The theological method of Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Larry Scott Chapp, Fordham University


Hans Urs Von Balthasar is one of the most important Catholic theologians of this century. However, his theology is exceptionally complex and is difficult to summarize or encapsulate. This complexity is due to the very nature of Balthasar's theological method which is a mystical, contemplative meditation on the overall aesthetic "wholeness" of God's revelation in Jesus. The task of analyzing this rather diffuse and complex theology must begin with an exploration of the manner in which Balthasar proceeds from an original theological premise to his various theological conclusions. The task of explicating Balthasar's theological method requires a detailed analysis of his major works. The very structure of Balthasar's major theological trilogy gives insight into his overall theological method and these works must be examined first. The contemplative nature of his method requires a detailed analysis of the trilogy with specific attention paid to the synthetic quality of the various components. Therefore, each section of the trilogy must be read with an eye on the others in order to ascertain the precise manner in which Balthasar is attempting to group the various components of his theology around a controlling theme. An analysis of Balthasar's theological trilogy reveals a theological method that is "intratextual" insofar as it takes as its normative point of departure a narrowly defined concept of revelation. Apologetical and correlational concerns are viewed as being strictly ad hoc to the central theological task of explicating the revelation of God in Jesus as this revelation is mediated through Scripture and Church. However, his theology departs from purely intratextual concerns insofar as it does seek its "ground of possibility" in a metaphysical analysis of personalistic categories. Therefore, Balthasar's method emerges as a complex weaving together of intratextual and metaphysical concerns. The central controlling theological idea that undergirds this method is Balthasar's assertion that the "form" of God's revelation is possessed of an infinite, inner "necessity" that is analogous to the aesthetic "necessity" of great works of art. This lends God's revelation an infinite applicability to "new" human situations. It is the task of theologians in every generation to apply this revelation to the ever new conditions of human life. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

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Recommended Citation

Chapp, Larry Scott, "The theological method of Hans Urs Von Balthasar" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425189.