The World

Love Alone: Hans Urs von Balthasar as a Master of Theological Renewal

Adrian J. Walker

Introduction: Re-Theologizing Theology

Catholic theology is in the throes of an identity crisis, because Catholic theologians work under no overarching consensus about the first principle of theological intelligence.I take it for granted that this fissiparous pluralism is a bad thing. This is not to deny, of course, that truth is “symphonic,” as Balthasar puts it in the title of one of his books.Nevertheless, the “sym” of the “sym-phony” presupposes a unitary principle. Otherwise, legitimate theological plurality would not be symphony, but cacophony. Such cacophony, moreover, would both reflect and result in what might be called “theological emotivism.” As Alasdair MacIntyre explains in After Virtue, “[e]motivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character.”Similarly, what I am calling theological emotivism is the conviction, expressed or unexpressed, that theological judgments are essentially expressions of incommensurable, pre-rational commitments that, as such, cannot be impartially evaluated according to universally recognized standards, viz., in the light of a single, overarching principle of theological intelligence. Theological emotivism thus obscures the reasonableness of the Catholic tradition and thereby calls into question the very existence of theology as “faith seeking understanding.” 



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