of the Father suggests Balthasar is voluntarist.64 It is accurate that Balthasar, following Gustav Siewerth, sees divine love as “more comprehensive than being itself,” and therefore that the good embraces more than being and the true.65 Nevertheless, Balthasar understands the transcendentals, insofar as they analogically apply to the Trinity, as identical: “God’s splendor [glory] is his self-surrender [goodness], and this once more is his truth.”66 Even as the good, as self-giving, “dominates as the central motif,” truth and beauty are not left behind.67 Furthermore, the very emphasis on the freedom of divine love removes any possibility of deducing that love from any transcendental, including the good. The good, the true, and the beautiful point to God, and can be attributed to God by analogy, but divine love remains beyond them and can be known only by revelation. Indeed, in Balthasar’s theological (and philosophical) vision, it is only in the revelation of the Trinity, only in the revelation that God is love, that the truth, goodness, and beauty of creaturely being can be fully grasped.68 Following Barth, Balthasar insists that the divine attributes must be understood on the basis of the Trinity.69 Despite these dangers of deducing the Trinity from the good, it is precisely the immanent trinitarian thought of Richard of St. Victor, Bonaventure, and Ruusbroec that Balthasar retrieves in order to accentuate the living exchange of love he believed was lacking in the Augustinian-Thomist approach. I n t r at r i n i ta r i a n K e n o s i s a n d
Avo i d i n g S o p h i o l o g i c a l Exc e s s
The place of essential, divine goodness in the trinitarian theology of Richard, Bonaventure, and Ruusbroec is occupied by intratrinitarian kenosis in the thought of Balthasar. It is through intratrinitarian kenosis that Balthasar links together the essential unity of the Godhead with trini tarian consubstantiality. Even with the strong rhetorical parallels between trinitarian theologies that use essential goodness and Balthasar’s kenotic formulation, the two have distinct epistemological origins. For Richard, Bonaventure, and Ruusbroec, God’s essential goodness is a postulate of
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natural reason. God is known through rational means as greatest goodness by virtue of his necessary existence, which is itself known by way of reason. For Balthasar, such a natural theology cannot disclose the Trinity. Rather, it is only in the kenosis of the Son in Incarnation-unto-cross and in his resurrection, that the Trinity is glimpsed by faith. Indeed, stated even more strongly, we can say that it is the kenosis of the Son that reveals that the Godhead itself is constituted by an inner kenosis and is, therefore, trinitarian. The relationship between the kenosis of the Son in the economy and that of the immanent Trinity is one of the most striking features of Balthasar’s thought. In terms of his trinitarian theology, this relationship has generated by far the most interest, both laudatory and critical, among secondary scholars.70 By and large critics have focused on what is perceived as a dangerous association between the suffering-unto-death of Christ in the economy and intratrinitarian kenosis. Critics charge Balthasar with undermining, or at least nearly undermining, divine impassibility. It seems, in Balthasar’s thought, that suffering finds a place in the Trinity itself. The joy and bliss of triune love seems to contain hidden within it the agony of the cross. While secondary scholarship has raised a crucial concern regarding Balthasar’s theology of kenosis, this scholarship has regularly misunderstood Balthasar’s particular understanding of the concept. Until recently, scholars have in particular overlooked the nature of Balthasar’s use and modification of the trinitarian theology of Sergius Bulgakov.71 The oversight is significant, for in crucial passages on intratrinitarian kenosis it is to Bulgakov alone that Balthasar refers.72 However, despite this dependence, Balthasar also notes a desire to “divest Bulgakov’s fundamental conviction of its sophiological presuppositions” and “excesses.”73 Comparing Balthasar to Bulgakov on immanent trinitarian kenosis reveals the particular use Balthasar makes of the concept while also showing that he seeks to avoid Bulgakov’s blurring of divine and creaturely being. Bulgakov and Balthasar on Intratrinitarian Kenosis Bulgakov understands the Godhead as the dynamic “personal self-positing” of love in another.74 This dynamic self-positing begins in the person of the Father, who “acquires Himself as His nature, not in Himself and for
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Himself, but in proceeding out of Himself and in begetting” the Son.75 The act by which the Father begets the Son out of himself is an act of kenosis. It is a “self-emptying . . . sacrificial ecstasy of all-consuming, jealous love for the Other.”76 The Son, who receives himself from the Father “obediently,” responds in turn through his own particular hypostatic and eternal kenosis. The Son “offers His personal selfhood in sacrifice to the Father,” thereby becoming “the Father’s Word” and not a Word about himself.77 Terming these kenoses sacrifice, Bulgakov provides the following summary: The sacrifice of the Father’s love consists in self-renunciation and in self-emptying in the begetting of the Son. The sacrifice of the Son’s love consists in self-depletion in the begottenness from the Father, in acceptance of birth as begottenness. . . . The sacrifice of love, in reality, is pre-eternal suffering—not the suffering of limitation (which is incompatible with the absoluteness of the divine life) but the suffering of the authenticity of sacrifice and of its immensity. This suffering of sacrifice not only does not contradict the Divine all-blessedness but, on the contrary, is its foundation, for this all- blessedness would be empty and unreal if it were not based on authentic sacrifice, on the reality of suffering.78 The Trinity, however, is not limited to eternal self-sacrifice and suffering. Just as Bulgakov believes it is axiomatic that “there is no love without sacrifice,” so too “there is no love without joy and bliss.”79 Included in the Trinity, therefore, is also the overcoming of love’s mode of suffering, through the triumph and joy of love’s bliss.80 Here, the Father’s begetting of the Son, the pre-eternal act of self-sacrifice, is resolved in the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father on the Son. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this by resolving the dissonance of the tragedy of the Father-Son relationship. The Holy Spirit pre-eternally comforts and brings joy and bliss to the Father and the Son, bringing them together as the triumph of their mutual Love.81 But as the triumph of the Father and Son’s love, which is self-sacrificing, the Holy Spirit too exists for the others in kenosis. The Holy Spirit “annuls” himself in order to reveal, not himself, but only the Father and Son.82 Initially, the parallels between Balthasar and Bulgakov are obvious. Both Bulgakov and Balthasar see the Trinity in terms of mutual
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reciprocity springing forth from the basis of the Father’s initial act of begetting. This initial act is described jointly as “renunciation” and “positing” of a divine other.83 Moreover, “after” the Father begets in kenosis, the Son “turns” back to the Father in selfless “obedience,” as the Father’s Son and Word.84 The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and Son in their personal distinction, unites and witnesses their love.85 Balthasar is explicit that it is precisely Bulgakov’s idea of intratrinitarian “selflessness” that he wishes to use “as the basis of everything.”86 What is noteworthy, however, is that even with this affirmation, Balthasar’s terminology is subtly different. Whereas Bulgakov uses kenosis to refer to both the Father’s act of begetting and the Son’s obedient response, and would possibly apply the term to the Spirit’s “anonymity,” Balthasar restricts its intratrinitarian application to a singular act. In Balthasar’s thought, intratrinitarian kenosis is “none other than God’s ‘self-expropriation’ in the act of handing over the entire divine being in the processions.”87 But because this act begins in the person of the Father and only “responsively” in the person of the Son, intratrinitarian kenosis refers specifically to the Father. His “initial ‘kenosis’ within the Godhead . . . underpins all subsequent kenosis,” but this “subsequent kenosis” seems to be in reference to creation and incarnation, not to the Son and Spirit in the immanent Trinity.88 These subtle terminological differences undergird more fundamental theological ones as well. In Bulgakov, as just noted, the kenosis of the trinitarian persons includes some kind of “suffering” as a necessary component of all love. For Bulgakov, love is not real or authentic without this note of suffering, which is in turn conquered in bliss. In some respects, Balthasar seems to echo Bulgakov’s claims, only he phrases them in terms of drama. For Balthasar, it is sheer human arrogance to imagine that the divine life is static or “safe” in itself and only acquires “dynamism” and risk in the relationship with creation. Rather, according to Balthasar, “it is the drama of the ‘emptying’ of the Father’s heart, in the generation of the Son, that contains and surpasses all possible drama between God and a world. For any world only has its place within the distinction between Father and Son that is maintained and bridged by the Holy Spirit.”89 Balthasar goes further to argue that the distinction of the Father and the Son, “includes and grounds every other separation,” the Trinity is thus not “the ‘play’ of absolute
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‘blessedness’ that . . . lacks the ‘seriousness’ of separation and death.”90 Such language has generated criticism from scholars of secondary works.91 It seems that, following Bulgakov in an effort to connect the kenosis of Christ on the cross to the immanent Trinity, Balthasar has inadvertently suggested there is suffering, or something like it, in the Godhead itself. Given Bulgakov’s own lack of clarity, it is difficult to determine just how the creaturely “suffering of limitation” and trinitarian suffering relate in his conceptualization. What is clear, nevertheless, is that Balthasar does not wish to ascribe creaturely suffering, understood in a univocal sense, to the Godhead itself. His effort is to “walk on a knife edge” between ascribing pain, suffering, and tragedy to the immanent Godhead and the suggestion that God’s love becomes dramatic only as a result of pain and suffering once creation is involved.92 By attempting to walk this knife edge, Balthasar both adapts Bulgakov’s kenotic trinitarian impulse and denies those hints of trinitarian agonism in Bulgakov’s thought. The separation of the Father and the Son is thus not “tragic,” and the Spirit’s procession is not the comedic “sublation of tragedy.”93 For Balthasar, the kenotic drama of the Trinity is strictly the drama of reciprocal, self-giving love between those who are distinct. This love can “develop into suffering” in its incarnate encounter with sin but contains no suffering in itself.94 Avoiding Sophiological Excess Balthasar’s adaptation of Bulgakov’s intratrinitarian kenosis hints at a more fundamental rejection of the sophiological excesses in Bulgakov’s thought. As noted, when Balthasar refers to Bulgakov on the Trinity, there is no explanation as to what dangers sophiology holds. The only clue is provided in his work on Maximus the Confessor. As Balthasar explains, he sees in Bulgakov’s Sophia the shadow of a Platonic/Gnostic/Eastern mistrust of an autonomous and corporeal creation.95 What is lacking here, however, is any reference to the Trinity. What then is the connection between Bulgakov’s immanent trinitarian theology, sophiology, and creation? The key to this matrix of theological topics is Bulgakov’s understanding of the nature of spirit and its application to God. Bulgakov describes spirit as personality, which is further defined as self-consciousness. The
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spirit is an I, which is the subject of its life, which is in turn the spirit’s objective nature.96 Through this objective nature, the spirit has self- consciousness, for it knows itself in its work of making itself into an object of its own consciousness. The spirit is thus always a unity of the I (the subject) and its nature (the object of the I).97 According to Bulgakov, the objective nature of the spirit has two differing modes by which it can be understood. On the one hand, the spirit’s nature is a kind of hidden depth, a potency, which becomes actual in the work of the I. It is in this respect a content out of which the I lives and acts, revealing itself to itself. It is in Bulgakov’s terms natura naturata, nature as an accomplishment or an act of the spirit, as the subject’s “authentic predicate.”98 On the other hand, in the act of self-revelation, the nature of the subject takes on an objective reality in itself. The subject does not simply act out of its nature but is confronted by the fact of its nature (natura naturans). The content of the subject’s nature has an objective quality over and against the subject.99 The spirit lives between both of these poles. The spirit or self-conscious I accordingly needs a “not I,” which Bulgakov terms the “world of the spirit,” to be an object of the I’s consciousness, and in which the I realizes and reveals itself—thereby becoming spiritual self-consciousness.100 This world of the spirit includes “the psychological world, external nature, and other living persons,” which all become the “material” enabling the spirit to reveal itself to itself.101 It is this definition of spirit as personal self-consciousness that Bulgakov applies to all spirits: human, angelic, and the divine.102 An important difference, however, is that, whereas the created spirit does not have its I outside of itself in other I’s, the Divine Spirit does. The one divine subject is also “I, thou, he, we, and you,” whose I is also posited in other I’s within the single Divine Spirit. The Divine Spirit is thus not limited and unihypostatic, as are all created spirits, but is boundless and trihypostatic—“not three and not one, but triunity, Trinity.”103 With the “completion” of the Trinity, of the divine I, in the Holy Spirit, Bulgakov can claim that “all giveness” in the Divine Spirit is overcome. There is no extrahypostatic nature that remains opaque to the Divine Spirit. The divine subject completely knows the depths of its predi cate, the divine object. All nature is fully hypostatized and all hypostases are of equal nature.104 Nevertheless, the Divine Spirit, like all spirits, also has a nature, which “exists by itself.”105
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This Divine nature is, like the nature of other spirits, referred to by Bulgakov as the “Divine world.”106 Unlike the world of created spirits, however, the divine world is entirely transparent to the trinitarian subject. The divine world is not a task or an over-and-against limitation for God, which God must work to actualize as himself as the tri-hypostatic person. The divine nature, the divine world, is instead the ousia and self-revelation of God, the divine Sophia.107 Sophia, according to Bulgakov, is not the “Divine Personality,” which corresponds to the threefold divine persons. She is divinity-in- itself, who exists “not only in God, but also for God.”108 Sophia, as the object/predicate of the triune divine subject, has an independence from God and is the All that God reveals about himself. She is the “All- unity,” “the Pleroma,” the “self-Icon of Divinity.”109 Moreover, containing within herself everything of the divine world, she contains the “ideas of all, about all, and in all.” This unity of all is one particular form of love within God and is proper to divine Sophia herself. This love is neither hypostatic nor hypostatized. It exists as the organizing and unifying force binding the infinity of divine ideas into a “pan-organism,” a “spiri tual body.”110 As a living, spiritual body, as the pan-organism of ideas possessed by the Divine Spirit, Sophia is “the pre-eternal Humanity of God.”111 Just as the human spirit possesses a body in which she reveals herself, so too does the Divine Spirit possess a spiritual body, Sophia, as his self-revelation.112 As the divine humanity, Sophia is the “proto- image” and “foundation” of created humanity. By virtue of Sophia, the divine humanity, there is a primordial “bridge of ontological identification between the Creator and creation.”113 For Bulgakov, Sophia establishes the needed connection between God’s being and the being of the world, and thereby makes possible divine-human communion. In Balthasar’s mind, it is this sense of “ontological identification” of God and creature that constitutes Bulgakov’s “sophiological excess.” Balthasar’s concern is that such a conceptualization both limits God’s freedom with respect to creation and makes creatures into a function of the divine life. From Balthasar’s perspective, this actually undermines the authentic communion of God and creature through a false identification. We will return to this issue in the following section and the next chapter. As we will see, Balthasar attempts to avoid this conclusion on immanent trinitarian grounds.
66 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar T r i n i ta r i a n R e c i p r o c i t y, D i s ta n c e , a nd Di a logu e
Balthasar’s adaptation of Bulgakov’s notion of intratrinitarian kenosis includes an understanding of kenosis as “making space” for the other. As we saw in chapter 1, Balthasar’s use of concepts like “space” and “distance” when speaking of the immanent Trinity is one of the most misunderstood aspects of his thought. One of the primary reasons for the misunderstanding is the apparent novelty of the claims. However, even in this regard, Balthasar’s theology depends on antecedents and is closely connected to his understanding of the Trinity as entailing reciprocal love and dialogue. We will begin with Balthasar’s use of Richard of St. Victor’s understanding of trinitarian reciprocity and dialogue and conclude the chapter with the source of his notion of intratrinitarian distance: Martin Buber. Richard of St. Victor and Trinitarian Reciprocity Contemporary discussions of trinitarian theology often begin by attempting to define trinitarian personhood formally. In other words, is “person” or “hypostasis” in trinitarian theology to be understood more or less like human personhood, or is it a technical term not to be confused with its human understanding? Figures such as Karl Rahner have argued that hypostasis/person, in trinitarian theology, refers to the three “distinct manners of subsisting” of the one God. Rahner seeks in this interpretation to avoid the almost inevitable assumption that the term “person” refers to “three centers of consciousness and activity, which leads to a heretical misunderstanding of dogma.”114 For Rahner, therefore, the formal “distinct manners of subsisting” leads to the material claim that “within the Trinity there is no reciprocal ‘Thou.’ ”115 Those biblical texts that seem to suggest I-Thou relations between Father and Son (e.g., Jn 17, 21) are based in the Son’s human nature, not their immanent trinitarian relations. Rahner’s argument appears both intuitive and traditional. Because the term stems from complex and distant philosophical and theological debate, we can presume that the concept “person” in trinitarian theology does not match our own prejudices. Moreover, insofar as Christians are monotheists, we can conclude that self-consciousness and individuality,
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and by extension reciprocity, must be ruled out as tritheism. Therefore, whatever else it might mean, “hypostasis” or “person” has a different content when used in trinitarian discourse than in everyday usage. Insofar as Balthasar does affirm I-Thou relations in the immanent Trinity, he appears to be novel and possibly heterodox. He draws, however, from a lengthy tradition of trinitarian thought. The notion that the Father and Son “face” or “turn toward” each other was an uncontroversial claim already by the twelfth century. The monastic theologian William of St. Thierry could write without argument, “Now there is a sort of ‘turning’ of the Father towards the Son and of the Son towards the Father; but first of these is the Father’s turning towards the Son, for the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son (though this primacy is not of time, but of a certain kind of relation, that of father to son). And this ‘turning towards’ is in a kiss and embrace. The kiss is a mutual recognition, the embrace a mutual love.”116 But it is once again Richard of St. Victor who provides the basis of Balthasar’s claims. Love and Plurality in Richard’s Trinitarian Theology Richard’s central trinitarian accomplishment is his realization that divine love requires a plurality of divine persons. The insight that love is central to understanding the Trinity has its roots far earlier in the Western theological tradition. Augustine argued that love (caritas) was “the best of all possible definitions for the Trinity.”117 However, Augustine’s imprecise use of the term (as well as the similar terms amor and dilectio) included a range of possible kinds of love, including self-love. It was Gregory the Great who would adopt a more precise position. According to Gregory, “Charity cannot exist between fewer than two. For no one can be said to have charity for himself. Rather, love [dilectio] must tend toward the other in order to be caritas.”118 The highest form of love is “transitive.”119 Richard makes the same argument in his shift from considerations of the one divine essence to his considerations of the three divine persons: The arguments discussed previously [books I and II in which Richard shows that God is greatest goodness] made clear to us that fullness and perfection of goodness reside in the supreme and totally perfect good. After all, true and highest love cannot be absent where fullness of all goodness is found, since nothing is better or more
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perfect than charity-love. Yet, none is said to possess charity-love in the truest sense of the word if he loves himself exclusively. It is, thus, necessary that love be aimed at someone else in order to be charity- love. If a multiplicity of persons is absent, there can be no place for charity-love.120 For Richard, insofar as goodness, which defines God’s essence, includes the highest love, God must have an other to love. For Richard, a plurality or multiplicity of persons must exist in order for God to be God. Furthermore, as greatest goodness and love also implies greatest happiness or blessedness, and such happiness comes about in reciprocal love, Richard determines that the plurality must be such that God has an other to love and who loves in reply. Richard explains, “To want to be much loved by him who is much loved is typical of love. If this is not possible, there absolutely cannot be [love]. Therefore, there can be no joyful love that is not also reciprocal. . . . Absolutely, both he who donates love and he who returns it must be present in reciprocal love.”121 Finally, as greatest goodness, which implies greatest love and happiness, also implies that God has fullness of glory, it would be unreasonable (and a denial of God’s existence) if God were incapable of sharing that fullness; therefore, as greatest goodness, love, happiness, and glory, this other in God receives the fullness of God’s glory.122 The other of God must be fully divine in order for the highest love to be real. Balthasar on Richard’s Trinitarian Depiction For Balthasar, Richard’s great trinitarian insight “bursts open the narrow confines of the self-enclosed subject.”123 Moreover, by extending love beyond even the I-Thou relationship to embrace a third, Richard’s imago trinitatis reaches “the full selflessness of Christian caritas and its perfection in God.”124 Yet despite this praise, Balthasar also sounds notes of reservation with Richard’s trinitarian vision. According to Balthasar, precisely in his emphasis on interpersonal love, Richard “fail[s] to maintain the unity of the divine substance.”125 Balthasar thus argues that Richard’s vision must be complemented by the (equally inadequate) counterimage provided by Augustine.126 Balthasar expresses himself on this point almost harshly. He writes,
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It is inappropriate, therefore, on the basis of the strictness of the first schema [Augustine’s psychological analogy], where similarity to God lies primarily in the unity of the Spirit, to ban all use of the second schema, that is, to declare it impossible for the Persons within the Godhead to say “Thou.” Conversely it is mistaken to take a naïve construction of the divine mystery after the pattern of human relationships (as Richard of St. Victor attempted by way of a counterblast to Augustine) and make it absolute; for it fails to take into account the crude anthropomorphism involved in a plurality of beings. The creaturely image must be content to look in the direction of the mystery of God from its two starting points at the same time; the lines of perspective meet at an invisible point, in eternity.127 According to Balthasar, neither Augustine’s nor Richard’s model provides “any but the faintest glimmer of an elucidation of the superabundant triune life that indwells the divine unity. We must look upward to the incomprehensible archetype through the irreducible polarity of these two intraworldly images.”128 In many respects, it seems as if Balthasar has once again signaled the need to use countervailing or paradoxical images, because of the mystery of the Godhead. However, on this point Balthasar’s various claims about Richard are contradictory. He notes, for instance, two pages after asserting that Richard undermines divine unity, that Richard actually does not “entertain the notion that God contains three Persons in the modern sense of three centers of consciousness. Richard himself dedicated four of his six books on the Trinity to the problem of the unity of God. For him and his successors, the only relevant principle was the logic of caritas, which requires in God the presence of the ‘other,’ that is, the beloved, and of the ‘third,’ the common object of love, without prejudice to the unity of the divine essence.”129 Balthasar also correctly describes Richard’s understanding of the trinitarian persons as the one and the same divine love in its three modes of being.130 In light of these contrasting evaluations and contradictory statements, it is important to keep in mind that on the whole Augustine’s psychological model has little place in Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology. It is precisely Richard’s emphasis on the
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personal distinction of the Father, Son, and Spirit, their coming to be and determination in an order of love, as well as their equality and reciprocity in love, that shapes Balthasar’s own trinitarian vision. Indeed, rather than “balancing” Richard’s view with that of Augustine’s psychological analogy, Balthasar in fact tends to modify and extend Richard’s understanding of reciprocity and dialogue between the persons. For Balthasar, one real weakness of Richard’s concept of personhood is that, while it does see the divine person in its relation from another (relation to origin), Richard’s conceptualization hints only at the person’s relation toward another.131 It is this relation toward, and not only from, another that constitutes the person. This modification of the notion of person in turn allows Balthasar to recast Richard’s understanding of condilectio in terms of human sexual love. In the love of the man and woman for each other, they give rise to a child. According to Balthasar, “The relationship described here . . . remains, in spite of all the obvious dissimilarities, the most eloquent imago Trinitatis that we find woven into the fabric of the creature. It not only transcends Augustine’s self-contained I, but also allows the ‘condilectus’ that Richard’s model imports from the outside to spring from the intimacy of love itself.”132 For Balthasar, because the Son is constituted not only by his coming from the Father but also by his “turning toward” the Father, it is this mutual turning toward each other in love that gives rise to a third, an infinite excess and fruit of love, the Holy Spirit. The I-Thou of Martin Buber and Intratrinitarian Distance Balthasar understands the notion that personhood is constituted as both from and toward another as distinctly modern. Balthasar engages a number of thinkers on this point, including Franz Rosenzweig and Ferdinand Ebner. However, it is Martin Buber who is the clearest influence on Balthasar’s trinitarian theology. Buber seems to have exercised a persistent fascination on Balthasar. In 1957, Balthasar wrote two essays, “Buber, Kierkegaard, Moehler” and “Martin Buber und das Christentum,” the latter of which appears in translation in the English Library of Living Philosophers volume dedicated to Buber.133 In 1958, Balthasar expanded this essay into a book-length “dialogue” with Buber on the relationship of his thought with Christianity.134 Buber reappears in both Balthasar’s Theo- Drama and Theo-Logic.135
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Balthasar’s attitude toward Buber was one of genuine admiration. Balthasar complimented him as “one of the great creative minds of our age,” who “has represented the reality and essence of the Jew qua Jew.”136 He offers a “bold return to the unique, the distinctively Jewish.”137 Much of Balthasar’s theological engagement with Buber is on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. However, for our purposes, the primary issue is Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. Buber and the I-Thou Buber sees a fundamental shift in philosophical anthropology in the thought of Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach ushered in a movement away from abstract individualism while also avoiding an equally abstract collectivism. The human being exists communally. According to Feuerbach, “The individual man for himself does not have man’s being in himself, either as a moral being or a thinking being. Man’s being is contained only in community, in the unity of man with man—a unity which rests, however, only on the reality of the difference between I and Thou.”138 Though Feuerbach did not develop this thought, this “discovery of the Thou” was a “decisive impetus” for Buber’s own thought.139 For Buber, the discovery that human being “is contained only in community,” in a unity in difference, leads to the focus on the dialogue of one with another. Dialogue is the authentic encounter of I and Thou. It is the “solid-give- and-take of talk,” in which the “full reality” of the other is present for us.140 This encounter involves a mutual “turning” of the one toward the other, and a mutual “outgoing.”141 Central to Buber’s understanding of the authentic I-Thou relation is the recognition of “the immense otherness of the Other.”142 Buber understands this recognition as central to the act of love: For there I, the lover, turn to this other human being, the beloved, in his otherness, his independence, his self-reality, and turn to him with all the power of intention of my own heart. I certainly turn to him as to one who is there turning to me, but in that very reality, not comprehensible by me but rather comprehending me, in which I am there turning to him. I do not assimilate into my own soul that which lives and faces me, I vow it faithfully to myself and myself to it, I vow, I have faith.143
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There can be, therefore, no “silent unity” behind the supposedly relative difference of the I and the Thou, nor can there be any attempt to master the other.144 In order to preserve the irrevocable distinctness of the I and Thou in dialogue, Buber introduces an additional concept of interpersonal distance. Distance is the precondition of any and all relation. The other must be set at a distance, seen as an independent opposite logically prior to any authentic relationship occurring.145 Distance in itself does not cause relation, but it is necessary. “With the appearance of [distance], nothing more than room for [relation] is given,” yet “[man] can accomplish the act of relation in the acknowledgement of the fundamental actuality of the distance.”146 According to Buber, distance and relation form the “twofold” principle of human existence and, in their interplay, distinguish the human from all other life forms. Human beings alone among creatures set themselves at a distance from their environment to perceive a world, which they then relate to for use and pleasure. In the relations of human beings with each other, the principle of distance makes possible our being present to one another, which occurs paradigmatically in dialogue. Central to this event of being present to another, however, is the awareness of mutual distancing. Not only have I distanced the other in order to then be present to him or her, but so too has the other distanced me in order to be present to me: “Our fellow men, it is true, live round about us as components of the independent world over and against us, but in so far as we grasp each one as a human being he ceases to be a component and is there in his self-being as I am: his being at a distance does not exist merely for me, but it cannot be separated from the fact of my being at a distance for him.”147 Moreover, this being present realizes the human person as relation: “For the inmost growth of the self is not accomplished, as people like to suppose today, in man’s relation to himself, but in the relation between the one and the other, between men, that is, pre-eminently in the mutuality of making present—in the making present of another self and in the knowledge that one is made present in his own self by the other—together with the mutuality of acceptance, or affirmation and confirmation.”148 The human person thus comes to be in relation, which occurs between one and another, I and Thou. As Buber expresses it, it is between I and Thou that dialogue occurs and the
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human spirit is manifest.149 The spirit is the common life of the distinct I and Thou. Balthasar and the I-Thou According to Balthasar, Buber’s discovery of the I-Thou shows “being as relation,” being as occurring between one and another, is of particular importance. In so doing, “Buber attains, without realizing it, a unique imago Trinitatis: spirit reigns between the I and the Thou, who are pure relation to each other, but each one, incommunicable in his core (as Other), nonetheless (and precisely for this reason) communicates all he has.”150 Balthasar’s depiction of the Trinity, thus, borrows heavily from Buber’s interpersonal philosophy. Indeed, Balthasar seems simply to transpose Buber’s anthropology into trinitarian theology. As we have seen, Balthasar too uses the language of I-Thou and of dialogue when working out his trinitarian vision. More importantly, however, Balthasar’s understanding of intratrinitarian distance is essentially Buberian. In light of Buber’s influence, passages like the following, quoted in chapter 1, take on greater clarity: “The Father’s act of surrender calls for its own area of freedom; the Son’s act, whereby he receives himself from and acknowledges his indebtedness to the Father, requires its own area; and the act whereby the Spirit proceeds, illuminating the most intimate love of Father and Son, testifying to it and fanning it into flame, demands its area of freedom. Something like infinite ‘duration’ and infinite ‘space’ must be attributed to the acts of reciprocal love so that the life of communio, of fellowship, can develop.”151 As with Buber’s anthropology, “distance” and “space” in Balthasar’s theology refer to the recognition of the otherness of the other and serve as the preconditions of a common life in spirit. Balthasar does not, however, find in Buber’s I-Thou something to be univocally applied to the Trinity “from below.” Rather, Balthasar takes seriously Buber’s own progression from philosophical anthropology to the philosophy of religion to theology. In Buber’s thought, the I-Thou relations of human beings point toward the human I’s relation with the Eternal Thou. The divine Shekinah dwells between the human I and Thou.152 The encounter with the human Thou is also a “real simile” of the encounter with the divine.153 The human other points toward the wholly other. Unlike the human Thou, however, God responds to the human I, not with discreet words, but with the whole of existence itself.154
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God is thus not simply a mysterious entity behind or above human dialogue but the “absolute Person” who “enters into direct relation with us.”155 This absolute Person creates us, moreover, to be persons.156 We are “willed for the life of communion” with our fellow men and women and God.157 Buber’s personal God never admits, however, of the possibility of objectification in religious institutions or dogma. Buber “denies that revelation fundamentally has a content.”158 This claim is, for him, the central division between Judaism and Christianity. Christians, in their recollection of the incarnation, set temporal-spatial limits on God’s relation with human beings. Judaism accepts the inability to limit God’s history to any particular occurrence. Rather, “Happening upon happening, situation upon situation, are enabled and empowered by the personal speech of God to demand of the human person that he take his stand and make his decision.”159 The distant God meets us moment by moment, and demands our acceptance of that very distance so that dialogue can ensue. T h e D o ct r i n e o f A n t e c e d e n c e a n d T r i n i ta r i a n M a x i m a l i s m
As Balthasar understands it, Buber’s position leaves human beings wondering why they exist, why God has called forth partners for dialogue with no apparent prospect for a higher unity, why God has fashioned a world at all. Buber’s thought leaves the human person asking “Job’s question to God.”160 The distance between God and humans leaves God inscrutable and humans in a painful bewilderment. Balthasar sees Buber’s turn toward kabbalistic mysticism as the means by which the tension of such distance and unity can be resolved. For Balthasar, this turn toward a technique of union is inadequate. Rather, what overcomes the tension is the revelation of the Trinity: At this point the Christian can only offer an answer in silence and recognize the mystery: the absolute God himself is the identity of the three persons in the one divine being, persons who proceeding one from another and being eternally other set forth the ultimate law of spirit, knowledge and love, but whose “relationship” is not
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something subsequent or in any sense secondary, but is just as primary and essential as the unity of their being and personality. That mystery alone can hope to still the question of the significance of our creation and of the human spirit. And then the fact that the world exists—and not God alone—becomes clear and endurable.161 It is here, then, at the open question of existence, that Balthasar sees the analogy “from below” of the I-Thou being fulfilled “katalogically,” from above. The unity in distance of the Father, Son, and Spirit, revealed in the incarnate Son, seals and elevates Buber’s anthropological intuition. To be a person is an event of communion, of dialogue, of primal distance from the other, but this is so because God has fashioned us in his trinitarian image. Barth and the Doctrine of Antecedence Though Balthasar claimed that the “Trinity . . . played no central role in shaping the overarching structure of ” Barth’s theology, Balthasar’s shift from anthropology to trinitarian theology, as well as his method of trinitarian discourse, reveals Barth’s influence.162 According to Barth, the purpose of God in creating the world and the human being is to give the “external basis” for covenant partnership. The human being, especially in the division of the sexes, is created “primed” for the covenant with God.163 Man thus has his nature in the I-Thou relationship with woman. According to Barth, it is in the human being’s status as partner—of other human beings and of God—that the divine image is found. This is because of God’s trinitarian nature. Barth writes, “In God’s own being and sphere there is a counterpart: a genuine but harmonious self-encounter and self- discovery; a free co-existence and co-operation; an open confrontation and reciprocity. Man is the repetition of this divine form of life; its copy and reflection. . . . Thus the tertium comparationis, the analogy between God and man, is simply the existence of the I and the Thou in confrontation. This is first constitutive for God, and then for man created by God. To remove it is tantamount to removing the divine from God as well as the human from man.”164 As Balthasar inserts in his own citation of the passage, the primary I-Thou of God in the Trinity has its clearest mirror in the secondary I-Thou of man and woman.165
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The Barthian influence is not limited to providing a precedent for Balthasar’s connection of human sexual differentiation to the Trinity. More importantly, Balthasar embraces the Barthian insight that the Trinity “establishes both God’s full sovereignty and prevents one from relating divine personhood to a created consciousness.”166 As Barth argues in Church Dogmatics, volume 4, God did not need the otherness of the world and man. In order not to be alone, single, enclosed within Himself, God did not need co- existence with the creature. He does not will and posit the creature necessarily, but in freedom, as the basic act of his grace. His whole relationship to what is outside Himself—its basis and history from first to last—rests on this fact. For everything that the creature seems to offer Him—its otherness, its being in antithesis to Himself and therefore His own existence in co-existence—He also has in Himself as God, as the original and essential determination of His being and life as God.167 Though Balthasar’s initial engagement with Barth preceded the publication of Church Dogmatics 4, Balthasar saw Barth’s connection of Trinity and sovereignty already in Church Dogmatics 1.1. Barth regularly repeats that God can be so for us in the economy, because he is so “antecedently in himself.”168 Balthasar summarizes Barth’s position: in his trinitarian revelation, God shows that he “is a Thou, but not in relation to any created Thou.”169 The doctrine of the immanent Trinity prevents the creature from imagining herself as necessary for God to be God. George Hunsinger has termed Barth’s principle “the doctrine of antecedence.” According to Hunsinger, for Barth “God was not essentially different in the economy than he was in himself to all eternity.”170 How God reveals himself in the economy points toward the reality of his eternal life, while not “adding” to that life. Balthasar adopts the same doctrine of antecedence. Often Balthasar’s trinitarian reasoning takes the form of “if God is revealed thus in his relation to the world, he must be thus in himself,” or “if God is to be able to do this, God must be like this in himself.” This reasoning is perhaps most clearly displayed throughout Theo-Drama. As he argues, “[God] does not become ‘love’ by having the world as his ‘thou’ and his ‘partner’: in himself, in lofty transcendence far above the world, he ‘is
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love’ already.”171 Rather, the drama of salvation reveals to us the more profound and eternal “drama” of the immanent Trinity.172 As with Barth, in Balthasar’s thought, the immanent Trinity serves as the antecedent ground of God’s self-revelation. Von Speyr and Trinitarian Maximalism We will return to the connection between the immanent Trinity and creation in the next two chapters. For now, it is important to note that the trinitarian methodology employed by Barth and Balthasar leads to maximalism in immanent trinitarian detail. This is especially so when we reflect on what is revealed in Christ. As Barth argues, “If, then, God is in Christ, if what the man Jesus does is God’s own work, this aspect of the self-emptying and self-humbling of Jesus Christ as an act of obedience cannot be alien to God.”173 He continues, We have not only not to deny but actually affirm and understand as essential to the being of God the offensive fact that there is in God Himself an above and below, a prius and a posterius, a superiority and a subordination. And our present concern is with what is apparently the most offensive fact of all, that there is a below, a posterius, a subordination, that it belongs to the inner life of God that there should take place within it obedience. We have to reckon with such an event even in the being and life of God Himself. It cannot be explained away either as an event in some higher or supreme creaturely sphere or as a mere appearance of God. Therefore, we have to state firmly that, far from preventing this possibility, His divine unity consists in the fact that in Himself He is both One who is obeyed and Another who obeys.174 Barth is clear that he is not here arguing that the one and another are separate gods with their own “independent” consciousness and activity. As Barth regularly argues, the trinitarian “persons” are not persons in the modern sense.175 “Modes of being” rule out tritheism but do not rule out reciprocity and mutuality between the trinitarian persons. This mutuality is implicit in Barth’s assertion above that there is obedience in the relationship of Father and Son. It is affirmed more clearly
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when Barth discusses the imago dei as described above. Indeed, this mutuality takes on the shape of conversation in the creation of the human being. As Barth notes, in Genesis 1, the language about God’s creating shifts in the creation of human beings: “When man was to be the subject, it had to be said that the creative basis of his existence was and is a history to and from a divine Other; a divine conversation and summons and a divine correspondence to it. A genuine counterpart in God Himself leading to unanimous decision is the secret prototype which is the basis of an obvious copy, a secret image and an obvious reflection in the co-existence of God and man, and also of the existence of man himself.”176 When humans are created, God no longer simply speaks the creature into existence but instead “pauses” and consults another. Though it could be argued that the language of Genesis 1 is simply a result of the mythic genre, the force of Barth’s insight depends on the realism of the language of divine consultation. If the human imago dei consists in its status as partner of God and partner of other human beings, then God cannot lack a partner in himself and remain God. Something like trinitarian conversation, something like trinitarian decision making ought to be said of God. It is noteworthy that Barth’s use of vivid detail in speaking about a trinitarian conversation is limited to God’s relationship with creation. He does not speculate on the interaction of Father, Son, and Spirit in the immanent Trinity itself. Such interaction can be inferred from his references to intratrinitarian mutuality, reciprocity, and obedience, but nowhere does he pursue that course. Earlier theologians, such as Anselm of Canterbury and Julian of Norwich, similarly suggest trinitarian conversation and decision making when considering the creation and redemption of the world.177 Perhaps the most extraordinary representative of this theological device is the thirteenth-century beguine Mechtild of Magdeburg. Unlike those other figures, Mechtild actually puts the trinitarian conversation into the form of multiple dialogues between Father, Son, and Spirit. The most remarkable feature of Mechtild’s vision is the manner in which she depicts the working out of the divine will. The trinitarian persons entreat one another while always agreeing. In Mechtild’s account: the Holy Spirit in his superabundance played for the Father, plucking the Holy Trinity, and said to him: “Lord, dear Father, I shall give you out of yourself generous advice. We no longer wish to
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go on thus, not bearing fruit. We shall have a created kingdom and you shall form angels in my image so that they are one spirit with me. For, dear Father, that alone is true joy, that in great love and infinite happiness one gather them in your sight.” The Father said: “You are one spirit with me. What you suggest and want is to my liking.”178 The same occurs after the fall. Then another council convened in the Holy Trinity. The eternal Father said: “I regret my work. I gave my Holy Trinity such an admirable bride that the highest angels were to be her servants. Indeed, if Lucifer had retained his honor, she would have been his goddess, for to her alone was given the bridal bed. She decided not to remain in my likeness. Now she is ugly and hideously deformed. Who might accept this filth?” But look! The eternal Son then knelt before his Father and said: “Dear Father, I shall be the one. If you will give me your blessing, I shall take bloody humanity upon myself. I shall anoint man’s wounds with the blood of my innocence and shall bind all man’s sores with the cloth of wretched disgrace until my end; and I shall, dearest Father, atone to you for human guilt by means of a human death.” Then the Holy Spirit said to the Father: “O almighty God, we shall form a splendid procession and shall go forth unchanged in great glory down from these heights. I was formerly, after all, Mary’s chamberlain.” The Father then bowed to the wills of them both with great love and said to the Holy Spirit: “You shall carry my light before my dear Son into all hearts that he shall move with my words. And, Son, you shall take up your cross. I shall traverse with you all your paths and I shall give you a pure virgin as your mother so that you might the more gloriously bear up under inglorious humanity.”179 In Mechtild’s vision, though there is never a time in which the Father, Son, and Spirit are at odds with one another, the unity of the divine will does not supersede the distinctions of the divine persons.
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Balthasar was quite familiar with this strain in trinitarian theology, and it may form a background to the vivid character of his own trini tarian claims regarding the “integration of the Persons’ ‘points of view’” in the acts of creation and redemption.180 Significantly, he wrote an introductory essay, “Mechtilds kirchlicher Auftrag,” for the modern German translation of Mechtild’s Flowing Light of the Godhead, and he references her a number of times throughout the Trilogy.181 Nevertheless, the most immediate influence, and the one openly acknowledged, on his “trini tarian maximalism” is Adrienne von Speyr. Given the relationship of Balthasar and von Speyr, it is difficult to determine the precise nature, degree, and direction of theological influence. Balthasar was not only the editor and publisher of her theological work, he was also her spiritual director and confessor, even taking down dictation in von Speyr’s ecstatic experiences. Balthasar claimed that “On the whole I received far more from her, theologically, than she from me,” and that “I strove to bring [my] way of looking at Christian revelation into conformity with hers.”182 Surprisingly, secondary interpreters of Balthasar have often dismissed his own insistence that his work cannot be fully understood apart from von Speyr’s.183 Kevin Mongrain, for instance, asserts that von Speyr is “completely dispensable for theologically understanding [Balthasar].”184 Mongrain’s presumption reflects his own interest in reading Balthasar’s theology as essentially an Irenaean articulation of de Lubac, whom Mongrain believes is the “general source” of Balthasar’s theology.185 There simply is little room for von Speyr in his argument. If, however, one shifts focus away from regulative figures to regulative theological themes in Balthasar’s thought, two things result. First, the specifics of Balthasar’s speculative immanent trinitarian theology emerge as far more important than Mongrain conceives.186 Second, von Speyr’s influence manifests itself almost ubiquitously, despite the lack of explicit reference. While von Speyr’s trinitarian mysticism as a whole serves as an important influence on Balthasar, I focus here on those notions of intratrinitarian prayer, worship, and adoration.187 Von Speyr’s claim is that the “world” of Christian prayer is God’s own life; as such, God’s own life includes something like what we call prayer, worship, adoration, and even faith, hope, and surprise. Von Speyr’s depiction of the Trinity centers on the personal encounter of Father and Son in the Spirit. “It is as though two figures stood
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facing one another and the entire space between them were filled, a love that leaves each person their being, their contours, their form and appearance.”188 In this “face to face” encounter, according to von Speyr, God sees his divinity in the other. In the case of the Father, he beholds his own divinity, not in himself or in an abstract essence, but in the Son, and the Son sees his divinity in the Father, and so on. Moreover, when seeing each other, the divine persons do not see the threefold repetition of the divine essence but the irreducibly distinct divine persons.189 The result of the recognition of the divine other is worship, adoration. Von Speyr writes, “And since God sees the other’s divine nature in truth, worship immediately flows from this recognition. Worship is the expression of God’s encounter with God in love. Only in worship can God encounter God, when he confronts himself as Father, Son and Spirit.”190 It is as if, for von Speyr and Balthasar following her, the divine persons stand in awe of one another. This awe, grounded in the distinction of the persons, leads von Speyr to speak of faith, hope, and surprise in the trinitarian life as well. The persons do not exhaustively “know” each other from the outset, for at root the Father is not the Son and neither is the Spirit. Love lets the other be other. According to von Speyr, “Despite his omniscience, God loves in such a way that he always lets himself be surpassed and surprised by the Beloved.”191 It is in this way that God is “ever greater than himself.”192 The mystery of intratrinitarian expectation and fulfillment, borne out of the distance between the persons, describes not a static alienation, separation, or ignorance but rather the open space for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to play their “everlasting game.”193 As we saw in the previous chapter, Balthasar echoes these very sentiments. Indeed, as is especially apparent in Theo-Drama 5, there is little to no gap between Balthasar and von Speyr on these claims. It is tempting to dismiss von Speyr’s speculations as less-than-serious theology, and their presence in Balthasar’s work as stemming from the “distorting” influence of a charismatic figure. I would suggest, in contrast, that what is at work in her and Balthasar’s joint claims is a consistent application of the doctrine of antecedence. God’s life and love cannot be thought of as less dynamic than human life and love. Therefore, Balthasar argues, for instance, “if human love is enlivened by the element of surprise, something analogous to it cannot be excluded from divine love.”194 So too the other elements of human love find their ground in the immanent
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Trinity. Von Speyr and Balthasar couple this doctrine of antecedence with a Christocentric realism that allows them to move from Christ to the immanent Trinity.195 As von Speyr explains, because Christ is the incarnate Word of the Father, “we can thus make inferences from the words to the speaker, from what is stated to what is described, from the Son to the Father, from transient time to enduring eternity, and from the created world to God’s heaven.”196 It is this Christocentric realism that suggests for von Speyr and Balthasar that the whole range of elements determining Christ’s relationship with the Father in the economy of salvation has some kind of basis in the immanent Trinity. In other words, because Christ relates to the Father, for example, in dialogue, prayer and worship, and because such prayer and worship cannot be “added” to Christ’s person by his human nature, dialogue, prayer and worship can thus be ascribed to the immanent Trinity. Christocentric realism also enables von Speyr and Balthasar to ascribe kenosis and “death” to the Trinity on the basis of Christ’s kenosis-unto-death.197 Von Speyr and Balthasar’s Christocentric realism is, however, strictly analogical. The statements made on the basis of Christ have to be “purified,” as it were, of improper connotations. Von Speyr’s statements about “death” in the Godhead provide an excellent example of her analogical predication: “Of course, one cannot say that death, as an end, is in any sense in God, since his eternal life is unending. But if death is understood to mean the sacrifice of life, then the original image of that sacrifice is in God as the gift of life flowing between Father and Son in the Spirit. For the Father gives his whole life to the Son, the Son gives it back to the Father, and the Spirit is the outflowing gift of life.”198 Human language can make a genuine reference to a reality within the Trinity, but the speaker must make effort to avoid univocal speech. In no sense, therefore, is the “death” in the Godhead like the closing of a finite human existence. Even more dissimilar is God’s trinitarian “dying” from the death of a sinner.199 It is this analogical sense that determines both von Speyr’s and Balthasar’s range of trinitarian claims. This chapter has shown the manner in which Balthasar’s trinitarian vision bears the mark of his wide-ranging engagements in the theological tradition and modern thought. Indeed, absent acknowledgment of these sources, many of Balthasar’s most characteristic claims cannot be adequately understood.
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The analysis of the chapter has also confirmed Balthasar’s most basic convictions and concerns about the immanent Trinity outlined in the previous chapter. First, Balthasar’s preferred sources reflect his conviction that the immanent Trinity is a dynamic, communal reality. Whether through his reliance on medieval, processional accounts of trinitarian personhood—Bulgakov’s kenoticism—or his forays into Buber’s personalism, for Balthasar the being of the Trinity is most adequately grasped according to the self-giving acts of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Second, Balthasar’s reading of Richard, Buber, Barth, and von Speyr emphasizes the reciprocity and distinction of the triune persons. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not three repetitions of the one essence. Rather, they are irre ducibly distinct. Otherness, difference, distance are therefore constitutive of the divine life. As one secondary interpreter has phrased it, Balthasar’s is a theology of alterity.200 And as a result of this divine alterity, the Father, Son, and Spirit face each other in divine wonder and adoration. God, beholding his divinity in an other, offers divine worship. This chapter has also foreshadowed how Balthasar views the God- world relationship, as well as the manner in which immanent trinitarian theology affects our understanding of that relationship. This foreshadowing is clear in Balthasar’s methodological critique of his medieval sources and his concern regarding Bulgakov’s sophiology. In the case of the former, Balthasar rejects the possibility that the immanent Trinity can be deduced on the basis of a transcendental being. With the latter, Balthasar opposes an ontological scheme that risks making creation a necessary outworking of the divine life. In each instance, God’s trinitarian aseity has not been fully recognized. For Balthasar, following Barth and von Speyr, because God is triune, God creates in utter freedom. Creation is in no way necessary for God. And because there is no necessary ontological connection between God and world (from God’s standpoint), there can be no necessary reasons that allow the human mind to deduce the Trinity on the basis of God’s essential attributes or the existence of the world. The Trinity is glimpsed only in its free self-revelation in Christ. I turn now to Balthasar’s trinitarian theology of creation, redemption, and deification.
C h a pt e r 3
Unless You Become Like This Child Deification as Trinitarian Adoption
Such is the first purpose of creation: our being children in the only Son, that the Father and the children might reciprocally bless one another. —Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child
In the last two chapters, we examined and analyzed Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology in terms of the method of its construction, its “internal” patterns and consistency, as well as its reliance on the thought of others. The overarching claim was that Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology serves to manifest the truth that “God is love in himself.” This statement, in turn, required the use of contrary propositions about the Trinity as a whole, the divine persons, and the various ways in which their relations of love can be understood. This work led Balthasar to search out and synthesize those lines of thought that emphasized the personal distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit; the transitive dynamism and drama of love; the paradox of hierarchy and equality; and the kenotic character of trinitarian self-giving, which entails the active glorification, adoration, prayer, and worship among the triune persons. The result was a dizzying juxtaposition of paradoxical claims. Nevertheless, within this 85
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apparent chaos, Balthasar consistently takes care to rule out any suggestion that God is somehow dependent on the world, by applying “the doctrine of antecedence,” in which the manner of God’s revelation in the world reveals how God is antecedently in himself. However, Balthasar’s trinitarian vision is not limited to such “immanent” considerations. As Balthasar asserts, “The doctrine of the Trinity has a profoundly soteriological significance.”1 If this is the case, what precisely is the soteriological significance of this trinitarian theology? How is this significance reflected in the account of salvation? And what soteri ological “event” connects immanent trinitarian claims with the work of God ad extra? In this chapter, I contend that the primary soteriological significance of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian claims is to provide the conceptual framework for an account of deification—that is, the ins and outs of his immanent trinitarian theology not only describe the antecedent life of God, who chooses to create, save, and elevate his creatures; they also describe the cause and the goal of these acts. We are made, saved, and elevated by the triune God in order to participate in that very triune life.2 The claims of immanent trinitarian theology thus affect, indeed make possible, specific claims within the doctrine of creation, the interpretation of the work of redemption, and the character of deification. Summed up as our adoption in Christ, trinitarian deification is the telos of God’s entire work ad extra, the fulfillment of creation, and the aim of redemption.3 And it is here, in our adoption as sons and daughters of God, understood by Balthasar as our full participation in the Son’s eternal, trinitarian relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, that the immanent life of the Trinity becomes our own. This reading of Balthasar contrasts with the tendency to reduce the soteriological character of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology to its connection with the cross. Though this connection is strong, and Balthasar informs his readers of it habitually, it does not represent the whole, or even the primary element, of his trinitarian soteriology. Among other things, such a reduction cannot account for the peculiar logic in his move from the “data” of the economy to the description of the immanent Trinity.4 On the one hand, Balthasar is clear that only the economy, and in particular the cross, reveals the Trinity for us. On the other hand, he is also eager to distinguish carefully the immanent Trinity from its economic manifestation. Balthasar explains this relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity
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most clearly in Theo-Drama IV: “It is not simply that the full doctrine of the Trinity can be unfolded only on the basis of a theology of the Cross (and here and in what follows, the ‘Cross’ is always used in the Pauline- Johannine sense—which is also that of the Synoptics—that is, including the Resurrection) and is inseparable from it: rather, we must see the doctrine of the Trinity as the ever-present, inner presupposition of the doctrine of the Cross.”5 Elsewhere, Balthasar explains, “While, according to Christian faith, the economic Trinity assuredly appears as the interpretation of the immanent Trinity, it may not be identified with it, for the latter grounds and supports the former. Otherwise the immanent, eternal Trinity would threaten to dissolve into the economic; in other words, God would be swallowed up in the world process—a necessary stage, in this view, if he is to fully realize himself.”6 Methodologically, Balthasar’s cross-Trinity nexus establishes a kind of hermeneutical circle from which one revolves from the revelation of the Trinity in the cross to its immanent trinitarian presupposition in the Godhead, which in turn leads us back to a better interpretation of the data of the economy. Central to Balthasar’s understanding of this hermeneutical relationship, then, is the ontological priority of the immanent Trinity over God’s relations with creation, including the work of salvation, as well as the epistemological priority of the economic over the immanent. One cannot leap into the hidden depths of God outside of his revelation, but neither can one recognize revelation for what it is without the intuition of these depths. This relationship of the immanent and the economic applies for two reasons. First, this relationship is simply logically consistent: because of the specific character of the immanent Trinity, whereby God does not need to have any relation with creation in order to be God, the only way in which we can come to know of God’s triune life is through his self- revealing acts—most especially, the paschal mystery of the Incarnate Word. The economy is the only means to know the eternal God, who remains transcendentally free with respect to his self-manifestation. We shall investigate this epistemological issue as it relates to divine incomprehensibility and trinitarian discourse in the next chapter. Second, this relationship also follows from Balthasar’s presupposition that the redemption offered by the cross is not the end of God’s work in the world but a component of trinitarian adoption. As Balthasar explains in the context of the Thomist-Scotist debate about the “cause” of the Incarnation, “Christ came as Redeemer of men, but he did not merely remit their guilt; he
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came to offer the fullness of all divine goods—summed up as our ‘adoption as sons’—which the Father gives (automatically, as it were) when surrendering his only Son for our sake. Since he has done this, ‘will he not also give us all things with him?’ (Rom 8:32), far beyond the grace given to the first human beings?”7 The world comes from and returns to the triune life. The epistemological, or hermeneutical, movement from cross to immanent Trinity mirrors the ontological movement of creatures from their estrangement from God in sin to the most intimate participation in his life. Reducing Balthasar to a “crucio-centric” thinker without acknowledging this wider horizon of deification misses the lion’s share of his theological outlook. D e i f i c at i o n a s T r i n i ta r i a n A d o pt i o n
“Deification,” theosis, or “divinization” has become a popular theme in contemporary theology.8 Meaning in a general sense “to become (like) God,” deification in Christian theology describes the goal and process by which human beings become partakers in the divine nature. This theme is present from the outset of Christian theological thought, as it has precedent in scripture. Genesis speaks of men and women being made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26–27), and the serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve is that eating the fruit of the tree will make them like gods (Gen 3:5). In the New Testament, Jesus enjoins his followers to “be perfect” as the Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). In John ( Jn 10:34–35), when “the Jews” accuse Christ of “making himself God,” Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, “You are gods,” in his defense. Second Corinthians speaks of our transformation into the image of the Lord, from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). The first chapter of the Second Letter of Peter argues, “[God’s] divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:3–4). Though recent scholarship on the topic of deification has expanded far beyond its initial confines of Eastern Christian theology, Balthasar is not generally recognized as offering a theology of deification.9 This absence is not without reason, for, at least in terms of vocabulary, Balthasar only
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occasionally uses the term or those of similar meaning, such as theosis or divinization. There are important exceptions to this absence, but it is accurate to say that the term itself does not play a prominent role in his theology.10 Why this is the case is not entirely clear. It may stem from Balthasar’s desire to avoid the suggestion that the creature merges with the Godhead, or what Balthasar at times calls “essential deification.”11 Alternatively, it may stem from the influence of Palamite theology, and in particular the distinction it makes between the divine essence and the divine energies, on the topic.12 Balthasar was aware of Palamite theology and argued that its basic distinction fails to provide a clear connection between God’s self-communication in his energies and the economic Trinity.13 On the one hand, Palamas seems only to echo traditional trinitarian theology, stemming from Gregory Nazianzen, while on the other, the Trinity risks becoming nothing more than the “face of God turned toward the world,” behind which the unitary essence hides.14 For Balthasar, then, the essence/ energies distinction in fact fails to fully account for the truth of theosis, the creatures’ real participation in the Godhead.15 Granting the general absence of the term, we can nevertheless see clear indications that Balthasar possesses and privileges some kind of theology of deification. This is evident in the ubiquity with which Balthasar uses the language of participation, sharing, or partaking in the divine life. Grace itself, according to Balthasar, is “God’s movement to us. It is heaven projected into our world. It is a participation in the divine nature.”16 Within the trilogy, this grace takes the inflection of the various transcendentals. Participation in divine glory is one of two central facets of his theological aesthetics, which include not only a “theory of vision” treating divine revelation and our perception of it but also a “theory of rapture,” which includes the “elevation of man to participate in [God’s] glory.” Indeed, as he explains, the two aspects of his theological aesthetics are inseparable, for “in theology, there are no ‘bare facts’ which, in the name of an alleged objectivity of detachment, disinterestedness and impartiality, one could establish like other worldly facts, without oneself being (both objectively and subjectively) gripped so as to participate in the divine nature (participatio divinae naturae). For the object with which we are concerned is man’s participation in God which, from God’s perspective, is actualized as ‘revelation’ (culminating in Christ’s Godmanhood) and which, from man’s perspective, is actualized as ‘faith’ (culminating in participation
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in Christ’s Godmanhood).”17 As Balthasar’s theological aesthetics gives way to an account of the action and drama of God’s work, so too does Balthasar’s account of participation shift from sight and rapture to freedom and act. The theo-drama involves God’s acts “on” and “for” the human being, but this action includes as a part of it “the involvement” of the human and the participation of finite freedom in God’s infinite freedom. This participation or involvement in the divine action does not cease with the close of the economy but extends even into the eschaton, as creatures participate in the doxology of the triune persons. His theo-logic, too, culminates in our “direct participation in the divine essence,” which enables us to behold the triune God without comprehending what we behold.18 Outside the trilogy, the theme of our participation in the Godhead appears already in his works on Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus.19 The prose poem Heart of the World concludes with a meditation on our place within the flow and flux of triune exchange, when God becomes all in all.20 These interests and similar claims span Balthasar’s career and we find them again at its end, in one of his final works, Unless You Become Like This Child. If, therefore, it is accurate to claim that Balthasar is a theologian of deification or theosis, what precisely does he mean by “participation in the divine nature”? It is my contention that Balthasar means nothing less than the participation of the creature in the trinitarian life of God. Even more specifically, deification occurs by our being begotten with, or adoption in, the Son as sons and daughters of the Father. “Grace,” Balthasar says, “has not imparted some general, vague, ‘supernatural elevation’ to us, but a participation in the personal existence of the eternal Word of God. . . . The grace which the Father gives us is christoform: it assimilates us to the Son without violating us as human beings—for the Son himself became a human being.”21 Put otherwise, deification is our sharing in the Son’s eternal relation to the Father by the Holy Spirit, and this sharing relates to both the foundation and goal of the world. This understanding of deification follows from Balthasar’s understanding of the relationship between the divine persons and the divine essence. Since the divine essence is not a “fourth thing” among the Father, Son, and Spirit, but “identical” to the trinitarian processions and relations (the very processions and relations that constitute the persons), our deification, our participation in divinity must occur in a sharing in the divine processions themselves through the working of the divine persons in the economy of salvation.
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Balthasar found already in the New Testament, particularly in the Johannine and Pauline literature, a witness to this election for trini tarian adoption. In Galatians, Paul explains our adoption in the Son as the goal of redemption (Gal 4:4), the proof of which is that “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Gal 4:5–6). Paul takes up this theme again in Romans. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a sprit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:14–17). It is the “revelation of the children of God,” for which creation itself “awaits with eager expectation” (8:19). Further, “For those [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (8:29). Perhaps the para digmatic text of predestination for adoption is in the opening chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundations of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved” (Eph 1:3–5). Balthasar interprets these passages and others from the Johannine corpus ( Jn 1:12; 3:3; 1 Jn 3:2) thus, God the Father chooses and calls us in the Son (in a grace of being born together with him) to be sons and fellow heirs, by ‘‘sending into our hearts” the Spirit of himself and of his Son (Gal 4:6). Since this is decided upon and aimed at “before the foundations of the world,” and creation is an episode in this event (with the Cross and the exaltation of the Son, and our consequent justification and sanctification, as later episodes), we are not outmaneuvered and taken by surprise in all of this, but have our home from the outset in the inmost depth of God.22
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Adoption in Christ refers not simply to a metaphorical adoption, a vague closeness to God made possible in Christ. Rather, reading these through the trinitarian theology outlined in the previous chapters, adoption as children of God means that we come to participate in the trinitarian processions themselves, to be begotten by the Father with the Son, the Divine Child. “When the immanent Trinity becomes the economic Trinity,” what occurs is “a communication to the creature of the relationality of the triune life which affects the whole of being within the Godhead.”23 We are “given access to God to the point of being born with the Son from the Father and of participation in the Spirit of the Father and the Son.”24 By framing deification as a participation in the trinitarian processions, Balthasar deliberately parts ways with the doctrine of theosis present in neo-Thomism.25 Though it does not use the term, this latter tradition understood theosis in two modes. First, in the life of the believer on earth, the Trinity is present by its “indwelling” in the believer’s heart. Second, theosis also relates to the Thomistic doctrine of the beatific vision, which entails a participation in the divine essence as a necessary condition of seeing the divine essence. Balthasar attempts, in some instances, to embrace elements of these positions.26 However, as Balthasar makes clear, “it is insufficient . . . to portray the life of grace in terms of a special ‘presence’ and ‘indwelling’ of the Persons of the Son and the Spirit (sent by the Father) in the souls of the recipients of grace; the purpose of this indwelling is to enable men to participate in the relations between the Divine Persons; and relations are precisely what these Persons are, wholly and entirely.”27 Noting once again Balthasar’s identification of the persons with relations understood as acts of procession, I suggest he offers a similar critique of “what theology, all too abruptly, calls ‘visio beatifica.’ ”28 Here too, the dominant language adopted by Catholic theology fails to present the dynamism of partaking of the divine nature. In contrast to the perceived poverty of modern neo-scholasticism, Balthasar turns to the “mystical” theological tradition to aid in his own constructive proposal. While these links were present already in the fathers, especially in the Alexandrians, Balthasar saw in the “Rhineland- Flemish mystics,” Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and Ruusbroec, connections between the Son’s eternal birth from the Father and our adoption in Jesus Christ.29 For Eckhart, “God performs all his works so that we may be the only begotten Son.”30 Balthasar disavows the pantheistic impulse in
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Eckhart but finds in his immediate followers more helpful formulations.31 For Tauler, we “flow” in the divine life with the Son.32 In Suso, the trinitarian distinctions provide him the basic insight that “man can be both a creature and united with God at the same time.”33 Ruusbroec serves as the capstone of the whole Rhineland-Flemish impulse Balthasar wishes to highlight. Balthasar summarizes Ruusbroec’s thought as follows: “If the creature is to be able to participate in [the eternal event of the Godhead], it can only be through the grace of God and through discipleship of the Son. [Ruusbroec] is scornful of the attempts of free spirits to reach this participation in the divine by sitting still and practicing self-absorption. The creature never becomes God substantially, but in the Son’s Incarnation, in his pro nobis, in his Cross and dereliction, in his Eucharist, the Incarnate One enfolds in his embrace, by the Holy Spirit, everything that is striving toward the Father.”34 Perhaps the most remarkable influence on Balthasar on this topic is Elizabeth of the Trinity. More clearly than the medieval theologians, Elizabeth shows the inner connection between the Pauline witness and trinitarian deification. Balthasar explains Elizabeth’s doctrine thus: [Elizabeth’s mysticism] takes seriously the foundation of all creation in Christ the incarnate God, since from the beginning the creature was created into a framework provided by the identity of one person of two extremes: the glorified divine nature and the crucified, rejected human nature. Elizabeth learned about this “mystery” from Paul, about the Son as firstborn of all creatures, placing all others in his shadow. The creature not only has its origin in God’s eternity (according to Scriptures on both Christology and predestination) but also finds in eternity—in God’s free will from eternity and for all eternity—a participation in the eternal inner dynamic of the triune God, in the eternal procession of the Persons.35 T h e T r i n i t y a n d C r e at i o n
A crucial question arises from deification thus understood: if God aims at the incorporation of creation into the divine life “before the foundation of the world,” what can be said of the character of the relationship of God
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and creation as such? Does creation have some ultimate rationale? What makes it possible? Trinity, Creation, and Divine Freedom According to Balthasar, the answers to these questions all depend on trini tarian doctrine, properly understood. With respect to the first question, the revelation of the trinitarian God in Christ alone gives us an a dequate, if also mysterious, explanation for the existence of a contingent world. In effect, early Christian debates over the relationship of Jesus and the Spirit to God brought about a revolution in the conceptualization of the relationship of God and the world, for, Balthasar argues, “Nicaea indicated that in his ‘personal relationships,’ God is eternal, absolute love, something that could never have been thought of metaphysically. And it is precisely this revelation of God that alone explains the possibility of the world, viz. as a ‘creation out of love’: no system of emanations could ever have explained the world thus.”36 The revelation of the immanent Trinity thus not only reveals something of God’s inner life, it also sheds light on the whole of created reality. The Trinity shows that the world is the product of infinite love, while “the religious philosophies of h umanity,” whether “western” or “eastern,” cannot find room for the world except as shadows or even falls from divine unity. Even Judaism and Islam “are incapable of giving a satisfactory answer to the question of why Yahweh, why Allah, created the world of which he did not need in order to be God. Only the fact is affirmed in the two religions, not the why.”37 However, even if the Trinity reveals that God is love and therefore reveals that the world is not an accident of emanation or a tragic fall from the Divine Absolute, the second question remains: does God’s essence of love somehow necessitate creation? Balthasar answers in a firm negative and on trinitarian grounds. The specifics of his answer can be seen most clearly in contrast with the positions of Jürgen Moltmann and Sergius Bulgakov, who argue in distinct ways that the essence of triune love requires God to create. Moltmann and Bulgakov on Creation and Divine Freedom As in Balthasar’s thought, the epistemological point of departure of Moltmann’s trinitarian theology is the personal history of the Son, which begins
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in the trinitarian life and culminates on the cross. The Trinity exists, for Moltmann, as a community of equal persons in a manner loosely analo gous to human society. He is thus explicitly advocating a social trinitarianism as opposed to trinitarian theologies that focus on a single substance (Thomas) or an absolute subject (Barth).38 Moltmann is not denying, however, the common essence of Father, Son, and Spirit; in fact, such a common essence is a central component of his theology. Between the Father and the Son exists a bond of love and knowledge, which excludes those who do not possess the divine nature.39 As he argues, it is a love of “like for like.” This construal of divine love as a love of like for like serves as the premise by which Moltmann moves from the Trinity to a necessary creation. Insofar as God is trinitarian love, his love remains “necessary,” and thereby lacks the fullness of love, which requires a free response. In order to fulfill this demand of love, God must create, for “like is not enough for like,” and God cannot be “without the one who is his beloved [creation].”40 This beloved in turn must be unlike God in order for it to be truly other, and therefore “enough” for divine love. In sum, God’s act of creation must be at once utterly free (or else creation would be identical to the divine essence) and a necessity (or else God would not be love). God must freely create in order to be the God who is love. As we will see below, Moltmann’s trinitarian account of creation also affects his account of the economy—once again, in contrast to Balthasar’s. The paradox or contradiction of a free necessity, or necessary-but- free act of creation also appears in Bulgakov’s thought, though in a subtler and less insistent form. Whereas Moltmann’s position flows from a desire to read the cross as both ontologically and epistemologically determinative for the doctrine of God, Bulgakov’s position emerges initially out of a desire to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of metaphysical dualism and monism. Describing this argument in detail would distract from the matter at hand. What can be said is that for Bulgakov, the world has no ground of being except in the divine life but is distinct from God by virtue of “creaturely nothingness,” which gives to creaturely being its potency.41 Thus, there is a contingency to creation in which it passes from potential to actual. This contingency is entirely lacking in God. God is self-sufficient and eternally self-actualizing in the Trinity. And because of this trinitarian self-sufficiency, Bulgakov argues, God “does not need
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the world for Himself.”42 Creation is therefore not a “hypostatic or natu ral necessity” for his “self-completion.”43 God’s triune personal life and nature are “exhaustive” of his self-definition.44 Creation is a work of God out of nothing but his freedom.45 Nevertheless, the absence of either “hypostatic” or natural necessity to create does not preclude the necessity for God to create “in some other sense.”46 Indeed, this act of creating too is “just as necessary a self- determination of God as His being, though in another way. The notion . . . that God, by virtue of this ‘freedom’ of His, could have refrained from creating the world must be rejected as not appropriate to His essence. If God created the world, this means that He could not have refrained from creating it, although the Creator’s act belongs to the fullness of God’s life and this act contains no external compulsion that would contradict divine freedom.”47 Like Moltmann, Bulgakov too explains that when we speak of God, the apparent dichotomy between freedom and necessity is inapplicable. “In Him, all is equally necessary and equally free.”48 This is because the nature of love itself is both entirely free and entirely necessary.49 And since the nature of love is to expand, God needs the world “for the world itself.”50 Bulgakov explains this strange turn of phrase thus: “God-Love needs the creation of the world in order to love, no longer only in His own life, but also outside Himself, in creation. In the insatiability of His love, which is divinely satiated in Him Himself, in His own life, God goes out of Himself toward creation, in order to love, outside Himself, not-Himself. This extradivine being is precisely the world, or creation.”51 Since God is love and love is expansive, God, in a sense, needs to create in order for God to love “beyond the confines” of divinity, which would otherwise remain a limit.52 God cannot not create, lest he be confined to his own absoluteness. Balthasar on Creation and Divine Freedom Despite their considerable differences, both Moltmann’s and Bulgakov’s accounts of creation adopt similar conclusions: that God must freely create the world because God’s love cannot be contained or confined to the love of the triune persons alone. In either case, what has occurred for the theology of deification is to make it a necessary consummation not of the creature but of God himself. Balthasar is clear about this danger in Moltmann’s thought.53 It is possible that the already mentioned “sophiological
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excess” of Bulgakov presents a similar risk. Whatever the case, it is clear that Balthasar wishes to firmly ground creation in the absolute freedom of God without any equivocation. And this is a specific soteriological significance of trinitarian theology. Balthasar says, with Thomas, that “the knowledge of the Divine Persons was necessary . . . for thinking correctly about the creation of the universe. For by saying that God made all things by his Word, the error of those who assert that God produced the universe out of necessity of nature is ruled out. Moreover, by the fact that we affirm in him a procession of love, it is shown that God did not produce creatures out of some need, or for the sake of any cause outside of himself, but for the sake of the love of his own goodness.”54 For Balthasar, it is only if God is recognized as absolute “Love in Himself,” as Trinity, that he is truly free to create, save, and elevate the creature into his life. The eternal Trinity is the possibility of creation, salvation, and deification. The principal means by which Balthasar establishes this freedom is by eliminating any hint of “limits” or “confines” of trinitarian love through his claims about infinite otherness and difference within the Trinity. The self-surrender of the Father brings forth his “infinite other,” the Son.55 The Son, not creation, is the Father’s principal beloved. As we saw in chapter 1, even as the Word and Image of the Father, the Son is not a reproduction but expresses the Father’s personal uniqueness in his own personal uniqueness. Because the persons are irreducibly distinct from one another— so much so that the very term person functions only analogously—and the essence is not a “fourth thing” hovering behind, above, or “within” the persons, the one divine essence cannot be thought of as somehow “overruling” the trinitarian personal distinctions. In this respect, from a Balthasarian perspective, it is erroneous to claim that the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit is love of “like for like.” It is rather the infinite, because divine, difference of the Father and Son that constitutes divine love in the Spirit. And, because of the irreducibility of their divine, personal difference, the world adds nothing otherwise lacking in the infinite love in the Godhead. Unlike Moltmann and Bulgakov, therefore, Balthasar clearly locates the absence of a dichotomy between freedom and necessity strictly in the immanent Trinity. It is in the trinitarian life itself, and not in the relation of God to creatures, that “freedom and necessity coincide,” or, that
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is, “beyond freedom and necessity.”56 The Father’s act of begetting is “not determined in advance by any ‘nature’ in the eternal Father which would ‘make it necessary’ for him to beget the eternal Son.”57 Taking this line of thought even further, Balthasar asserts, He [God] does not even have a ‘nature,’ if by that we mean a prior ontological foundation on which his freedom would stand as a merely secondary attribute. His freedom penetrates down to the ultimate ground of his being, he is from himself (a se), eternally and enduringly who he wills to be. Of course, he is not the prisoner of his freedom, as if he were incapable of willing or being anything but his own divine essence. Together with his free self-affirmation, he has an equally original power to possess his substance without restricting it to himself alone. He can thus give the whole of it away to the Son, who says to his eternal Father, ‘all that is yours is mine.’ Because the Son, who receives the gift of the divine essence, also possesses its power of self-surrender, he can cause the procession of the Spirit in union with the Father. The Spirit himself, moreover, personifies God’s omnipotence: his freedom not only to “blow where he wills” but also to be self-gift.58 These acts of divine self-giving are thus rightly named “groundless” and “gratuitous” insofar as they have no higher rationale than the love of God—the very love that they are. This is Balthasar’s “why-less” “logic of love” in contrast to Moltmann and Bulgakov’s “law of love.”59 This logic knows nothing higher than the fact of the trinitarian processions. As a result, “nothing in the world [nor the world as a whole] is traceable back to an ultimate necessity.”60 We can understand Balthasar’s claims as a thoroughgoing application of the Barthian doctrine of antecedence introduced in the last chapter. If the God-world relationship is one of gratuitous love, the claims about gratuity, otherness, and difference in the immanent Trinity make possible the assertion that “God does not become ‘love’ by having the world as his ‘thou.’”61 From the perspective of the theology of creation, immanent trini tarian propositions function as a kind of negative rule, preventing us from making claims of necessity regarding God’s acts of and within creation.
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Trinitarian Otherness and the Created Other The very same trinitarian thinking that precludes positing creation as somehow necessary to fulfill divine love also justifies God’s act of creation. In Balthasar’s hands, again following von Speyr, the doctrine of antecedence also has a “positive” import, establishing a principle of trinitarian archetypicity. Put concretely, the claim that there is infinite, personal difference in the Godhead rules out a necessary creation, but it also provides the world with a “positive” foundation in the Godhead. Drawing on both Thomas and Bonaventure, Balthasar asserts that the trini tarian procession of the Son is the “cause” and necessary precondition of the world’s procession. In Balthasar’s reasoning, this argument is sound because without God’s antecedent trinitarian otherness, the existence of the contingent and finite world would stand in contradiction to the absolute. Instead, because of the Trinity, the absolute is not numerically one incompatible with the contingent many. Rather the unity of the absolute is the unity of triune love, and love entails difference. Therefore, God can remain absolute, and the contingent many is not an absurdity. Because of the Trinity, Balthasar can claim, “the fact that ‘the Other’ exists is absolutely good,” both principally in the Trinity and derivatively in creation.62 Indeed, creation, as distinct from God, analogically mirrors the personal distinctions of the trinitarian persons. Balthasar writes, Whether we are aware of it or not, creation lives by the mystery of this reciprocity in God. The very fact that creation exists is a manifestation of this mystery: creation is “the other” over and against God. It is good that there is this “other,” for it is eternally good that there is “another” in God; and this “other” does not separate but, in the Spirit, unites the two and fills them with life. So we need not lament the fact that we are not God, that we are eternally separated from him by the chasm of our creaturely nature; for because we are “other” than he, we can be his image.63 The otherness of the created world, like the otherness within the Godhead, makes possible a union of love.
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Among those concepts associated with intratrinitarian difference that are most important for his theology of creation is the notion of distance or space. As we saw in chapters 1 and 2, trinitarian “distance” suggests the qualitative notions of “letting be” and “making space.” When turning to the question of creation, the infinite, inner-trinitarian “distance” between Father and Son makes possible “surprise” within divine love; it also is the location, or space, of creation. This means that the reason the distinct creaturely being, including its finite freedom, can exist at all is because there is a “space” of infinite freedom in the Godhead.64 This infinite freedom constituted by the “trinitarian ‘letting be’ of the hypostatic acts,” is the “nothing-out-of-which” the world comes.65 In some respects, this infinite trinitarian space of freedom is the Balthasarian analogue of Bulgakov’s Sophia: the divine reality that makes nondivine being possible without positing strict dualism. Finite being, and therefore finite freedom, exists through participation in the infinite trinitarian being-f reedom.66 But how is it that infinite freedom is such that it does not overwhelm the finite? Interestingly, Balthasar at times rejects or critiques the use of the term kenosis to describe God’s granting of free space to creatures.67 Elsewhere, he uses the term seemingly without protest.68 What is at work in this verbal inconsistency is a consistent rejection of the idea that kenosis involves merely a “negative” restriction of or retreat from freedom. Rather, kenosis understood in light of the immanent trinitarian life is the “positive form of infinite love,” which is free to let the other be.69 Put otherwise, in the Trinity, the kenotic love of the Father that gives rise to the Son and Spirit and their own self-giving does not indicate a limitation of divine power but rather its abundance. The Father is free to generate the Son, to offer him the space to be distinct from him, and likewise the two together are free to breathe forth the Spirit of their unity. There are “areas of infinite freedom” in the t riune life.70 Love has its power in being given away. It is in this light that creation comes, from nothing other than God’s absolute and omnipotent freedom-in-love, a freedom so great it lets the other be. God’s triune freedom thus gives space for creation to exercise its own finite freedom. In the event of our salvation and communion with the divine life, our finite freedom is not overruled but elevated. The mode of God’s love for creation—the very love that in its omni potence creates and sustains the world—is therefore “latent.” God “adopts
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a kind of incognito,” withdrawing in order to keep open the paths of creaturely freedom, sustaining them all the while.71 It is through this latency that the intratrinitarian distance within the Godhead “can contain and embrace all the other distances that are possible within the world of finitude, including the distance of sin.”72 These created distances, moreover, serve to manifest the distance of the triune persons.73 Despite Balthasar’s care in avoiding the suggestion of a necessary creation through immanent trinitarian means, the question arises whether or not Balthasar has fallen into the trap that Moltmann and Bulgakov sought to avoid: the introduction of arbitrariness in the Godhead. Creation might not be a fall from divine unity, or part of the process of the divine unfolding, but amid the gratuity and exuberance of the life of God, it seems like an unjustifiable accident. However, it is precisely in his adopting the spatial metaphor of trini tarian distance that Balthasar can, finally, offer a “motive” for God’s act. Insofar as creation comes to be within the “space” of infinite, trinitarian freedom, and this freedom is characterized as the ever-new, ever-living exchange of love and mutual glorification, creation comes to be as an additional intradivine gift—beyond the Godhead itself—offered in the round of the Father, Son, and Spirit’s mutual doxology. “The world,” says Balthasar, can be thought of as the gift of the Father (who is both Begetter and Creator) to the Son, since the Father wishes to sum up all things in heaven and earth in the Son, as head (Eph 1:10); thus the Son takes this gift—just as he takes the gift of Godhead—as an opportunity to thank and glorify the Father. Having brought the world to its fulfillment, he will lay the entire kingdom at his feet, so that God (the Father) may be all in all (I Cor 15:24, 28); as for the Spirit, he is given the world by both: he is eternally the reciprocal glorification of Father and Son, but now he can implement it in and through the creation ( Jn 16:13–15).74 By grounding the creation of a nondivine world in the gratuitous acts of intratrinitarian glorification, Balthasar has adapted the classical adage that God created the world for the sake of his glory in such a manner that it rules out the hint of divine egocentrism. Being triune, being constituted by the self-giving acts of the Father, Son, and Spirit, means that when God
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creates for the sake of his glory, it is the glory of the divine other that is the goal. Far from being arbitrary and unrelated to God’s inner life, creation is that unnecessary but “fitting” addition to the exuberance of divine love. As we will see below, the trinitarian, doxological ground of creation has important consequences for Balthasar’s understanding of trinitarian deification. A final point bears fleshing out: it is not simply the case that the world fits within a neutral “space” amid the divine persons—an object passively passed around as a gift. Rather, the “space” of creation is specifically “in” the person of the Son. Drawing on a long tradition of Christian theology, beginning already in the Pauline corpus and stretching through patristic, medieval, and modern theology, Balthasar sees a special relationship between creation and the Son: “The whole creation is formed in, through and for the Son.”75 He is not only the Word and expression of the Father, he is also the archetype, the idea, the ground, and the goal of creation.76 Or, using Thomas’s language, the procession of the Son is the cause or principium of the procession of creatures.77 Balthasar’s insistence on the kinship of the Son and creatures carries important consequences. It means that the analogy of being between God and the world is not simply trinitarian but specifically Christological. The “otherness” of which the world is an analogy is not simply any trinitarian otherness but specifically the Son’s difference from the Father. “There is an analogy,” explains Balthasar, “between the Son’s being begotten and the creatures’ being freely and sovereignly created by God.”78 The world’s essential otherness from God mirrors or participates in the Son’s personal otherness from the Father. This mirroring of otherness takes privileged form in the God-human distinction, the basis of the human “image and likeness” with God.79 Interpreting one instance of this theologoumenon in Ruusbroec’s thought, Balthasar writes, “God the Father, the fecund ground of divinity, utters a single Word in which he expresses himself and all things. He generates this Word out of himself; in the One thus generated he sees and contemplates the Son’s personal Otherness, and in him he sees and contemplates the creaturely otherness of the world of creation.”80 Going further, as Balthasar explains, this trinitarian otherness of the Son makes possible his assumption of creaturely otherness, without thereby eliminating the creator/creature distinction.81 The analogy of filial and creaturely otherness forms a kind of bridge for the inseparable events of Incarnation and deification. Once this bridge is crossed, Christ
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becomes the concrete analogia entis.82 As we will see in the next chapter, this divine assumption of creaturely difference is also the means by which God expresses his triune essence, and thereby also the basis of our theological expression. Our kinship with the Son is, furthermore, not simply a formal characteristic of the God-world relationship but rather undergirds the predestination or election of creatures in the person of the Son. Balthasar explains, “In the Son, the Father contemplates us from before all time, and is well pleased. It is in the Son that the Father can predestine us and choose us to be his children, fellow children with the one, eternal Child, who, from the beginning of the world, intervenes as sponsor for his alienated creatures.”83 That the Son intervenes for his creatures “from the beginning of the world,” indicates already the destiny not only of creatures but also of the Son himself. The “Son” and idea in whom the world is created is never simply the Logos asarkos but rather always already the concrete, human Christ.84 The world’s telos is to be incorporated into this cosmic person. T r i n i ta r i a n A d o pt i o n a n d
t h e Ec o n o m y o f S a lvat i o n
The foregoing account of how important Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology is for his theology of creation provides the architectural foundations for what follows. As we saw, Balthasar’s specific claims about the immanent Trinity provide the means to avoid the pitfall of positing a necessary creation—a pitfall that Moltmann and Bulgakov apparently do not avoid. The Trinity shows that God is utterly free in his relationships with his creatures. It also suggests, for Balthasar, the manner in which God is, is such that his freedom is not solely the negative indication that the world cannot claim to be necessary. It is also the basis, at the very root of creaturely being, of its “positive” relation to God. That God includes within himself a divine other means that the otherness of creation (and within creation) is not a sign of its fallenness but of its kinship with God, most especially its kinship with the person of the Son. In what follows, this suggested kinship of the world with the Son is fully realized in the economic work of the triune God, who aims at
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nothing less than the adoption of the world into the Son. As Balthasar asserts, “Everything concerning the form of the redemption . . . belongs to the road leading to this goal, and is a means to the end. And only because Christ is above all the eternal Son can he achieve the deed of salvation and, through it, make us sons.”85 This work encompasses that of both the Son and the Spirit. As the finite world comes to be in the person of the Son, the entire triune God, but especially the Son in whose image the world is, accepts responsibility for all of the possibilities finite freedom possesses, including the possibility of the rejection of God. This is how and why the lamb is slain from the very foundations of the world (Rev 13:8). The economy and the sacrifice of Christ, though fully realized only in time, are already foreshadowed in the moment of creation, because creation is destined for adoption in Jesus. But this work also includes the Spirit, who is not only present in the work of the Incarnate Son but who draws the world across time and space into the Incarnate Lord. It is he who fills us with the Spirit of sonship and enables us to actively share in divine love itself. As we will see, the immanent trinitarian claims described in chapters 1 and 2 reappear in new form throughout Balthasar’s theology of the economy. There is truly a trinitarian substructure to Balthasar’s theology of salvation. The Work of the Son Procession, Mission, and Kenosis One of the central claims Balthasar makes about the work of the Son in the world is that his mission “is the economic form of his eternal procession.”86 Thomas makes the same point, but in Balthasar it takes on greater importance. The claim is not simply that there is a fitting correspondence between the Son’s coming forth from the Father in eternity and his going forth into the world in time and space. Rather, it indicates the personal unity of the Son in both his divine and human natures and, with this unity, the assumption of his humanity into his eternal procession.87 As we saw in chapter 1, the Son’s procession from the Father entails two countervailing elements. First, it occurs by virtue of the Father’s generative kenosis. The act by which the Father “pours out” the divine essence, the act by which the Father is, is also the act by which the Son comes to be,
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the act by which the Son is. Second, as a distinct divine person, the Son too engages in his own act of self-surrender, obedience, and thanksgiving for the Father’s letting him come into being. These two points have important consequences for Balthasar’s understanding of the work of the economic Trinity. First, it is the Son’s place within the intratrinitarian kenosis of the Father that allows Balthasar to see the kenosis of the Son in the economy as the act and expression of the Father’s love. Christ “does not exposit himself in his humanity. Rather, he exposits the Father in the Holy Spirit.”88 If from one perspective the divine persons just are their act of procession, and the Son therefore just is the Father’s loving surrender of love, and his mission is a mode of this procession, then his mission is the Father’s surrender of love to the world. The point echoes the Johannine claim that it is through God the Father’s sending of the Son into the world (1 Jn 4:9) as expiation of our sins (1 Jn 4:10) that God reveals his love and what love itself is.89 The act of sending the Son into the world and unto the cross is the revelation of God the Father’s love.90 But this interpretation of the mission of the Son as the love of the Father for the world meets the countervailing movement of the Son’s love for the Father. It is not the case that Jesus is simply a passive instrument of the Father in the economy; rather, he is one who “turns to the Father” and loves in response. The Son is not therefore merely the outpouring of the Father’s love for the world but the one who pours himself out for the Father’s glory and the sake of the world. The Son is at work in the world on behalf of the Father, and “His obedient working is just as original and divine as the Father’s.”91 Throughout the economy of salvation, therefore, the “filial attitude” of the Son, the “attitude” he possesses by virtue of who he is in eternity, the attitude of obedience, thanksgiving, adoration, and even “joy,” never alters. He freely assumes “the estranged world into himself in order to be in that world the same person he always was in God.”92 When we meet the man Jesus, therefore, and witness his relationship with God the Father, we are not witnessing a merely human relationship with God. Rather, we are witnessing in this man a translation of divine sonship into the world of creatures. We are hearing the trinitarian dialogue in “human vocable.”93 In Jesus’s human prayer, we are coming to know that “God himself can pray to God.”94
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Incarnation and Created Nature What occurs, therefore, in the Son’s Incarnation is not an alteration of his person and his personal relationship with the Father. His filiation, and even “filial attitude” remain the same, only they are now under a new mode. What changes is created nature, which has come to participate in the trinitarian relations in and through the person of the Son. This change in created being would not be possible without the hypostatic union of created being with divinity in the Son.95 Echoing the Greek Fathers in particular, Balthasar argues that the ascent of the creature to deification can occur only with the descent of the Son.96 The Son must himself become human if humans are to become children of God. The question is, however, how one can articulate this change in created nature without undermining its real distinction from God. Balthasar’s notion of distance—both in the immanent Trinity and “between” God and world—is especially important. As we saw above, when analyzing Balthasar’s theology of creation, and later the kinship of Son and world, Balthasar puts the trinitarian Son and the world into an analogous relation of difference. There is an analogy between the Son’s difference from the Father and the world’s difference from God. The movement of the Son into the world makes use of and “concretizes” that analogy. The difference between God and the world is taken up by the Son to reveal the difference of Father and Son in the unity of the divine nature. “Distance” evokes an even more precise quality to the Son’s Incarnation. As we saw above, distance is that character of difference that gives the space of freedom to the other, the needed precondition for any true unity. When the Son becomes flesh, therefore, he not only adopts the difference of God and creature to show the inner-trinitarian difference, he adopts the “distance” of the creature from God as well. And by doing so, he uses this creaturely distance from God to show the infinite, divine distance of the Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.97 And through this act, the creature’s infinite distance from God “is transfigured into the infinite distance between the Divine Persons in the identity of the divine nature. We are already permitted to see enough of this intradivine distance in Jesus’ relationship to his Father; in the transfigu ration just mentioned we will participate in it more intimately still.”98 By taking up and transfiguring the creature’s distance from God in the
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intratrinitarian distance, the Son deifies the creature and its freedom “from within”—not dissolving it into divinity but bringing it into the sphere of the eternal, triune life.99 Cross and Hell Creaturely distance, however, is no neutral state but includes the distance traversed in human sin. It is because of this infernal distance that the work of adoption also takes the form of redemption. In addition, it is for this reason that the means of manifesting the triune distance of Father and Son is not only a vague “distance of the creature from God” but is the specific distance of “God-abandonment” on the cross and the descent into hell. The Son’s assumption of human nature cannot work around the sinful state of that nature. The “No” of creaturely sin can be defeated only by the “Yes” of trinitarian love “from within.”100 The divine Son must take up his place within the rebellious world for the rebellious world. Thus, it is precisely by stepping into the fallen world that the Son reveals the trinitarian persons, and he does so paradigmatically on the cross. As Balthasar insists, the cross and the immanent Trinity are mutually illuminating. He explains, In virtue of this distinction [of the trinitarian persons], which entails relations within the Trinity and hence facilitates that “laying up” [of Son’s divine prerogatives], the Cross can become the “revelation of the innermost being of God.” It reveals both the distinction of the Persons (clearest in the dereliction) and the unity of their Being, which becomes visible in the unity of the plan of redemption. Only a God-man, through his distinction-in-relation vis-à-vis the Father, can expiate and banish that alienation from God that characterizes the world’s sin, both in totality for all and in totality for each individual.101 But if the dereliction of the Son of God on the cross is the paradigmatic instance of the immanent Trinity’s revelation in the economy, has Balthasar not come dangerously close to asserting that God suffers, or that suffering and death take place within the eternal Godhead? Or, as Alyssa Pitstick argues, if “the economic Trinity, especially in the Descent event, is the expression and revelation of the inner life of the immanent
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Trinity,” then “the real divine suffering of the economic Trinity is the divine joy of the immanent Trinity.”102 In some measure, Balthasar seems to confirm this argument. As we saw in the previous chapter, Balthasar readily embraced Adrienne von Speyr’s claims that there is a kind of distance, “death” and “sacrifice,” that occurs among the persons of the Godhead.103 However, as he attempts to explain, by making such claims he is “only establishing negative limits, so to speak,” against the “extremes” of, on the one hand, an impassive deity, and, on the other, process theology, such as Hegel’s or Moltmann’s.104 He explains, “If Jesus can be forsaken by the Father, the conditions for this ‘forsaking’ must lie within the Trinity, in the absolute distance/distinction between the Hypostasis who surrenders the Godhead and the Hypostasis who receives it. And while the distance/distinction between these two is eternally confirmed and maintained (‘kept open’) by the Hypostasis who proceeds from them, it is transcended in the Godhead that is the absolute gift they have in common.”105 As a “negative limit,” these claims do not to give us “inside” information about how God is, or what the triune persons “feel,” irrespective of the relation to creation. Rather, they are indications that, having come forth, and destined to be “within” the triune life, the redemption of the world occurs nowhere else but within this very life.106 As we are destined for trinitarian childhood, so must the means of our salvation reflect this destiny. The event of salvation has a “trinitarian substructure.”107 The cross and descent of the Son into Hell show this substructure not only because it suggests the distinction of the divine persons but also because it does so through the paradox of trinitarian power-in- powerlessness. As we saw in chapter 1, the kenotic character of Balthasar’s trinitarian vision, and his use of countervailing propositions, led him to conclude that divine omnipotence was justifiably articulated as powerlessness. This paradox is most obvious in the persons of the Son and Spirit from the series of propositions related to their processions. The Son is only God because he has received divinity from the Father, and so too the Spirit is only God because he receives himself from the Father and the Son. Their share in divine omnipotence occurs in their mode of passivity, recep tivity, powerlessness. But, as Balthasar insists, this power-in-powerlessness also applies, though in a different way, to the Father. He awaits “permission” from the equi-divine Son and Spirit to “let them be”; without this
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antecedent consent, he, the source of the Godhead, would not be. In sum, “the triune love of God has power only in the form of surrender (and in the vulnerability and powerlessness that is part of the essence of that surrender).”108 The drama of salvation manifests this immanent trinitarian paradox, for the Son in the economy does not appear as a conqueror but as the Man of Sorrows. The Son’s obedience, his taking up of the form of a slave, “confirms” his omnipotence because it shows that he even has the power of self-emptying.109 His divinity is proven by his humility. His power and powerlessness, his death and life, even his joy and sorrow, all mysteriously coincide in the economy, because antecedently the inner-trinitarian life is already defined by complete and eternal self-giving love. “Highest power shows itself in the highest self-surrender,” both immanently and economi cally.110 The economy is not the external sign, or “metaphor,” of this love but its symbol, participating in and making present that which it symbolizes. Or better, the economy is this eternal love in the medium of a fallen creation and history.111 As Balthasar puts it, “The omnipotent powerlessness of God’s love shines forth in the mystery of darkness and alienation between God and the sin-bearing Son.”112 This is why the contemplation of the Trinity cannot be divorced from the contemplation of the life and paschal mystery of Christ.113 Contrary to the critique of Alyssa Pitstick, then, Balthasar is not offering an equivalence of the suffering of the economic with the bliss of the immanent Trinity.114 At the minimum, Balthasar is arguing the former paradoxically reveals the latter but cannot be ontologically identified with it. One cannot simply equate immanent bliss with economic suffering for two reasons. First, as has been shown, for Balthasar the triune God is love in himself, and because of this his relationship with creation is a function of his freedom in all aspects. Balthasar is clear that there is nothing tragic in triune Love itself.115 Any and all tragedy within history “is played out” in the “all-embracing reality” of eternal love and blessedness.116 As a result, there can be no real question of the Son univocally suffering like us. His suffering is always a sign of his divine assent to undergo suffering and, therefore, a sign of his freedom, power, and even glory. Second, and deeper, because the immanent Trinity cannot be thought of apart from the mutual, divine acts of self-surrendering love, the acts the triune persons both do and are; and because the divine self-surrender is identical to divine
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glory, power, for example, its revelation on the cross is not a moment in a dialectic, sublimated in the next moment by the “true glory” of the resurrection. Because “the glory of God is the glory of his eternal love,” the cross, because it is an act of that love, is the manifestation of God’s glory, power, and love in the fallen world.117 The real “being dead” of the Incarnate Son is therefore not a negation of glory sub contrario but its utmost expression—even as it seemingly “hides” in death. It is for this consistency of divine glory that the paradox of power in powerlessness, of glory in dereliction, “timelessly” persists in the resurrected Lord, who bears the wounds of his Crucifixion still.118 And it persists because it reflects, in the medium of created nature, the paradoxes of the triune life itself. Without this paradoxical power-in-powerlessness, a paradox Pitstick implicitly denies, one is left with a confusing picture of the work on the cross and descent. Pitstick’s paschal mystery plays out in fragmented shifts of Christ’s state, moving from the dereliction of the cross into a glorious living descent and resurrection. The reality of Jesus’s being dead aside, one wonders how Pitstick determines the content and appearance of divine glory. It seems crudely limited to a univocal identification with worldly power and might. For Pitstick, God and Christ are only glorious when dominating, at the minimum, the sinner or the devil. Balthasar’s position is more subtle, recognizing that God “is above the need to dominate, let alone use violence.”119 And this power-in-powerlessness is confirmed by virtue of God’s use of cross and death to accomplish the salvation of the world and his self-revelation. But Balthasar’s paradox of trinitarian “omnipotent powerlessness” as archetype of Christ’s economic work also allows Balthasar to avoid the danger of Moltmann’s view of the cross, despite the often similar- sounding claims the two make. As we saw above, Moltmann envisioned the God-world relationship as freely necessary from the divine perspective. In order to be divine love, God must freely love an other. This introduces passibility into the Godhead. God’s positing of a wholly other in creation entails God’s self-limitation and therefore his suffering.120 In order to have free love, God must humiliate himself through self- limitation and suffer the freedom of the creature. As Moltmann stresses, “Freedom can only be made possible by suffering love.”121 As Moltmann perceives it, this suffering love, which makes freedom possible, reaches its zenith on the cross. Here, as nowhere else, the
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willingness of God to suffer with and for his creatures is most manifest. However, this act entails the self-differentiation of God and his standing against himself as he identifies with his creatures. The Son, who is sent into the world, so thoroughly embraces the creature’s freedom from God that God (the Father) inflicts suffering on the Son.122 In the Crucifixion, the Son is delivered up, abandoned, and, we may say, killed by the Father “in his love for forsaken man.”123 The abandonment of the Son by the Father does not leave the Father unaffected, however. The event that transpires on the cross is transposed into the Trinity so that, the Father suffers the death of the Son. So the pain of the Father corresponds to the death of the Son. And when in this descent into hell the Son loses the Father, then in this judgment the Father also loses the Son. Here the innermost life of the Trinity is at stake. Here the communicating love of the Father turns into infinite pain over the sacrifice of the Son. Here the responding love of the Son becomes infinite suffering over his repulsion and rejection by the Father. What happens on Golgotha reaches into the innermost depths of the Godhead, putting its impress on the trinitarian life in eternity.124 As an inner-trinitarian event, the historical cross can be said to act “retroactively” on the divine life.125 On the cross then, God acts on himself and undergoes the corresponding “passions” within himself. Moltmann goes so far as to say God “overcomes himself ” and “passes judgment on himself.” Ultimately, the cross “reveals a change in God, a stasis within the Godhead: ‘God is other.’”126 The event of the cross, as an event “within” the Trinity, is the event by which God fully realizes his identity as love. From Balthasar’s perspective, such a position fails to give due justice to the truth of trinitarian theology. The Father, Son, and Spirit, being utterly personally distinct, in such manner that the very word person applies only analogously between them, are in themselves wholly love. The economy, including the cross, does not act on God, somehow changing the makeup of the divine life. When “the immanent Trinity [is] understood to be that eternal, absolute self-surrender whereby God is seen to be, in himself, absolute love,” then God’s surrender of self in the economy can be real without suggesting God needs and changes with his economic activity.127
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The changing statuses of the Son in his economic work—from the status exinationis to the status exaltationis—are real events through which he passes, but what persists is his character as the Son, manifested in his obedience. Balthasar writes, “Within the Son’s absolute, loving obedience (which persists in the realm of the immanent Trinity), according to which he walks into an utter forsakenness that surpasses the sinner’s isolation, we find the most radical change from eternal death to eternal life, from the absolute night of the Spirit to the Spirit’s absolute light, from total alienation and remoteness to an unimaginable closeness. That is why John sees both as one and the same ‘glory’ and ‘exaltation.’”128 The pairing of immutable loving obedience and mutable states suggests a paradox: in the economy, the Son “truly and not just in seeming becomes that which as God he already and always is.”129 We can rephrase Balthasar and say that through the economy and in particular the paschal mystery, the Incarnate Son is making his created nature share in that which as God he already is: the Son of the Father. It is the humanity of Christ, assumed by the divine Son, that progressively conforms to his divine personhood in the work of the economy. The Son accomplishes this conformity of created nature to his trinitarian personhood through the expulsion of that which does not and cannot conform to divine love: sin. For Balthasar, “The Son’s obedience even in death, even in hell, is his perfect identity in all contradiction. By the same token, it is also the vanquishing of the ultimate contradiction [of sin] through this identity, which infiltrates it, and all else, from below. Christologically speaking, this obedience is nothing other than the expression of the Son’s trinitarian love.”130 On the Cross, the trinitarian Son shoulders the burden of the sins of the world, taking them mysteriously into his relationship with the Father. He experiences the “wrath” of the Father toward sin. After his death, in his descent into hell, the Son travels the utmost distance this sin takes the creature from God. But through it all, the Son’s ever-greater, trinitarian obedience shines forth. Furthermore, because of this obedience, because of the consistency of his trinitarian personhood, his state of dereliction and abandonment are at the very same time his victories. He explores hell in his descent.131 This descent is just as much the “opposite of Hell” as Hell itself or “its ultimate heightening.”132 He expels the “foreign element” of sin from the world.133 In his solitary descent, therefore, Christ beholds not a populated hell, but
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the “pure substantiality of Hell which is sin in itself.”134 This is a vision of “triumph,” according to Balthasar, for Christ sees sin “abstracted” from human beings as a result of his victory.135 As von Speyr says, “The Father shows him conquered sin.”136 Those things that from an anthropological perspective seem utterly contrary realities, blend and merge in the Trinity’s work. The Son’s trini tarian “death” defeats the death of sin. Divine love proves that it “has more staying power and can hold its breath longer than the counterpowers can.”137 The “infinite distances” of the Trinity prove greater than the distance of sin from God. The cross is raised at the furthest border of hell.138 Sin and evil finally appear in their contradictoriness as “eternally” self- consuming, forever burning as an “unquenchable fire,” as a burning trash heap.139 Through the paschal mystery, the triune God reveals sin and evil are “finite and must come to an end in the love that envelops it.”140 The entire economy of salvation is one great proof of the glory of God’s omnipotent, powerless love. God proves “that this love can still be itself, unchanged in its true nature, and yet be in what is foreign to it, in the darkness of nonlove, in the hate of the world.”141 It is as if God “wins a wager with himself ” in doing the seemingly impossible.142 As Balthasar has Christ declare in Heart of the World: “I have filled the world from heaven down to hell, and every knee must bend before me, and all tongues must confess me. Now I am all in all, and this is why the death which poured me out is my victory. My descent, my vertiginous collapse, my going under (under myself ) and into everything that was foreign and contrary to God—down into the underworld: this was the ascent of this world into me, into God. My victory.”143 The greatest defeat, the execution of God in the world, is his great victory. The cross and death of Christ wrest creation from sin and death, opening the whole of creation to triune love. The Resurrection and Ascension As the triumph of divine love over its opposite, the cross and the descent of Christ inwardly lead to the resurrection. However difficult it is to imagine, there is a fundamental continuity between Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter. The resurrection is, for Balthasar, the proof of the omnipotence of this divine powerlessness, not the negation of powerlessness in newfound power. As Balthasar explains, “The resurrection of Christ and of all who are saved by him can be seen as the inner
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consequence of his experience on Holy Saturday. There is no ‘renascent’ after the descent; the way of love ‘to the end’ ( Jn 13:1) is itself love’s self- glorification.”144 Put otherwise, the resurrection of Christ, his return to the Father, “is nothing other than the transparency of this modality of alienation in what it already is in truth: the eternal intimacy of divine love.”145 Though Christ undergoes his Passion, he dies, and he is raised to new life, he remains one and the same Christ. Balthasar explains, “The change that takes place at Easter is as abrupt as it is organic. The extreme distance between Father and Son, which is endured as a result of the Son’s taking on of sin, changes into the most profound intimacy; but it always was such because the distance was a work of trinitarian, loving obedience, and in this obedience Father and Son were always one in a reciprocal relationship in the Spirit.”146 The intimacy-in-distance of the trinitarian Father and Son in their common Spirit remains the substructure for the change that occurs in the distance of creation from God. No longer is “distance” marked by the estrangement of creature from God in sin but instead by the positive distance of love. The earthly work of the Son concludes in his ascension, which in some measure summarizes the economic work in its entirety. For in his ascension the Son carries human nature with him into heaven. “But,” as Albert the Great argued, and Balthasar notes, “there is no place beyond all the heavens, unless we speak metaphorically of the heaven of the Trinity as a ‘place.’ ”147 The Son’s return to the Father “draws” his human nature, and through it creation as a whole, into the infinite “space” of the Trinity. Or, put otherwise, as the world cannot exist except within the triune sphere, what has now changed is the mode of the world’s existence.148 It is now deified. Now the world fits within the “all-embracing frame” of trinitarian distance, finding for itself endless space for freedom.149 The Work of the Holy Spirit The Bond of Love The previous section focused on the work of the Son in the economy to the virtual neglect of the Spirit. However, as Balthasar avers, the economy is the work of both of the Father’s “two hands.”150 This “dyadic” operation is present in both the earthly life and paschal mystery of the Incarnate Son, as well as after the Son’s ascension.
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That the economy is the work of both Son and Spirit is crucial for understanding Balthasar’s notion of a “trinitarian inversion” occurring in the economy of salvation. This “inversion” refers to the manner in which the immanent trinitarian taxis of Father, Son, and Spirit seems to alter in the economy. In the immanent Trinity, the Spirit is distinctly third, proceeding from Father and Son. However, in economy we find that the Father sends the Spirit to bring about the Incarnation at the Annunciation to Mary. The Spirit drives Christ into the desert. The Spirit seems to proceed from the Father to the Son. According to John Milbank this “inversion” is especially damaging for trinitarian theology. He explains: The supersession of polytheism and the unity of the Trinitarian action ad extra is forgotten when von Balthasar speaks of the Spirit in the economic realm (treated as if ontically “other” to the immanent Trinity) as deciding skittishly to jump into a middle position in order to transmit the hypostasis of the Logos to Jesus’ humanity and later to “remind” the Father and the Son of the shadow of possible rupture that has always hovered over them. For von Balthasar, this mythicized Spirit then intimates that now the rupture and paternal rejection must be cashed out if Father and Son wish dialectically to sustain their eternal love and yet redeem mankind.151 Even a cursory glance at Balthasar’s own presentation of the concept, however, reveals that Milbank significantly misrepresents or misunderstands Balthasar. In the first place, and perhaps most importantly, Balthasar in no way entertains that the Spirit somehow “jumps” into a new position when the immanent Trinity enters the world, much less that the immanent and economic Trinity are ontically “other.” As we saw in chapters 1 and 2, the Spirit’s “position” in the trinitarian life is not simply the third and final member of a series. While the taxis of Father, Son, and Spirit holds for Balthasar, this taxis serves only to indicate the hierarchical order of processions, not the “character” of the triune life “after” the processions. Because the Son is not only the objective Word of the Father, but also the Son who “turns back” to the Father in his own act of groundless love and thanksgiving, the Spirit’s procession occurs decidedly between the two.
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Indeed, it is the Spirit as the bond and fruit of their love that mysteriously makes the two loves of Father and Son into one, divine love. This middle position of the Spirit does not alter when the Son becomes incarnate. The Spirit remains the bond and fruit of the Father and Son’s mutual love. What has changed, however, is that the Son is now in the state of his kenosis. The Spirit, as bond of their love, ties the human Jesus in his obedience to his Father’s will.152 It is the unifying character of the Spirit that unites obedience with command. Balthasar explains this dual quality of the Spirit’s economic work with reference to immanent trinitarian countervailing propositions: “The Spirit has a twofold face from all eternity: he is breathed forth from the one love of Father and Son as the expression of their united freedom—he is, as it were, the objective form of their subjectivity; but, at the same time, he is the objective witness to their difference-in-unity or unity-in-difference.”153 Contrary to Milbank’s implication that Balthasar has abandoned the filioque in the inversion, Balthasar is clear that the inversion does not “interrupt” the joint spiration of Father and Son.154 The inversion, in fact, “is the economic form of the filioque.”155 Just as the Son’s trinitarian relation to the Father does not itself change when he becomes human, neither does the Spirit’s trinitarian relation to Father and Son change. What alone changes in both instances, for they are two aspects of the one work of the Trinity ad extra, is the mode of the Son’s relation to the Father and therefore the Spirit. The consistency in Balthasar’s trinitarian substructure gives lie to Milbank’s other claim—that during the paschal mystery the Spirit is some entity driving a dialectic from the separation of Father and Son on the cross to their reunification on Easter. Once again, the decisive issue is the Son’s changing states through the economy—states that are changed not because his trinitarian position alters but because the world he is saving alters.156 The immanent trinitarian relations thus prove consistent through the economic “inversion.” The changes we witness center on the changing states of the Incarnate Son, who becomes through the economy who he always was. In his status exinanitionis, the Son does not for a time “experience” the Spirit as the subjective bond of his love with the Father. Rather, he knows the Spirit as objectively mediating the Father’s will, at times so strongly as to be a driving rule.157 But, when his own economic work is complete with the cross and descent, when sin and death have been
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swallowed up by trinitarian love, the subjective awareness of the Spirit as bond of love returns. “The exalted Lord is given manifest power, even in his humanity, to breathe forth the Spirit” into the church and world.158 The Spirit of Sonship The breathing forth of the Spirit by the exalted Christ is, once again, not simply another event in the economy after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ but the proper outcome of these events. This is because of the personal characteristics of the Spirit in the Trinity. The Spirit is the bond and fruit of the Father and Son’s love. If, through his life and paschal mystery, Christ has progressively expelled sin from the world, then the outpouring of the Spirit on the cross and Pentecost is the fullest reali zation of Christ’s work. In this outpouring, the bond of love of the Father and Son—the Spirit—becomes the new milieu in which the world has its being. The Spirit’s outpouring is the world’s entry “into God’s inner- space,” the “sphere” of divine love itself.159 In the Spirit we are given “free, immediate, and fearless access” to God as his children.160 But it is not the case that this dwelling in the Spirit, the sphere of triune love, is a simple figure of speech or a vague indication of some change in our being otherwise unknown to us. Rather, the Spirit is the Spirit of Divine Sonship. The Spirit eternally comes forth not only from the Father but also from the Son. As a result, the Spirit is eternally stamped, imprinted, by the Son’s own procession. This association of the Spirit with the Son has two important consequences for Balthasar’s theology of deification. First, the Pentecostal, pneumatological climax of salvation history leads back to the Son. The Spirit gains an “inner experience” of the Son’s economic work.161 Therefore, when the Spirit is poured out in the world, the Spirit works to conform us to the Incarnate Son. The Spirit teaches us the imitation of Christ, the man who lived in humble obedience, who took up the cross, not an ahistorical, fleshless ideal. Our own deification does not occur through an ascent away from history and the flesh but within them.162 But going further, Balthasar argues that our conformity to the Divine Son entails that just as we “share in the Son’s generation from the Father,” we also thereby share in “their mutual breathing of the Spirit.”163 As noted above, the notion that our adoption in the Son went so far as to include our participation in his eternal birth has biblical roots and was developed
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especially by Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and Ruusbroec. The latter claim that we also breathe the Spirit with the Son is also not unique to Balthasar. It appears most prominently in the thought of John of the Cross. Commenting on the 39th stanza of The Spiritual Canticle, This breathing of air is an ability which the soul states God will give her there in the communication of the Holy Spirit. By his divine breath-like spiration, the Holy Spirit elevates the soul sublimely and informs her and makes her capable of breathing in God the same spiration of love that the Father breathes in the Son and the Son in the Father, which is the Holy Spirit Himself. . . . One should not think it impossible that the soul be capable of so sublime an activity as this breathing in God through participation as God breathes in her. For, granted that God favors her by union with the Most Blessed Trinity, in which she becomes deiform and God through participation, how could it be incredible that she also understand, know, and love—or better that this be done in her—in the Trinity, together with it, as does the Trinity itself! Yet God accomplishes this in the soul through communication and participation.164 God “loves us with supreme humility and esteem and makes us his equal” through deification.165 Elizabeth of the Trinity, too, is familiar with this theme. For John and Elizabeth, and Balthasar following them, this breathing of the Spirit is a condition of our full transformation into a deified life. Balthasar envisions deification as a realization of an impossible equality of love between the fully deified creature and God. According to Balthasar, When the Father gives the world the gift of the Son whom he has begotten, when the Holy Spirit, spirated by the Son as he is by the Father, is bequeathed to the world, God’s ultimate secret is given away—as an abiding mystery. . . . God’s triunity is not some penultimate principle behind which lies an abyssal “essence” inaccessible to every creature. Rather, in generating the Son and in giving him up to the world, the Father has “given everything” (Rom 8:32) without remainder, so that he has nothing left to offer when all is refused. . . . It is, of course, correct that in the immanent Trinity the Father gives the Son everything except his paternity.
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Nevertheless, this does not imply that the Father holds back something for himself. It is equally false to say that the triune God holds back something for himself when he lets creatures “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) without their becoming themselves the divine giver. We thus encounter one last time the axiom of the positivity of the other.166 Because God holds nothing of himself back in his self-offer, our participation in the Trinity is so profound that we love God with his own love. We breathe with his own divine breath. What this means is that, when we participate in the trinitarian processions, when we are conformed to the divine Son, and breathe forth the Spirit, we actively cooperate with the very acts of the Trinity. As Balthasar argues, summarizing Elizabeth’s teaching, “Man is not an alien spectator watching events as they unfold before him; rather, through the lumen gloriae that inhabits him and that is itself divine, he is able to participate in the eternal event of eternal processions, that is, in self-occurring love itself.”167 That triune adoption includes cooperation between the deified creature and God is an especially important element of Balthasar’s the ology. For what occurs in deification is not the diminishment of human will or freedom but rather its elevation by grace. The deified creature finds in the Godhead not constricting hegemony but the wide horizons of trinitarian freedom.168 Even as Balthasar stresses the passivity or receptivity of the creature to God, we are never mere recipients. Through the gift given, we also earn a place of honor in the Son.169 The Eucharistic Body If, as has been said, deification occurs in history and in the flesh, and includes our cooperation, the question is where our deification as trini tarian sons and daughters can be glimpsed, at least according to Balthasar’s thought. To answer this question adequately would require a thoroughgoing account of his theology of sanctity and mission, which would lead us far from our immediate concerns here. Nevertheless, we can identify at least the “objective” inner heart of trinitarian childhood, a heart that determines the wide variety of “subjective” forms of Christian sanctity: the Eucharist.
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The Eucharist is the heart of deified existence, because it is both the object by which God’s life is given over to be ours and the act by which we participate in God’s own reciprocal worship. With respect to the former “object dimension of the sacrament, Balthasar, drawing on the patristic theological tradition of both East and West, sees the Eucharist as the bodily means by which we are grafted on to Christ’s person and share in his divinity.170 The Eucharist is thus “the goal” of the Son’s work, the final form that his gift of self takes.171 Importantly, this final form perpetuates the fragmenting, the breaking of his body initiated in the Passion. Once again, the consistency of the Incarnate Son’s self-giving, the consistency of his trinitarian personhood, is paramount. In this respect, the Eucharist is intimately tied to Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension. As noted above, Balthasar rejects the idea that these moments of triumph are contrary to the moment of defeat on the cross. Rather, because the Son remains himself, and persists in his self- giving, the resurrected and ascended Christ does not cease giving himself for the life of the world. It simply takes on a new form in the Eucharist: “When the divine Child’s freedom to love moves him to take a servants’ form, he always remains faithful to this ‘descent.’ His final gesture, then, is not to reverse his downward movement through an ‘ascending’ reabsorption of his self-gift. Rather, he remains eucharistically surrendered, and this surrender is itself the form of his glory.”172 The multiplication of his presence, the breaking and rebreaking of his body, the pouring out of his blood again and again, only confirms his trinitarian status. Balthasar writes, This man [Christ] is fanned into countless sparks by the fire of God (non confractus, non divisus), he is in a state of such abandonment to God that God can distribute him indefinitely, inexhaustibly through time and space. For it is God the Father who distributes to us his eucharistic Son, and it is God the Spirit who again and again brings about the unutterable multiplication of the unique into that which is universal. But, above all, he who was once given, slain on the Cross, poured out, pierced, will never again take back his gift, his gift of himself.173 The Father, Son, and Spirit continue the work of the economy in the Eucharist, or, better, make the work of the economy present in the
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Eucharist.174 It is “this Body through which the life of the Trinity comes down from heaven and penetrates the earth.”175 By the Holy Spirit, Christ is “liquefied” in order to “invade” the world.176 This invasion of the world by the divine-human, eucharistic Body of Christ is also the incorporation of the world into that very same body. “The Eucharist,” explains Balthasar, “is the marvelous means of freeing Christ’s historical humanity from the confines of space and time, of multiplying mysteriously its presence without forfeiting its unity and, since it is given to each Christian as his indispensable nourishment ( Jn 6:53–58), of incorporating all into the body of Christ, making them in Christ one body through which courses the divine life.”177 The Balthasarian conception of the deified as occupying “space” within the Trinity takes on flesh in the Eucharist. Figuratively, Balthasar finds this capacious space of the Trinity in Christ’s open wounds. More concretely, it is through “the infinite distribution of his flesh and shedding of his blood that men can share in the substantial infinitude of his Divine Person.”178 Though broken and distributed, this food actually gathers together those who consume it. In so doing, with baptism and all the sacramental mysteries, it “draws them into [Christ’s] destiny,” enabling “them to participate in his proceeding from the Father.”179 This food, in fact, draws the whole world into itself, making it the “‘body’ of God’” in Christ.180 But the Eucharist is not only an object given. It entails the whole set of acts of thanksgiving. We can see the connection of the two aspects of the Eucharist in the following quotation: [Eucharist is] an act whereby [Christ] fills his friends with his own substance—body and soul, divinity and humanity. . . . In this surrender of himself the Son is the substantiated love of God given to the world, a love which in this handing over of self becomes “glorified” and “gives thanks” to itself (is eucharist): the Father to the Son and, in visible and audible form ( Jn 17), the Son to the Father. . . . In the Eucharistic surrender of Jesus’ humanity the point is reached where, through this flesh, the triune God has been put at man’s disposal in this final readiness on God’s part to be taken and incorporated into men.181 The Son offers himself so fully to the worlding, including it in his own procession from the Father, that at his farthest reach he incorporates the
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world into his thanksgiving to the Father. Just as the Son in the immanent Trinity is at once the outward Word and Expression of the Father and the Son, ever facing the Father in divine eucharistia, so too in the Eucharist, the Son is not only the Gift of the Father to the world but also the Giver of Thanks to the Father. He is the “supreme,” or “divine” worshiper.182 “Thanksgiving . . . is the quintessence of Jesus’ stance toward the Father.”183 And because Christians are incorporated into his person, the Christian life is “a life of thanksgiving: eucharistia.”184 Our incorporation into the Body of Christ, into his relationship with the Father, that is, our deification, is not passive. It includes our cooperation in his dialogue, prayer, and eucharistia to the Father. To receive the Eucharist, to receive the divine life, is to be implicated in this active stance of thanksgiving. One must, by receiving, give in and with Christ in turn.185 But what is it that we give to God? The most immediate answer is that we offer ourselves to God in mission. Certainly, Balthasar’s various writings on the Christian states of life, the ethical demands of being a Christian, and the forms of Christian sanctity confirm this immediate response. As Balthasar argues, The final point of the outpouring of God’s love is not at all the point furthest from the primordial source (as in Plotinus), so as to necessitate a “turning round” and “reverse movement” back to the centre; the final point is no “end” at all, but is in itself endless and infinite. It is the dawning of the divine love in what is not God and in what is opposed to God, the dawning of eternal life (as “resurrection”) in utter death: not the dawning of the divine “I” in the non-divine “Thou,” but the dawning of the divine I-Thou-We in the worldly, creaturely I-Thou-We of human fellowship.186 The “vertical” gift of triune life in Christ in the Eucharist carries over into the “horizontal” gift of Christian discipleship in all the spheres of human life. The whole world becomes irradiated by the glory of triune self-surrender. But there is another dimension: the giving in which we are implicated is the very same giving and receiving that defines the triune life: the giving and receiving of divine glory. Our horizontal discipleship occurs within the greater frame of “vertical,” trinitarian giving. Put otherwise,
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the reciprocal glorification of the triune persons in the Godhead is what the member of Christ’s body experiences in the celebration of the Eucharist. Or, more accurately, in the Eucharist, the earthly worshipper is actively caught up into the inner, divine self-giving of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.187 To be deified means, therefore, to give back to God the very gift of divine life once received. As Balthasar puts it in one of his aphorisms, “God gives us everything in order that we may give everything back to him. Thus, our all is his all—and we have nothing. He desires to empty himself in order that we might receive something. Now we have something, precisely our nothingness, and it is this that he is seeking. And yet we are robbed even of our nothingness, and we no longer have a right to consider it non-divine. Both things are now true: that we can truly choose to give him something, and that we cannot possibly hold anything back from him.”188 Once again, Balthasar reflects the influence of Carmelite mystical theology. As John of the Cross claims, in its participation in divinity “[the soul] is conscious there that God is indeed its own and that it possesses Him by inheritance, with the right of ownership, as His adopted son, through the grace of His gift of Himself. Having Him for its own, it can give Him and communicate Him to whomever it wishes. Thus it gives Him to its Beloved, who is the very God who gave Himself to it. By this donation it repays God for all it owes Him, since it willingly gives as much as it receives from Him.”189 We find in this theology of deifi cation a resolution, or the highest fulfillment of the doxological ground of creation. As noted above, Balthasar sees creation as coming to be as a kind of trinitarian gift in the mutual doxology of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through its creation, election, and elevation to divine sonship, the world takes an active place in the reciprocal round of the Trinity’s own glorification. As the Father, Son, and Spirit worship each other in the recognition of the others’ divinity, so we are elevated by the Holy Spirit to worship the Father in a divine manner in and with the Son. The world truly gives something to God: “What does God gain from the world? An additional gift, given to the Son by the Father, and by the Spirit to both. It is a gift because, through the distinct operations of each of the three persons, the world acquires an inward share in the divine exchange of life; as a result the world is able to take the divine things it has received from God, together with the gift of being created, and return them to God as a divine gift.”190 The world, elevated to divine childhood, gains a real share
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in the round of reciprocal glorification. In no wise can this “enrichment” of God by creation be considered a necessity, for it shares in the “groundless,” “whyless” love of the triune persons themselves.191 The foregoing analysis has highlighted the manner in which Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian claims have a soteriological “pay-off ” by providing the framework for a doctrine of deification. Summarized as “trinitarian adoption,” Balthasar’s doctrine of deification is specifically trinitarian in character. Deification is not understood as a participation in the divine energies, the indwelling of the Trinity in the heart of the believer, or a conformity to the divine essence in the beatific vision. Instead, deification is the active sharing of the believer in the Son’s trinitarian relationship to Father and Spirit. This goal is “theologically foreshadowed” in Balthasar’s theology of creation, informs the terms and nature of his account of the economy of salvation, and culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist. Though it is beyond the scope of this work, one could follow this “objective” account of deification with a corresponding “subjective” account, for the reason that the trinitarian participation determines the life of the believer.192 The final topic to investigate here, however, will be the possibility of divine incomprehensibility after trinitarian deification. Has Balthasar constructed a theological program that leaves too little unsaid? Is God comprehended by virtue of our deification?
C h a pt e r 4
A Blessed Wilderness The Trinity and Divine Incomprehensibility
O Blessed Wilderness that is your love! No one will ever be able to subdue you, no one explore you. —Balthasar, Heart of the World
In the previous chapter, we followed the movement of Balthasar’s theology of creation and soteriology to their climax in the creature’s participation in the triune life. Indeed, as Balthasar argues, creation and the economy of salvation are but moments in the more encompassing event of the deification of creatures. Moreover, as we have seen, Balthasar’s conceptualization of the creation-salvation-deification triad aims at our participation in the very life of the Trinity. We are predestined to become sons and daughters in the Son, children of God the Father. In this chapter, I examine how Balthasar understands the relationship between immanent trinitarian theology and divine incomprehensibility. Turning to Balthasar’s understanding of theology is necessary for two reasons. First, as shown in chapter 1, Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology is characterized by an extraordinary vividness, and this vividness has raised questions from critics. According to Rahner, certain elements 125
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of Balthasar’s theology are “rather Gnostic.”1 Karen Kilby, too, has questioned whether or not Balthasar fully respects proper epistemological boundaries when speaking of the immanent Trinity. Phrased differently, we can say that it might be that Balthasar abandons Christian apophaticism in favor of an excessive cataphatic fancy. In some measure, this critique is substantiated by Balthasar’s own negative evaluations of negative theology and might rest on his particular vision of trinitarian deification as examined in the previous chapter. Balthasar does imagine an incredible degree of intimacy of the creature with the triune God, so much so that the creature is said to breathe the Spirit with the Son, give God a divine gift, and otherwise share in the eternal relation of the Son. It is pos sible that precisely these formulations of deification presume or lead to an improper familiarity with the inner workings of the Godhead. However, and this is the second reason to turn to Balthasar’s understanding of cataphatic and apophatic theology, Balthasar also claims that it is precisely his highly vivid trinitarian account that preserves divine incomprehensibility, properly understood. The question is, therefore, whether Balthasar’s own self-assessment— that his trinitarian theology is entirely apophatic—is accurate, or if his critics are correct. I argue that Balthasar’s vivid trinitarian theology accords with Christian apophaticism. Indeed, examining the Christian apophatic tradition reveals that his cataphatic excess can be understood as a particular apophatic strategy. Balthasar subverts human speech about God through an excess of sometimes-contradictory cataphatic details. For Balthasar, this strategy preserves the realism of human speech about God, grounded in the Incarnation and our deification, while not reducing God to our human concepts. God proves himself to be incomprehensible in the midst of revelation and trinitarian deification. C h r i s t i a n Ap o p h at i c i s m a n d C o n t e mp o r a r y T r i n i ta r i a n T h e o l o g y
Before we turn to Balthasar’s understanding of divine incomprehensibility and apophaticism, an examination of the basic principles and elements of “classical” Christian apophaticism, together with an examination of Rahner’s work on divine mystery and its relationship to trinitarian
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theology, provides a helpful point of comparison with Balthasar’s formulations. We will turn to the latter in subsequent sections. Classical Christian Apophaticism Among recent scholarship on apophaticism, Denys Turner’s work on premodern, Neoplatonic, apophatic theology is especially helpful. The central theme of Turner’s work is the manner in which language functions apophatically. This question is derived from the very etymology of the term apophatic theology itself. For, as he explains, apophasis, the breakdown of speech, stems from the essential incomprehensibility of God.2 Because God is incomprehensible, “we can have very little idea of what all [the] things said of God mean.”3 But theology means language about God, or “divine discourse.”4 Apophatic theology is then a paradoxical “speech about God which is the failure of speech.”5 Turner’s description of apophatic theology grounds his critique of the modern prejudice that imagines apophatic theology as entailing an exclusive or predominant use of “negative language,” whether in image (e.g., “silence,” “darkness”) or proposition (e.g., “infinite,” “immaterial,” “nonbeing”). At times, negative language forms a portion of apophatic theology. Nevertheless, apophatic theology entails far more than negative language. As Turner explains, drawing on Pseudo-Dionysius, “The apophatic is the linguistic strategy of somehow showing by means of language that which lies beyond language. It is not done, and it cannot be done, by means of negative utterances alone which are no less bits of ordinarily intelligible human discourse than are affirmations. Our negations, therefore, fail of God as much as do our affirmations.”6 For Pseudo-Dionysius, and the apophatic tradition following him, God is “beyond assertion and denial.”7 We must, in other words, also negate the negation, in an effort to reach true apophatic silence. Our theological speech must be “self-subverting.” The negation of the negation is necessary because of the specific logic of negation itself. According to Aristotle, “to know an affirmation is to know its negation”; or, as Aquinas phrased it, “one and the same is the knowledge of contraries.”8 This technical point of logic is, in fact, of an extraordinarily quotidian nature. Turner gives an example: “If we can know what it is to say that there is a cat on the mat then thereby we know what it is to say that the cat is not on the mat.”9 Whether I deny or affirm the
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cat being on the mat, the knowledge is identical and must be so; otherwise the statements would be nonsense. I would be in a position to both affirm and deny the cat being on the mat at the same time. In short, I would violate the law of noncontradiction. In terms of apophatic theology, “one and the same is the knowledge of contraries” means that referring to God simply according to negative images or propositions is just as indicative of knowledge as affirmative images or propositions. In other words, I claim the same knowledge of God if I say “God is darkness” as I do if I say “God is light.” “Negating the negation” helps to avoid this trap, in which God is rendered comprehensible in the negative and facilitates the mind’s ascent up the hierarchy of being and toward God. The strategy of negating the negation, however, varies depending on the nature of the utterance. In the case of metaphorical utterances, which are recognizable for being literal falsehoods, the negation occurs by means of another metaphor. For example, the metaphor “God is light” is negated by the metaphor “God is dark.” Negating the negation is the paradoxical metaphor “God is a brilliant darkness,” which conveys “something of the failure of both meta phors to convey what God is.”10 It is in this failure that the mind is propelled further up the Dionysian hierarchy of being. But metaphor is not the only way of speaking about God. One can also predicate literal truths about God. In this category are found the essential divine attributes (e.g., wisdom), as well as the transcendentals of being (being/existence, oneness, truth, goodness, beauty).11 To say God exists, for example, cannot be a metaphor, because “only nothing does not exist,” which is the same as to say that existence can be predicated metaphorically of nothing whatsoever.12 The strategy for affirmation and denial is straightforward in this instance: “God is being” is negated by “God is not being.” But what of the negation of the negation? Here the matter becomes much more subtle and involves a shift from “first order” speech about God to “second order” descriptions of the logic of theological negation. This shift can be observed in the concluding chapter of Pseudo- Dionysius’s Mystical Theology. He writes, Again, as we climb higher we say this. It is not soul or mind, nor does it possess imagination, conviction, speech, or understanding.
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Nor is it speech per se, understanding per se. It cannot be spoken of and it cannot be grasped by understanding. It is not number or order, greatness or smallness, equality or inequality, similarity or dissimilarity. It is not immovable, moving, or at rest. It has no power, it is not power, nor is it light. It does not live nor is it life. It is not a substance, nor is it eternity or time. It cannot be grasped by the understanding since it is neither knowledge nor truth. It is not kingship. It is not wisdom. It is neither one nor ones, divinity nor goodness. Nor is it spirit, in the sense in which we understand that term. It is not sonship or fatherhood and it is nothing known to us or to any other being. It falls neither within the predicate of nonbeing nor of being. Existing beings do not know it as it actually is and it does not know them as they are. There is no speaking of it, nor name nor knowledge of it. Darkness and light, error and truth—it is none of these. It is beyond assertion and denial. We make assertions and denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every limitation, beyond every limitation; it is also beyond every denial.13 This list is bewildering for two reasons. First, there is no apparent order to the terms he is denying. In chapter 3 of the same work, the Areopa gite describes the process of denial in mystical theology as the reverse of the order of affirmation described in The Divine Names and The Celestial Hierarchy. As he describes, we affirm things of God beginning with what is most similar to God and proceed “downward” in the hierarchy of being, eventually reaching the most “dissimilar similarities” of God with basic inanimate beings.14 But here, when he has reached the high point of denying all things of God, the hierarchy disappears. We are left with a confusion of predicates, some of which are derived from conditions of creation (darkness/light, sonship/fatherhood) and others which refer to the transcendentals of being, such as truth and goodness. The second reason the list is confusing is because Pseudo-Dionysius also includes within it properties like equality/inequality and similarity/ dissimilarity. Now as Turner notes, unlike the others, these properties are relational. It is nonsense to say, “God is similarity/dissimilarity,” or “God is
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equality/inequality.” Turner, however, sees in their inclusion a shift, unbeknownst to Pseudo-Dionysius, into second order speech about our logic of denial.15 That is, these terms denote the manner in which our speech about God fails utterly, not only to describe God, but also to describe how utterly our speech fails. As Turner explains, as we make Pseudo-Dionysius’s apophatic ascent, we are denying the manner in which God is similar to creatures, including the universal aspects of all creatures (being, truth, goodness, beauty). But in the very same process, we are also losing our grip on our ability to say how God is different than creatures because difference presumes some similarity. The phrase “God is infinitely different than creatures” or “every similarity between God and creature is overruled by a greater dissimilarity” summarizes this loss of grip. For we are not simply saying that God is not like creatures. We are also saying that we have no means of measuring this difference whatsoever. At that point— difference without measure or ever-greater difference—the very language and logic of similarity and difference cease to function.16 Such a negation of the logic of difference and similarity marks the high point of apophatic theology. If we do not entertain this kind of negation of negation, we once again render God negatively comprehensible. Because the knowledge of contraries is one and the same, to say God is unlike all things is as much a claim to comprehend God as to say God is like all things. Apophasis occurs, therefore, not in denying certain things, or even everything, of God, but in the silence on the far side of meaningful language. Contemporary Apophaticism: Rahner on Divine Mystery Though there are considerable differences, Karl Rahner’s work on divine mystery and its relation to categorical objects and speech reflects some influence of “classical” apophaticism. Rahner retrieves the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility and the apophatic imperative in his critique of neo-scholasticism. According to Rahner, neo-scholastic theology treats mystery as a property of statements made about God and not as the essential character of God’s very self. But as Rahner argues, this neo- scholastic approach to mystery overlooks “the doctrine of God’s abiding incomprehensibility even in the visio beatifica.”17 This doctrine indicates for Rahner that God’s incomprehensibility is “the very substance of our vision and the very object of our blissful love.”18
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Because our vision of God in the eschaton is of his incomprehensi bility, that is, the knowledge of God is of his mystery, Rahner rejects the rationalist presumption that truth and mystery are at odds with each other. Rather, as Rahner attempts to articulate in his theory of knowledge, mystery is the very condition of the possibility of our knowledge of finite things as such. It is not, as rationalism maintains, simply the area of the unknown. Instead, mystery provides the “horizon,” or the “the situation,” for all categorical knowledge. It is transcendentally experienced whenever we know something as this or that, or will to do this or that. This means that mystery can never be defined and cannot be progressively “shrunk” as knowledge advances. He explains, “For since it is the condition of possi bility for all categorized distinctions and divisions, it cannot itself be distinguished from other things by the same modes of distinction. The horizon cannot be comprised within the horizon, the whither of transcendence cannot really, as such, be brought within range of transcendence itself to be distinguished from other things. The ultimate measure cannot be measured; the boundary which delimits all things cannot itself be bounded by a still more distant limit.”19 Rahner’s epistemology can be compared to a photographer’s studio. The knowing subject is something like the camera, taking in finite objects of knowledge including mental concepts. Mystery is the backdrop, without which the object photographed could not be seen. In Rahner’s epistemology, therefore, mystery, which he identifies with God, is mediated less by the things themselves than in our knowing of finite things. This inflection helps account for Rahner’s particular way of speaking about the nature of theological language. As he explains, “the meaning of all explicit knowledge of God in religion and in metaphysics is intelligible and can really be understood only when all the words we use there point to the unthematic experience of our orientation towards the ineffable mystery.”20 Theology is the putting into speech of our transcendental experience of God, which occurs within categorical knowing. It follows that apophatic denial of theological speech must occur lest we confuse God and finite things. In no sense can theological concepts, which are by definition in the realm of the categorical, adequately pertain to the transcendental experience of mystery or the mystery itself. He writes, All conceptual expressions about God, necessary though they are, always stem from the unobjectivated experience of transcendence
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as such: the concept from the pre-conception, the name from the experience of the nameless. The pre-conception given in transcendence is directed to the nameless: the condition which makes names of God possible must itself be essentially unnamed. We could call him (if we wished to give a title to what is meant) the nameless, that which is other than all finite things, the infinite: but we should not have thereby given him a name, merely said that he has none.21 As these passages make clear, Rahner’s apophaticism is not identical to those in Turner’s study. Rahner has largely shed the Neoplatonic hierarchy of being as an organizing principle for apophatic denial. He has also shifted focus toward the experience of the subject in keeping with his post-Kantian engagement with Thomas. What is important, however, is that even with these differences, we can still hear an echo of Neoplatonic Christian apophaticism in Rahner. Most importantly, we find an articulation not only of God’s incomprehensibility, his unlikeness from creatures, but also of the breakdown of language of difference and similarity. For Rahner, God is not simply “the nameless” because God is unlike all finite things. Rather, he is “the nameless” because, as the horizon of transcendence, his likeness/unlikeness with finite things cannot be adequately articulated. The nameless can be neither compared nor contrasted with the named. This is entailed in Rahner’s axiom that “God establishes and is the difference of the world from himself.”22 Rahner’s ultimate state of theological knowing is therefore almost identical with Pseudo- Dionysius’s: the learned unknowing of apophatic silence. Rahner’s theory of knowledge and account of divine incomprehensibility provide a clear rationale for apophaticism. What is less clear is how this apophaticism relates to cataphatic theology in general and trinitarian doctrine and theology in particular. We can say that for Rahner, because thematic or categorical knowledge of God as articulated in theology deals with our experience of God’s self-communication in Word and Spirit, language about God “in himself ” is possible but limited. Because God communicates himself by two modes, these two modes must be of God himself and therefore there must be real distinctions of these modes of self-communication in the immanent Godhead.23 Nevertheless, because our language is of our experience of God’s self-communication, immanent trinitarian theology has nothing to speak about other than the God-ward
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aspect of this experience.24 We do not leap into the Godhead, leaving experience behind, when we begin immanent trinitarian theologizing. Our language about processions, relations, persons, and so on is therefore the inadequate conceptual means by which we point toward the immanent condition for the possibility of the one God’s twofold self-communication. God remains the holy mystery encountered in every act of knowing and willing, only now he is experienced in “absolute proximity” in his self- communication.25 It is for this reason, perhaps, that Rahner rejects the claim that there is reciprocity in the immanent Trinity.26 The reciprocal relationship of Jesus to the Father in the economy is always and exclusively grounded in the human nature of the Incarnate Word. B a lt h a s a r a n d t h e P o s s i b i l i t i e s o f C ata p h at i c T h e o l o g y
It is in part because of the tensions in Rahner’s account that Balthasar adopts a different approach to the relationship of divine mystery and doctrinal theology. His fear, in contrast to Rahner’s, is the dissolution of the revelatory power of the Incarnation and cataphatic claims. We can see this concern at work behind many of Balthasar’s critical appraisals of Rahner’s positions on a variety of subjects, but especially of his transcendental Christology and the theory of the anonymous Christian.27 As Balthasar summarizes in an interview, the issue lies with the general outlook of the transcendental method. He writes, My main argument—not only against Rahner but against the entire transcendental school which already existed before him and spread alongside him—is this: It might be true that from the very beginning man was created to be disposed toward God’s revelation, so that with God’s grace even the sinner can accept all revelation. Gratia supponit naturam. But when God sends his own living Word to his creatures, he does so, not to instruct them about the mysteries of the world, nor primarily to fulfill their deepest yearnings. Rather he communicates and actively demonstrates such unheard-of things that man feels not satisfied but awestruck by a love which he never could have hoped to experience. For who would have dared describe
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God as love, without having first received the revelation of the Trinity in the acceptance of the cross by the Son?28 Balthasar sees in Rahner a minimization of the particular form and event of revelation in Christ in order to emphasize the a priori human openness toward the divine. But precisely in so doing, Balthasar sees the particular form of revelation functioning as little more than a categorical occasion for our transcendental knowledge of God, the Absolute Mystery. Christ becomes merely a “sign” and “pointer” “to something mysterious which lies behind [him] and which must be believed.”29 Balthasar wishes instead to emphasize the concrete particularity of the form of revelation as the exclusive means by which we glimpse the incomprehensible God.30 As he rhetorically asks Rahner in his most polemical work, “Do I see in the broken heart of the crucified Christ the love of the triune God—or don’t I?”31 Balthasar’s particular critique of Rahner reflects his more general concern about what he variously names “negative theology” or “negative philosophy” and its relationship with revelation and cataphatic theology. What he means by those terms are philosophies and theologies “in which God’s Being remains infinitely hidden and unfathomable over and beyond all analogous utterances about him,”32 or “a theology that tries to express God’s limitlessness by denying him all the names and characteristics of finite being.”33 Balthasar associates this form of apophatic theology with non-Christian philosophical and religious thought, though it has often been appropriated to serve Christian theology.34 The danger of this approach, according to Balthasar, is that by progressively “unsaying” the finite terms we use for God, it is actually “unbodying” the revelation of God in Christ and in Christian life.35 In the realm of trinitarian theology, this kind of negation makes the Father, Son, and Spirit into nothing but “the face of God turned toward the world, behind which the unknowable abyss of God’s unity remains hidden.”36 Balthasar opposes this kind of negative theology by claiming that revelation shows that God “wants to be recognized; he must be known.”37 Cataphatic theology is grounded not in the general relationship of creaturely being to God but in God’s use of human nature for his divine self- exposition. Cataphatic theology is ultimately borne out of the trinitarian character of the Incarnation. From a trinitarian perspective, God is able to express himself authentically in the economy because he already expresses
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himself immanently. “Since God has in himself the eternal Word that expresses him eternally, he is most certainly expressible.”38 Balthasar’s position is specifically Bonaventurean: the Word in the immanent Trinity is best thought of not as an inner, mental Word, as Thomas holds, but as the divine expression, who is also the archetype of the expression that is creation.39 The expressive archetypicity of the Word in the Godhead is also what prevents Balthasar from holding the Augustinian position that any of the divine persons could have been incarnate. The Word “alone,” in his character as expression and archetype, is “incarnable.”40 On the other hand, the self-exposition of God to creation requires the created medium of human nature in order to be understood.41 In Balthasar’s thought, through the Incarnation the Word assumes the “continuum” of human nature “that extends upward from pure matter, through its variously ordered spheres of life, to spirit,” and with this continuum, the whole range of human, “fleshly language,” which extends from the most basic expressive character of material existence to “the free word.”42 Balthasar goes so far as to say that “there is nothing human [in Christ] that is not the utterance and expression of the divine, and likewise there is nothing divine that is not communicated and revealed to us in human terms.”43 This communication is, moreover, a “perfect coincidence” and “transposition” of infinite divine content into finite human form.44 Through his human nature, the “linguistic structure” of the whole cosmos is taken up into the Word.45 The form of God’s self-expression in Christ, however, requires further mediation. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who fashions mediating forms of Christ’s form: scripture, interpreted and clarified in dogma, and the church herself, particularly in her eucharistic nature but also in her structure.46 Theology is a derivative but integral part of these mediating forms. It is an “expression of an expression.”47 It is, therefore, dependent on the mediating form of scripture and the dogma of the church. It has no independent existence. However, one of its functions is to “harmonize” these into “an interrelated system which is as coherent as possible.”48 Both scripture and dogma require theology in order to be understood. One can imagine Balthasar’s theology of cataphatic speech as a series of concentric circles representing scripture, the church, dogma, theology, the cosmos, radiating out from, but also participating in, the Incarnate Word.
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Because Balthasar sees it as God’s intention to be known by men and women, to be God truly for us, we “no longer have the authority” to remain silent about God.49 We are tasked to use human speech in order to preach that God has made himself known in Christ. But as the foundation of our theology, the Incarnate Word exercises a normative role for theological speech, including, especially, trinitarian discourse. Our human theological speech must, therefore, be subordinate to God’s own. As Balthasar asserts, “It is only on the basis of Jesus Christ’s own behavior and attitude that we can distinguish . . . plurality in God. Only in him is the Trinity opened up and made accessible. . . . We know about the Father, Son and Spirit as divine “Persons” only through the figure and disposition of Jesus Christ. Thus we can agree with the principle, often enunciated today, that it is only on the basis of the economic Trinity that we can have knowledge of the immanent Trinity and dare to make statements about it.”50 At first glance, Balthasar’s claim seems to be rather self-explanatory: any and all cataphatic theological claims must be based on the record of Jesus’s relation to God the Father as recorded in scripture. As Karen Kilby has noted, however, there is a possible discrepancy between Balthasar’s claim that he grounds his theology in scripture and the content of his trinitarian theology. Take, for instance, Balthasar’s claims about intratrinitarian “distance.” Kilby writes, It is not the case that one has only to look at the Passion narratives to come to the conclusion that there must, in eternity, be an infinite distance between Father and Son. Certainly this is not something that most of the tradition has in fact learned from these narratives, nor is it, I suspect, something that most Christians today learn from reading them. At least two things are required in order to learn of distance in the Trinity from the Cross. The first is a particular construal of the Cross itself; the second is a more speculative move from the Cross (thus construed) to what one could call the eternal conditions of its possibility.51 Balthasar’s stated method of basing all theology in the New Testament seems to run aground on unstated hermeneutical and methodological assumptions. David Coffey also includes this line of argument in his own larger critique of Balthasar.52
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It is beyond the scope of this work to examine the exegetical details or legitimacy of Balthasar’s interpretation of the cross. What is important here is the warrant for Balthasar’s “second move” as described by Kilby. We saw in the last chapter how Balthasar’s theology of the cross can be interpreted as an application of the doctrine of antecedence. Balthasar moves from the economic manifestation of the Godhead to its immanent presuppositions in order to preserve divine impassibility. But for Balthasar, this epistemological movement from economic-to immanent- trinitarian claims is not simply a principle of theological method. It is also an element of deification. Christ provides not only the entry of God into the realm of creation, he also brings about the entry of creation into the Godhead. The resurrection and ascension of Christ “implies the inner transfiguration and eternalization of all the moments that are the essential temporal expressive forms of God’s relationship.”53 The creaturely medium of God’s revelation is elevated in the act of revelation to participate in the divine eternally. With Rahner, Balthasar maintains the eternal significance of Jesus’s humanity—encompassing his human history up to and including the cross—in our knowledge of God.54 The eternalization of the creaturely medium of God’s revelation has implications for human knowledge of, and speech about, God. Balthasar explains, The freedom, however that appears in Christ is that of the God whom nothing can compel, who is absolute and sufficient in himself, but who nonetheless, of his free graciousness, binds himself to his creature in the hypostatic union forever and indissolubly, with the purpose of making his appearance and offering himself to view in the creature. The God whom we know now and for all eternity is Emmanuel, God with us and for us, the God who shows and bestows himself: because he shows and bestows himself, we can know this God not only “economically” from the outside, but may also possess him “theologically” from within and just as he is.55 For Balthasar, Christ does not simply show us something of the divine life; rather, through Christ we are invited into that very life. The Holy Spirit, moreover, discloses for us the truth of God’s revelation in Christ.56 Deification in Son and Spirit affects human knowledge, and this is what
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Balthasar understands as “faith.” He writes, “Faith constitutes the conscious side of grace in so far as grace is the ontological assimilation to God’s being. Faith knows in its own way because of a connaturalitas, an essential kinship, which Thomas himself and, even more emphatically, Eckhart portray as the gracious insertion of the creature into the trini tarian act of begetting and giving birth (‘con-naissance’ with the Son from the Father).”57 “God can be known only by God,” says Balthasar, but in faith we know God because of the “infused divine life in us.”58 I have argued elsewhere that the manner in which Balthasar formulates his theological aesthetics entails the coincidence of revelation and deification.59 To see and know God in the Christ form is to also to participate in God’s own life and, by extension, self-knowledge. The coincidence of revelation and deification, however, extends beyond Balthasar’s theological aesthetics to his other work as well. It gives Balthasar some warrant for the expansively vivid character of his trinitarian theology. If, as Balthasar has argued, God has expressed himself perfectly in human nature, and if in faith we know God connaturally, then it seems that there are no a priori epistemological limits on immanent trinitarian theology. By virtue of being drawn into the Godhead, we are not able to articulate the borderline between what we know about God on the basis of the economy and what we do not know about God’s immanent life. C o n c r e t e D i v i n e I n c o mp r e h e n s i b i l i t y a n d C ata p h at i c Ap o p h at i c i s m
The absence of limits on trinitarian theology does not indicate that Balthasar intends to abandon apophatic theology. On the contrary, Balthasar argues, “A God who could be expressed to the end in finite words (and deeds!) would no longer be God but an idol.”60 Balthasar rejects those theological impulses that imagine or suggest that God’s truth is somehow contained in theological formulae, including church doctrine. Such a view of doctrine is evident in the neo- scholasticism of Garrigou-Lagrange. According to Garrigou-Lagrange, commenting on Thomas’s treatise on the Trinity in the Summa, the knowledge of God derived from revelation and articulated in immanent trinitarian doctrine according to a strict Thomist manner is “an anticipation of eternal life.”61
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The term mystery abounds throughout the commentary, but it denotes the “supernatural” character and source of the knowledge summarized in doctrine, not the nature of God himself. This is not to suggest that Garrigou-Lagrange and other scholastic theologians denied God’s incomprehensibility. They accepted the traditional position summarized by Lateran IV and defended by Thomas that God is incomprehensible in himself, and even the blessed who see the divine essence immediately do not comprehend God as if they see the whole of God. God is infinitely knowable, and so cannot be exhaustively known by the created intellect, even in the beatific vision.62 Nevertheless, the doctrines of the Trinity and divine incomprehensibility seem to have no connection. This oversight is evident in the detail and precision of scholastic distinctions.63 Balthasar circumvents scholastic errors through a complex rereading of the relationship between revelation and doctrine, faith and knowledge, and the embrace of sources not “traditionally” held to be theological. First, with respect to the theology of revelation, Balthasar argues, “There is no possibility of distinguishing between God’s act of revelation and the content of this revelation, for this revelation is inseparably both the interior life of God and the form of Jesus Christ.”64 One error of scholastic propositionalism is that it suggests such a separation. Christ appears to be the occasion to learn certain propositional claims about God. But for Balthasar, Christ reveals to us in the I-Thou relationship of God and man the I-Thou, trinitarian relationship of the Father and Son in the Spirit. This is the truth of God and the propositional claims of theology are quali tatively different from, and dependent on, this truth.65 Doctrinal formulations can mediate the mystery of the Trinity, “but the divine mystery, being the glory of God, at the same time is majestically exalted above” them.66 On a second level of revision, moreover, Balthasar argues that the trinitarian mystery is exalted above theological formulae because even the blessed in heaven do not exhaust divine truth. Balthasar’s argument builds on the traditional claims about God’s abiding incomprehensibility mentioned above. But, unlike Garrigou-Lagrange, Thomas, and others, Balthasar argues that the blessed have faith in heaven. Balthasar sees precedence for his position in Matthew of Aquasparta. According to Matthew, “Because the blessed do not grasp God exhaustively, although they see him, they therefore come to appreciate God ever more as the One who is ever greater than what they see, so that they cannot exhaust him.
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And in this sense it would not be inappropriate to say that the blessed believe something because they do not know everything.”67 The emphasis on the incomprehensibility of God in heaven results in two important shifts. First, if God’s truth is not exhausted in immediate vision, then, a fortiori, it cannot be summarized in doctrinal formulae, however precise. Second, the definition of earthly faith as obscure knowledge does not indicate the weakness of faith but its strength. Faith knows here and now, as well as in the beatific vision, the essential, trinitarian incomprehensibility of God. Finally, as has been highlighted recently by Jennifer Newsome Martin and Anne Carpenter, Balthasar’s use of artistic literary forms in his theology is a deliberate effort to break apart the rigidity of various theo logical rationalisms.68 The revelation of God in Christ proves too superabundant to be fully and finally translated into the strict distinctions of rationalist thought. Rather, “The rich substance—the inner sanctum of theology, so to speak—lies rather on the side of rhapsody than on the form of discourse which externalizes itself in distinctions and definitions.”69 The sometimes disorderly human utterances of poetry, literature, homilies, hagiography, and prayer serve better than the most painstakingly constructed systematic theology in manifesting the mystery of God revealed in Christ. The mystery of God is glimpsed in the frayed edges of human discourse. Balthasar’s apophatic efforts aim, therefore, to link truth and mystery, divine revelation and incomprehensibility indissolubly together. In his approach, God’s incomprehensibility is not hidden behind revelation or the condition for the possibility of knowing categorical revelation. Rather, divine incomprehensibility is precisely what is manifest in revelation. It is worth quoting Balthasar at length to see the full scope of his claims: The basic form of “ever-greater dissimilarity however great the similarity” is irrevocable; but it can vary from being a philosophical “negative theology”—in which God’s Being remains infinitely hidden and unfathomable over and beyond all analogous utterances about him—all the way to being a “negative theology” within the theology of revelation, in which God “appears” unreservedly and, therefore, even in his ever-greater incomprehensibility really comes into the foreground and into the form that appears.
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God’s incomprehensibility is now no longer a mere deficiency in knowledge, but the positive manner in which God determines the knowledge of faith: this is the overpowering and overwhelming inconceivability of the fact that God has loved us so much that he surrendered his only Son for us, the fact that the God of plenitude has poured himself out, not only into creation, but emptied himself into the modalities of an existence determined by sin, corrupted by death and alienated from God. This is the concealment that appears in his self-revelation; this is the ungraspability of God, which becomes graspable because it is grasped. We must note carefully that this characteristic of the God who shows his incomprehensibility in his self-revelation belongs to the objective evidence of the form of revelation, which means it is above all not conditioned by the darkness of earthly faith. Thus, this characteristic will not be lost to the form of revelation even in the vision of God face to face; on the contrary, it is precisely in the beatific vision that God’s ever-greater incomprehensibility will necessarily have to constitute the supreme content of the vision, despite the real grasp of God which will be bestowed. . . . And it is precisely in this light that the kenosis will emerge to view as what it is in reality: not as God’s “self-alienation” (as if God who is comprehensible in himself were doing something incomprehensible and thereby himself became incomprehensible—or vice-versa), but as the appearance, conditioned by the world’s guilt, of the God who in himself is incomprehensible in his love for the world.70 This lengthy passage provides what might be the heart of Balthasar’s trini tarian apophaticism. In revelation, in the kenosis of the Son into the sinful world, God shows his incomprehensibility to us. Divine revelation is not a denial of mystery but its heightening for the creature.71 As such, in Christ, God’s mystery is not “abstract, purely negative” but rather “concrete and positive.”72 For it is here in Christ, his Passion, and the Eucharist—and only here—that God’s “limitlessness invades finitude.”73 It is here that the incomprehensible, “why-less” love of God for the world is manifest. Moreover, this incomprehensibility is not the result of a deficiency on our part but is, rather, the very character of God’s love, which is identical with his truth. That is what is incomprehensible, that is what
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is revealed in Christ, and that is what remains incomprehensible in the eschaton. Because he understands divine incomprehensibility as being manifest in divine revelation, Balthasar adopts a very particular understanding of the relationship between cataphatic and apophatic theology. Because theology participates in the revelation of God, and this revelation is of his incomprehensibility, it is one of the purposes of theology to show God’s incomprehensibility through language. As he argues, the church and her theologians must “put it into intelligible words and concepts and even, in certain circumstances, to translate it into broadly descriptive formulae in order to protect his overwhelming greatness, to frustrate men’s attempts to master it with their reason and to fit it into their own forms of thought or to frustrate their attempts to bring it down to their philosophies of life.”74 We can say that for Balthasar, one of the functions of immanent trinitarian discourse is to provide the conceptual apparatus that preserves and manifests the incomprehensibility of God’s love revealed in Christ by frustrating our attempts to fully comprehend it. This is what Balthasar means when he claims, “The doctrine of God’s triune life . . . is an entirely new and purely Christian form of negative theology.”75 Theological speech and doctrinal formulae must be uttered so that “like the cherubim with their fiery swords, they surround the folly of the love of God.”76 Returning to Turner’s work shows that Balthasar’s approach is comparatively unique in modern theology but not at all aberrant in the theological tradition. As summarized above, Turner offers a substantive critique of the modern prejudice to interpret as apophatic only those theologies that use negative language. But further, he also shows that the relationship between apophatic and cataphatic theology is more complex than it first appear. As he describes it, cataphatic theology is the “verbose element in theology, it is the Christian mind deploying all the resources of language in the effort to express something about God, and in that straining to speak, theology uses as many voices as it can.” He continues, It is the cataphatic in theology which causes its metaphor-ridden character, causes it to borrow vocabularies by analogy from many another discourse, whether of science, literature, art, sex, politics, the law, the economy, family life, warfare, play, teaching, physiology, or
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whatever. It is the cataphatic tendencies which account for the sheer heaviness of theological language, its character of being linguistically overburdened; it is the cataphatic which accounts for that fine nimietas of image which we may observe in the best theologies, for example in Julian of Norwich or Bernard of Clairvaux. For in its cataphatic mode, theology is, we might say, a kind of verbal riot, an anarchy of discourse in which anything goes.77 If apophatic theology is the “speech about God which is the failure of speech” or the “linguistic strategy to show what lies beyond language,” then it includes within itself at the minimum a cataphatic moment, a moment when speech about God is uttered before its denial. The two theologies, cataphatic and apophatic, are not and can never be wholly opposed. Going further still, cataphatic speech in certain circumstances can be the very means of apophasis. This occurs, for instance, in the work of Bonaventure and Julian of Norwich. These theologians manifest divine incomprehensibility through excess and superabundance of language, “which bursts its own bounds in a kind of self-negating pro lixity.”78 Bonaventure often compares revelation and scripture to the “virgin forest,” the abundance of which makes it appear “uncertain, with no order.”79 In fact, the scriptural forest is “supremely orderly,” only simi lar to the order of “nature in the development of vegetation on earth,” rather than to the order of discursive reason.80 As a wilderness, revelation provides an infinite scope for theological interpretation and thereby utterance. Once again, Bonaventure uses a botanical metaphor: “Who can know the infinity of seeds, when in a single one are contained forests of forests and thence seeds in infinite number? Likewise, out of Scriptures may be drawn an infinite number of interpretations which none but God can comprehend. For as new seeds come forth from plants, so also from Scriptures come forth new interpretations and new meanings.”81 Julian, too, sheds any kind of “apophatic caution” with respect to speaking about God. She speaks confidently of the Trinity in traditional and novel terms: Father, Son, Spirit, Mother, Spouse, Brother, Savior, Lord.82 But, as Turner explains, summarizing his argument for the existence of a cataphatic apophatic strategy,
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Her cataphatic confidence is in itself an apophatic strategy, as if it is by means of, not despite, the proliferations of Trinitarian vocabulary that she achieves the goal of placing God beyond all possible words. . . . Theological vocabulary for Julian is not a particular discourse, a “religious language,” a restricted range of “properly” theological talk, bound by its object’s range. God is not an object of a particular kind of talk in the way that a number is the object of mathematical discourse, for God is not an object. And since all talk is about objects, all language fails of God. So you can either just stop “prattling about God” altogether, as Eckhart advises, or else do the opposite and make sure that you do not cull back the variety of talk about God to some restricted, pious, or “appropriate” domain. It is the same apophaticism either way, for if by way of speech nothing goes, everything does.83 The Christian apophatic tradition is, therefore, made up of at least two broad literary strategies. The first is that exemplified by Pseudo- Dionysius, Meister Eckhart, and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, which possibly finds a modern echo in Rahner. In this approach, the greater weight is given to the moment of denial, the negative imagery, the failure of finite terms to apply to the infinite God. In the second approach, which I here term cataphatic apophaticism, it is the excess of affirmation that brings the human mind to the point of silence. Language breaks down and becomes self-subverting by sheer superabundance of imagery and description. For Turner, recognizing the importance of the second approach is vital if we are to truly accept the terms of apophatic theology. As he explains, “The inadequacy of theological language can therefore occur at two levels. For it is true that whatever we say about God, and that however vividly, and with however much variety of image we name God, all our language fails of God, infinitely and in principle. But it is also true that, should we arbitrarily restrict the names with which we name God, we will fall short of that point of verbal profusion at which we encounter the collapse of language as such.”84 Remaining at the first level of linguistic inadequacy without acknowledging the second is as much a failure of apophasis as the converse. Loquaciousness does not necessarily mean an absence of apophaticism or an arrogant claim to comprehend the incomprehensible. Rather, a ceaseless human babble is what ensues in the face of the superabundant, “virgin forest” of revelation.
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We can understand Balthasar, and his trinitarian theology in particular, as a contemporary example of Turner’s second apophatic strategy. Like Bonaventure and Julian, Balthasar pushes us to the “embarrassed” silence of apophasis by means of speech. We can observe this cataphatic apophati cism on multiple levels of his trinitarian theology. Intraworldly Truth and Mystery First, the coincidence of truth and mystery, and of prolixity and ineffability, determines his understanding of intraworldly truth as well as divine.85 Balthasar shared Rahner’s desire to avoid the traps of rationalism within philosophy as well as within theology. However, Balthasar’s reading of the relationships of mystery, truth, and being is different than Rahner’s. As we saw above, Rahner’s transcendental epistemology centered on the apprehension of the limitless horizon of being through the subject’s act of knowing a particular object. The act of knowing any categorical being involves the transcendence of the knower’s own finiteness. The knower experiences in every act of knowing an unthematic openness to a limitless “horizon of possible objects that is of infinite breadth.”86 As human beings, as spirits in the world, our knowledge of the things of this world is made possible by this “pre-apprehension (Vorgriff ) of ‘being’ as such.”87 The unthematic experience of the mystery Being is the condition of the possibility of all of our categorical knowledge. This experience of Being is, however, only possible through our categorical knowledge. The horizon can never be an immediate object of our consciousness. Three elements distinguish Balthasar’s epistemology from Rahner’s. First, as a general rule, Balthasar’s approach is more object-centered than Rahner’s. As is evident in a number of works, Balthasar resisted when possible the modern philosophical turn to the subject.88 This very turn informs Rahner’s transcendental method.89 Balthasar’s concern with the object known, moreover, is at once a concern with the appearing of the object to the subject and the ontological basis of this and all appearing. Object-centered epistemology entails an object-centered ontology.90 It is perhaps Balthasar’s greater focus on the object that leads to the second and third points of difference with Rahner. Rahner’s subject
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experiences Being primarily as “unlimited possibility,” in contrast to the fixed limits of finite objects. Indeterminacy is a critical component of Rahner’s horizon of Being. In Balthasar’s case, in contrast, the mystery of Being is experienced in the plenitude of its appearances in worldly forms.91 For Balthasar, Being is not glimpsed as the mysterious horizon of categorical objects but rather appears through them. As Rowan Williams explains, this means that for Balthasar “the fundamental cognitive moment is the apprehension of participation, the participation of beings in being,” a participation that suggests Being itself is dependent on particular beings.92 This mutual dependence of Being and beings is the third important distinction between Balthasar and Rahner’s epistemologies. Being is “non-substantial” in itself and only “attains actuality in the existent,” just as the existent only becomes “actual through participation in the act of Being.”93 This means, finally, that Balthasar’s “Being” is clearly not identical with God.94 For Balthasar, this participation of beings in the plenitude of being gives each object a “mysterious ‘more’” that we can never exhaust in discursive knowledge and that belongs to their very ontological structure.95 As Balthasar describes it, beings are not static entities, but exist in the dynamic relationships between various polarities: that between existence and essence, between essence and appearance, between essence and image, and, finally, between person and word. As thought plays in these polarities, it grasps the paradox of being in which its truth is not simply the unveiling of Being in beings. It is an “unveiled veiling” of Being in its appearance, and Being in beings.96 Because the two elements are not identical, the manifested element is hidden in its very manifestation. This unveiled veiling is most evident in the relationship of word and person in which the “nonappearing” depths of the free person are manifest in the appearing utterance “by not appearing.”97 Each utterance is the unveiling of the veiled “holy mystery of being, whose sheer interiority protects it from absolute alienation and objectification.”98 Because of this coincidence of unveiling and veiling, truth is always a source of “amazement and admiration, of astonishment, of stupefaction, of joy and gratitude,” and of wonder for the knower.99 These poles make knowledge not an act of conquest but rather of contemplation, love, and humility. Balthasar writes,
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The circling movement that thought is constrained to perform here implies anything but a gradual, linear conquest of the mystery. The mystery resists any attempt to “work it out” by means of a progressive dialectic. It equally resists any monism of concepts and definitions that would naively or even subtly paste over the polarity of true differences. Just as the gap between essence and existence can never be closed by thought, there is no way ever to bridge in any real sense the gaps between essence and appearance, universality and particularity. To observe their existence and to circle in an eternal movement around the mystery that they reveal—this is what thought must do. This mystery is not unintelligible; it is sense- laden and harmonious; like an inexhaustible well of knowledge and contemplation, it satisfies again and again our very desire for understanding.100 As he puts it elsewhere, even in the intraworldly realm, one has “to bend the knee in order to receive the gift of truth.”101 This last description of thought and intraworldly mystery fittingly summarizes Balthasar’s understanding of thought and divine mystery as well. Here, too, the form of revelation resists any and all attempts to master it or fit it into fixed concepts, definitions, and, we might add, models. Thought, ever-circling around the mystery, never ceases. Nevertheless, as intelligible, thought does grasp the mystery and can articulate something of it, but it can do so only in an abundance of claims, which never attain finality. Negative Images, Metaphors, and Paradoxes Like other theologians, and often echoing them, Balthasar uses evocative, “negative” metaphors and images for God. Balthasar often uses metaphors that connote God’s infinity, limitlessness, and unfathomability. God is an “abyss,” “ocean,” “sea,” “whirlpool,” or “wilderness.”102 It is no great exaggeration on Erasmo Leiva’s part to assert that “the abyss of God’s love” is the “constant theme of Balthasar’s theology.”103 We can also observe in Balthasar’s theology of God instances of paradox. As we saw in chapter 1, Balthasar constantly plays with paradoxical
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pairings of Being and event, activity and passivity, masculinity and femininity, power and powerlessness, giving and receiving, and poverty and wealth. In some instances, these paradoxes take the form of self-subverting metaphors, as when Balthasar writes of the Father’s “womb.”104 Though Turner does not refer to Balthasar, the language of the Father’s womb perfectly illustrates “the collapse of ordinary language” before the transcendence of God through the “ascribing of incompatible attributes.”105 In his choice and use of metaphors and images, Balthasar often reflects earlier theologians, so much, indeed, that Balthasar’s favored images often come to his readers through citation rather than original statements. His uniqueness initially appears most clearly in his use of paradox with respect to the very structure of trinitarian theology, which we first examined in chapter 1. As we saw there, Balthasar understands the trinitarian persons according to both their identity with their procession and as subjects of those processions. This dual approach raises the ascribing of incompatible attributes from the level of suggestive images and metaphors to a comprehensive, apophatic, trinitarian method. This method enables Balthasar to work with considerable conceptual detail and precision. He can enter into existing debates and discussions on trinitarian topics: for instance, the meaning of the term person in trinitarian theology. Nevertheless, the irreducibility of the paradoxical claims ultimately resists theological hubris. Divine incomprehensibility is thereby concretized in the very doing of trinitarian theology. Critics of Balthasar, such as Kilby and Coffey, have not noted the importance of this paradoxical method in Balthasar’s thought. This oversight is owing, perhaps, to the fact that Balthasar never settles on stable terminology to describe what he is doing. However, Balthasar gives ample evidence of this practice—both in terms of content and method—including within the Trilogy.106 For his part, Coffey recognizes that Balthasar uses at least two approaches to the Trinity. Coffey’s own commitment to reducing trinitarian theologies to single models leads him to conclude erroneously that Balthasar tries to incorporate countervailing claims under a single, deficient “procession model” of the Trinity.107 Coffey’s claim is especially confusing given the admitted similarities between his own “return model” and Balthasar’s position.108 As I have argued, however, Balthasar deliberately constructs his
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trinitarian theology in order to avoid reducing the Trinity to any single model that comprehensively explains “both the origins of the Son and Spirit and the manner of operation of the Trinity in the economy.”109 Such a reduction is patently impossible in Balthasar’s estimation, and any attempt to do so undermines divine incomprehensibility. Recognizing that Balthasar aims to preserve divine incomprehensibility through countervailing propositions and images also puts into question Kilby’s claims that Balthasar offers no “breaks and safeguards against [the] presumption of a God’s eye view.”110 The Collapse of Language and Trinitarian “Otherness” Thus far we have seen how Balthasar’s metaphors, images, and method work to stress or concretize divine incomprehensibility. God’s otherness from creatures precludes the terms, images, and metaphors necessarily derived from creation from ever describing God. Because of this, Balthasar engages in the ascription of incompatible attributes, which takes its broadest form in his countervailing propositions. In so doing, Balthasar shows rather than tells us the inadequacy of our speech to say things about God. As Turner suggests, though, this concrete manifestation of the inade quacy of theological language is not the whole of apophasis. There remains the deeper issue of our inability to know how far our language about God fails. In other words, not only must we demonstrate the collapse of our language about God in the face of his total otherness from creatures, we must also show how our language of otherness, difference, and similarity itself collapses. Balthasar addresses this through two means. First, he employs the classical language of analogy as articulated by the Fourth Lateran Council and Aquinas, and interpreted further by Erich Przywara, in which any similarity between God and creatures is overruled by an ever-greater dissimilarity. In his trinitarian theology, the doctrine of analogy qualifies every term used to speak of the triune God. Balthasar writes, The statement therefore that God is “triune,” all this is and remains discourse about incomprehensible mystery. It is only analogously (where similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we
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can speak of persons in God; only analogously (where similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we can speak of “begetting” and either “spiration” or “breathing forth”; only analogously (where similarity is overruled by a greater dissimilarity!) that we can speak of “three,” for what “three” means in relation to the absolute is in any case something quite other than the inner worldly “three” of a sequence of numbers.111 The analogical language of “greater dissimilarity” is a key component of apophasis. The open-ended comparative leaves no possibility for the human intellect to know the proportion of God’s similarity/dissimilarity to the creature. Balthasar’s real apophatic innovation, however, is in the manner by which the qualification of “greater dissimilarity” is enacted in the specifics of his trinitarian theology. Put otherwise, Balthasar both says that our terms infinitely fail in the face of God’s mystery and gets his trinitarian terms to fail, “so that [their] failure says the same thing.”112 We saw in the last chapter how Balthasar’s claim that the Son is “infinitely Other of the Father” and his use of the notions of distance and drama serve to underscore the aseity and freedom of God with respect to creation. God is not in a position to need the world in order to be love, and God is able by virtue of being triune to traverse the whole distance the sinful world is from God. There is no comprehensible answer to why God creates and why God saves because God is trinitarian. The ontological relationship of God and world, summarized as the analogia entis, underscores a corresponding epistemological one. The central aspect under consideration here is how the irreducible distinction of the trinitarian persons affects analogical predication. At stake here is the “location” of the proportion of otherness. The obvious terms for theological analogy are created and uncreated nature—that is, between created and uncreated nature is a proportion of difference that serves as the foundation and negation of all theological speech. While Balthasar clearly affirms this infinite proportion of difference between creature and creator, he nevertheless rejects it as the proportion of theological analogy. For Balthasar, as we have seen, the Father and Son relate to one another as totally other, and indeed meet each other only in the Holy Spirit, who bridges an infinite “distance” between them.
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Among secondary interpreters of Balthasar, no theologian has recognized the significance of the theme of otherness in Balthasar’s trinitarian theology more than Rowan Williams.113 Williams correctly explains that Balthasar’s use of the major dissimilitudo (greater dissimilarity) and Nicolas of Cusa’s term “non aliud” (nonother) means that “God is never ‘other’ in the sense of a member of a series or a class to be counted along with comparable instances.”114 As Balthasar writes, “Analogia entis means that the absolute, infinite God cannot be compared with the finite creature who is entirely dependent upon him. The creature can find no external vantage point from which to compare itself with God; it can only look up to God in a relationship of total dependency.”115 Williams misses, however, the manner in which Balthasar’s trinitarian application of dissimilarity/difference/otherness strips away the very meaningfulness of the language of otherness, difference, and similarity itself. The otherness that marks the relation between creature and creator is always already supplanted or exceeded by the otherness present within the trinitarian life. Using the terms of analogical speech, it is not simply that the similarity between our terms and God’s life must be negated by their greater dissimilarity. Dissimilarity too is negated by the ever-greater dissimilarity in the divine life itself. By shifting the proportion of otherness into the divine life, Balthasar has thereby pushed theological language to its limits. And with the assumption of creaturely being-language in the person of the Son, the limits are transcended. Balthasar writes in commentary on the thought of Elizabeth of the Trinity that “the otherness and the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator reveal themselves more and more in self-revelation and self-communication. Yet the yawning gulf is also being covered over and forgotten as the Son of God clothes himself with it, deifies it, makes it the expression of the Trinity’s inner distinction of Persons in a unity of essence. Precisely that which distinguishes the creature from God now becomes that within which the creature is like God: otherness in unity.”116 The otherness of Father and Son to each other in the unity of the Holy Spirit, manifest to us through the medium of our very creaturely difference from God, makes us unable to articulate both how we are like and unlike God. Our words, our logic, our theological precisions fail. Balthasar thus achieves, by way of his theology of intratrinitarian otherness, the apophatic transcending of “the last differentiation of all: the difference between similarity and difference.”117
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The Apophasis of the Word of God This transcending of the last differentiation of all is not Balthasar’s final moment of trinitarian apophasis, however. Until now, we have been considering theological speech about God “from the outside.” But as we saw in the last chapter and above, Balthasar does not see theology as occurring apart from both God’s revelation and our participation in his life. Apopha sis must, therefore, be manifest in Christ and be an element of our participation in the triune life. As we have had occasion to see, for Balthasar, Christ is the measure and norm of theological speech. The Word’s union with human nature makes it a medium of divine self-exposition. But he is also, therefore, the medium of the exposition of God’s incomprehensibility. Apophatic silence is not ultimately found at the end of hierarchical denial, but in the Word itself.118 As Balthasar understands, the silences of Christ in his life are intimations that he is “the divine super-word,” that “prodi gal, lavish gift of self that transcends the formulated, indeed, the formulable word.”119 The coincidence of truth and mystery, of manifestation in hiddenness, once again appears within the form of God’s revelation. Balthasar writes, In order to assure oneself that the revelation is indeed hidden, one need only cast a glance at the form of the revealer himself: not only at the hiddenness of his virginal conception and birth (to which Ignatius [of Antioch] alludes) but also at the thirty years’ silent existence of the one “who stands among you, but whom you do not know” ( Jn 1:26); at his pregnant, indeed, judging silence during his public years—in the scene with the adultress, in the episodes of the Passion before Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate; at his final cry, with which he sinks into the silence of the underworld (Nicholas of Cusa sees this cry as the apex of his word); at his striking numerous absences; at the situations where he is sought or his presence is desired; at his return into the silent bosom of the Father; at his mute eucharistic presence in the midst of the Church.120 It is especially the silence of the cross and death of Christ that serves as the manifestation of divine incomprehensibility for it is here, in Balthasar’s
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thought, that God’s incomprehensible love for the world is laid bare in paradox: “In this silence beyond all human posturing God reveals who and what God is. Our all too easy talk of the incomprehensibility of God will, if we catch sight at the deed of God [on the cross], be brought up sharp and reduced to silence in front of this irrefutable proof which God himself offers. There is absolutely no reply which we can make.”121 Balthasar explicitly ties the silence of the cross to theological method: The new covenant bunches everything into the shortest space of time, in the midpoint of which stands the breakdown-point which can be delimited in external chronology as the “Triduum Mortis,” but which internally means that time has come to an end and that there is a new beginning such that all temporal categories of “end,” “midpoint,” and “beginning” are shattered; and this means that not only the main subject (the theological content of the fate of Jesus), but also the position of existentially involved observer (the Christian who seeks to understand his faith, in order to live it), slip away at the very point where they ought to be made secure. But it is not our concern to get a secure place to stand, but rather to get sight of what cannot be securely grasped, and this must remain the event of Jesus Christ; woe to the Christian who would not stand daily speechless before this event! If this event truly is what the church believes, then it can be mastered through no methodology.122 It is the revelation of God’s own apophasis in Christ’s death that casts us into apophatic silence. And it is because this “silence” of the triduum occupies the midpoint of revelation and faith that there is ultimately no comprehensive theological method except “following” the Incarnate Word and trusting in his own “seamless” logic.123 We can hear in these claims echoes of earlier theologians, such as Bonaventure and John of the Cross. Like Bonaventure, Balthasar conceives of Christ as the concrete analogia entis summarizing and making possible the affirmations of God according to creaturely being. But, Turner highlights, Bonaventure also sees Christ as “our only access to the unknowability of God.”124 Christ offers this point of access, moreover, not in a cosmic or mystical sense but precisely as Christ crucified.125 Turner summarizes,
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For in that catastrophe of destruction, in which the humanity of Christ is brought low, is all the affirmative capacity of speech subverted. Thus it is that, through the drama of Christ’s life on the one hand and death on the other, through the recapitulation of the symbolic weight and density of creation in his human nature on the one hand and its destruction on the other, the complex interplay of affirmative and negative is fused and concretely realized. In Christ, therefore, there is not only the visibility of the Godhead, but also the invisibility: if Christ is the Way, Christ is, in short, our way to the unknowability of God, not so as ultimately to comprehend it, but so as to be brought into participation with the Deus absconditus precisely as unknown.126 The crucified Christ thus provides the measure and transition between the prolixity of cataphatic speech and silence of apophasis. As Bonaventure writes, “The depth of God-made-man, his humility, is so great that reason founders on it.”127 The exhaustive revelation of God in Christ is a central theme of John of the Cross’s theology as well. In The Ascent of Mount Carmel, God the Father informs the soul, “I have already told you everything in my Word, who is my Son. I have nothing more to reveal, no further answer to give you, there is nothing to add to him. Fasten your eyes on him alone, because in him I have spoken and revealed everything. Ipsum audite.”128 But, as John makes clear, this revelation culminates on the cross. It is Jesus Christ crucified in whom is hidden all the treasures and wisdom of God.129 Balthasar summarizes, “The authentic image of God in the world is crucified love— nothing else.”130 And because it is precisely the crucified Christ who is raised from the grave and ascends into heaven, the apophasis of the Word on the cross is the eternal medium of our knowledge of God. The Wilderness of Triune Worship Just as the cataphatic possibilities of theology stem from the concurrence of God’s revelation in the world and our participation in the divine life, so too is trinitarian apophasis a concurrence of the kenosis of the Son into the world and our elevation into his divine status. Apophasis is not only a
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function of kenotic Christology in Balthasar’s thought but also an aspect of the triune life itself. In this matter Balthasar’s emphasis on intratrinitarian difference, distance, and dialogue is critical. The Father, Son, and Spirit are irreducibly distinct. Their personal differences are not superseded by the unity of essence, but mysteriously coincide with it.131 As we have seen, Balthasar argues that because God is trinitarian he is ever greater than himself. The phrasing indicates yet another instance in which Balthasar is linguistically attempting to transcend the difference between similarity and dissimi larity. The divine semper major is not only an open comparative between God and world but between God and God. But furthermore, as we saw in both chapters 1 and 2, following Adrienne von Speyr, Balthasar argues that the ever-greater difference of the trinitarian persons leads to their mutual amazement, wonder, thanksgiving, worship, glorification, and adoration.132 According to von Speyr, “Worship is the expression of God’s encounter with God in love. Only in worship can God encounter God, when he confronts himself as Father, Son and Spirit. . . . When the incarnate Son manifests his love to the Father in the form of worship, he is doing nothing new. He is doing what he has done from all eternity.”133 The intratrinitarian distance of Father and Son indicates “not only a divine-human but also a divine reverence” of Christ for the Father.134 The intratrinitarian worship, reverence, and adoration occur as a result of the groundlessness of the Father’s love. For the groundless love of the Father is so poured out as to beget the equally groundless love of the Son. God himself cannot exhaust the inexhaustible love that he himself is. “The Spirit searches the depths of this love but does not discover in it any ‘ground’ that would give us a key for our conceptualizing of it.”135 As we see and participate in the groundless love of Father and Son in the Spirit, we not only come to see the ever-greater difference of God from the world but also to participate in the divine wonder at the Father’s wellspring of love.136 It is precisely as deified creatures, gods by grace, that we recognize the Trinity’s wild incomprehensibility. Our theological “silence,” including the silence of theological verbosity, is an echo, reflection, participation, and offering of the superword of the Son before the Father. “Here,” concludes Balthasar, “‘negative the ology’ finally becomes the locus of perfect encounter, not in a dialogical
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equality of dignity, but in the transformation of the whole creature into an ecce ancilla for the all-filling mystery of the ungraspable love of the self-emptying God.”137 If the above argument is accurate, it cannot be said that Balthasar’s trinitarian theology implies a loss of divine incomprehensibility. Rather, we should see in Balthasar a subtle strategy for realizing the coincidence of cataphasis and apophasis. This strategy is realized moreover in the very prolixity of his trinitarian claims. Through these claims Balthasar pushes us to and past the very limits of meaningful speech and into a paradoxical apophasis that is at once a kind of silence of inner-trinitarian adoration and a doxological babbling of deified creatures. Reading Balthasar against the classical apophatic tradition as summarized by Turner reveals Balthasar’s innovative apophaticism. Even as he reflects and draws on other theologians, Balthasar is unique in dealing with divine incomprehensibility in specifically trinitarian terms. Indeed, by consistently recasting the “highest” claims of apophatic theology, the breakdown of the language of similarity and difference, into trinitarian terms, Balthasar radicalizes Christian apophaticism. The breakdown of speech, the ineffable mysteriousness of God, is not determined by the relation of God to the world but by God’s trinitarian relations, in which the world participates through Christ. Balthasar’s trinitarian apophaticism is all the more remarkable for the manner in which it reformulates a number of classical theological themes in a new synthesis. His trinitarian claims do not stand separate from other theological loci but in fact relate to a wide range of others. The theology of revelation, faith, the cross, deification, epistemology, and even liturgy are all bound together in his trinitarian framework. The lack of clear, systematic structure in his thought should not lead us to overlook his accomplishments as a systematic theologian. Indeed, if we take Balthasar’s claims seriously, the very lack of clear structure to his thought may itself be a reflection of his deepest convictions about the mystery revealed in Christ and recounted in theology.
The Father’s Child who proceeds from him eternally also returns to him eternally and in every moment of time. And this is the game that we, God’s other children, are invited to play as well. —Balthasar, “The Eternal Child”
This book began by asking why Balthasar says what he says about the immanent Trinity. It has offered in the course of its chapters a progressively more detailed account of what Balthasar does in fact say and why he says it. In chapter 1, we saw how Balthasar’s vision of the immanent Trinity unfolds. Beginning in the primordial Father, who kenotically is by pouring out his essence in the generation of the Son, continuing in the responsive love of the Son, and culminating in the unity and fruit of their love, the Holy Spirit, immanent trinitarian theology reveals the eternal dynamism, the movement and flow, of eternal, interpersonal love. We also saw, however, the manner in which Balthasar’s trinitarian vision often moved along paradoxical lines of thought, with respect to the trinitarian persons, to the being and event of the Trinity, and even to the divine attributes. This method resulted in a multiplication of perspectives that could not be reduced or synthesized into a single claim or model. 157
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In the second chapter, this basic framework was filled out and clarified in light of crucial sources for Balthasar’s trinitarian thought. Of central import was the claim that Balthasar’s medieval debts could be traced most fruitfully back to a specifically non-Augustinian/Thomist trinitarian theology, exemplified in figures such as Richard of St. Victor, Bonaventure, and Jan van Ruusbroec. The adoption of this pedigree accounts for Balthasar’s characteristically active interpretation of trinitarian “relations,” his manner of “beginning” the Trinity in an ur-Father before his act of begetting (while always maintaining that the Father is never without the Son and Spirit), and the resulting dynamic metaphors and images he uses to speak of the Trinity. We also saw how Balthasar sought to avoid the danger of deducing the Trinity on the basis of a particular divine attribute, a danger latent in this same tradition. After examining these medieval roots, we turned to Balthasar’s modern interlocutors. First, we highlighted the manner in which Balthasar’s notion of inner-trinitarian kenosis adopts and adapts the thought of Sergius Bulgakov. Second, we saw how Balthasar’s “personalism” in trinitarian theology can be traced back, once again, to the medieval Richard of St. Victor, but also to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber. It is Buber, in particular, that offers the immediate source of Balthasar’s concept of “distance” not as a spatial category but as a personal one: the condition of the possibility for I-Thou relations. Following Buber, for Balthasar, inner-trinitarian distance is a function of self-giving love, a love that gives to the other and lets the other be. Finally, we turned to Balthasar’s Swiss peers, the Protestant Barth and the visionary von Speyr. It was these figures who provided Balthasar with the “maxi malism” of his trinitarian vision, lifting from God’s revelation insights about the “antecedent” life of God. The conclusion of chapter 2 provided the natural transition into the themes of chapters 3 and 4. In chapter 3, we turned from Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology in itself to its soteriological import. Arguing against the tendency to reduce Balthasar’s trinitarian soteriology to his theology of the cross and hell, this chapter argued that the significance of his trinitarian claims lay in the manner in which they frame or undergird a theology of deification, summarized in the notion of trinitarian adoption. This adoption, understood as the participation of creatures in the Son’s eternal relation to the Father, is the goal of creation and all the work of the economy, including that of the cross and descent and the
work of the Spirit. Immanent trinitarian claims do not indicate bare “conditions of the possibility” of God’s self-communication to us but rather the very substance of the life into which we are elevated through Christ and the Holy Spirit, and which is realized in the Eucharist. As a result, the various concepts Balthasar employs for the immanent Trinity shape his conceptualization of the God-world relationship as a whole. The final chapter presented the epistemological significance of trini tarian deification. The specific question was whether or not Balthasar successfully maintains divine incomprehensibility. This question of epistemological impropriety seems to have accompanied Balthasar throughout his career. The chapter showed, on the one hand, how Balthasar’s characteristic vividness depended on deification. Our knowledge of God, Balthasar argued, is not the product of speculation about some distant unrevealed deity, but is, in Christ and Spirit, “connatural” with God’s own self-knowledge, mediated through creaturely terms and concepts. What this means at its most basic is that there is no articulable boundary at which human claims about God must halt. On the other hand, this chapter also showed that Balthasar’s claim to connatural knowledge of God was not a rejection of divine incomprehensibility. Though he maintained a certain reticence for some negative or apophatic theology, Balthasar also argued that his own position—and specifically his immanent trini tarian theology—presented true, or “concrete,” divine incomprehensibility. Through an engagement with Denys Turner, chapter 4 showed that the Christian apophatic tradition was not limited to the way of hierarchical denial but also embraced ways of excessive verbosity. The chapter concluded by reading Balthasar’s trinitarianism as a representative of such a verbose, vivid apophaticism. Caught up in the paradox of the infinite God’s revelation in the finitude of Christ, and in particular his death on the cross, theology approached the “silence” of apophatic denial in a profusion of speech, proceeding by metaphor, countervailing claims, and analogy. Most remarkably of all, this “hymnic,” doxological apophaticism is itself undergirded by Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian claims regarding the wonder and doxology of the triune persons themselves. In light of these conclusions, we may restate our initial thesis: Balthasar’s trinitarian theology is constructed to give an account of how God is incomprehensible love in himself, and able to freely create and deify creatures by giving them an active share in his triune life.
160 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar L i m i t s a n d Opp o r tu n i t i e s
As indicated in its introduction, this work sought to provide the grounding for an “internal critique” of Balthasar’s theology, a critique built in sympathy with his own work. I identify two areas in which this internal critique can advance on the basis of the theology of the Trinity: the connection of trinitarian theology to the theology of sexual difference and marriage and the absence of political theology. In both instances, these weaknesses stem from a failure to give full life to the apophatic and deifying dimensions of his trinitarian theology. The Trinity and Sexual Difference Balthasar’s trinitarian theology touches rather closely on his theology of the sexes, which in turn has been readily embraced among some of his followers. One finds this enthusiasm especially prevalent among clerical devotees: Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet.1 At its best, this scholarship has advanced a relational theological anthropology, and one rooted in human bodies. The sacrament of marriage, especially in its fruitfulness in reproduction, is one site of our being in the image and likeness of the ever-f ruitful triune God. Balthasar suggests this profound connection between sexual difference, marriage, Incarnation, and the Trinity. As the descent of Christ into the world reveals the praise, reverence, and service within the Trinity, so it is with this descent [of God to serve man] that the humanum comes to light as it was created to be: praise of, rejoicing in, the never-to- be-captured otherness of the other (“male and female he created them”); reverence for this otherness precisely at the point where human beings live out their mutual love in the sexual embrace (the other is never a means to an end but is always to be reverenced in an attitude of responsibility); finally, service, which gives religious consummation to the everyday necessity of mutual service in some sort of profession within society.2 The personal otherness of the triune persons and their relationships of love (or “praise, reverence, and service”) make up the archetype of the personal
otherness of human persons in general but most especially in the bodily concretion that includes the sexual difference of man and woman, husband and wife. More fundamentally, as Ouellet argues, the human relationship of husband and wife does not only mirror the Trinity, but in fact the relationship participates in “intra-Trinitarian love.”3 It is not as isolated individuals that we are deified—so too are our human relationships. Unfortunately, this theology too often suffers from hypercomplementarity: arguing beyond the limited claim that men and women complement each other in marriage to a maximal account of how men and women possess, by reason of their sex, distinct virtues, roles, and fixed hierarchical positions. This procedure is all the more confusing when Balthasar and those who draw on his thought turn to trinitarian theology to support sexual hierarchy. In his essay “The Dignity of Women,” for instance, readers will find the now familiar self-subverting claims regarding trinitarian activity and passivity/receptivity, masculinity and femininity, equality and taxis. The Father, Son, and Spirit are each in their unique manner both active and receptive and, therefore, in Balthasar’s thinking, each is both masculine and feminine.4 In his attempt to ground his theology of the sexes in the immanent Trinity, Balthasar hints at this trinitarian self-subversion and paradox. A simultaneous taxis and equality seems to be operative in the sexes. On the one hand, Balthasar asserts, “It is the primacy of the Father over all, and of the Son over Church and creation, that justifies Genesis and Paul in ascribing an analogous, but derivative, primacy to the man.”5 On the other hand, “Women possess an equal dignity both in the order of the Church and in the order of creation.”6 However, since the analogous- but-derivative primacy of man over woman justifies investing man with both social and ecclesial power, while the “equal dignity” of the woman has no evident effects, it seems that Balthasar pulls back from self-subversion at the crucial moment. In some respects, my critique of Balthasar on this point accords with that of Linn Tonstad. In God and Difference, Tonstad criticizes Balthasar’s efforts to both distinguish and associate intratrinitarian and sexual difference and the tendency to “slip” into an idolatrous series of hierarchical analogies: The Father is to Son as Christ is to Church as Man is to Woman.7 However, Tonstad does not recognize the possibility that Balthasar’s habitual use of paradox in his trinitarian theology is itself in harmony with her own “purgative strategy” of “over-literalization,” which
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“picks up the interplay between cataphasis and apophasis to produce complex forms of assertion and destabilization. Such over-literalizing theological language and imagery, in its very impropriety, serves as a cata phatic theological apophasis.”8 If my interpretation is correct and we can read Balthasar as employing a similar apophatic strategy with respect to the Trinity, then Balthasar can be read against the grain of his own stated theology of the sexes and into a more thoroughly apophatic anthro pology. This anthropology is no doubt different than Tonstad’s own. Unlike Tonstad, here, the incarnation of the Word puts the entire language of creatures to use for possible divine utterance. Insofar as human sexual difference is bound up with the human being in the image and likeness of God, sexual difference proves to be a privileged manifestation of the triune God and one elevated by the Word, especially in sacramental marriage. But to make this last claim is not to accept the reduction of men and women to hierarchical roles. Rather, what needs discovering is the apophatic edge of Balthasar’s trinitarianism. In such retrieval, what is paramount in sexual difference is the “never-to-be-captured otherness” of man and woman as image of trinitarian otherness. Just as the trinitarian otherness of Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit must be represented in speech through oxymoron, paradox, and countervailing and self-subverting claims, so too must we represent the relationship of man and woman, especially in marriage. Importantly, the constructive response to Balthasar, in keeping with his own strengths, is not to deny hierarchy in favor of equality, or reject immanent trinitarian theology as hopelessly speculative and inconsequential for theological anthropology. Both approaches effectively deny divine incomprehensibility by reducing the triune God to human knowledge—whether either the “positive” knowledge that triune relations are straightforwardly of “equals” or the “negative” knowledge that we can say only certain limited things of God in himself. What is required is a particular form of anthropology that sees sexual difference as eliciting apophasis. Tina Beattie’s deconstruction of Balthasar and the Catholic “new feminists” offers a theoretical direction for such a course. Taking up the question of the persistence of sex in the eschaton, affirmed by Western theology and denied among some Eastern Orthodox theologians, Beattie argues that these contradicting conclusions themselves signal that sexuality is “part of the mystery, part of the excess, so that we
encounter something of the otherness of God in the strange uncanniness of our bodily encounters with otherness and difference.”9 Sexual difference shows itself prone to paradoxical assertions in the light of God. The American poet Wendell Berry suggests how such claims might figure in the most domestic circumstances: Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange of my love and work for yours, so much for so much of an expendable fund. We don’t know what its limits are– that puts us in the dark. We are more together than we know, how else could we keep on discovering we are more together than we thought? You are the known way leading always to the unknown, and you are the known place to which the unknown is always leading me back. More blessed in you than I know, I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing not belittled by my saying that I possess it. Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light enough to live, and then accepts the dark, passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I have fallen time and again from the great strength of my desire, helpless, into your arms.10 Finally, though she hardly touches on Balthasar’s work, Sarah Coakley in her God, Sexuality, and the Self offers a glimpse into the ascetic dimension of such a theological anthropology inflected by trinitarian apophaticism. In Coakley’s vision of anthropology, “The contemplative encounter with divine mystery will include the possibility of upsetting the ‘normal’ vision of the sexes and gender altogether; but it will also include an often painful
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submission to other demanding tests of ascetic transformation—through fidelity to divine desire, and thence through fidelity to those whom we love in this world.”11 Beattie, Berry, and Coakley are better than Balthasar at capturing the manner in which a teeming wilderness meets us in the embodied difference of the other, even in the midst of the most stable domesticity. In the life of husband and wife, but also in all human relationships, the known and unknown mix and blend in a lived apophatic negation of the negation. On the topic of Christian sanctity, Balthasar argues that God takes from his saints the “spirit of calculation.”12 If this is so, and it is in keeping with his trinitarian theology and the theology of deification outlined here, then we can also say that in the sanctity of Christian marriage the calculated equipoise of “sexual complementarity” as understood by many of its proponents must topple. Just as the Trinity is a wild mystery in the exchange of love, so too will Christian marriage thwart attempts to tame it. Husband and wife do not meet each other as simply known, determined by role, but rather always lead to the unknown, to surprise, to mystery. Their sexual and personal difference ought “never to be captured” in stereotype and formulae. And in this, they mirror God in a kind of non- schema: “Woe to the lover who, by whatever means, seeks to tear from his loved one his final secret! Not only is such an attempt impossible, but also by it he destroys the life of love.”13 The Trinity and Politics Thomas Dalzell has highlighted another area in which Balthasar’s theology displays limits: the absence of a fully social, political dimension.14 Dalzell’s fundamental thesis is that this absence has its root cause in Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology. Because Balthasar lacks a fully developed immanent pneumatology, his immanent trinitarian “model” is interpersonal but not fully social. The Spirit’s distinctiveness, Dalzell contends, dissolves in his identity as the subjective bond of Father and Son. As a result, human freedom, and its participation in divine freedom, is limited to its individual dimension. What is required to amend this shortcoming is to advance a more developed social model of the Trinity, which will then serve as a catalyst for a true social-political theology.
As I have argued, Balthasar’s trinitarianism is considerably more complex than Dalzell shows. In the case of the Spirit, though his role as the “subjective” bond of love between Father and Son is a prominent theme in Balthasar’s theology—especially in the theological dramatics—so too is his “objective” role as the “fruit” and excess of the Father and Son’s love. The analogy Balthasar supplies, that of a family, is undeniably social. More importantly, however, Dalzell’s presupposition that the Trinity supplies a model for human social-political behavior deserves scrutiny. Once again, the question arises as to whether such models acknowledge the ever- greater incomprehensibility of the triune God. Balthasar’s trinitarian wisdom, a wisdom not fully realized in his theology of sex and gender, is to resist the temptation of fixed, reductive schemas. Given the interweaving of Christian theology and militarism, imperialism, and totalitarianism in Balthasar’s lifetime, the reticence to directly tie God to human political arrangements is understandable. This is not to deny Dalzell’s larger point: that Balthasar’s thought underestimates the importance of the social and political dimensions of the Christian confession. Whereas Dalzell wishes to make this connection on explicitly immanent trinitarian terms, I would advocate that any kind of social-political development of Balthasar’s theology must proceed from his theology of deification. That is, it must stem from an examination of the theology of creation, metaphysics, the human person, and the relation of those topics to political philosophy. It is therefore only indirectly addressed at the level of immanent trinitarian thought.15 It is in light of the free creature’s elevation into the trinitarian relations that Balthasar displays a clear failure of imagination, for he fails to acknowledge the consequences of his vision for human society. It is not inconsequential for politics that the world itself and in its entirety is first and foremost a gift from God, elevated by grace into God’s life. If, as Balthasar insists, the reality of that new, deified existence obtains here and now, it must also be felt in the political. The questions moving forward, beyond Balthasar, are: What does the politics of the deified creature look like? How do the sons and daughters of God exercise justice and use their political power in the world when their deification consists in a participation in the “omnipotent powerlessness” of triune love? And how does the uncalculated love of the triune God find an adequate reflection in a world of limits?16
166 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar B a lt h a s a r w i t h i n t h e T r i n i ta r i a n R e n e wa l
Despite these limitations, Balthasar’s trinitarian theology deserves wider attention, as he is an impressive figure within the “trinitarian renewal” of the last century. Indeed, as argued here, he is both a champion and critic of its basic claims and insights. As champion, Balthasar’s trinitarian thought picks up and builds on the original concern of Barth and Rahner that trinitarian theology is of crucial importance in Christian theology as a whole and in Christian life. Few theologians can claim to have worked out the degree to which trinitarian theology is intimately tied to soteri ology, even in its immanent dimension. Indeed, Balthasar’s insistence on this principle is especially emphatic, both in terms of content, as we have seen, and in terms of theological method—that is, for Balthasar, the intellectual content of trinitarian theology does not simply inform theology in other disciplines in an “external” manner. The Trinity is theology’s primary subject matter, the all-embracing frame of every other theological topic.17 But further, we can argue that the Trinity’s work of deifying creatures is the formal principle of theology, as well as in Balthasar’s understanding. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are enabled to share in the Son’s own vision and knowledge.18 It is from this participation that theology flows. We might say that for Balthasar theology is the speech of those on the course of deification. As Balthasar never tires of reminding us, only God can reveal or testify to God. It is by God’s grace that we are empowered to do theology. The confidence Balthasar has in the possibility of speaking of God thus stems from his confidence in the work God has done in drawing us into his life. There is no question that for Balthasar, God has fully revealed himself in Christ, leaving nothing hidden behind revelation. Nevertheless, Balthasar also challenges certain tendencies in trinitarian thought in the last several decades. As Karen Kilby has argued in a series of articles over the last several years, trinitarian theology has been characterized by “robustness,” “a confidence and enthusiasm” in asserting the importance of the doctrine as the “vital heart” of Christian theology.19 According to Kilby, such confidence has robbed trinitarian theology of its awareness of the apophatic demands of Christian faith. We have limited God by our conceptual positivism, idolatrously projecting our preferred concepts onto God. Provocatively, Karen Kilby suggests that immanent trinitarian
theology ought to aim not at greater clarity but at heightened mystery. Indicating the thrust of her proposal, she asks, Is it possible to suppose that reflection on the doctrine of the Trinity might intensify rather than diminish our sense of the unknowability of God? Is it possible to accept that it presents us with a pattern which we cannot understand, rather than giving us some new understanding of God? What if we were to suppose that how the three are one, how to relate divine persons to the divine substance, what the inner relations between the persons are, are all questions which are quite simply beyond us? On such an account, the doctrine of the Trinity would confront us with these questions, in some sense force them upon us, but leave us without any resources with which to answer them. What answers we may appear to have—answers drawing on notions of processions, relations, perichoresis—would be acknowledged as in fact no more than technical ways of articulating our inability to know.20 Despite her own association of Balthasar with the overly confident trinitarianism she is critiquing, Balthasar is, in fact, sympathetic with her argument. Trinitarian theology is not sound when premised on conceptual clarity or the adequacy of models (whether social or psychological). But it is also clear that Balthasar presents us with a radically different form of “apophatic trinitarianism,” and one that avoids the flaws in Kilby’s own proposal. For Kilby, it seems obvious that if trinitarian doctrine and accompanying theological elaboration are “no more than technical ways of articulating our inability to know” God, then doctrine, “as a doctrine, gives us no depiction of God, no insight into God’s inner nature, God’s inner life.”21 And further, because of the “excess and transcendence” of the triune God beyond all our conceptualizations of him, “there ought properly be . . . a resistance to, a fundamental reticence and reserve surrounding, speculation on the Trinity.”22 Apophatic trinitarianism for Kilby is about “theology reaching its limits, in terms, to put it very bluntly, of the dead-ends of theology.”23 Balthasar’s trinitarian robustness challenges the implication of Kilby’s proposal that speech and mystery are at odds, that the limits and dead ends of theological understanding can be recognized, and that immanent
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trinitarian theology is uniquely mysterious, and therefore uniquely among other theological topics, requires our reticence and reserve. For Balthasar, theology is incomprehensible through and through because all of it is concerned with the groundless love of God revealed in Christ. There is no neat division between those theological topics that are subject to our comprehension and those that are beyond it. That Kilby suggests otherwise, and her “solution” to this problem, risks a subtle idolatry in which we reduce our language about God to a small set of pious technicalities. Balthasar shocks us out of such comforts and invites us into a risky theological venture of speaking of that which is beyond speech. B a lt h a s a r a n d t h e P l ay o f T h e o l o g y
It has been argued by admirers and critics that Balthasar’s theology, both its content and form, remains too transgressive or too idiosyncratic to serve as any kind of a basis for the future of theology.24 In large measure, this assessment is correct. Balthasar leaves his would-be students with a limited framework for advancing a “Balthasarian” school of theology, even as his popularity swells on the contemporary scene. There is no overarching theological method to his thought, no consistent theological form or structure. He is not a systematic theologian in any conventional sense of the term. Nevertheless, the absences of clear method, system, and structure are not necessarily indications of inherent weaknesses in Balthasar’s thought. Rather, they negatively indicate a distinct theological paradigm—though one blessedly subversive of rigidity—ordered around plurality, poetics, and prayer. It is this paradigm that is perhaps Balthasar’s most important contribution to theology today, as it leads us to roads beyond Balthasar himself. The Plurality of Theology The mystery of God, revealed to us in Christ, is never exhausted; therefore, rather than producing hesitant silence or conceptual minimalism, it offers itself to endless theological articulation. It is one of the important features of Balthasar’s thought that he considers theology irreducibly pluralistic. In Balthasar’s telling, the theological tradition resembles the
star-strewn sky: disparate points of light generated by “new and original perceptions” of “the midpoint beyond history,” Christ.25 Even in the New Testament, we are left only with fragments of a possible theology. However, it is precisely this fragmentary character of theology and its written sources that opens up the possibility of theological creativity. We realize that the fragmentary theology of the New Testament reverberates with the rushing of a mighty wind that sweeps the believer out into the ever-wider horizons of an ever-greater truth. Indeed, the fragments we have been given suddenly begin to look much more valuable than any “closed” system, which only a limited mind could find appealing. Systema means standing together: think of the shining points, separated by swatches of darkness, that form a constellation in the night sky. And yet, since every point can refer to thousands of others, it also gives us the freedom for endless combination.26 The fragmented character of the original testimony to God’s revelation, the persistence of this fragmentation in the manifold theological luminaries, and thus the possibility of endless systema, are the signs of the invasion of the infinite, incomprehensible God into finite intellects and categories. The multiplicity of theology attests to the divine fullness of Jesus Christ.27 The theologian is never presented with a final form of theology. All “towering theological buildings” are “no more than a start, an attempt, an approximation.”28 The divine super-Word, revealed in the un-Word of death, precludes both theological closure and any linear development of theology.29 But it also means that our theologies can share in the character of Balthasar’s own: “fundamentally daring and experimental, structurally hospitable to expressly nontheological categories, noncanonical sources, and modes of speculative thinking that probe . . . but do not exceed the elastic boundaries of tradition.”30 And when we do study that tradition, the collective “consciousness” or “memory” of the Body of Christ, “our attention . . . cannot really be backward-looking: rather it must be a conversation with thinkers and men of prayer in the ever-present communion of saints. For it is the communion of saints, gathered together above time in the Holy Spirit, which is immersed in the mystery of God in
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Jesus Christ—which is of all times.”31 It is not primarily the limitations of earthly vision that make reaching anything like consensus or solutions to our problems seem impossible. Rather, it is because of the real but not yet clear vision we have of the infinite God revealed in Christ. “The human life in which God’s Word was flesh must be capable of being interpreted to an extent that is immeasurable, indeed infinite.”32 Even the eschaton will be filled, therefore, in unending creativity, creativity that will then be entirely theological.33 “The one miracle,” of the infinite God’s revelation in finitude and the elevation of finitude into the infinite, will always spur “new and different” attestations, which, “even in eternity, will not together form a surveyable system.”34 As Cyril O’Regan has argued, the endlessness of the theological task is an important marker indicating Balthasar’s thorough anti-Gnosticism, including the modern Gnosticism of Hegel and his followers. For Balthasar, the limits of human knowing plunged into the “excess of the infinite divine,” preclude any final, “epic” metanarrative, in which God and the whole of human history (individual and collective) can be summarized.35 Even as Balthasar’s trinitarian vividness has led to the charges of Gnosticism, this very feature of his thought as analyzed here is the ultimate site of an ever-greater mystery, a mystery that rebounds and inflects our life in the world as well. It is no accident that, despite the charge that Balthasar adopts various God’s-eye views, he refuses a God’s-eye view of the destiny of human persons. Theology and Prayer The plurality inherent in theology does not indicate theological anarchism, but does shift the burden of unity away from the content and form of various theologies to the unity of theology’s object, Christ, and the underlying theological “method,” prayer. Put otherwise, the higher harmony of theology is not attained in ever-more refined propositions, or ever more expansive systems, but in the ascetic discipline of prayer. It is prayer that opens the theologian to the truth of God revealed in Christ, and therefore theology is measured by and oriented to prayer.36 Theology ought to be “kneeling,” and the “flame” of prayer “must burn through the dispassionateness of speculation.”37 Even the most rationally rigorous forms of theology are only preliminaries for “praying theology.”38 This is because theology takes place in the Church’s prayerful “dialogue” with
Christ. Balthasar explains that “[theology] must . . . be seen as a meditative act of homage to the Lord of the Church, precisely to the extent that theology does not allow itself to be restricted to a merely practical function aimed at producing certain results. . . . The attainment of the greatest possible clarity in its conceptual distinctions as well as the greatest possible depth of intuition is for theology an end in itself, beyond any practical intentions and obligations relating to the Church’s proclamation; it is an act of adoration before Christ in the name of the Bride-Church.”39 Theology is, therefore, the adoration of God in the intellect. Andrew Prevot has recently argued that this “Balthasarian” vision of theology as “thinking prayer,” when appropriately critiqued, opens wide avenues for responding to the various crises of modernity—secularity, nihilist metaphysics, and structural violence.40 Far from suggesting a purely insular dimension of Christian praxis, embracing prayer offers new life for Christian theory and praxis in a world reeling from the perceived absence of God. Prayer not only inspires Christian thought but affords a foundation for social, political, and economic action as well. If this book has anything to add to Prevot’s argument, it is only to show that the grounding of theology in prayer is a product of its status as the speech of the deified. It is, in other words, “thinking prayer,” or “the adoration, the doxology, of God in the intellect,” by virtue of the trinitarian claim that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit engage in intratrinitarian prayer, adoration, and doxology, and it is this primal reality in which the theologian participates through the Son and Spirit’s joint work. “Kneeling theology” is therefore the fitting product not of the human supplicant, who cannot possibly comprehend the infinite God, but of the child of the Father: both the only-begotten, incarnate Son and the adopted believer. As Balthasar argues, “Like everything else that comes to man through God’s self-revelation in Christ . . . prayer is ultimately rooted in God himself and in his triune exchange of life. Beyond all purely creaturely motives and needs, Christian prayer is a participation in the inner life and prayer of the Divinity, which is revealed, prepared and accomplished in the world by Jesus Christ our Lord and by him made available to us to take part in it.”41 Prayer provides for us a share in the “subjective relationship of the incarnate Son with his heavenly Father in the Holy Spirit.”42 Christian prayer, worship, and adoration thus make possible the “connatu rality” with God from which theology can “seek understanding.” But, as
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Balthasar reminds us, this deified understanding is of the ever-greater mystery of the divine persons. Our elevation as sons and daughters does not lead to a final static vision but to the endless learned ignorance within triune glorification. This description has several important consequences for the practical work of doing theology. First and foremost, it requires the theologian to be more firmly rooted in the liturgical life of the church.43 Narrowly, this liturgical rootedness is the concrete means by which prayer measures theology. Whether an idea or reality is appropriate for the public liturgy of the church determines whether it is suitable material for theological reflection. That is not to suggest that the liturgy stands above theological criticism, but it does suggest that the theologian cannot see herself as somehow standing apart from the assembly. More broadly, Balthasar argues that, since all theology ought to become the theology of prayer, the liturgy is in fact a privileged site of theologizing. The prayers and hymns of liturgy are theological works.44 Indeed, as a part of “man’s response to God’s total revelation,” which “seeks to go beyond a verbal theology, to the widest possible realm of comprehensive glorification,” theology has porous boundaries with all the arts.45 Poetry, literature, visual art, and architecture are all possible material of theological criticism and expression. It is for this reason that Balthasar’s own theology so often trembles at the edge of prayer and poetry.46 Moreover, these possible expressions of glorification also include the lives of holy men and women. As Spirit- filled interpreters of revelation in life itself, “their sheer existence proves to be a theological manifestation that contains the most fruitful and opportune doctrine.”47 In a “Balthasarian” theological paradigm, prayer, art, hagiography, and speculative, “scholastic” theology all interpenetrate.48 The Play of Theology This is not to suggest that no “rules” determine theology. Balthasar is clear that doctrine remains as an important guidepost, protecting the mystery of God from prying minds. Rather, it is to suggest that because “the subject of theology is the absolute trinitarian love of God, which discloses itself and offers itself in Jesus Christ, which disarms by its humility and simplicity every ‘stronghold’ of would-be mastering thought that ‘rises up’ (2 Cor 10:5),” theology must accept its senselessness.49 “Jesus opposes the
despised child to that which thought attempts to devise as the ‘greatest’ (Mk 9:34), and the way that leads to Jesus and to God who sends him is the acceptance of this ‘least one’ ‘in my name.’ Thus the simplicity of God ‘judges’ all human thoughts that strive upward above themselves to attain the utmost, and requires of them something that they can accomplish only in self-denial: ‘to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge’ (Eph 3:19).”50 In the very doing of theology our “would-be mastery” of God, our pursuit of certainties or conclusive formulae comes to naught, it is ultimately “senseless,” “useless,” “futile” from the perspective of the world. But it is so because it participates in what Balthasar describes as “the uselessness and futility, the uncalculating and incalculable (hence ‘unprofitable’) nature of eternal love in Christ.”51 Theology’s senseless attempt to speak of the ineffable triune God, “to know the love which surpasses all knowledge,” mirrors and is made possible by the senselessness of the Eucharist; the extravagance of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ; and the groundlessness of triune love. Mirroring, participating in the love of God, theology is not a discourse of mastery and control, but of powerlessness. It is precisely in its apparent weakness and “failures” that theology displays its divine root. To say that theology is senseless is not, therefore, to assign it to obscurity. Whatever the impressions, Balthasar’s case is not simply a naïve preference for spirituality, poetry, or vague pluralism in contrast to rigorous metaphysical or analytic thought that aims at solid conclusions.52 As has been demonstrated, at least in trinitarian theology, Balthasar’s theology is carefully, purposefully, and comprehensively constructed, even as it carefully, purposefully, and comprehensively defies a final, unified depiction of the Trinity. Moreover, as Rowan Williams’s work in theology and linguistics shows, language itself is marked by “a huge amount of apparently superfluous untidiness and eccentricity. Instead of moving calmly toward a maximally clear and economical depiction of the environment, our language produces wild and strange symbolisms, formal and ritual ways of talking (not just in religion), a passion for exploring new perspectives through metaphor and so on.”53 This tendency of even the most commonplace communication indicates, for Williams, a practice of linguistic shock, of signaling that reality is not just as we might think, that we are not just as we might imagine.54 The poetic, plurastic impulse displayed in Balthasar’s verbose theology; its use of metaphor and paradox; and its
174 The Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar
carefully constructed reasoning through concepts of being, relation, or person that eventually only pull the carpet out from under the reader in a whole new line of thought all indicate this “‘extremity’ in language,” or “excessive speech.” The linguistic “natural theology” of Williams is elevated in Balthasar’s confession of the ever-greater strangeness of God, a strangeness so infinite that even the terms of difference and similarity cease to mean. Our often tired trinitarian discourse, our arrangement of models and types, our surveys of this and that trinitarian thinker are all shocked into the awareness that here we speak of that which we do not, and cannot, comprehend. This shock can then reverberate into other theological disciplines. And because this strange God is “him in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), we can be shocked out of our other complacencies in the world as well. But what then can be said about the work of theology? By denying the possibility in this life or the next of its cessation, by denying the possibility of a single, perfect theological perspective, by tying theology to prayer and poetry, and relishing its unconquerable plurality, Balthasar forces us to reconsider the kind of activity theology is. Theology, Balthasar says, is the following of the Word Incarnate.55 But, the Word leads us to a wilderness our theological work cannot and will never master. What is it if it produces no clear conclusions, no certainties, but rather ever- greater incomprehensibility? Perhaps theology is nothing but the intellectual playing of the children of God, to his ever-greater glory.
I n t r o d uct i o n
1. Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 2. See Oakes’s introduction for an excellent summary of Balthasar’s early intellectual development and sense of isolation. 2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “An Introduction: Hans Urs von Balthasar; 1945,” in MWR, 11. 3. Oakes, Pattern, 4. 4. Pius XII, Humani Generis, 26, http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en /encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis.html. 5. Pius XII, Humani Generis, 18, 32. 6. De Lubac notes that Balthasar was under suspicion for doctrinal error at least as early as 1946. He writes, “The offprint of this article [a review of de Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum] reached me in Rome (sent on from Lyons) on September 29, 1946. The same day, I learned that a formal denunciation had been made against Fathers de Montchueil, Fessard and Danielou; a visitor, Father Lang S.J., came to complain to me about the doctrinal errors of Father von Balthasar.” Henri de Lubac, At the Service of the Church: Henri de Lubac Reflects on the Circumstances That Occasioned His Writings (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 194, appendix 2. 7. Fergus Kerr, Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians: From Neo-scholasticism to Nuptial Mystery (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 122. As indicated by Kerr, Balthasar’s relationship with Rahner extended at least as far back as the late-1930s, when the two produced an outline of a revised treatise on Catholic dogmatic theology. Karl Rahner, “A Scheme for a Treatise of Dogmatic Theology” in TI1. Though it was published under Rahner’s name, according to Kerr, Rahner held that “it was no longer possible to distinguish his part from Balthasar’s.” 8. The first three German volumes correspond to the first five volumes in English translation. 9. Fergus Kerr, “Foreword: Assessing This ‘Giddy Synthesis,’” in Balthasar at the End of Modernity, ed. Lucy Gardner, David Moss, Ben Quash, and Graham Ward (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1999), 3. 175
176 Notes to Pages 3–7 10. Kerr, “Foreword,” 3. 11. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Council of the Holy Spirit,” in Creator Spirit, vol. 3 of ET, 264. 12. Many of these texts have subsequently been retranslated and published under different titles. For information on Balthasar’s bibliography up to 1990, see his Bibliographie: 1925–1990 (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1990). Notably, Razing the Bastions did not appear in English until 1993. 13. Thomas O’Meara, “Of Art and Theology: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Systems,” Theological Studies 42, no. 2 ( June 1981): 272. 14. Lucy Gardner and David Moss, “Something like Time; Something like the Sexes—An Essay in Reception,” in Balthasar at the End of Modernity, ed. Lucy Gardner, David Moss, Ben Quash, and Graham Ward (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1999), 71–72. 15. Henri de Lubac, Theology in History (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), 596–97. 16. Joseph Ratzinger, “Homily at the Funeral Liturgy of Hans Urs von Balthasar,” in Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work, ed. David L. Schindler (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 295. 17. See Pitstick’s Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007); and Christ’s Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2016). For the early critiques of Balthasar’s position and his response, see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”?: With A Short Discourse on Hell (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 16. 18. Karl Rahner, “Zugange zum theologischen Denken,” in Im Gespach, vol. 1, ed. Paul Imhof and Hubert Biallowons (Munich: Kosel, 1982), 245f. Quoted in Encounters with Karl Rahner: Remembrances of Rahner by Those Who Knew Him, ed. and trans. Andreas R. Batlogg and Melvin E. Michalski, with Barbara G. Turner (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2009). 19. John Milbank, The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 62–78. 20. See Thomas Dalzell, The Dramatic Encounter of Divine and Human Freedom in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Bern: Peter Lang, 1997); Frederick Bauerschmidt, “Theo-Drama and Political Theology,” Communio: International Catholic Review 25, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 532–52; and Tina Beattie, New Catholic Feminism: Theology and Theory (London: Routledge, 2006). 21. Karen Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 13. 22. PT, especially 163–69. 23. PT, 165. Quotation from Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eumomius, 2, II 514 A. 24. PT, 168–69.
Notes to Pages 7–11 177 25. CL, 114. Balthasar is quoting from DN, in Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works. The Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. Colm Luibheid (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987), 13. 26. CL, 99. 27. CL, 216–27. 28. PT, 28. 29. HW, 217. 30. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–87, 292. 31. Balthasar, Theology of Karl Barth, 87, 194, 236, 286, 292. 32. TS, 300. 33. TS, 386. 34. TS, 477. 35. Hans Urs von Balthasar, foreword to Adrienne von Speyr, The World of Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 9–10. He repeats this claim over thirty years later in the preface to the second edition of von Speyr’s Letter to the Ephesians (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983). 36. Razing the Bastions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 29. Italics in original. 37. “In Retrospect,” in MWR, 51. 38. TL1, 20. 39. See Karl Rahner, “Der dreifaltige Gott als tranzendenter Urgrund der Heilsgeschichte,” in Mysterium Salutis: Grundriss heilsgeschichtlicher Dogmatik, ed. Johannes Feiner and Magnus Löhrer, vol. 2, Die Heilsgeschicht vor Christus (Einsiedeln: Benziger Verlag, 1967), 378, cited and translated in TL1, 20. 40. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991). The original, German edition was published in 1988. 41. Balthasar, Unless, 38. 42. Balthasar, Unless, 64. 43. See Kilby, Balthasar, 94–123; and “Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Trinity,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Trinity, ed. Peter Phan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 214–20. This is also observed by Cyril O’Regan in his telling of Balthasar’s response to Hegel. See Cyril O’Regan, The Anatomy of Misremembering: Von Balthasar’s Response to Philosophical Modernity, vol. 1, Hegel (New York: Herder and Herder, 2014), 205–21, 347–66. 44. See Silvia Cichon-Brandmaier, Ökonomische und Immanente Trinität: Ein Verleich der Konzeptionen Karl Rahners und Hans Urs von Balthasars (Regensburg, Germany: Friedrich Pustet, 2008); Dalzell, Dramatic Encounter; Jacob H. Friesen hahn, The Trinity and Theodicy: The Trinitarian Theology of von Balthasar and the Problem of Evil (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011); Lucy Gardner, David Moss, Ben Quash, and Graham Ward, ed. Balthasar at the End of Modernity (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1999); Michael Greiner, Drama der Freiheit: Eine Denkformanalyse zu Hans
178 Notes to Pages 12–17 Urs von Balthasars Trinitarischer Soteriologie (Münster: Lit, 2000); Nicholas Healy, The Eschatology of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Being as Communion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Vincent Holtzer, Le Dieu Trinité dans l’Histoire: Le Différend Théologique Balthasar-Rahner (Paris: Cerf, 1995); Anne Hunt, The Trinity and the Paschal Mystery: A Development in Recent Catholic Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997), 57–89; Kilby, “Hans Urs von Balthasar”; Kilby, Balthasar, 94–122; Thomas Rudolf Krenski, Passio Caritatis: Trinitische Passiologie im Werk Hans Urs von Balthasars (Einsiedeln, Germany: Johannes Verlag, 1990); Hans Otmar Meuffels, Einbergung des Menschen in das Mysterium der Dreieinigen Liebe: Eine Trinitarische Anthropologie nach Hans Urs von Balthasar (Würzburg, Germany: Echter, 1991); Milbank, Suspended Middle, 74–75; Glenn Morrison, A Theology of Alterity: Levinas, von Balthasar, and Trinitarian Praxis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2013); Gerard F. O’Hanlon, The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Robert A. Pesarchick, “The Trinitarian Foundation of Human Sexuality as Revealed by Christ According to Hans Urs von Balthasar: The Revelatory Significance of the Male Christ and the Male Priesthood” (PhD diss., Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 2000); Pitstick, Light in Darkness, 115–243; Margaret Turek, Towards a Theology of God the Father: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theodramatic Approach (New York: Peter Lang, 2001); and Rowan Williams, “Balthasar and the Trinity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 45. See Kevin Mongrain, The Systematic Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar: An Irenaean Retrieval (New York: Crossroad, 2002), 17. 46. Balthasar, GL, 396. 47. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Convergences: To the Source of Christian Mystery, trans. E. A. Nelson (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), 13. 48. See Rowan Williams, The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 23. 49. See Balthasar, “Love—A Wilderness,” chapter 13 of HW. C h a pt e r 1
1. TL2, 125. 2. P, 193. 3. GL1, 122. 4. GL7, 17. See also P, 271; GL7, 15, 107; TD3, 508–9; TD5, 121; and “Truth and Life,” in ET 3, 270, for some of the many additional examples. 5. TD4, 318–19. See also, The God Question and Modern Man (New York: Seabury Press, 1967), 98–99; P, 271; “Death Is Swallowed Up by Life,” in ET 5, 232. 6. TD4, 324.
Notes to Pages 17–22 179 7. “The Unknown God,” in Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 43. 8. This is how contemporary North American feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson aptly describes analogical speech in She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 2007), 113. 9. HW, 205–7. 10. HW, 207. 11. Gerard F. O’Hanlon, The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 112. 12. Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 162. 13. As already noted in the introduction, the term begins is here being used in an ontological, not epistemological, sense. As we will see, for Balthasar, knowledge of the immanent Trinity begins with Christ and the Spirit. 14. TL2, 131. 15. Anselm of Cantebury, Monologion, in The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 60. 16. TL2, 133. 17. TL2, 132, 133. 18. TL2, 133. 19. TL2, 136; Epilogue, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 92–93. 20. TL2, 131. Balthasar references Thomas Aquinas, ST I, q. 39, a. 5: “the essence does not generate.” 21. TL2, 136. 22. TL2, 135. 23. TD5, 66. 24. TD5, 66–67. 25. TL2, 151. See also TL3, 441. 26. TD5, 507. 27. TL2, 140. 28. GL7, 17; TD5, 407; TL3, 163; “Young until Death,” in ET 5, 224; “Divine Omnipotence,” in ET 5, 241. See also GL5, 613–28, for the importance of “why- lessness” in the constitution of the human persons, the cosmos, and metaphysics. 29. TD2, 256. 30. TD2, 256. 31. TL2, 140. 32. TL2, 137. See also “The Word and Silence,” in ET 1, 131: “The word of Jesus sounds from a place of silence for it to be a word at all. That place is, firstly, the silence of the Father.” The connection between the “whyless” gratuity of trinitarian love and divine incomprehensibility will be taken up in chapter five. 33. TL2, 136.
180 Notes to Pages 22–26 34. TL2, 137. 35. TL3, 158. 36. TD4, 323–24. 37. TL2, 148. 38. TD4, 327; TD5, 245. 39. TD4, 327. 40. Quoted in TL3, 158. 41. TD4, 325. 42. TL2, 137. 43. “On the Concept of the Person,” in ET 5, 123–24. 44. TL3, 159. See also, “The Unknown Lying Beyond the Word,” in ET 3, 105: “In his innermost principle, God is a bottomless spring that is, in that it gives.” 45. Kilby, Balthasar, 104, 105n31. 46. TL3, 120–21. See also 138. 47. TL2, 148. 48. See TD2, 208. 49. TD4, 323. 50. TL2, 135: “But the Father possesses [the Godhead] insofar as he begets before thinking about it [unvordenklich].” See also TL2, 144; “God’s Speech,” in ET 5, 361. 51. “Tradition,” in ET 5, 360. 52. TD5, 83. 53. “Tradition,” in ET 5, 361. 54. TL2, 152. 55. TL2, 155. 56. “The Word, Scripture and Tradition,” in ET 1, 19. 57. TL2, 166. See also TD5, 61–65; and “God’s Speech,” in ET 5, 328. 58. TL2, 168. 59. TL2, 168. 60. TD5, 65. See Bonaventure, The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal, Seraphic Doctor, and Saint, vol. 5, Collations on the Six Days, III, trans. Jose de Vinck (Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1970), 7. 61. Balthasar, Epilogue, 89–90. 62. TL2, 169. 63. TL3, 158. 64. TD4, 326. 65. Balthasar, “Unknown Lying Beyond,” 106. See also Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 44. 66. TD4, 324. 67. TL2, 168. See also TD4, 326; and GL7, 215. 68. TD5, 86. 69. Balthasar, “Young until Death,” 224.
Notes to Pages 26–29 181 70. TD4, 325. 71. The Father, moreover, is grateful for the Son’s consent. See TD5, 87. 72. TL2, 153. 73. For Balthasar’s reading of the filioque controversy, see “On the Filioque,” in TL3, 207–18. Matthew Sutton includes a discussion of Balthasar’s presentation of trinitarian taxis in the context of ecumenical discussions in “A Compelling Trinitarian Taxonomy: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of the Trinitarian Inversion and Reversion,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 14, no. 2 (April 2012): 161– 76. Sutton’s interest is primarily the supposed shifts that occur in the trinitarian relations as a result of the economic kenosis and exaltation of the Son. 74. TL3, 217. 75. TL3, 218. 76. TL3, 217. 77. TL3, 161. 78. TL3, 140–41, 160. 79. TD4, 324. 80. TD4, 326. 81. “The Holy Spirit as Love,” in ET 3, 126. Despite the reference to Mühlen, Balthasar nevertheless makes clear that he is not advancing Mühlen’s thesis that the Spirit is “a Person in two Persons” and a “we-thou” relation. It might be said that Balthasar rejects Mühlen’s position because it attempts to synthesize the two irreducible aspects of the Spirit. What is important for understanding Balthasar’s trinitarian method is that he rejects Mühlen’s notion that the Spirit is a we-thou relation, because the Son does not have an I-thou relationship with him in the economy. The Son speaks of the Spirit but never to the Spirit. The Son’s thou is always the Father. See TL3, 155, 174, and 288. 82. TD4, 326. Emphasis added. “The mystery that is disclosed to the world signifies in its core that the absolute Being is in itself love: creative love (Father), love that owes itself (Son), exchange of love (Spirit)” (ET 3, 372). 83. TL3, 162. 84. TL3, 115. See also Balthasar, “Holy Spirit as Love,” 127. 85. TL3, 31. 86. Kilby, Balthasar, 104n30. 87. “Unknown Lying Beyond,” ET 3, 106–7. 88. “Unknown Lying Beyond,” 107. 89. TL3, 159. 90. TL3, 159. 91. TL2, 62. 92. “Unknown Lying Beyond,” ET 3, 107. 93. See TS, 145; Balthasar, Unless You Become. 94. TL3, 159–60; TD5, 78, 82. 95. “Unknown Lying Beyond,” 107.
182 Notes to Pages 30–34 96. See GL7, 214; and MP, viii. 97. GL7, 231. 98. TD4, 324. 99. GL7, 215. 100. Balthasar, “God’s Speech,” 333. 101. TL2, 148. 102. TD4, 325–26. 103. Balthasar, Unless You Become, 44. 104. TD4, 324, 327; TD5, 84, 245, 251. Going back all the way to his work on Maximus, Balthasar rejected the “speciously deep thought” “that love without pain and guilt remains simply a joke, a game” (CL, 130). Compared to the Passion of the Son, Balthasar claims, “it is just as certain that God does not suffer in himself in eternal life” (“Unknown Lying Beyond,” 115). In Theo-Drama, Balthasar makes a similar point that we cannot say there is suffering in God, but “there is something that can develop into suffering” in the economy to save a sinful world (TD4, 327–28). 105. TL3, 441. 106. Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 290. Oakes is quoting from Balthasar, “Spirit and Institution,” in ET, 232. 107. Aristotle Papanikolaou, “Person, Kenosis and Abuse: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Feminist Theologies in Conversation,” Modern Theology 19, no. 1 (2003): 46–48. 108. Matthew Levering, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 123. 109. See TD2, 256; and TL2, 137. 110. TL3, 227. See also TL3, 294, 300. Balthasar specifically rejects Mühlen’s assertion that “the Spirit’s descent into man’s sinful will is even more profound than the kenosis of the Son,” but the claim is not limited to this alone. See Heri bert Mühlen, Una Mystica Persona: Die Kirche als das Mysterium der Identität des Heiligen Geistes in Christus und den Christen; Eine Person in vielen Personen (Munich: F. Schöning, 1964), 406. 111. TD4, 331. 112. TL3, 300. Emphasis added. 113. Balthasar, Epilogue, 90. 114. Papanikolaou (“Person, Kenosis and Abuse,” 47), in particular, approaches this insight: “Kenosis refers to this double movement within the life of God that constitutes the reciprocal relations between the persons of the Trinity. Each of the persons of the Trinity is constituted through the free self-giving of the one toward the other.” A single trinitarian kenosis also makes comprehensible Balthasar’s insistence that the economic kenosis of the Son manifests the intratrinitarian kenosis of the Father. 115. Papanikolaou, “Person, Kenosis and Abuse,” 47. 116. MP, 29.
Notes to Pages 34–39 183 117. “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 171. 118. “The Dignity of Women,” in ET 5, 172; TD5, 85–87. 119. TD5, 91. 120. TD5, 86. 121. TD5, 91. 122. TD4, 326. See also TD4, 330–31; and “Divine Omnipotence,” in ET 5. 123. “The ‘Beatitudes’ and Human Rights,” in ET 5, 448. See also TD2, 256– 57; and TL2, 141. 124. TD2, 256–57. 125. TL2, 141. 126. PT, 28 127. PT, 166. It is possible that Balthasar is being merely descriptive of Gregory’s position and does not himself hold such a view. However, Balthasar gives no indication that he disagrees with Gregory, or that he even has some reservations about Gregory ruling out the use of a spatial analogy. 128. KB, 126, 286, 292. 129. TD5, 94. 130. TD4, 323. 131. TD4, 324. 132. TD4, 327. This denial sets Balthasar apart from Sergius Bulgakov, who otherwise is the principal source for the concept of intratrinitarian kenosis. We will return to this in the next chapter. 133. TD5, 94. See also TL3, 137: “We can only speak of this infinite distance between them if at the same time we observe the correlative absolute closeness they enjoy in their essence.” 134. Rowan Williams, “Balthasar and the Trinity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 41. 135. Kilby, Balthasar, 109–10. 136. Kilby, Balthasar, 110. 137. Kilby, Balthasar, 98. 138. TL3, 150. 139. TD2, 258. 140. TD5, 94. 141. TD5, 91–94. 142. Williams, “Balthasar and the Trinity,” 41. 143. TD2, 257; see also TD5, 93–94. 144. GL3, 142: “The distance of person in God in the womb of substantial unity is the presupposition of all love, both eternal and created.” 145. HW, 217. 146. Balthasar, Unless You Become, 35–36. See also “The Eternal Child,” in ET 5, 216; and “Young until Death,” in ET 5, 224.
184 Notes to Pages 39–46 147. Balthasar, “Young until Death,” 222. 148. TD5, 81–82. See also TL2, 82; and TD2, 261. 149. “Immediacy to God,” in ET 3, 345; GL1, 142; GL7, 248; Balthasar, “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 168–69. 150. Balthasar, “Truth and Life,” 310–11. 151. TD5, 95. 152. TL2, 147–48. 153. TL3, 159. See also “Distinctively Christian Prayer,” in ET 5, 302: “Prayer within the triune God partakes of the whole fullness of the intra-trinitarian relations. It includes the incomprehensible, supereminent archetypes not only of petition but also of adoration, praise, and thanks.” 154. TL2, 125–26. See also GL1, 316; and “Distinctively Christian Prayer,” in ET 5, 301. 155. TL2, 125–26; see also TL3, 75. 156. TL3, 159. 157. TD5, 96. 158. Adrienne von Speyr, The World of Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 209. Quoted in TD5, 96. 159. TL3, 127. The reference is to Gregory of Nyssa’s Against the Macedonians (Balthasar is citing Patrologia Graeca 45, 1329b, in PT ). 160. Balthasar, Unless You Become, 46. 161. TD2, 258. Emphasis added. 162. TD2, 258–59. 163. TD4, 327. 164. TD2, 258. 165. TL3, 441. 166. “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 169. 167. TD5, 98; “The Place of Theology,” in ET 1, 155. 168. GL1, 592. 169. ST I, q. 32, a. 1, ad 3. Quoted in TL2, 186. 170. TL2, 180–81. C h a pt e r 2
1. See Stephen D. Wigley, Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Critical Engagement (London: T and T Clark, 2007); Dominic Robinson, Understanding the “ Imago Dei”: The Thought of Barth, von Balthasar and Moltmann (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 98–119; D. Stephen Long, Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Preoccupation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014); Edward T. Oakes, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Continuum, 1994), 15–132; Alois M. Haas, “Hans Urs von Balthasar’s ‘Apocalypse of the German Soul’: At the Intersection of German Literature, Philosophy, and Theology,” in
Notes to Pages 46–50 185 Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work, ed. David L. Schindler (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991); Charles Kannengiesser, “Listening to the Fathers,” in Hans Urs von Balthasar: His Life and Work, ed. David L. Schindler (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991); and Jacques Servais, “Balthasar as Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition,” in Love Alone Is Credible: Hans Urs von Balthasar as Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition, ed. David L. Schindler (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2008). 2. Cyril O’Regan, The Anatomy of Misremembering: Von Balthasar’s Response to Philosophical Modernity, vol. 1, Hegel (New York: Crossroad, 2014). Volume 2 on Heidegger is forthcoming. 3. Leo XIII, “Aeternis Patris: Encyclical on the Restoration of Christian Philosophy,” The Holy See, 26, http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/docu ments/hf_l-xiii_enc_04081879_aeterni-patris.html. Balthasar (KB, 262) understood his rejection of neo-scholastic form and narrative to be validated by the very popes who had promoted Thomas: “When recent popes expressly recommended [Thomas] as the dux studiorum, they were not canonizing his theological system or holding it up as the only valid theology for the Church in its every detail. Even Pope Leo XIII bestowed on numberless Greek Fathers the sobriquet ‘Doctor of the Church’—which surely must mean something for theology.” 4. GL2, 20. 5. See “Tradition” and “The Plurality of Theology,” in ET 5; Balthasar, Truth Is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987); and “Another Ten Years,” in MWR, 105. 6. For an alternative and complementary study of the genealogy of Balthasar’s concept of distance, see Christopher Hadley, “The All-Embracing Frame: Distance in the Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar” (PhD diss, Marquette University, 2015). 7. TL2, 136. See also, “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 168–69; and Balthasar, Credo: Meditations on the Apostles’ Creed, trans. David Kipp (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 30–31. 8. Karen Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 98. 9. Katy Leamy, The Holy Trinity: Hans Urs von Balthasar and His Sources (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2015). Leamy’s thesis is that Balthasar’s trinitarian theology modifies the kenotic theology of Sergius Bulgakov in light of Thomas Aquinas. 10. Balthasar, Razing the Bastions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 29. 11. Balthasar, Razing the Bastions, 29. 12. Russell Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 6–7. 13. Thomas Aquinas, I Sent. d. 2, q.1, a.5. Quoted in Friedman, Medieval Trini tarian Thought, 13. 14. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 16. Friedman describes this approach as “emanational,” but I have chosen to use the term processional because it more clearly reflects Balthasar’s vocabulary.
186 Notes to Pages 50–55 15. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 16. 16. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, trans. Ruben Angelici (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), IV.22. 17. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, IV.21. 18. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, IV.12. 19. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, trans. Jose de Vinck, in The Works of Bonaventure, vol. 2 (Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1962), I.2, ii. 20. ST I, q. 28. a. 4. 21. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 19. 22. Thomas Aquinas, I Sent d. 26, q. 2, a. 2, solutio. As translated in Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 22. 23. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 22. 24. Thomas Aquinas, De Potentiae, q. 10, a 3. Quoted in Balthasar, TL2, 130. This passage demonstrates Thomas’s fully developed response to the “Bonaventurean” critique. Thomas continues: “On the other hand, the relation that constitutes the person produced, even insofar as it constitutes the person, is logically posterior to the procession: sonship is logically posterior to being born, and this is because the proceeding person is the goal at which the procession aims.” See also TL3, 161. 25. Balthasar, Credo, 30–31. See also TL2, 136; “The Unknown Lying Beyond the Word,” in ET 3, 105; and GL2, 348. 26. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, V.16. 27. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, V.17. 28. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, V.19. 29. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, V.18. 30. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, V.19. 31. Balthasar, “Summa Summarum,” in ET 3, 372–73. 32. TL3, 441. 33. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 26–27. 34. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 29. 35. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, 3.7; Bonaventure, The Works of St. Bonaventure, vol. 8, Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, trans. Zachary Hayes (St. Bonaventure: St. Bonaventure University Press, 2000), 8. 36. Jan van Ruusbroec, Vanden XII Beghinen, 2a, 568–612, trans. and quoted by Rik van Nieuwenhove, in Jan van Ruusbroec, Mystical Theologian of the Trinity (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 83. See Balthasar, TD5, 458. 37. TD4, 323. See also TL2, 131. 38. TL2, 151–52. 39. “Unknown Lying Beyond,” in ET 3, 105. 40. Von Speyr, The World of Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 66. See TD5, 94. 41. Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 44. 42. Balthasar, Credo, 30.
Notes to Pages 55–59 187 43. Friedman, Medieval Trinitarian Thought, 40–45. 44. TL3, 163. 45. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.2. 46. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.3. 47. Richard establishes that the other must be divine in On the Trinity, III.6–7. 48. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.2, III.7. 49. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.11. 50. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.19. 51. Aquinas, ST I.34. 52. Jan van Ruusbroec, Vanden XII Beghinen, 2a 568–612, trans. and quoted by Nieuwenhove, in Jan van Ruusbroec, 83. 53. Jan van Ruusbroec, Werken, vol. 1, Dat Rijcke der Ghelieven: Die Gheestelike Brulocht, ed. J. B. Puockens and L. Reypens, 2nd ed. (Mechelen, Belgium: Het Kompas, 1932; Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo, 1944), I.60. Citations refer to the Lannoo edition. 54. Nieuwenhove, Jan van Ruusbroec, 84. 55. Ruusbroec, Vanden XII Beghinen, 2b, 39–58, in Nieuwenhove, Jan van Ruusbroec, 95. 56. See Nieuwenhove, Jan van Ruusbroec, 82, 84. 57. Balthasar, “God Is ‘Being With,’” in You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Radio Sermons (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 143. See also TL3, 161. Balthasar refers to the reciprocal love of Father and Son as a “relationis opposition” in TL2, 140. 58. TD4, 326. 59. TL3, 160–61. 60. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.2. 61. Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God. Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 6.2. See also Zachary Hayes, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, by Bonaventure, vol. 3 of The Works of St. Bonaventure, trans. Zachary Hayes (St. Bonaventure: St. Bonaventure University Press, 2000), 34–35. 62. Nieuwenhove, Jan van Ruusbroec, 84. 63. TD2, 126. 64. John Milbank, The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 70, 74. 65. TL2, 176–77. See Matthew Levering, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 124. 66. Balthasar, Epilogue, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85. 67. Balthasar, Epilogue, 93. 68. This impulse is evident in the conclusion to Balthasar’s two volumes on metaphysics, GL5, 613–56. See also Balthasar, Epilogue, 47–50; and TL2, 178: “Love can thus be considered the supreme mode, and therein the ‘truth,’ of being, without, for all that, having to be transported beyond truth and being. By the same token,
188 Notes to Pages 59–61 whether we think philosophically in terms of worldly being or theologically in terms of the divine being, there is one thing we cannot do: ascribe the transcendentals simply to a divine being devoid of distinction. On the contrary, we have no choice but to anchor them in the process of the hypostases.” 69. TL2, 138–49. Balthasar draws this priority of the Trinity over the divine attributes from Barth’s CD2,1. Barth commented that he recalls Balthasar carrying this volume around “like a cat carrying a kitten.” See Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1976), 302. 70. See Anne Hunt, The Trinity and the Paschal Mystery: A Development in Recent Catholic Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997); Kilby, Balthasar, 99–104, 115–22; Leamy, Holy Trinity; Alyssa Pitstick, Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007); Aristotle Papanikolaou, “Person, Kenosis and Abuse: Hans Urs von Balthasar and Feminist Theologies in Conversation,” Modern Theology 19, no 1 (2003): 41–65. 71. The already-noted work by Katy Leamy is an exception. For an excellent study on Balthasar’s relationship to Russian thinkers, including but not limited to Bulgakov, see also Jennifer Newsome Martin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015). 72. GL7, 213–14; TD2, 264n27; TD4, 323; TL2, 177; MP, 35. 73. MP, 35; GL7, 213. Antoine Arjakovsky has argued that Balthasar knew Bulgakov only secondhand and that this was the likely source of his prejudice regarding sophiology. However, a careful examination of Balthasar’s references to Bulgakov shows clearly that he was familiar with, at a minimum, Bulgakov’s Lamb of God, The Comforter, and The Orthodox Church. Antoine Arjakovsky, “The Sophiology of Father Sergius Bulgakov and Contemporary Western Theology,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49, nos. 1–2 (2005): 228n24. 74. Sergius Bulgakov, The Lamb of God, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), 97. 75. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 98. 76. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 98. 77. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 99. 78. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 99. 79. Bulgakov, The Comforter, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), 65–66. 80. Bulgakov, Comforter, 65–66. 81. Bulgakov, Comforter, 66. Bulgakov is explicit that it is St. Augustine’s formula of the Trinity as Lover, Beloved, and Love Itself that is the inspiration for his own conceptualization. See also Lamb of God, 99–100. 82. Bulgakov, Comforter, 67. Bulgakov does not directly refer to the Spirit’s intratrinitarian kenosis but rather uses the term to refer to his role in the economy.
Notes to Pages 62–66 189 However, given the rhetorical consistency between Bulgakov’s language about the Spirit in comparison with that used about the Father and Son’s kenoses, it is reasonable to conclude that one can speak of an immanent trinitarian kenosis of the Spirit. 83. TD4, 323–24. 84. TD4, 324–25. 85. On the nature of the Spirit’s procession from both Father and Son in their distinctiveness, see Bulgakov, Comforter, 120–51, especially 125. 86. GL7, 213–14. See also MP, 35. 87. TL2, 177–78. 88. TD4, 323. 89. TD4, 327. 90. TD4, 325. 91. See Kilby, Balthasar, 119–21; and Pitstick, Light in Darkness. 92. TD4, 324. 93. TD4, 327. 94. TD4, 328. 95. CL, 190. 96. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 89. 97. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 89. 98. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 90. 99. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 90. 100. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 90. 101. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 91. 102. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 89. 103. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 94. See also Comforter, 54: “The trinitarity of the hypostases in the Divine Person results, first of all, from the nature of personal self-consciousness, which is not fully manifested in the self-enclosed, singular I, but postulates thou, he, we, you, i.e., not uni- hypostatizedness, but multi-hypostatizedness.” 104. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 94–95. 105. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 101. 106. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 101. 107. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 102. 108. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 103. 109. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 103. 110. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 107. Emphasis added. 111. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 113. Emphasis in text. See also Comforter, 186. 112. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 117: “She is the body of God (or the ‘garment’ of Divinity).” 113. Bulgakov, Lamb of God, 112. 114. Karl Rahner, The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (New York: Crossroad, 2010), 57. See also 109–18.
190 Notes to Pages 66–70 115. Trinity, 76n30. Rahner refers in his argument to Karl Barth’s similar interpretation of hypostasis/person as “mode of being” (110). As we will see in the next section, despite their having similar vocabularies, Barth differs from Rahner in that his immanent trinitarian vision proceeds in a fundamentally different direction. 116. See William of St. Thierry, Song of Songs, 12, trans. Denys Turner, in Eros and Allegory: Medieval Exegesis of the Song of Songs, by Denys Turner (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1995). 117. Ruben Angelici, introduction and commentary to On the Trinity, by Richard of St. Victor, 43. See Augustine, De Trinitate, book 8, chap. 5. 118. Quoted in TL2, 40. See also Angelici, introduction and commentary, 43. 119. TD5, 82. 120. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.2. 121. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.3. 122. Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, III.4. 123. TL2, 40. See also “Truth and Life,” in ET 3, 310–11. 124. TL2, 41–42. See also Balthasar, “Einleitung,” in Die Dreieinigkeit (Ein siedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1980), 21. 125. TL2, 40. 126. TL2, 42. 127. TD3, 526–27. 128. TL2, 42. 129. TL2, 42. See also TD5: “In presenting this approach, Richard is rightly at pains to exclude all suspicion of tritheism; four of his six books are devoted to the unity of God’s essence, and the Persons are only ‘modes of procession’ within this unity.” 130. Balthasar, “Einleitung,” 19–20. On this point, Balthasar earlier describes Richard as bringing about a kind of synthesis of theological genius of east (in its emphasis on the divine persons) and west (in its emphasis on the one substance). 131. TL3, 149. This determination of the person as being both from and toward another should not be confused with Thomas’s understanding of knowing the trinitarian relations as ad aliquid (toward another). Balthasar is here referring to the constitution of the person, while Thomas is referring to the notion of a relation. For Thomas, the relation can be considered in two ways: in comparison to the divine essence, with which the relation is identical (i.e., there is nothing distinct between paternity and divinity, filiation and divinity, or passive spiration and divinity), or in comparison with another relation. While there is no distinction between the relations and the essence, in comparison with other relations, they are irreducibly distinct and mutually implicative (paternity is not the same as filiation, and they imply each other). 132. TL2, 62. 133. Balthasar, “Buber, Kierkegaard, Moehler,” Aus der Werkstatt Jakob Hegner (Köln: Hegner, 1957), 3, 4–5; “Martin Buber und das Christentum,” Wort und Wahrheit 12 (Wien: Herder, 1957), 653–65.
Notes to Pages 70–75 191 134. Balthasar, Martin Buber and Christianity: A Dialogue between Israel and the Church, trans. Alexander Dru (London: Harvill Press, 1961). 135. TD1, 632–36; TL2, 53–55. 136. Balthasar, “Martin Buber and Christianity,” in The Philosophy of Martin Buber, ed. Paul Martin Schilpp and Maurice Friedman, Library of Living Philosophers 12 (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1967), 341. 137. Balthasar, “Martin Buber and Christianity,” 341. 138. Ludwig Feuerbach, Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, trans. Manfred H. Vogel (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966), 59. Quoted by Martin Buber, in “What Is Man?,” in Between Man and Man, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947), 147–48. See also Balthasar, “On the Concept of the Person,” in ET 5, 121–22. 139. Buber, “What is Man?,” 148. 140. Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), 103. 141. Martin Buber, “Dialogue,” Between Man and Man, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (Boston: Beacon Press, 1947), 21–22. 142. Buber, “Dialogue,” 23. 143. Buber, “Dialogue,” 29. 144. Buber, “Dialogue,” 24. 145. Buber, “Distance and Relation,” in The Knowledge of Man (London: Allen and Unwin, 1965), 62. 146. Buber, “Distance and Relation,” 64. 147. Buber, “Distance and Relation,” 70–71. 148. Buber, “Distance and Relation,” 71. 149. Buber, I and Thou, 39. 150. TL2, 54–55. 151. TD2, 257. 152. Buber, “Dialogue,” 30. 153. Buber, I and Thou, 103. See also 75. 154. Buber, I and Thou, 103. 155. Buber, “Postscript,” in I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958), 136. 156. Buber, “Postscript,” 136. 157. Buber, “Dialogue,” 14. 158. TD1, 633. 159. Buber, “Postscript,” 136–37. 160. Balthasar, “Martin Buber and Christianity,” 357. See also Balthasar, Martin Buber and Christianity, 114. 161. Balthasar, Martin Buber and Christianity, 114. 162. KB, 260. 163. CD3, pt. 1, 290.
192 Notes to Pages 75–80 164. CD3, pt. 1, 185. 165. See KB, 125–26. 166. KB, 87. 167. CD4, pt. 1, 201. 168. See CD1, pt. 1, 384, 416, 428, 470. 169. KB, 87. 170. George Hunsinger, “Scheiermacher and Barth,” in Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed: Doctrinal Essays on Barth and Related Themes (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2015), 154. In the same volume, see also “Karl Barth on the Trinity,” “The Trinity after Barth: Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jungel, and Torrance,” and “Election and Trinity: Twenty-Five Theses on the Theology of Karl Barth (Revised),” as well as Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015). Hunsinger’s Princeton colleague Bruce McCormack reads Barth in a different manner. According to McCormack, Barth’s theology suggests rather that God is e ternally determined by his election to create. Bruce McCormack, “Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 92–110. This is not the place to enter into debates on the interpretation of Barth. What is clear, regardless of the better reading of Barth, is that Balthasar reads Barth and appropriates him in a manner in line with Hunsinger. 171. TD3, 509. 172. TD4, 317–28. 173. CD4, pt. 1, 193. 174. CD4, pt. 1, 200–201. 175. See CD4, pt. 1, 204–5. 176. CD3, pt. 1, 183. 177. See, for instance, Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo I.9–10, in The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Julian of Norwich, Showings (long text), Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978), chaps. 53 and 58. 178. Mechtild of Magdeburg, The Flowing Light of the Godhead, Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. Frank Tobin (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), bk. 3.9. 179. Mechtild of Magdeburg, Flowing Light, bk. 3.9. 180. TD5, 95. 181. “Mechtilds kirchlicher Auftrag,” in Mechtild von Magdeburg, Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit, Menschen der Kirche 3 (Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1955); GL4, 391–92. Balthasar was also involved in the publication of the German translation of Julian of Norwich’s Showings. See MWR, 68. 182. Balthasar, A First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981), 13. See also MWR, 19. 183. “In Retrospect,” in MWR, 89.
Notes to Pages 80–88 193 184. Kevin Mongrain, The Systematic Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar: An Irenaean Retrieval (New York: Crossroad, 2002), 12. 185. Mongrain, Systematic Thought, 16. 186. This is not to suggest that Mongrain neglects Balthasar’s trinitarian theology, only that his basic thesis cannot account for either the details of Balthasar’s immanent trinitarian theology or Balthasar’s career-spanning interest in immanent trinitarian speculation. 187. For an excellent introduction to von Speyr’s thought, see Matthew Sutton, Heaven Opens: The Trinitarian Mysticism of Adrienne von Speyr (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014). 188. Adrienne von Speyr, The Word Becomes Flesh: Meditations on John 1–5 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 25. 189. Von Speyr, World of Prayer, 73, 209. 190. Von Speyr, World of Prayer, 51–52. 191. Von Speyr, World of Prayer, 42. See also Balthasar, TD5, 79. 192. See Balthasar, TD5, 78. 193. Von Speyr, World of Prayer, 39. 194. TD5, 79. 195. Barth is similarly realistic. See George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 43–49. 196. Adrienne von Speyr, The Countenance of the Father, trans. David Kipp. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 13. 197. TD5, 250–56. 198. Von Speyr, Word Becomes Flesh, 42–43; Balthasar, TD5, 251. 199. Von Speyr, Word Becomes Flesh, 43. 200. Glenn Morrison, A Theology of Alterity: Levinas, von Balthasar, and Trinitarian Praxis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2013). C h a pt e r 3
1. TD3, 508. 2. For the relationship of this claim to Balthasar’s eschatology and the thought of Thomas Aquinas, see the excellent work by Nicholas Healy, The Eschatology of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Being as Communion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 3. TD3, 254. 4. For a critique of such circularity, see Kilby, Balthasar, 105–7. 5. TD4, 319. 6. TD3, 508. 7. TD3, 254. 8. For a very limited sense of the now-massive field, see Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung, eds., Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and
194 Notes to Pages 88–93 Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007); Stephen Finlan and Vladimir Kharlamov, ed., Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, vol. 1 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2006). 9. Healy’s Eschatology is a notable exception. See note 3 above. 10. One such exception is the historical-theological treatment of the themes of divinization and incorporation in TL3, 185–90. 11. See GL5, 68. 12. For such a (neo-)Palamite account of theosis, see Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976). Jeffrey Finch, “Neo-Palamism, Divinizing Grace, and the Breach between East and West,” in Partakers of Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, ed. Michael Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007), 242. 13. TL3, 128–29. 14. TL3, 129. 15. TL3, 130. 16. “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 162. 17. GL1, 122. 18. TL3, 448. 19. See PT, 163–69; and CL, 99. 20. HW, 214–19. 21. Balthasar, Prayer, 58. 22. GL7, 396. 23. GL7, 311. 24. GL7, 311. See also Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 38; “Young until Death,” in ET 5, 222. 25. For a helpful study of deification in Catholic theology before the Second Vatican Council, through the representative thinkers Garrigou-Lagrange, Rahner, and De Lubac, see Adam Cooper, Naturally Human, Supernaturally God: Deification in Pre-conciliar Catholicism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), especially the first part on Garrigou-Lagrange. 26. See, for instance, TL3, 448, for Balthasar’s use of Thomas’s position on the beatific vision. 27. TD5, 428. Balthasar refers to a prominent neo-scholastic treatise on the indwelling Trinity: Paul Gaultier, De SS: Trinitate in se et in nobis (Rome: Gregoriana, 1953). 28. TD5, 470. 29. See TD5, 433–61; GL5, 69. 30. Quoted in TD5, 439. 31. TD5, 441. 32. TD5, 450. 33. TD5, 455.
Notes to Pages 93–100 195 34. TD5, 459. 35. TS, 476–77. 36. GL7, 106. 37. MWR, 118. 38. Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 19. 39. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 68. In this context, Moltmann is speaking specifically of the relation of the Father and the Son. The role of the Holy Spirit in this common love is left unexplained. 40. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 58–59. 41. For Bulgakov’s full account, see “The Creator and Creation,” in The Bride of the Lamb, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), 3–123. 42. The Lamb of God, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2008), 119. 43. Lamb of God, 119. 44. Lamb of God, 119. 45. Lamb of God, 119. 46. Lamb of God, 120. 47. Bulgakov, Bride of the Lamb, 31. 48. Bride of the Lamb, 31. 49. Bride of the Lamb, 40. 50. Bride of the Lamb, 120. 51. Bride of the Lamb, 120. 52. Bride of the Lamb, 120. 53. See TD4, 321–23. 54. ST I q. 32, a. 1, ad 3. Quoted in TL2, 186. 55. TD4, 326. 56. TD5, 83, 407. See also TD2, 256; and Balthasar, Epilogue, trans. Edward T. Oakes (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85. 57. GL7, 17. 58. “Divine Omnipotence,” in ET 5, 241. 59. See TD5, 407. 60. TD2, 251. 61. TD3, 509. 62. TD5, 81. 63. Balthasar, “God Is ‘Being With,’” in You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Radio Sermons (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 143. See also TL2, 180–81. 64. TD2, 276. The entire section of TD2 titled “Infinite and Finite Freedom” is on this theme. 65. TD2, 266. 66. TD2, 272. 67. TD2, 262. See also “God’s Speech,” in ET 5, 319.
196 Notes to Pages 100–106 68. See TD4, 331: “This primal kenosis [of the Father in the Trinity] makes possible all other kenotic movements of God into the world; they are simply its consequences. The first ‘self-limitation’ of the Triune God arises through endowing his creatures with freedom.” 69. TD2, 262. 70. TD2, 257. 71. TD2, 273. 72. TD4, 323. 73. See TD3, 530. 74. TD2, 262. 75. “The Word, Scripture and Tradition,” in ET 1, 22. 76. See “The Unknown Lying Beyond the Word,” in ET 3, 108; CL, esp. 115– 36; TD2, 266–71; and TL2, 166–67. 77. TD5, 62. 78. TD3, 229n68. 79. “Homo Creatus Est,” in ET 5, 22–23. 80. TD5, 457–58. 81. TD3, 229n68. See also Balthasar, Epilogue, 35. 82. See TD3, 220–29; and “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 177–80. This topic has generated a large and growing body of secondary literature, especially as it touches on Balthasar’s dialogue with Barth. See Junius C. Johnson, Christ and Analogy: The Christocentric Metaphysic of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013); George Hunsinger, Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015), 175–80; Peter Casarella, “Hans Urs von Balthasar, Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis, and the Problem of a Catholic Denkform,” in The Analogy of Being: Invention of the Antichrist or the Wisdom of God?, ed. Thomas Joseph White (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2011). 83. P, 51. 84. TD3, 256–57. 85. Balthasar, Unless You Become, 60. 86. TD3, 201. 87. “Serenity of the Surrendered Self,” in ET 5, 45. 88. TL2, 312. See also P, 185–86. 89. See GL7, 454–55. 90. TD3, 518–19. 91. TD3, 519. 92. “God’s Speech,” in ET 5, 333. 93. TL2, 125–26. 94. “Distinctively Christian Prayer,” in ET 5, 301. 95. “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 164–65. 96. See TD4, 380–81. 97. GL1, 320.
Notes to Pages 106–113 197 98. TL2, 315–16. 99. TD2, 254. 100. “God’s Speech,” in ET 5, 334. 101. TD5, 259–60. Balthasar here references von Speyr’s work, especially her commentaries on the Gospel of John. 102. Alyssa Pitstick, Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 340. Emphasis in text. 103. See TD5, 250–56. 104. TD4, 333. 105. TD4, 333. 106. TD4, 333. 107. TD4, 332. 108. “Eschatology in Outline,” in ET4, 435. 109. “Divine Omnipotence,” in ET 5, 250. 110. “Divine Omnipotence,” in ET 5, 250. 111. P, 184. 112. TD4, 335. 113. P, 193. 114. Pitstick, Light in Darkness, 340. 115. TD2, 49; TD4, 327, 331. 116. TD5, 246. 117. “The Faith of the Simple Ones,” in ET 3, 74. 118. TD4, 336–37. 119. TD4, 331. 120. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 59. 121. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 60. 122. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 76. 123. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, trans. R. A. Wilson and John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 192. 124. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 81. 125. Moltmann, Trinity and the Kingdom, 160. 126. Moltmann, Crucified God, 193. 127. TD4, 323. 128. TD4, 362. 129. MP, 208. 130. TL2, 354. 131. MP, 175. 132. TD4, 336. 133. TD5, 268; MP, 175. 134. MP, 173. See also TD5, 267–68.
198 Notes to Pages 113–120 135. MP, 173–74. See also TD5, 267. 136. Quoted in TD5, 267. 137. “Eschatology in Outline,” in ET4, 436. 138. TD4, 495. 139. TD5, 315. 140. TD5, 283. 141. “Eschatology in Outline,” in ET4, 434. 142. “Kenosis of the Church?,” in ET 4, 138. 143. HW, 180–81. 144. “The Descent into Hell,” in ET 4, 413. 145. “Eschatology in Outline,” in ET4, 436. 146. TD4, 361–62. 147. De Resurrectione, tr 2, q 9, a 3. Quoted in TD5, 377–78. 148. TD5, 395. 149. TD5, 395, 423. 150. See TL3, 165–219. 151. John Milbank, The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate concerning the Supernatural (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 75. 152. TD3, 187. 153. TD3, 187. 154. TD3, 187. 155. TD3, 521. 156. TD3, 522. 157. TD3, 522. See also TD3, 188. 158. TD3, 189. 159. Balthasar, “God Is Open to Us,” in You Crown the Year, 138. “The Holy Spirit as Love,” in ET 3, 131. 160. “Eschatology in Outline,” in ET4, 437. 161. TL3, 175–76, 204. 162. Balthasar, Prayer, 263. 163. Balthasar, Prayer, 70. See also “Unknown Lying Beyond,” in ET 3, 111. 164. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, 39:3–4, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Washington, DC: ICS Publications Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979). See TD5, 432; and GL3, 142. 165. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 3:6. See GL3, 143. 166. TL2, 148–49. 167. TS, 477. 168. “The Plurality of Theology,” in ET 5, 385; TD2, 230. 169. TD5, 380. 170. See TL3, 187–89. 171. TL3, 188. See TD5, 416. 172. “Plurality of Theology,” in ET 5, 385.
Notes to Pages 120–127 199 173. “Holy of Holies,” in Balthasar, Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 183. 174. TD4, 391. 175. TD5, 417. 176. Balthasar, “Flesh Becomes Word,” in You Crown the Year, 150. 177. “Word, Scripture, and Tradition,” in ET 1, 15. 178. TD4, 363. 179. TD4, 366. 180. GL1, 659; Balthasar, You Crown the Year, 154–55. 181. GL1, 555. 182. “Holy of Holies,” 182. See also TS, 460–61. 183. Balthasar, Unless You Become, 47. 184. “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 167. 185. The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, trans. Andree Emery (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 288–89; Balthasar, Unless You Become, 48; GL7, 389–431. 186. GL7, 432. 187. “Homo Creatus Est,” in ET 5, 23. 188. Balthasar, The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 4. 189. Living Flame of Love, 3:78. 190. TD5, 521. 191. On this question of the enrichment of God by creation, see Thomas Dalzell, “The Enrichment of God in Balthasar’s Trinitarian Eschatology,” Irish Theological Quarterly 66, no. 1 (March 2001), 3–18. 192. For a work that builds in this direction, see Mark A. McIntosh, Christology from Within: Spirituality and the Incarnation in Hans Urs von Balthasar (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1996). C h a pt e r 4
1. Karl Rahner, “Zugange zum theologischen Denken,” in Im Gespach, ed. Paul Imhof and Hubert Biallowons (Munich: Kosel, 1982), 1:245. Quoted in Andreas R. Batlogg and Melvin E. Michalski, eds., Encounters with Karl Rahner: Remembrances of Rahner by Those Who Knew Him, trans. Andreas R. Batlogg and Melvin E. Michalski, with Barbara G. Turner (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2009). 2. Denys Turner, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 20. 3. Turner, Darkness of God, 20. 4. Turner, Darkness of God, 20. 5. Turner, Darkness of God, 20.
200 Notes to Pages 127–134 6. Turner, Darkness of God, 34–35. 7. Pseudo-Dionysius, The Mystical Theology, V, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, trans. Paul Rorem (New York: Paulist Press, 1987). 8. Aristotle, Peri Hermeneias, 17a, 31–33; Thomas Aquinas, Quaestio Dis putata de Veritate, q. 2, a. 15, corp. Quoted in Turner, Darkness of God, 36. 9. Turner, Darkness of God, 36. 10. Turner, Darkness of God, 38. 11. Turner, Darkness of God, 41. 12. Turner, Darkness of God, 41. 13. Pseudo-Dionysius, Mystical Theology, V. 14. See Celestial Hierarchy, II, 3–4, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works. As Turner notes, Pseudo-Dionysius uses the term dissimilar similarities to describe the use of material symbols for the orders of angels, but the argument applies just as well to God. See Turner, Darkness of God, 24. 15. Turner, Darkness of God, 42. 16. Turner, Darkness of God, 43. 17. Rahner, “The Concept of Mystery in Catholic Theology,” in Theological Investigations, vol. 4, More Recent Writings, trans. Kevin Smyth (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1966), 41. 18. Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 41. 19. Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 51. 20. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, trans. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 2007), 53. 21. Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 50–51. 22. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, 62. 23. Rahner, The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (New York: Crossroad, 2010), 99–100; Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 69. 24. Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 71. 25. Rahner, “Concept of Mystery,” in TI4, 67. 26. Rahner, Trinity, 76. 27. See, for instance, GL7, 159–60; TD3, 410–14; TL2, 242–44. 28. Balthasar, “Current Trends in Theology and the Responsibility of the Christian,” Communio 5, no. 1 (1978): 79. 29. GL1, 146. Though Rahner is not mentioned, he seems to be subject to the critique Balthasar levels at, among others, Blondel, Marechal, and Rousselot, as well as neo-scholastic theology. See GL1, 143–46. 30. Balthasar is aware of and sympathetic to Rahner’s argument in “The Eternal Significance of the Humanity of Jesus for Our Relationship with God,” in TI3, 35–46. See TD5, 383–84n36. 31. Balthasar, The Moment of Christian Witness, trans. Richard Beckley (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 110. 32. GL1, 449. 33. TS, 431.
Notes to Pages 134–138 201 34. TL2, 90–95. See GL1, 536. 35. TL2, 110. 36. TL3, 129. 37. GL1, 128. 38. “Word, Scripture and Tradition,” in ET 1, 19. See also GL1, 29; TL2, 73–81. 39. TL2, 166–68. 40. TL2, 169. 41. “Word, Scripture and Tradition,” in ET 1, 19. 42. TL2, 248–56. As we saw in the previous chapter, Balthasar understands creation as being already expressive by being created in the Word. 43. “The Implications of the Word,” in ET 1, 57. 44. TL2, 279. 45. See “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 176–77. On this point Balthasar once again reflects the thought of Bonaventure. See Turner, Darkness of God, 129–33. 46. See “The Mediation of the Form,” in GL1. 47. GL2, 28. 48. GL1, 539. 49. Balthasar, “The Unknown God,” in Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 43. 50. TD3, 508. See also TL2, 125, 281. 51. Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 107. 52. David Coffey, Deus Trinitas: The Doctrine of the Triune God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 145–46. 53. “Fides Christi,” in ET 2, 66. 54. “Fides Christi,” in ET 2, 75. 55. GL1, 149. 56. See TL3, especially 63–104. 57. GL1, 157. See also Balthasar, “God Is Open to Us,” in You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Radio Sermons, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 138–39; and “Fides Christi,” in ET 2, 58. 58. GL1, 174. See also, “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 173: “In theology the divine content is not expanded and explored on the level of the human mind, but rather the human mind is raised up and carried along in the mysterious dimension of God’s own self-revelation.” 59. Brendan McInerny, “Sharing in Triune Glory: Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics and Deification,” Cithara: Essays in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition 52, no. 1 (2012): 50–64. 60. TL2, 279–80. 61. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Trinity and God the Creator: A Commentary on St. Thomas’ Theological Summa, Ia, q. 27–119, trans. Frederic Eckhoff (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book, 1952), 10.
202 Notes to Pages 139–145 62. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God: A Commentary on the First Part of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa, trans. Bede Rose (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book, 1943), 374. 63. TL2, 161. 64. GL1, 176. 65. GL1, 131. 66. GL1, 136. 67. Quoted by Balthasar, “Fides Christi,” in ET 2, 69. 68. Jennifer Newsome Martin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015), 4–6, 33–34; Anne M. Carpenter, Theo-Poetics: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Risk of Art and Being (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015). 69. GL1, 75. 70. GL1, 449–50. 71. See GL1, 181–82, 592–93, 632; and Balthasar, “Unknown God,” 42. 72. TD3, 530. 73. TS, 432. 74. Balthasar, “Unknown God,” 40. 75. TD5, 329. 76. Balthasar, “Unknown God,” 42. 77. Turner, Darkness of God, 20. Emphasis in text. Turner also includes the nonverbal language of liturgy, music, art and architecture, and gesture in cataphatic expression. 78. Turner, Darkness of God, 257. 79. Bonaventure, prologue to Breviloquium, vol. 9 of The Works of St. Bonaventure (St. Bonaventure, NY: St. Bonaventure University Press, 2005), 6. See GL2, 266. 80. Bonaventure, Hexameron, 14, 5. Quoted by Balthasar in GL2, 266. 81. Bonaventure, Hexameron, 13, 2. 82. Denys Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 24. 83. Turner, Julian of Norwich, 25. 84. Turner, Darkness of God, 25. 85. For the philosophical implications of this theme, see David C. Schindler, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004). 86. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, 20. 87. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, 33. 88. See Balthasar, “The Anthropological Reduction,” in Love Alone Is Credible, trans. D. C. Schindler (San Francesco: Ignatius Press, 2004). 89. Thomas Sheehan, “Rahner’s Transcendental Project,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Rahner, ed. Declan Marmion and Mary E. Hines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 29–33.
Notes to Pages 145–151 203 90. Aidan Nichols, “The Theo-Logic,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 159. 91. Rowan Williams, “Balthasar, Rahner and the Apprehension of Being,” in Wrestling with Angels (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 92. 92. Williams, Balthasar, 92. 93. GL5, 619. 94. GL5, 619–25. 95. TL1, 142–43. 96. TL1, 207. 97. TL1, 208. 98. TL1, 208. See also “Seeing, Hearing, and Reading,” in ET 2, 474–75. 99. TL1. 100. TL1, 157–58. 101. TL1, 214. 102. For instance, for Abyss, see “God Speaks as Man,” in ET 1, 85; “Characteristics of Christianity,” in ET 1, 177; “Young until Death,” in ET 5, 222; HW, 37, 108, 112, 219; GL1, 154, 536; TD3, 531; TD5, 407; TL2, 135n10, 140; TL3, 444, 447, 448; Balthasar, Prayer, 158; KB, 377; Balthasar, Credo, 29; and Balthasar, Grain of Wheat, 15 (Francis de Sales). For Sea/Ocean, see KB, 171 (Barth, 7, 121–22); Prayer, 43; HW, 49, 52; Balthasar, Grain of Wheat, 15 (Francis de Sales); GL1, 621 (Goethe); and TL2, 101 (Gregory Nazianzus, John of Damascus, Thomas). For Wilderness, see HW, 204; and “Liturgy and Awe,” in ET 2, 469. For Whirlpool, see the section on Ruusbroec in GL5, 67–78. 103. Erasmo Leiva, translator’s note, in HW, 7. 104. TD3, 518; “Mary and the Holy Spirit,” in ET 5, 176; “The Eternal Child,” in ET 5, 215; Balthasar, “God’s Simplicity,” in You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Radio Sermons, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 175. 105. Turner, Darkness of God, 26. 106. See, for instance, GL1, 592–93; GL7, 18, 103, 107–8; TD4, 323–24; TD5, 67; and “The Plurality of Theology,” in ET 5, 383. 107. Coffey, Deus Trinitas, 140. See Balthasar, TL2, 42. 108. Coffey, Deus Trinitas, 140. 109. Coffey, Deus Trinitas, 5. 110. Kilby, Balthasar, 162. 111. “Unknown God,” 43. 112. The insight into this distinction comes from Turner’s comparison of Thomas and Eckhart in Faith, Reason and the Existence of God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 105–6. 113. See Rowan Williams, “Balthasar and the Trinity,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, ed. Edward T. Oakes and David Moss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
204 Notes to Pages 151–160 114. Williams, “Balthasar and the Trinity,” 44. For Balthasar’s reading of this term from Nicolas of Cusa, see GL5, 222–38, 262; TD2, 193, 230; Balthasar, Prayer, 67. 115. TD3, 222. 116. TS, 476. 117. Turner, Darkness of God, 45. Emphasis in text. 118. TL2, 111. 119. TL2, 118. 120. TL2, 118. 121. Balthasar, “Trinity and Future,” in Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 83–84. Balthasar articulates a similar claim elsewhere: “What we see in Christ’s foresakenness on the cross, in ultimate creaturely negativity, is the revelation of the highest positivity of trinitarian love” (TD5, 517). 122. GL7, 10. 123. TL2, 363. 124. Turner, Darkness of God, 132. 125. Bonaventure, Itinerarium, VII.6, in The Soul’s Journey into God; The Tree of Life; The Life of St. Francis, trans. Ewert Cousins, Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978). 126. Turner, Faith, 53. 127. Bonaventure, Hexaemeron, 8, 5. Quoted in Balthasar, GL2, 329. 128. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, ii, 22, 5. Quoted in Balthasar, GL3, 162–63; see also GL7, 398. For an account of John of the Cross’s trinitarian apophaticism, see Rowan Williams, “The Deflections of Desire: Negative Theology in Trinitarian Discourse,” in Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation, ed. Oliver Davies and Denys Turner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 129. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, ii, 22, 6. Quoted in Balthasar, GL3, 163. 130. GL5, 164. 131. GL1, 592–93, 596. 132. TD5, 95–98. 133. Von Speyr, The World of Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 51–52. 134. “Liturgy and Awe,” in ET 2, 461. 135. TL3, 441–42. 136. TL3, 441–42. 137. TL2, 122. Conclusion
1. Marc Ouellet, Divine Likeness: Toward a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2006), esp. 5–6, 16–19, 30–34; Angelo Cardinal Scola, The Nuptial Mystery (William B. Eerdmans, 2005).
Notes to Pages 161–166 205 2. “Homo Creatus Est,” in ET 5, 24. 3. Ouellet, Divine Likeness, 18. 4. “The Dignity of Women,” in ET 5, 172–73. 5. “The Dignity of Women,” in ET 5, 174. 6. “The Dignity of Women,” in ET 5, 175. 7. Linn Tonstad, God and Difference: The Trinity, Sexuality, and the Transformation of Finitude (New York: Routledge, 2016), 4. 8. Tonstad, God and Difference, 6. 9. Tina Beattie, New Catholic Feminism: Theology and Theory (London: Routledge, 2006), 310. 10. Wendell Berry, “The Country of Marriage,” in The Country of Marriage: Poems (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2013), 6; for the importance of wilderness in domesticity in general, see Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977), 179. 11. Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 310. 12. “An Apology for Contemplatives,” in Balthasar, Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 200. 13. “The Unknown God,” in Elucidations, trans. John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 44. 14. Thomas Dalzell, The Dramatic Encounter of Divine and Human Freedom in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (Bern: Peter Lang, 1997); Dalzell, “Lack of Social Drama in Balthasar’s Theological Dramatics,” Theological Studies 60, no. 3 (September 1999), 457–75. 15. See Andrew Prevot, Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality amid the Crises of Modernity (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015); and Todd Walatka, “The Opening of the Political: Grounding Political Action in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theodramatic Christology through an Engagement with the Christology of Jon Sobrino” (PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, 2011) for just such examinations. In a different vein, see Stratford Caldecott, Not as the World Gives: The Way of Creative Justice (Kettering, MI: Angelico Press, 2014), for an incorporation of Balthasar’s theology into Catholic social thought. 16. For indications that Balthasar was sensitive to these kinds of questions later in his career, see “Peace in Theology,” in ET 5, 396: “How, for example, does political and social freedom relate to the freedom from sin purchased by Christ, and how will the Holy Spirit shape the interconnection between freedom in the order of redemption and freedom in the order of creation? Or how does the power of the state, which is indispensible in the concrete order of nature, relate (in the Holy Spirit) to the nonviolence demanded by Jesus? Such problems concerning freedom and force will never be amenable to an entirely conflict-f ree earthly solution.” 17. GL7, 15. 18. “Theology and Sanctity,” in ET 1, 203.
206 Notes to Pages 166–172 19. Karen Kilby, “Is Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 12, no. 1 ( January 2010): 65. See also Kilby, “Perichoresis and Projection: Problems with Social Doctrine of the Trinity,” New Blackfriars 81, no. 956 (October 2000): 432–45; and Kilby, “Aquinas, the Trinity and the Limits of Understanding,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 7, no. 4 (October 2005): 414–27. 20. Kilby, “Is Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?,” 67. 21. Kilby, “Is Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?,” 68. 22. Kilby, “Is Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?,” 72. 23. Kilby, “Aquinas,” 414. 24. R. R. Reno, “Theology after the Revolution,” First Things, no. 173 (May 2007): 15–21; Kilby, Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 167. 25. GL2, 20. 26. “Plurality of Theology,” in ET 5, 385–86. 27. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Truth Is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 15. 28. Balthasar, “Unknown God,” 44. 29. GL7, 202; GL2, 20. 30. Jennifer Newsome Martin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015), 3. 31. TL3, 367. See MWR, 15; and PT, 11. 32. GL7, 144. 33. TD5, 404. 34. MWR, 82. 35. See Cyril O’Regan, The Anatomy of Misremembering: Von Balthasar’s Response to Philosophical Modernity, vol. 1, Hegel (New York: Crossroad, 2014), esp. 522. 36. “The Place of Theology,” in ET 1, 152; TL3, 365. 37. “The Place of Theology,” in ET 1, 152. 38. TL3, 365. 39. GL1, 540. 40. Andrew Prevot, Thinking Prayer. 41. Balthasar, forward to The World of Prayer, by Adrienne von Speyr, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 10. 42. Balthasar, Prayer, 178. 43. TL3, 366. 44. TL3, 366. 45. TL3, 366. 46. For an analysis of Balthasar’s poetic impulse and his opening to a “theo- poetics,” see Anne M. Carpenter, Theo-Poetics: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Risk of Art and Being (Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2015).
Notes to Pages 172–174 207 47. TS, 25. For more on this connection, see also “Theology and Sanctity,” in ET 1. 48. TS, 26. 49. GL7, 15. 50. GL7, 15–16. 51. MWR, 52. 52. See Carpenter, Theo-Poetics, esp. chaps. 3 and 4. 53. Rowan Williams, The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), x. 54. See “Excessive Speech: Language in Extreme Situations,” chapter 5 of Williams, Edge of Words. 55. TL2, 363.
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Acts 17:28, 174 Albert the Great, 114 analogical speech, 16, 17–19, 82, 150, 151 analogy of being/analogia entis, 8, 14, 149–51 Christ as, 18, 102–3, 153 Annunciation to Mary, 115 Anselm of Canterbury, St., 27, 78 vs. Balthasar, 19–21, 25, 59 apophaticism, 14, 143–56, 163, 164, 166 cataphatic apophaticism, 142–44, 145, 156, 159, 162 classical Christian apophaticism, 126–30, 143–44 contemporary apophaticism, 130–33 and God’s incomprehensibility, 13, 126, 134, 140, 142, 143, 148, 149–50, 152–53, 167–68 paradoxes in, 127, 128, 156 and trinitarian personhood, 24 Turner on, 127–28, 129–30, 132, 142–44, 145, 148, 149, 153–54, 156, 159 See also negative theology Aquinas, Thomas vs. Balthasar, 20–21, 24, 43–44, 46–47, 48–49, 52–53, 54, 55, 59, 92, 99, 104, 135, 139, 149, 158, 185n.9, 190n.131
on creation, 97, 102 on divine essence, 20, 21, 190n.131 on faith, 138 on God’s incomprehensibility, 139 on the Incarnation, 87 on intramental analogy, 21 on knowledge of contraries, 127–28 on the Logos, 25 on procession, 20–21, 51, 52, 54, 102, 186n.24 vs. Rahner, 132 on relations of opposition, 49–50, 51–53, 54, 57 on relations of the Trinity, 20– 21, 48, 49–50, 51–53, 54, 57, 186n.24, 190n.131 on trinitarian personhood, 48, 49–50, 52–53, 186n.24 on the Trinity, 20–21, 24, 27, 43–44, 48, 49–50, 51–53, 54, 57, 92, 95, 97, 138–39, 186n.24, 190n.131 on the Word, 135 Arianism, 20, 22 Aristotle, 49, 50, 127 Arjakovsky, Antoine, 188n.73 Augustine, St., 9, 27, 29 vs. Balthasar, 21, 48–49, 59, 67–70, 135, 158 on incarnation, 25, 135 on intramental analogy, 21 227
228 Index Augustine, St. (continued) on the Trinity and love, 67, 68–70, 188n.81 Balthasar, Hans Urs von vs. Anselm, 19–21, 25, 59 vs. Aquinas, 20–21, 24, 43–44, 46–47, 48–50, 52–53, 54, 55, 59, 92, 99, 104, 135, 139, 149, 158, 185n.9, 190n.131 vs. Augustine, 21, 48–49, 59, 67–70, 135, 158 vs. Barth, 3–4, 46, 59, 75–78, 83, 98, 158, 166, 188n.69, 192n.170 in Basel, 2 vs. Bonaventure, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57– 58, 59–60, 99, 135, 145, 153, 158 vs. Buber, 70–74, 83, 158 vs. Bulgakov, 48, 60–65, 83, 97, 98, 101, 103, 158, 183n.132, 185n.9, 188n.73 at Community of St. John, 2–3 and de Lubac, 1–2, 80 epistemology of, 6, 12–13, 16–18, 125–26, 138, 145–47, 156, 159, 170, 179n.13 vs. Fourth Lateran Council, 22–23 vs. Garrigou-Lagrange, 138–39 God’s eye view criticism of, 6, 19, 149, 170 and Greek patristics, 2, 7–8, 106 and International Theological Commission, 5 as Jesuit, 1–2 vs. Julian of Norwich, 145 vs. Kilby, 166–68 vs. Mechtild of Magdeburg, 80 vs. Milbank, 6, 115, 116 vs. Moltmann, 94–95, 96–97, 98, 101, 103, 108, 110–12 and neo-scholastic theology, 1, 2, 4–5, 200n.29
paradoxes used by, 13, 19, 26, 34–38, 43, 69, 85–86, 108–10, 112, 146, 147–49, 156, 157, 159, 161–62, 173–74 on plurality of theology, 168–70 on procession, 20–21, 23, 38, 40, 42, 43, 47–49, 52–59, 62, 90, 92, 98, 99, 104–5, 108, 115, 118–19, 148, 157, 185n.14 vs. Rahner, 3, 5, 126–27, 133–34, 137, 145–46, 166, 200n.29 relationship with Rahner, 2, 175n.7 relationship with von Speyr, 2, 9, 80 on relations of the Trinity, 20–21, 24, 38, 90, 158 vs. Richard of St. Victor, 21, 29, 53–54, 56, 57–58, 59–60, 68–70, 83, 158 vs. Ruusbroec, 54, 56, 57–58, 59–60, 93, 102, 158 and Second Vatican Council, 3, 5–6 and theological innovation, 5–6, 175n.6 on theology as senseless, 172–74 vs. Turner, 142–44, 145, 148, 149 vs. von Speyr, 41–42, 47, 55, 80–82, 99, 108, 113, 155, 158 vs. Rowan Williams, 172–73 Balthasar’s works “Buber, Kierkegaard, Moehler,” 70 challenge of reading, 1–6 Convergences, 15 “The Dignity of Women,” 161 “The Eternal Child,” 157 The Glory of the Lord, 1, 3–4, 5, 9–10, 89, 90, 148 Heart of the World, 8, 18, 36, 90, 113, 125 Love Alone, 3 Man in History, 3 “Martin Buber und das Christentum,” 70
Index 229 “Mechtilds kirchlicher Auftrag” for Mechtild’s Flowing Light of the Godhead, 80 The Moment of Christian Witness, 3 On the Trinity, 58 Prayer, 3, 9 Presence and Thought, 45 Razing the Bastions, 3, 9 Science, Religion and Christianity, 3 “Summa Summarum,” 54 Theo-Drama, 10, 37, 70, 76, 81, 87 Theo-Logic, 10, 52, 70 A Theology of History, 3 The Theology of Karl Barth, 3, 8, 36 “The Unknown Lying Beyond the Word,” 28 Unless You Become Like This Child, 10, 85, 90 “The Word and Silence,” 179n.32 Barth, Karl, 2, 95, 190n.115 vs. Balthasar, 3–4, 46, 59, 75–78, 83, 98, 158, 166, 188n.69, 192n.170 Church Dogmatics, 76, 188n.69 and doctrine of antecedence, 75–77, 98, 158 Bauerschmidt, Frederick Christian, 6 beatific vision, 2, 92, 124, 130–31, 139–40, 141 Beattie, Tina, 6, 162–63, 164 Being and beings, 145–46 Bernard of Clairvaux, 143 Berry, Wendell, 163, 164 Boethius, 24, 50 Bonaventure, St. apophaticism of, 143, 145 vs. Balthasar, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57–58, 59–60, 99, 135, 145, 153, 158 Breviloquium, 51 on the Father, 51–52, 54 on God’s goodness, 59–60 on God’s incomprehensibility, 143, 153
on Jesus Christ, 153, 154 on procession, 52, 54 on the Son, 52 on the Spirit, 55–56, 57–58 on trinitarian personhood, 50, 51–52, 54, 186n.24 on the Word and incarnation, 25 Buber, Martin, 3, 29, 66, 70–74, 83, 158 Bulgakov, Sergius vs. Balthasar, 48, 60–65, 83, 97, 98, 101, 103, 158, 183n.132, 185n.9, 188n.73 on divine love, 61, 94, 95–97, 188n.81 on God and creation, 94, 95–97, 100, 101, 103 on kenosis, 60–63, 66, 83, 158, 183n.127, 185n.9 on Sophia, 60–65, 96–97, 100, 188n.73 on spirit as personality and selfconsciousness, 63–65, 189n.103 Carpenter, Anne, 140 cataphatic theology, 126, 132, 133–44, 154, 162 cataphatic apophaticism, 142–44, 145, 156, 159 Clement, 2 Cloud of Unknowing, The, 144 Coakley, Sarah God, Sexuality, and the Self, 163–64 Coffey, David, 136, 148–49 communion of saints, 169–70 Community of St. John, 2–3 1 Corinthians 2:10, 42 15:24, 101 15:28, 101 2 Corinthians 3:18, 88 10:5, 172
230 Index Council of Florence, 27 Council of Nicaea, 94 creation Creator-creature relationship, 6, 8, 10, 12–13, 30, 39–40, 43–44, 62, 65, 73–77, 78–80, 83, 85, 86, 87, 93–103, 105, 106, 109, 110–11, 113, 114, 117, 119, 122–24, 135, 149–50, 156, 192n.170, 196n.68, 201n.42, 204n.121, 205n.16 human beings created in image and likeness of God, 30, 75, 78, 88, 91, 99, 102, 160, 162 relationship to deification, 10, 93– 103, 114, 125, 137, 158 relationship to divine freedom, 12, 22, 65, 76, 83, 94–98, 100–101, 103, 110–11, 137, 150, 159 relationship to divine love, 43–44, 94–97, 99, 100–101, 109, 110–11, 113, 159 relationship to Father’s begetting of Son, 10, 25, 39–40, 62, 86, 93, 97, 102–3 Dalzell, Thomas, 6, 164–65 deification, 44, 83, 97, 117–24, 155–56, 164 as adoption in the Son, 8–9, 12, 14, 85, 86, 87–93, 104, 106, 107, 117–18, 125, 126, 154, 158–59, 166, 171–72 and the Eucharist, 119–24 as participation in trinitarian life, 88, 89–92, 106–7, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124, 125, 126, 152, 158, 159, 165, 166, 171–72 relationship to creation, 10, 93–103, 114, 125, 137, 158 relationship to epistemological vividness, 126, 138, 159 relationship to faith, 137–38 relationship to politics, 165
relationship to revelation, 137–38 relationship to salvation, 103–14, 124, 125, 158–59 and the Spirit, 7, 12, 117–18, 137–38, 159, 166, 171 de Lubac, Henri, 1–2, 6, 80, 175n.6 divine amazement, 12, 155 doctrine of analogy, 149–50 doctrine of antecedence, 40, 75–77, 81–82, 86, 98, 99, 137, 158 Eastern Christian theology, 88, 89, 162 Ebner, Ferdinand, 70 Eckhart, Meister, 92–93, 118, 138, 144 economic Trinity relationship to immanent Trinity, 11, 16–17, 28, 33, 38, 41, 60, 76–77, 78, 82, 83, 86–88, 89–90, 92, 95, 107–8, 109, 115–17, 133, 134–35, 136–38, 149, 158–59 work of the Son, 104–15, 116–17, 120, 171 work of the Spirit, 114–17, 135, 159, 171 See also Eucharist, the; Jesus Christ; salvation Elizabeth of the Trinity, 3, 8–9, 93, 118, 119, 151 Ephesians 1:3–5, 91 1:10, 101 3:19, 173 equality in immanent Trinity, 31–32, 35–36, 40, 43, 70, 85, 129–30, 161, 162 Pseudo-Dionysius on, 129–30 between sexes, 35, 161 Eucharist, the, 14, 119–24, 141, 173 Evagrius, 2 faith, 137–38, 139–40, 141, 153, 156, 166
Index 231 Father, the as begetting the Son, 8, 10, 20, 21– 23, 24–25, 26, 29, 30, 31–35, 38, 39–40, 41, 47–48, 50–53, 54–55, 58, 60–62, 67, 70, 73, 82, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104–5, 108, 117, 118–19, 121, 141, 157, 158, 171 as breathing forth the Spirit, 7, 13, 20, 21–22, 27–30, 35, 39, 48, 51, 58, 98, 100, 101, 108, 115, 117– 18, 157 distance between Son and, 36–37, 38–39 and divine essence, 13, 19–23, 25, 34–35, 42, 43, 49–50, 58, 80–81, 90, 95, 155, 183n.133 and divine love, 7, 20, 21–23, 24–25, 26–30, 34–35, 39–40, 43, 53, 55– 57, 58, 59, 60–61, 70, 73, 80–81, 95, 97, 100, 105, 111, 115–16, 119, 155, 157, 164, 165, 181n.82 and the Eucharist, 120–21 kenosis of, 22–23, 30–34, 36, 37, 40–41, 42, 43, 62, 100, 104–5, 157, 182n.114, 188n.82, 196n.68 primacy of, 43, 54–55, 67, 158 See also God; God’s love Feuerbach, Ludwig, 71 filioque, 27, 116 Fourth Lateran Council, 22–23, 139, 149 Friedman, Russell, 51, 54, 55, 185n.14 Galatians 4:4, 91 4:5–6, 91 Gardner, Lucy, 4 Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, 138–39 gender equality between sexes, 35, 161 as I-Thou relationship, 75 in language, 11 marriage, 160, 161, 162, 164
masculine/feminine in immanent Trinity, 35–36, 148, 161 sexual difference, 160–64, 165 Genesis 1:26–27, 88 3:5, 88 Gnosticism, 6, 63, 126, 170 God Creator-creature relationship, 6, 8, 10, 12–13, 30, 39–40, 43–44, 62, 65, 73–77, 78–80, 83, 85, 86, 87, 93–103, 105, 106, 109, 110– 11, 114, 117, 119, 122–24, 135, 149–50, 156, 192n.170, 196n.68, 201n.42, 204n.121, 205n.16 energies of, 89, 124 essence of, 13, 19–23, 25, 34–35, 42, 43, 58, 59–60, 67–68, 69, 80–81, 83, 89, 90, 92, 95, 96, 97–98, 118, 124, 128, 130, 139, 151, 155, 157 existence of, 58 goodness of, 58–60, 67–68 grace of, 8, 12, 88, 89, 90, 92, 93, 119, 123, 133, 155, 166 as immutable, 11 as incomprehensible, 13, 16, 18, 43, 87, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130– 32, 134, 138–44, 148, 149–50, 152–53, 155–56, 159, 162, 167– 68, 172–74, 179n.32 as mysterious, 22, 34, 55, 58–59, 69, 74–75, 109, 118, 130–33, 134, 139, 141, 147, 149–50, 152, 155, 156, 164, 166–68, 172, 181n.82 as omnipotent, 32, 35, 98, 108–9, 110, 113 as omniscient, 81, 169–70 revelation from, 7, 11, 16–17, 18, 77, 83, 86–87, 89, 94, 126, 133– 39, 140–42, 152–55, 156, 158, 166, 168–70, 172–73, 201n.58 simplicity of, 6 truth of, 1, 12
232 Index God (continued) unity of, 7, 8, 11, 28, 39, 43, 49, 58, 68–69, 77, 89, 99, 106, 107, 116, 134, 151, 155 will of, 40–41 See also economic Trinity; immanent Trinity God’s love, 8, 17, 60, 114, 147, 187n.68 as dialogue, 40–44 as groundless/why-less, 22, 25, 26, 42, 59, 98, 115–16, 124, 141–42, 150, 155, 159, 168, 172–73, 179n.32 and reciprocity, 16, 21, 24, 39, 40–42, 43, 55–56, 58, 63, 66, 68, 70, 73, 187n.57 relationship to creation, 43–44, 94–97, 99, 100–101, 109, 110–11, 113, 159 relationship to immanent Trinity, 11, 12, 13, 15–16, 21–23, 34–35, 39, 48–49, 58–59, 67–68, 85, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 109, 155, 161 relationship to kenosis, 43 revelation of, 133–34, 172–73, 204n.121 as self-giving, 22–23, 98, 111, 122, 158 See also Father, the; Son, the; Spirit, the Greek Fathers, 2, 7–8, 106, 185n.3 Gregory Nazianzen, 89 Gregory of Nyssa, 2, 7, 36, 90, 183n.127 Gregory the Great, 67 Hegel, G. W. F., 46, 108, 170 Heidegger, Martin, 46 human beings as created in image and likeness of God, 75, 78, 88, 91, 99, 102, 160, 162
gender among, 11, 35, 75–76, 148, 160–64 human family, 29 sexual difference, 160–64 Hunsinger, George, 76, 192n.170 Ignatius of Antioch, 152 immanent Trinity active/passive in, 34–36, 41, 148 dialogue within, 8, 9, 30, 40–44, 47, 66, 73, 78–80, 105, 155 divine worship, 39, 41–42, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 122, 123, 155, 158 as dynamic, 11, 13, 24, 57, 60–61, 81, 83, 85, 157, 158 equality in, 31–32, 35–36, 40, 43, 70, 85, 129–30, 161, 162 freedom in, 12, 19, 22, 24, 26, 27, 39, 42, 59, 73, 83, 87, 90, 93, 94– 98, 100–101, 103, 106, 109, 110– 11, 116, 120, 137, 150, 159 glory of, 101–2, 110, 122–23, 139, 172 I-Thou relationships in, 8, 10, 12, 28, 66, 67, 68–69, 73–74, 75, 158 masculine/feminine in, 35–36, 148, 161 relationship to divine love, 11, 12, 13, 15–16, 21–23, 34–35, 39, 48– 49, 58–59, 67–68, 85, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 109, 155, 161 relationship to economic Trinity, 11, 16–17, 28, 33, 38, 41, 60, 76–77, 78, 82, 83, 86–88, 89–90, 92, 95, 107–8, 109, 112, 115– 17, 133, 134–35, 136–38, 149, 158–59 relationship to salvation, 17, 77, 82, 86, 90, 97, 103–4, 166 relationship to sexual difference, 160–64 suffering in, 32, 60, 61, 62–63, 107–8, 109, 110–11, 182n.104
Index 233 See also inversion, trinitarian; I-Thou relationships; kenosis; personhood, trinitarian; procession; reciprocity, trinitarian inversion, trinitarian, 11, 115, 116 Irenaeus, 2, 80 Islam, 94 I-Thou relationships, 122, 139, 181n.81 Buber on, 70–74, 158 in immanent Trinity, 8, 10, 12, 28, 66, 67, 68–69, 73–74, 75, 158 and trinitarian distance, 73–74, 158 Jesus Christ as analogia entis, 18, 102–3, 153 ascension of, 114, 117, 120, 138 crucifixion of, 11, 17, 30, 31, 38, 63, 82, 86–88, 93, 105, 107–11, 112– 13, 114, 116, 120, 133–34, 136– 37, 141, 152–55, 156, 158–59, 173, 182n.104, 204n.121 descent into hell, 6, 11, 108–9, 110, 111, 112–13, 116, 152, 158–59 on the Father as greater, 55 humility of, 109, 117, 154, 172 imitation of, 117 as Incarnation, 7, 11, 16, 25, 30–31, 32, 41, 60, 82, 87–88, 93, 133, 134, 135, 137, 138, 153, 160, 173 and plurality of theology, 169–70 and prayer, 41, 170–71 as praying to the Father, 41 resurrection of, 60, 87, 110, 113–14, 117, 120, 137, 173 revelation of, 11, 16–17, 18, 133– 34, 139, 141–42, 170, 172–73, 204n.121 See also economic Trinity; Son, the John 1:12, 91 1:26, 152 3:3, 91
6:53–58, 121 10:34–35, 88 13:1, 114 14:28, 32 16:13–15, 101 17:10, 22 1 John 3:2, 91 4:8, 27 4:9, 105 4:16, 27 John of the Cross, 123, 153 The Ascent of Mount Carmel, 154 The Spiritual Canticle/39th stanza, 118 John Paul II, 5 Judaism, 74, 94 Julian of Norwich, 78, 143–44, 145 kenosis, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 59–63, 85 of the Father, 22–23, 30–34, 36, 37, 40–41, 42, 43, 62, 100, 104–5, 157, 182n.114, 188n.82, 196n.68 relationship to divine love, 43 of the Son, 60, 61, 63, 82, 116, 141, 154–55, 181n.73, 182n.110, 188n.82 of the Spirit, 13, 33, 34, 61, 62, 188n.82 See also self-giving Kerr, Fergus, 3, 175n.7 Kilby, Karen, 45, 126, 137, 148 Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction, 6 on Balthasar’s pneumatology, 28 God’s eye view criticism of Balthasar, 11, 19, 149 on immanent trinitarian theology and mystery, 166–68 on trinitarian distance, 37–38, 136 on trinitarian persons, 37–38, 48, 52 Küng, Hans, Justification, 2
234 Index Lateran IV, 22–23, 139, 149 Leamy, Katy, 52, 185n.9, 188n.71 Leiva-Merikakis, Erasmo, 147 Leo XIII Aeterni Patris, 46–47, 185n.3 Levering, Matthew, 33 liturgy of the church, 172 Lombard, Peter, on the Father, 51, 53 Mark 9:34, 173 marriage, 160, 161, 162, 164 Martin, Jennifer Newsome, 140 Matthew 5:48, 88 Matthew of Aquasparta, 139 Maximus the Confessor, 2, 7–8, 90, 182n.104 McCormack, Bruce, 192n.170 Mechtild of Magdeburg The Flowing Light of the Godhead, 80 on trinitarian dialogue, 78–80 metaphors, 13, 101, 114, 128, 142–43, 147, 148, 149, 159, 173 Milbank, John vs. Balthasar, 6, 115, 116 The Suspended Middle, 6 on trinitarian inversion, 115, 116 Moltmann, Jürgen, 195n.39 vs. Balthasar, 94–95, 96–97, 98, 101, 103, 108, 110–12 on divine love and creation, 94–95, 96–97 Mongrain, Kevin, 80, 193n.186 Moss, David, 4 Mühlen, Heribert, 28, 181n.81, 182n.110 negation of the negation, 127–30, 164 negative images, 147, 148, 149 negative language, 127, 142 negative theology, 7, 14, 17, 31, 126, 134–35, 140–41, 155–56, 159 Neoplatonism, 127, 132
neo-scholasticism, 1, 2, 4–5, 6, 92, 130, 138–39, 185n.3, 200n.29 neo-Thomism, 2, 46–47, 92 new theology, 2, 5–6, 175n.6 Nicholas of Cusa, 151, 152 Oakes, Edward Pattern of Redemption, 33 O’Hanlon, Gerard, 18–19 O’Regan, Cyril, 46, 170 Origen, 2 Ouellet, Marc, 160, 161 Palamite theology, 89 Papanikolaou, Aristotle, 33, 34, 182n.114 paradoxes in apophaticism, 127, 128, 156 Balthasar’s use of, 13, 19, 26, 34–38, 43, 69, 85–86, 108–10, 112, 146, 147–49, 156, 157, 159, 161–62, 173–74 free necessity, 95 power-in-powerlessness, 32, 35, 108–9, 110, 113, 148, 165 Paul, St., 93 on adoption in the Son, 91 on kenosis, 30 on the Spirit, 42 Paul VI, 5 Pentecost, 117 personhood, trinitarian, 34, 77, 78–79, 112 Aquinas on, 48, 49–50, 52–53, 186n.24, 190n.131 Bonaventure on, 50, 51–52, 54, 186n.24 difference between persons, 7, 10, 11, 24, 27–28, 34–40, 43, 83, 97– 98, 99, 100, 102–3, 106, 111, 155 distance/space between persons, 8, 10, 11, 13, 36–40, 43, 66, 70–74,
Index 235 83, 100–101, 102, 106–7, 108, 114, 136, 150, 155, 158, 183n.133 equality of divine persons, 30, 31– 32, 35–36, 40, 43, 70, 85, 161, 162 otherness in, 40, 41, 44, 83, 97, 98, 99–103, 151, 160–61, 162 Rahner on, 66–67, 190n.115 relationship to procession, 23, 24, 47–49, 50–52, 92, 148 relationship to relation of opposition, 49–50, 51–52 Richard of St. Victor on, 50–51, 53–54, 67–70, 83, 190nn.129–30 and the Son, 23–26, 120 See also Father, the; procession; reciprocity, trinitarian; Son, the; Spirit, the 2 Peter 1:3–4, 88 Philippians 2:6–8, 30 Photius, 27 Pitstick, Alyssa, 6, 107–8, 109, 110 Pius XII Humani Generis, 2 on nouvelle theologie, 2 Plotinus, 122 plurality of theology, 168–70, 173–74 politics and theology, 164–65, 205n.16 power-in-powerlessness, 32, 35, 108– 9, 110, 113, 148, 165 prayer, 8, 9 and Christ, 41, 170–71 relationship to theology, 9, 170–72, 174 Prevot, Andrew, 171 procession Aquinas on, 20–21, 51, 52, 54, 102, 186n.24 Balthasar on, 20–21, 23, 38, 40, 42, 43, 47–49, 52–59, 62, 90, 92, 98, 99, 104–5, 108, 115, 118–19, 148, 157, 185n.14 Bonaventure on, 52, 54
relationship to trinitarian personhood, 23, 24, 47–49, 50–52, 92, 148 Przywara, Erich, 46, 149 Psalm 82:6, 88 Pseudo-Dionysius, 2, 7, 58 apophaticism of, 127, 128–30, 132, 144, 200n.14 The Celestial Hierarchy, 129 The Divine Names, 129 Mystical Theology, 128–30 Rahner, Karl, 10, 125 apophaticism of, 130–33, 144 vs. Balthasar, 3, 5, 126–27, 133–34, 137, 145–46, 166, 200n.29 on Balthasar’s use of kenosis, 6 on Being and beings, 145–46 on divine mystery, 130–33 Free Speech in the Church, 2 relationship with Balthasar, 2, 175n.7 transcendental method of, 133–34, 145–46 on trinitarian personhood, 66–67, 190n.115 rationalism in theology, 19, 58, 60, 131, 140, 145, 170–71 Ratzinger, Joseph, 2, 5 reciprocity, trinitarian, 61–62, 66–70, 77, 78, 83, 114, 120, 133 in divine dialogue, 43 of divine glorification, 42, 101, 123–24 in divine love, 16, 21, 24, 39, 40–42, 43, 55–56, 58, 63, 66, 68, 70, 73, 187n.57 in divine self-giving, 40–41, 182n.114 in divine worship and adoration, 41–42 relationship to trinitarian difference, 24, 39
236 Index relations of opposition, 49–50, 51–53, 54, 57 Revelation 13:8, 104 Richard of St. Victor vs. Balthasar, 21, 29, 53–54, 56, 57–58, 59–60, 68–70, 83, 158 on divine love, 67–70 on Spirit, 55–58 on trinitarian personhood, 50–51, 53–54, 67–70, 83, 190nn.129–30 Romans 8:14–17, 91 8:19, 91 8:29, 91 8:32, 88, 118 Rosenzweig, Franz, 70 Ruusbroec, Jan van, 92, 118 vs. Balthasar, 54, 56, 57–58, 59–60, 93, 102, 158 on Spirit, 57–58 salvation, 10, 13, 100 Christ as Redeemer, 87–88, 104 relationship to deification, 103–14, 124, 125, 158–59 relationship to immanent Trinity, 17, 77, 82, 86, 90, 97, 103–4, 166 and trinitarian inversion, 115 Scola, Angelo, 160 Scotus, John Duns, 87 self-giving, 8, 9 divine love as, 22–23, 98, 111, 122, 158 of the Father, 22–23, 24, 26, 27, 32– 34, 40–41, 54–55, 58, 59, 98, 100, 101–2, 104, 109–10, 118–19, 123, 182n.114 as self-sacrifice, 10, 11, 13, 32, 61, 108, 111 of the Son, 26, 27, 32–34, 98, 100, 101–2, 105, 109–10, 120, 123, 182n.114
of Spirit, 98, 100, 101–2, 109–11, 123, 182n.114 See also kenosis Siewerth, Gustav, 59 similarity and difference, 17–18, 51, 129–30, 140, 149–50, 151, 155, 156, 200n.14 sin, 11, 101, 107, 112–13, 114, 116–17, 141, 205n.16 Son, the as breathing forth the Spirit, 7, 21, 27–30, 35, 40, 48, 51, 58, 100, 108, 115–16, 117–18, 157 deification as adoption in the Son, 8–9, 12, 14, 85, 86, 88–93, 104, 106, 107, 117–18, 125, 126, 154, 158–59, 166, 171–72 distance between Father and, 36– 37, 38–39 and divine essence, 13, 58, 80–81, 90, 155, 183n.133 and divine love, 26–27, 28, 29–30, 34–35, 39, 41, 53, 54, 55–57, 58, 70, 73, 80–81, 95, 97, 100, 105, 111, 115–16, 133–34, 155, 157, 164, 165, 172–73, 181n.82, 204n.121 Father’s begetting of, 8, 10, 20, 21– 23, 24–25, 26, 29, 30, 31–35, 38, 39–40, 41, 47–48, 50–53, 54–55, 58, 60–62, 67, 70, 73, 82, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104–5, 108, 117, 118–19, 121, 141, 157, 158, 171 human nature of, 31, 41, 66, 82, 93, 104, 107, 114, 133, 134, 135, 138, 152, 154 as incarnation, 7, 11, 16, 30–31, 32, 41, 60, 82, 87–88, 93, 133, 134, 135, 137, 138, 153, 160, 173 incarnation of, 25, 30–31, 60, 62, 74, 102–3, 104, 106–7, 110, 112, 115, 117, 120, 126, 162, 171, 174
Index 237 kenosis of, 60, 61, 63, 82, 116, 141, 154–55, 181n.73, 182n.110, 188n.82 obedience of, 8, 11, 26, 30–31, 33, 34, 41, 61, 62, 77, 105, 112, 114, 116, 117 as perfect image of the Father, 7, 25–27, 31, 44, 97, 154 relationship to creation, 10, 25, 39–40, 62, 86, 93, 97, 102–3, 106–7, 151 thanks given to Father by, 12, 26, 28, 31, 32–34, 41, 58, 105, 122 and trinitarian personhood, 23–26, 120 as Word, 25–26, 27, 28, 44, 55, 61, 62, 82, 87, 90, 97, 102, 115, 122, 133–34, 135–36, 152–54, 162, 169–70, 174, 201n.42 work in the world, 104–15, 116–17, 120, 171 See also Jesus Christ Spirit, the, 10, 11, 16, 18, 25, 82, 93, 99, 106, 151, 182n.110, 205n.16 as bond of love between Father and Son, 114–17, 164, 165 and deification, 7, 12, 117–18, 137–38, 159, 166, 171 and divine essence, 90, 95, 155 and divine love, 26–30, 34–35, 53, 58, 65, 70, 73, 80–81, 97, 104, 111, 115–17, 118, 164, 165, 181n.82, 195n.39 and the Eucharist, 120–21 Father as breathing forth, 7, 13, 20, 21–22, 27–30, 35, 38, 39, 40, 55–56, 58, 98, 100, 101, 115–16, 117–18, 157 and filioque, 27, 116 kenosis of, 13, 33, 34, 61, 62, 188n.82
as mediating forms of Christ’s form, 135 and salvation, 104 Son as breathing forth, 7, 27–30, 35, 40, 55–56, 58, 115, 116, 117–18, 157 work in the world, 114–17, 135, 159, 171 Suso, Heinrich, 92, 93, 118 Sutton, Matthew, 181n.73 Tauler, John, 92, 93, 118 theological aesthetics, 89–90, 138 Thérèse of Lisieux, 3, 8 threeness, 7, 149–50 Tonstad, Linn God and Difference, 161, 162 transcendentals of being, 59, 128, 129, 187n.68 trinitarian archetypicity, principle of, 99 truth, intraworldly, 145–47, 152 Turner, Denys on apophatic theology, 127–28, 129–30, 132, 142–44, 145, 148, 149, 153–54, 156, 159, 200n.14 vs. Balthasar, 142–44, 145, 148, 149 on cataphatic apophaticism, 142– 44, 145, 159 on Jesus Christ, 153–54 Vatican Council, Second, 3, 5–6 vividness, epistemological, 12–13, 16, 125–26, 138, 159, 170 Von Speyr, Adrienne vs. Balthasar, 41–42, 47, 55, 80–82, 99, 108, 113, 155, 158 relationship with Balthasar, 2, 9, 90 William of St. Thierry, 67 Williams, Rowan, 37, 38, 39, 146, 151, 173–74
B r en da n M c I n er n y teaches theology at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Minnesota. He has published and lectured widely on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar.