Something on Von Balthasar

The is from Anne M. Carpenter, a doctoral student at Marquette University, “Redeeming Hans Urs von Balthasar”:

No, there is something worthy in von Balthasar. I do not mean merely that he wanted beauty to return to theology. In a post-Balthasar world, the worthiness of such a task is taken too much for granted to have much weight. I mean that his attempt to give beauty its due credit manages on the whole to avoid the two major dangers that most theologies succumb to in one way or another. The first danger is straying into a love of logic that ends in a love of mere coherence, with no room at all for God; the second is using beauty to avoid complex and demanding metaphysical inquiry, as if beauty could compel us beyond the traps that already sit before us. Beauty cannot save us from logic; it places logic, and gives it fullness. This means theology must be more rigorous, not less; it must have more room for mystery, not less. There must be both. That is what beauty tells us, and what von Balthasar for the both part manages to defend.

During the time of its writing, Glory of the Lord was a lightning-bolt that could return to theology old categories such as what is most fitting, which means that we could once again think in terms of what was best and not what seemed most useful. It was a lightning-bolt that let us begin to mend the tragic divorce between theology and spirituality. Reason no longer needed to be reasonable in so narrow a sense.

With these books, feeling returned to numb fingers.

But now, decades after its completion, Glory of the Lord stands at the long end of another spectrum. When theologies of art and beauty now begin to threaten to descend into a loose sentimentalism, Glory reminds us that beauty has its logic. Von Balthasar reminds us that what is most fitting is not what is most current.

It is not enough merely to have feeling; we must also know obedience


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