Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism: The ecumenical implications of his theological style

Rodney Allen Howsare, Marquette University


This study offers a presentation of the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar which focuses on the ecumenical implications of his theology. Although Balthasar was often critical of the official ecumenism of his later years, he remained deeply concerned over the division in the churches, and over the effects of this division on the shape of Catholicism. Balthasar's ecumenical efforts are seen most clearly in his attempt to forge a new style of Catholic theology, a style which would incorporate the legitimate concerns of Martin Luther and Karl Barth, without abandoning the generosity of the Church Fathers and, more recently, Karl Rahner. In the case of the former, Balthasar's theological aesthetics is intended to call attention to the fact that the other is never under the power or within the grasp of the rational subject. Balthasar draws attention to the fact that our first encounter with Being is in the smile of our mothers. Yet, in the case of the latter, Balthasar insists that there is a genuine analogy between our experience of inner-worldly truth, goodness, and beauty and the truth, goodness, and beauty which is revealed to the world in the God-man, Jesus Christ. If we had no genuine experience of love, for instance, prior to this revelation of true love, how would we understand it when it appeared? How would we even know to call it "love"? In short, Balthasar's theology intends to steer a middle course between the sometime Protestant rejection of analogy on the one hand, and the sometime Catholic tendency to forget the "ever greater dissimilarity" between God and inner-worldly Being on the other.

Recommended Citation

Howsare, Rodney Allen, "Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism: The ecumenical implications of his theological style" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9945503.