Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism: The Ecumenical Implications of His Theological Style
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The modem period is marked at its very origins by a debate in the Medieval academy between the radical Aristotelians and the radical Augustinians. This very theological debate, the importance of which has been too often underestimated by secular historians, has had a far-reaching influence on the so-called "passage to modernity." The Aristotelians argued that because human reason has access to universal concepts it has access to being, and that because it has access to being it has access to God. The Augustinians, rightly appalled by the hubris of their opponents, insisted that the surest place to find out about God was not through philosophical speculation but through God's self-revelation in scripture. In some way or other all of the remaining turning points in the transition to modernity would be marked by this cataclysmic debate: the Reformation of the sixteenth century would be no exception. Martin Luther's fiercest criticism of the Scholastic theology of his day concerned its naive confidence in the ability of "unaided" human reason to reach God. Of course this is not to downplay Luther's soteriological concerns, but in Luther's early disputations "whore reason" was just as much an affront to the grace of God as was "works righteousness." Luther's attacks notwithstanding, the Catholic Church has typically been somewhat more defensive of the basic soundness of human reason, and of reason's ability to know about God on the basis of God's manifestation in creation. That this confidence remains somewhat of a "sore spot" for Protestants right down to our own century is born out by Karl Barth's famous statement that the analogy of being is the invention of the Antichrist In what follows I would like to present Hans Urs von Balthasar's attempt to forge a Catholic theology which, while not denying the natural knowability of God, is sensitive to the legitimate concern of Luther and Barth to safeguard the freedom of God to reveal himself on his own terms...