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Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction

, 2012
ISBN: 9780802827388

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The enormously prolific Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988) was marginalized during much of his life, but his reputation over time has only continued to grow. He was said to be the favorite theologian of John Paul II and is held in high esteem by Benedict XVI. It is not uncommon to hear him referred to as the great Catholic theologian of the twentieth century.

In Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction Karen Kilby argues that although the low regard in which Balthasar was held from the 1950s to 1960s was not justified, neither is the current tendency to lionize him. Instead, she advocates a more balanced approach, particularly in light of a fundamental problem in his writing, namely, his characteristic authorial voice—an over-reaching “God’s eye” point of view that contradicts the content of his theology.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Interested in similar titles? Be sure to check out the Eerdmans Catholic Studies Collection (6 vols.).

  • The Contexts of Balthasar
  • Central Images 1: The Picture and the Play
  • Central Images 2: Fulfillment and the Circle
  • The Trinity
  • Gender and “the Nuptial” in Balthasar’s Theology

Top Highlights

“Balthasar insisted that his work and von Speyr’s ought not be separated.” (Page 9)

“Reason cannot be a kind of neutral power sharply distinguished from faith, but will be seen as by its very nature wanting to reach beyond itself, searching for something it cannot itself provide.” (Page 20)

“‘If you live today,’ wrote Flannery O’Connor, ‘you breathe in nihilism.’ Whether ‘religious’ or ‘secular,’ it is ‘the very gas you breathe.’” (Page i)

“where Christ in some sense plunges into the experience of all that is most wrong with the world and bears it himself” (Page 121)

“the way his theology is done presumes something which the content of the theology rules out” (Page 14)

With an exceptional knowledge both of Balthasar’s vast corpus and of the burgeoning secondary literature on him, Karen Kilby has given us a highly perceptive and accessible analysis of the influential Swiss theologian’s work and legacy. Her book is always fair-minded, but it is also unerringly incisive and tenacious in its argument that Balthasar’s project has a ‘performative contradiction’ at its heart. She is as attentive to his method and habits of mind (where so many of his vulnerabilities lie) as to the explicit content of what he says. By denying Balthasar the status of sacred cow, Kilby ensures that he will remain a much more useful and productive source of nourishment for the next generation of theologians.

—Ben Quash, professor of Christianity and the arts, King’s College London

Karen Kilby exposes the plotline of Balthasar’s formidable opus and proceeds to offer circumspect criticism of the supremely confident modes of expression his speculation can take. With grammar as a critical tool, she inquires trenchantly what might allow this ‘theological novelist’ to know his divine characters so well as to spin the story he does.

David Burrell, Theodore Hesburgh C. S. C. Professor Emeritus in Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame

This book should be essential reading for anybody interested in contemporary Catholicism and its most flamboyant theologian. Kilby approaches her subject with a lucidity and balance that are rare in studies of Hans Urs von Balthasar. While meticulously careful to avoid gratuitous criticism, she offers a timely caution against the uncritical acceptance of Balthasar’s work and its influence on much recent theology and doctrine.

—Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic studies, University of Roehampton

Karen Kilby is special lecturer in theology at the University of Nottingham. She has contributed articles on Rahner to The Blackwell Companion to Modern Theology, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, and The Modern Theologians.


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    Digital list price: $22.99
    Save $5.00 (21%)