Fall 1995

Christian Universalism: On Two Collections of Papers by Hans Urs von Balthasar

Joseph Ratzinger Benedict XVI

"The life of the counsels is not a matter for specialists, but the spirit of the whole."

The great issue of controversial theology between the Wars was the analogia entis, which Erich Przywara had interpreted as the guiding thread of Catholic thought, whereas for Karl Barth it was the only serious reason not to become a Catholic and a true invention of the Antichrist. As his Church Dogmatics progressed, Barth rapidly outgrew the formal dispute over analogia entis versus analogia fidei, over the question whether being itself already contains a likeness to God, or whether Godlikeness derives from faith alone. Christology increasingly assumed the central role in place of the abstract formal principle of the analogy of faith. At the same time, it made possible a rediscovery of creation in the light of Christ and, by this means, a theology of creation which now permitted the whole wealth of reality to pour into Barth's thought. A few years ago, Hans Urs von Balthasar masterfully traced the trajectory of this maturation of Barth's work in his book The Theology of Karl Barth, while at the same time demonstrating that the decisve opportunity for an encounter with Catholic theology lay in the latter's christological understanding of creation. However, Balthasar still found it necessary to note the presence of a "christological reduction" in Barth's writings, that is, of a rigorous construction from above which continued to prevent the incorporation of the human basis, of the dimensions of history and of man as such, in the christological transformation of Barth's thought.


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