Kenotic Faith: Hans Urs von Balthasar

The trilogy

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) wrote a multi-volume trilogy. Part I, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, is about the revelation of the beauty of God in the crucified and resurrected Christ. Part II, the Theo-Drama, is about the expression of the goodness of God in Christ and through him in the economy of salvation. Part III, the Theo-Logic, is about the truthfulness of God as manifested to the Church by the Holy Spirit.

Von Balthasar wrote a trilogy about beauty, truth and goodness because the disunified way in which people of today approach beauty, goodness and truth bears some of the blame for the modern disjunction between faith and reason. Beauty, truth and goodness each in its characteristic way relies upon faith to be acknowledged. So, for instance, truth is not just seized in a dispassionately intellectual way, but rather requires that we put our faith in someone else’s testimony, and that we be genuine in our intellectual commitments, making ourselves trustworthy, so that we can personally ‘stand in’ for what is lacking in evidence. ‘The declaration of truth’, von Balthasar says, ‘implies the ethical characteristic of truthfulness ... there is a corresponding faith on the part of the receiver. Without this faith, any exchange of truth between free entities is unthinkable’.1

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