The Word Has Been Abroad
Chapter 1: The Fate of Beauty.
Balthasar's theological aesthetics opens in its first volume with a promise that here we shall find - probably
to our surprise - a theology that is practised in the light of beauty. Owing to the interconnexion of the true, the good and the beautiful (so Balthasar explains in his preface),
neglect of the third member of this trio can only be gravely damaging to the flourishing of the other two. Yet
precisely that is what has transpired.
In the early pages of Herrlichkeit, Balthasar offers
a lament over the departure of beauty as a transcendental determination of being - a quality, somehow, of all that
exists - from the sensibility of the contemporary West. The world of antiquity refused to understand itself without
beauty; even the nineteenth century still 'held on with passionate frenzy
to the fleeing garments of beauty' - a reference to Goethe's Faust where Faust himself is left with Helena's evanescent robe as her body leaves this world. But we in the
twentieth century have downgraded beauty to a mere appearance, an adjunct to be at best quality-controlled, at
worst exploited; and we despise reverence for beauty as a relic of an outworn bourgeois past. Even religion, he
writes, turns its back on beauty - the reference may be to the advent of modernist functionalism in church design
and 'decoration' in contemporary Catholicism
- and as a punishing result becomes to a degree incomprehensible to human beings. What to the ancients was a world
penetrated by divine light had already degenerated for the Victorians, and their continental counterparts, into
something of a land of dreams. But now, in the contemporary period, all that remains is matter - and a matter which,
in its brute facticity or 'thereness' has taken
on the character of what Balthasar calls, thinking probably of Sartre's novel La Nausée, 'an indigestible symbol of fear and anguish' - an experience of materiality all too evocative of existence when unilluminated by the mystery of being,
with its truth, goodness and beauty. It is, then, in sharpest contrast to this picture, that Balthasar promises
to provide for his readers (after, as he chronicles, long years of neglect) a theology written by the light of
beauty, the 'third transcendental' of developed
In a world without beauty, the good loses its attractiveness and what Baithasar terms its 'self-evidence', that is, its intrinsic authority, owing to precisely
this sundering from its fellow transcendental. And if that can happen to ethics, then what on earth will happen
to Being itself - to that which declares itself in the good, the beautiful and the true? What remains when the
radiance of Being is no longer perceived is just a 'lump of existence', without any inherent pattern or integral value, to be jerked into some simulacrum of life only by the
string-pulling of the human puppeteer; or in another metaphor for what Balthasar intends here, to take on colour
and vitality only through the projection, as onto a screen, of images humanly devised.
In order to commend the approach of beauty to (it may be) rationalistically minded readers -
and this certainly includes many modern theologians - Baithasar prefaces an initial statement of the aims and native
subject-matter of a theological aesthetics by pointing up the peculiar ontological importance of the 'primal phenomenon' of the beautiful at large. In what is lovely: 'We are confronted simultaneously
with both the figure and that which shines forth from the figure, making it into a worthy, a love-worthy thing.' And in this description of the 'primal phenomenon' Balthasar finds the same structure, or, better,
the same combination of structure-with-inner-power as also holds good in such utterly basic realities of our daily
experience as body and soul; the communication of our interiority to others (and even to ourselves); and language
itself which is at once a rule-governed activity and yet the sheerest freedom. All of these are examples of spirit
incarnate, and earthly beauty is their paradigm.
Balthasar is keenly aware of how easily an incarnational attitude to living - and even an incarnational
faith in the 'Flesh that rises to eternal life'
(namely, the Word incarnate's risen humanity) can collapse into either a dualism of matter and spirit as only incidentally
related or a mere materialism where spirit is but an epiphenomenon of matter. Endeavouring to give due weight to
both spirit and matter in their unity-in-difference, and drawing on the first volume of his theological logic,
The freedom of the spirit that is at home in itself.. . is simultaneous with
the 'keyboard' which it has appropriated and which allows the spirit self-expression. Such simultaneity is possible
because it is the spirit's native condition always to have gone outside itself in order to be with another.
From plant through animal to man, there is a deepening both of interiority and of the freedom of a creature to
express itself in a 'play of forms'. Yet the
thought that, by virtue of being bodily, man is already
communicated (we do not choose whether to appear in the world or not!) reminds Balthasar that man cannot be the
archetype of Being or spirit, but only - in more lowly, though still significant fashion - their image. And anticipating,
at the level of natural theology, the conclusion of Herrlichkeit, Balthasar moves swiftly forward to the claim
As a totality of spirit and body, man must make himself into God's mirror
and seek to attain to that transcendence and radiance that must be found in the world's substance if it is indeed
God's image and likeness - his word and gesture, action and drama.
But the soteriological implications of this are not yet Balthasar's subject. At the moment he
is exploiting this seam of conceptual ore for the sake of a fundamental anthropology. Man's being, as it comes
forth from its Creator, is form, and as such is both spirit and freedom.
Despite the intrinsic difficulty of Balthasar's language for those reared in an Anglo-Saxon culture no longer attuned
to metaphysics, it is possible to see how strenuously he tries to define the aesthetic here as a coordinate, not
a competitor, of the ethical. Just as for Origen - to take an ancient example - the moral meaning of revelation
is not found alongside its mystical significance but within it (as the urgency with which the light of revelation
strikes the heart), so for Schiller - to take a modern - the ethical enables beauty to unfold its full richness
as a transcendental attribute of Being. Only the form which stands within the spiritual space of the ethical can
truly claim the name of beauty. A person with a life-form (we note how rapidly Balthasar can move from a sacred
text to an artwork to a human life, but this is not surprising if what he is speaking of is truly a transcendental,
which precisely transcends the categories of objects that there are) is worthy of the beauty of Being; one who
lacks such a figural existence 'decays to expressionlessness and sterility' like the dry wood of the Gospels. Alas, in our cultural epoch, it is no longer second nature to us to
'work from the whole to the parts'. We are better
at dealing with the quantitative and the fragmentary, our minds are less apt for the perception of wholeness.
The historical development, or degeneration, of culture is highly relevant to how we experience.
In some ages, beauty seems ubiquitous, so abundant are the forms produced. In others, the disfigurement and even
denial of form turns the world nihilistically into a seeming void. For Balthasar, this is not just of interest
to historians of art, or, more widely, to students of human mentalités. There turns on it (doubtless, not exclusively) nothing less than our readiness to be evangelised at
all. To find our way to that single Image which the primal Maker of images has shaped for us - Jesus Christ, and
in him our own humanity as God's likeness - is either more difficult or less in dependence on the relative inaccessibility
or accessibility of this starting point.
Balthasar does not despair of the task of reChristianisation. He does, however, insist that in our time this task
is going to fall to a select few - an 'elect',
a term not a million miles removed from an elite, though he hints that in salvation history things were ever thus.
'Only the few who (as often before) bear the weight of the whole on their
shoulders will receive eyes to behold the primal form of man-in-existence . . '  And Balthasar predicts that their courage in 'embracing this primal form' will illuminate once more not only
the beautiful but also the true and the good.
Not that Balthasar is wholly opposed to any and every kind of analytical approach. He admits that form is determined
by many antecedent conditions. Yet this in no way prevents its indissolubility: the conditions are not an explanation of form. Considered as a unique totality it cannot, by definition,
be rendered in their terms alone. And just as the role of various antecedent materials (one might think in man's
case of his evolutionary prehistory, or the unconscious life of the human subject) does not account for form, so
neither is form incapable of actively 'informing'
(as we say) materials that subsequently accrue. In Balthasar's preferred example: the life-form which is marriage
can extend its influence through all the dimensions of life - down to its biological roots and up to the heights
of grace. Suddenly, all fruitfulness and freedom are found in the form of marriage itself - as one of Balthasar's
favourite imaginative writers, the early twentieth-century French poet and dramatist Paul Claudel suggested in
his Fifth Ode.
And coming at last to his central, theological, concerns, Balthasar affirms that being a form is, par excellence, what a Christian is. Justification and sanctification guarantee
a spiritual form that 'will thrive as the greatest of beauties'. In Catholic piety, the faithful love their saints because 'the
image of the saints' lives is so love-worthy and engaging'. In the redeemed, the archetype
of Christ is set to work on the image of ordinary existence, for its transfiguration, by that almighty Creator
Spirit who has no need to destroy the natural so as to attain his more-than-natural goal.
And this brings Balthasar to the source of which the saints are merely the effects. The 'supreme object' in his theological aesthetics will be 'the form of divine revelation in salvation-history, leading to Christ and deriving from
him'.This object will
not be approached, however, in splendid isolation from the natural objects of aesthetics found in creation and
culture. Balthasar can say with T. S. Eliot: 'O Greater Light, we praise
thee for the less.'
Or in his own words:
The same Christian centuries which masterfully knew how to read the natural
world's language of forms were the very same ones which possessed eyes trained, first, to perceive the formal quality
of revelation by the aid of grace and its illumination and second (and only then!) to interpret revelation.
The incarnation 'perfects the whole ontology and aesthetics
of created Being', using it at a hitherto unheard of depth as a language and means of
expression for the Uncreated Reality.
Balthasar's aim, then, will not be in the first place the correction of a deficient philosophical ontology, an
account of being impoverished because it has lost sight of beauty. Much less will it be the restoration (much needed
though this is) of a metaphysical sensibility to the criticism and the practice of art - the kind of thing attempted
in England until his premature death by the deliberately anti-modern theoretician of art Peter Fuller. Rather,
as a traditional theologian whose sense of the aims of theology is governed by the Fathers, the mediaevals and
the best of the divines and spiritual writers of the early modern and modern periods, Balthasar's enterprise centres
on the confrontation of beauty with revelation in the context of dogmatic theology. It is at a renewal of dogmatics,
made possible by a recovery of the lost transcendental, beauty, and its theological correlate, glory, that he aims,
a renewal of dogmatics which will be at the same time, as we shall see, a transformation of fundamental theology
or apologetics - of, that is, the way we approach the revelatory action whose content it is the business of dogmatics
to explore. Very properly, he warns that we shall come at this centre only slowly. Although the first volume of
the theological aesthetics will give us an initial glimpse of it, by presenting us with the formal structure both
of the act of faith and of the event of revelation in Jesus Christ, not till we reach the last volume of the aesthetics,
on the New Testament's definitive disclosure of the content of God's glory, shall we have reached the heart of
In a first sketch of his aesthetic Christology, Balthasar deftly indicates some of the themes he will expand, with
help from a host of writers, in the volumes that follow. Let us enumerate some of the most important. First, in
bearing witness to God as a man, Jesus is what he expresses (God himself) but not whom he expresses (the Father):
an apparent paradox which Balthasar calls the fountainhead of a distinctively Christian aesthetics. Secondly, to
perceive Jesus as the Word incarnate, the very image of the Father, familiarity with his life-form is needful:
this Balthasar identifies with St John's menein, an 'abiding' with and in Christ. Thirdly, just as a viewer must step back from
a painting to 'take it in', so the disciples could only
discern the true content of Jesus' life and teaching with the benefit of hindsight, in a retrospective remembering
of what had been seen, their original conversio ad phantasmata - 'turning to the images'. Fourthly,
what is seen thereby, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, is the proportions proper to the mystery of Christ: the interior relation of divine and human, of invisible and visible.
And to this belong other proportions and relationships: with the Old Testament, the promise, of which the New is
the fulfilment, and with the created world as a whole. Fifthly, the disciples gave their testimony to the original
form, Jesus Christ, not only in oral ways but also in written ones. And the canonical expression - form - of the
New Testament reproduces what they perceived of the form of revelation in him. Thus Scripture is the 'likeness' of the original image. It follows that truly fruitful
biblical studies (fruitful that is, for ecclesial faith and practice) must always start from the single form found
in the multiplicity of texts and theologies in the New Testament, and also return to it. Sixthly, the effect of
seeing the divine form in Christ is that the disciples are enraptured, transported, and indeed only form can have
this effect. Mission takes its rise from such contemplation.
But if the contours of Balthasar's theological aesthetics are beginning to emerge, how historically justified is
his enterprise? Is there any precedent in tradition for such a Christology of beauty - even in the large sense
which he gives that word? Has Balthasar not been guilty of slipping too easily from the natural to the supernatural,
without reference to that searing divine judgment which revelation makes on all things human?
Balthasar admits that in aesthetics the world does tend
to glorify itself - more so than in metaphysics or ethics. Where this happens, revelation unmasks it, and theology,
as befitting its place as the handmaid of revelation, should obediently reflect this judgment. But Balthasar also
stoutly defends his proposed aesthetics of the theological against the charge of presumption and imprudence. To
begin with, divine judgment of this world does not always mean condemnation of it! Such judgment may well be, rather,
'a saving act of taking up and transfiguring what is human'. But also, there is a real continuity between the action of the Creator and that of the Redeemer, and,
that being so, we must not assume that the main role of grace in aesthetics is to 'demolish
the bridge between natural and supernatural beauty'. The Greek word for grace, charis, means also the attractiveness of the beautiful, and, Balthasar finds
that more than a coincidence. In artistic formation spirit can submit to a 'higher
shaping hand' without losing its autonomy, while in artistic inspiration, enthusiasm
- en-thousiasmos, the 'spirit
that contains the god' - may find itself obliged to obey a higher command.
It is fair enough to warn against the unchecked application of categories borrowed from this-worldly beauty to
the unique glory of God's self-disclosure. By such transgressions of thought theological aesthetics degenerate
into 'aesthetic theology': a term which many
would regard as synonymous with Balthasar's undertaking in Herrlichkeit but which he reserves for rogue versions of his project. Still, 'a
dangerous road remains a road': abusus non tollit usum.
These persuasive sweetmeats dropped into our lap, Balthasar evidently feels secure enough in moving on to an account
of the divine art - God's aesthetic 'formings' to which man contributes only when he refrains from
resisting the Potter's hand. (Balthasar alludes here to Catholic orthodoxy's understanding of the relative roles
of grace and free will in the origination of our salvation). Despite all dissimilarity between created natural
form and uncreated supernatural formation, there is also analogy.
Admittedly, the divine principle of form must in some ways stand in sharp
contrast to the beauty of this world. This contrast notwithstanding, however, if God's will to give form really
aims at man as God truly wants to shape him - aims, that is, at the perfecting of that work begun by God's 'hands'
in the Garden of Eden - then it appears impossible to deny that there exists an analogy between God's work of formation
and the shaping forces of nature and of man as they generate and give birth.
And this 'art' is seen in the life-forms of God's chosen instruments in the history of the covenants, both Old
and New. From the patriarchs and Moses, through the judges and prophets up to the Baptist, still the arc ascends
until it reaches Mary, the Lord's handmaid in whom:
the feminine and bridal plasticity of the Daughter of
Zion is totally recapitulated and who presents to us the highest paradigm of what is meant by the 'art of God'
and by 'well-structured sanctity': in each of these cases we confront life in the Holy Spirit, hidden life which
is inconspicuous, and yet so conspicuous that its situations, scenes and encounters receive a sharp, unmistakable
profile and exert an archetypal power over the whole history of faith.
The traditional antecedents for such an aesthetics of revelation are threefold. First, there is the theology of
creation: the aesthetic values found within the creation must be ascribed 'in
a more eminent mode' to the Source of creation, God himself. Secondly, there is the theology
of creation's mending and exaltation (soteriology) and its final perfecting (eschatology). As God's supreme handiwork,
the redemption and the consummation of the world must surely mirror, and indeed surpass, the beautiful artistry
of its original making. Thirdly, there is the theology of the resurrection, when the glorious form of created being
prepared in God's eternal plan is first poured out on earth through the Easter victory of Jesus.
All three presuppositions left their mark on not only the content of the theology of the Fathers (in particular)
but on its very style. A beautiful subject-matter requires beautiful handling. Balthasar repudiates the suggestion
that all of this is owed to that too convenient all-purpose theological scapegoat 'Hellenism'. The contemplative
aspect of patristic theology from Origen to Maximus, from Hilary to Leo, is not the invasion of the Christian religion
by an alien philosophical presence. Rather is it 'the flashing anticipation
of eschatological illumination, the presaging vision of transparent glory in the form of the Servant .. ." - the afterglow, in other words,
of Jesus' transfiguration. The importance of that transfiguration theme for the art of the icon is well known,
and one might have thought that icon theology would be Balthasar's next patristic port-of-call in establishing
the credentials of theological aesthetics. But despite his ringing affirmation of the evangelical authenticity
of patristic theology, Balthasar shows himself surprisingly cool on the subject of the iconodule theology of the
later Fathers. He treats Byzantine iconoclasm as a valuable corrective, and sees the iconophobe arguments of the
theologian-emperor Constantine as a useful warning against 'allowing the
Image of himself that God made to appear in the world - the Image that is his Son - to be extended without critical
distance whatever into other images ...' a distinctly anodyne presentation of Constantine's actual religious policy! What prompts Balthasar's
sympathy for the image-breakers here is his concern that the Church should show vigilance in distinguishing, both
in theory and in practice, the transcendental beauty of revelation from its natural counterpart.
So far we have heard a good deal about the Fathers, but much less about Scripture. Baithasar's claim that Scripture
too underwrites a theological aesthetics turns (in his 'Introduction' at least) on the Wisdom literature - that 'contemplative caesura' , as he terms it, between Israel and the Church.
The self-contemplation of the divine Wisdom in these inspired writings throws an aesthetic light on the past -
on the historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament, and on the future - on the New Testament to come. (Balthasar
will mention here Paul, John and Hebrews in particular as manifesting a transfiguring or contemplative stance towards
the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.) And so, in reading these texts:
we are witnessing the radiant drawing out into consciousness of the aesthetic
dimension which is inherent in this unique dramatic action, 'a dimension which is the proper object of a theological
As the application of literary criticism to the Bible has shown in its identification of a variety of inner-Scriptural
genres, the Spirit of God has placed numerous forms of human expression at the service of his poetics. Yet that
poetics remains his - and thus the methods of modern biblical study must remain ultimately subordinate to a more
holistic appreciation of God's 'style'.
Contestants and supporters
The rest of Balthasar's Introduction deals with some opponents, and prophetic proponents, of a theological aesthetics
in the early modern and modern periods. Or, to change the image from a debating chamber to a law court, Baithasar
marshals various witnesses for the prosecution and the defence. The first, unmistakably for the prosecution, is
Luther - whose soteriology, as Mysterium Paschale will
show with great force, Balthasar takes absolutely au sérieux. For Luther was opposed not only to the use of philosophical rationality as a source for principles of
understanding in theology. More fundamentally, his objection was to any aesthetic harmonisation of humanity and
divinity - of which the conceptual elegance of reason is just one example. As Balthasar presents Luther's viewpoint:
Every form which man tries to impose on revelation in order to achieve an
overview that makes comprehension possible - for this is presupposed in beauty - every such form must disintegrate
in the face of the 'contradiction', the concealment of everything divine under its opposite, the concealment, that
is, of all proportions and analogies between God and man in dialectic.
One might have thought that Balthasar would strenuously resist such a root-and-branch attack
on theological aesthetics. But, as with the iconoclasts of the eighth and ninth centuries, he treats the sixteenth-century
German Reformer as a useful - nay, necessary - warning signal to careless steersmen. The question for Balthasar
is not the justice of Luther's intuition but what we are to make of it. Shall we treat it (with, he believes, the
overwhelming majority of later Protestants) as a 'cold methodological
protest', which sunders the dialectic of the divine mystery and its human embodiment
from the divine love which engendered it in the first place, and makes of it merely a negation. Or, alternatively,
and following in the steps of the twelfth-century Augustinian canon Richard of St Victor, shall we understand it
in terms of
the exuberant outpouring of the Gospel's nuptial love, a love which, in the
'blessed despair' of a wholly self-surrendering faith, places all human skill and art at the disposal of the one
Balthasar's account of how Protestantism eliminated aesthetics from theology - until that is, the time of his own
contemporaries Karl Barth and the lesser known Gerhard Nebel, on whom more anon, is subtle. There is more than
one way to skin a cat: removing aesthetics from religion might mean an onslaught on all expressive forms in favour of a purely interior faith; or again it could produce a dialectical system, such as those of Böhme, Schelling
and Hegel, where God is held to exteriorise himself into his opposite - das Nichtige, nothingness - in order to reconcile all contradictions in himself. And Balthasar is not slow to point
out that, contradictorily, the pure faith of the former claims to entertain an image of redemption in its totality,
while the system of the latter generates an aesthetic overview of the whole. Thus pulchrum, cast out unceremoniously through the front door returns unnoticed by the rear exit.
Kierkegaard believed he had finally exorcised the demon of the aesthetic. For him, the internal tensions of the
aesthetic domain can only be resolved by passing onto the ethical sphere, just as in turn, the inner problematic
of the ethical can find its solution only in the religious - that is, the christological. That the chasm thus created
between Christic agape and human eros robs people of all joy in the aesthetic is a price Kierkegaard is ready to pay. Balthasar, however, holds
that Kierkegaard is, malgré lui, akin to the Hegel
he execrated: both take the human spirit as their starting point and adopt accordingly an anti-dogmatic stance.
Their intellectual progeny is diverse, but alike in impotence to restore aesthetics to theology. The descendants
of Kierkegaard treat the Christian reality as entirely inward, a question of existential decision. They finish
with Bultmann, for whom revelation has neither an imagery nor a form. The descendants of Hegel, the speculators
on history, end up with 'biblical scientism', a solvent
of any and every possible perceptible revelatory form.
The fate of Protestant divinity were sore indeed had it not been for Barth. Balthasar finds it more than coincidence
that Barth on the one hand overcame the damnosa hereditas
of Hegel and Kierkegaard by using their strengths to supply for their weaknesses, and on the other hand, in his
theology of God, restored the attribute of beauty to the Deity. With Hegel and against Kierkegaard, Barth realised
that dogmatics must have a norm and a form; with Kierkegaard and against Hegel, he also appreciated that the content
of this form must be a relationship of personal faith between man and God through the Mediator of our redemption.
By contemplating the divine story told in Scripture, Barth comes to emphasise God's glory for which, he thinks,
beauty is a necessary auxiliary concept. Referring over the heads of the Reformers to the mediaevals and Fathers,
Barth hymns God's unique beauty as arousing pleasure, creating desire, rewarding with delight. Barth attaches God's
glory to his perfect form as the Holy Trinity, the reconciliation of identity and non-identity, of movement and
peace, but he sees the fullest exhibition of divine beauty in the incarnation. In the unity of the humiliation
and exaltation of the incarnate Son, God displays his proper comeliness; his splendour radiates from the Crucified.
Balthasar praises Barth for his courage not only in going behind the Reformation (since the Reformers could offer
no guidance in this realm), but also in accepting the consequences for his personal theology: Barth retrenched
his 'actualism', his staccato rendition of God's self-disclosure as isolated acts, in order to 'make
room alongside it for the concept of authentic objective form', But where Protestant
theological aesthetics are concerned the palm must go, so Balthasar believes, to the much less familiar figure
of Gerhard Nebel whose Das Ereignis des Schönen,
'The Event of the Beautiful' appeared in 1953.
If Luther over-looked the fact that glory is a feature of the past and present dispensations of Old and New Testaments,
and not just a characteristic of the Age to Come, Lutheran Pietism, and later, Idealism, brought back the theme
of the beautiful with a vengeance in the notion of the inner splendour of Christian souls. With Nebel, however,
we have a true Protestant theological aesthetics for the first time. Nebel opposed to a 'static' analogy of being what he termed an 'analogy of event': the God of grace eventualising, putting in an appearance,
within the happening which is beauty.
The daimon of the beautiful [Nebel wrote] must be brought into relation with
the triune God. It must be given its place within the Bible. We cannot spare ourselves such an integration by appealing
to the ready-made argument that theology and philosophy are simply different, that God belongs to theology, and
that Being belongs to philosophy since it may be attained by the efforts of our thought.. . . If we are in earnest,
we will see that the truth is one, just as God is one and Adam is one.
Nature's beauty, and art's, disclose for Nebel the wholeness of God's creative work (for in art
man 'witnesses to creation's well-wrought structure').
Beauty is that in his creatures which justifies God's selfacclaim. As creation in its wholesome integrity, the
beautiful was always meant to be the locus of the covenant relationship established between YHWH and Adam. Consistent
with his view that the beautiful is not a state but an event, Nebel regards it as, in Balthasar's words, 'the revelation of the paradisal and eschatological possibilities present in the midst
of a sinful world'. But if there is an analogy between the 'event of the beautiful' and the 'event
of Christ', then a criterion for establishing the authenticity of Christian aesthetics
at once suggests itself: Is the event of the beautiful truly a pointer to the event
of Christ? If so, then beauty is the
blazing forth of the primal, protological and eschatological splendour of
creation even in this age of death, in which redeemed man is admitted to participation in God's act of praising
himself in his creation.
Balthasar lauds Nebel's work for theological and biblical seriousness, but it also betrays, he
thinks, its Protestant origins in its underlying concept of revelation, incarnation and church. For Nebel, beauty
belongs exclusively to the created side of the gulf between creation and Creator. Nowhere does he speak of Christ's
image-character, or of the trinitarian aspect of revelation, and he has no time for the marian dimension in Christian
sensibility. Unlike the great Fathers, he fails to recognise that it is the 'art
of God' in creation, redemption and consummation which is the transcendent archetype
of all beauty in nature and culture.
We cannot, says Balthasar, rest happy with these exclusions and failures of perception. To do so would be to acquiesce
in the elimination of contemplation from the act of faith, the sundering of seeing from hearing, the denial that
faith includes the beginning of glory (semen gloriae, inchoatio visionis), and the 'relegation' of the Christian
to the old aion that is now passing away.
But if, since Luther, Protestantism has dealt harshly with theological aesthetics, it cannot be said that Catholicism
has always given it a secure home. In Western thought, ever since philosophy and theology, nature and grace, were
nicely distinguished, there has been the danger that the congruence of each pair might be overlooked. Gazing back
over the history of Latin theology, Balthasar finds his sympathies to lie with those thinkers - Anselm, Aquinas
- who espoused a unified or integrated philosophical-cum-theological method, by contrast with those who, from the
time of Descartes onwards, felt obliged to take their cue from the growing separation of philosophy and theology
inevitable once the epistemological ideal of the natural sciences became the lodestar of the former. Those who
clung to the ancient unity of theology and philosophy - such as Pascal, for whom the 'irreconcilable contradictions of [man's] being are transcended by the all-embracing cosmic law
of the God-man Christ, who brings everything into unity' - were increasingly the minority.
And Balthasar shows how by the mid-nineteenth century all such attempts to hold on to or re-create the ancient
harmony of natural and supernatural thinking had collapsed. If only the divines of the nineteenth-century Catholic
revival in Germany, Austria, Belgium had followed the example of Leibniz, in seeking precisely a harmony of the
two disciplines, rather than, with Hegel (and behind Hegel, Spinoza) their ultimate identity, all would - or might
- have been well. As it was they tried to prove too much. Thus, in the Catholic Tübingen school the attempt
to show that all the great idealistic systems of modern philosophy depend on a covert theology led quasi-inevitably
to the conviction, much in evidence across the linguistic border at Louvain, that all authentic metaphysics derive,
through tradition, from a revelation to Adam. If this position, which effectively denied all truly natural knowledge
of God suffered condemnation at the First Vatican Council, the same was true of its counter-image, Hermesianism,
which turned not philosophy into theology but theology into philosophy, holding that, if faith generates rational
understanding this is because in the last analysis it forms part of reason's own structure. Here it is not philosophical
wisdom that undergoes shipwreck but the freedom of God to disclose more of himself and his ways than the mind of
man can fathom.
At the same time, the predominant school in German philosophy at large - Hegelianism - was itself disintegrating,
with the Left Hegelians as dialectical materialists on the one side, and the Right Hegelians, as Lutheran theocrats
on the other. Balthasar finds it significant that, at this moment of the internal collapse of the unity of Christian
thought (at least when considered by an inhabitant of deutsche Sprachraum), Catholic theology began to accept its own parcelling out into various specialisations. Actually, the
differentiation of speculative and positive theology (the most important of those specialisations from Balthasar's
present standpoint) is a late sixteenth-century (rather than early nineteenth-century) phenomenon, but he may be
right to see the pace of specialisation as accelerated by the loss of a philosophy that could be married with theology
as a whole. Certainly, only in the modern (as distinct from 'early modern') period do we find historical science
equipped with presuppositions, methods and, above all, the self-confidence to sit as judge and jury over the truth-claims
of Christian revelation as a whole.
And this is Baithasar's chief concern: too much has been conceded by fundamental theology to historical theology,
taking that latter term to include the study of the origins of Christian faith by literary-historical criticism.
The deeper understanding of the Scriptures, of dogma, of Christian ethics, is always revelation-dependent, and
grasped by what Augustine called intellectus, and Origen pneuma - namely, the spiritual intelligence at work in faith. To
be sure, Christian revelation is displayed in history. It cannot, consequently, be divorced from historical facts.
But this does not mean that Christianity can properly be 'subsumed under the historical sciences', still less that
its authentic content can be extracted (for the first time?) by 'exact
scientific method'. Balthasar shows how this historicising tendency has affected various
aspects of Catholic theology -conservative as much as progressive. Fundamental theologians are keen to prove the
historical wellfoundedness of Christian revelation and of the Catholic Church's claim to be its rightful interpreter.
Dogmatic theologians wait to hear from exegetes what the correct historical meaning of this or that text of the
Bible may be - and spend the rest of their time writing the history of dogma. Moral theologians too are less interested
than once they were in the philosophical elements of their discipline, which they reconceive as the 'historical encounter [of moral agents] with the Word of God in an ever-changing historical
There could scarcely be a sharper contrast with, say, Thomas' account of how theology may be
Theology's exceptional position is seen by him [Aquinas] to be founded on
its participation through grace - directly in the personal act of faith but mediately by virtue of the authentic
pattern of faith presented by the Church - in the intuitive saving knowledge of God himself and of the Church Triumphant.
Only in this dimension is the vision of the distinctively theological 'form' and its specific beauty possible.
While eschewing any programmatic hostility to historical studies (on the contrary, Balthasar
says how much they can give theology), the Swiss dogmatician concurs with the French theologian of exegesis Francois
Dreyfus in the judgment that, if the tendency towards an 'exaggerated
scientism of the littera'
is allowed full rein, it will lead to a state of affairs where only a new caste of doctors of the law - the scientific
exegetes - have access to the Word of God.
In sharpest contrast, Balthasar holds that all the really great theologians have been dilettantes, amateurs, enthusiasts
- think of the rhapsodic, confessional style of the principal Church Fathers. But what of such cooler, conceptual
articulations of the Christian mystery as the definitions of the ecumenical Councils or the careful distinctions
of the high Scholastics? The former - from the Synods - are guidelines for theology, and the latter - from the
Schools - were at the service of theological forms or schemes which carry telltale signs of the infused (and not
merely acquired) understanding enjoyed by their makers.
The work of Aquinas, and also that of Anselm, Bonaventure, and Albert the
Great, radiates the beauty of a human power of shaping and structuring which has been supernaturally in-formed
in this manner. It makes no difference whether or not they are expressly speaking of the aesthetic moment as they
methodologically order and elucidate their material... . They would not enjoy such a shaping power nor, therefore,
such an overpowering historical influence, if their talents had not themselves been transformed through and through
by the Spirit's shaping power: if, that is to say, these theologians were not in a Christian sense ecstatics, had
not been caught up and drawn into the unity of enthusiasm and holiness.
In all genuine theology, one expects to find the supernatural disposition to judge rightly of Christian truth,
and even the personal touch of the Holy Spirit in the gift of understanding at work within the laboriously acquired
'science' of the student. This is not to deny
the value of detailed work in the specialised research of scholars - not least because the same process should
be visible there too, and must be if their learning is to bear fruit in the Church. Their results will not be theologically
relevant unless they are amenable to the proper form of theological thinking, not in the sense of incorporation
within one theological system but in that of docility to the animating spirit - the , Balthasar calls it - of theological, rather than, simply human,
Balthasar now turns, however, to a rather different question, though one which still falls, certainly, under the
rubric of 'introduction' to his subject. There
has sometimes been a concern with the artistry of the Bible or the aesthetic potential of Catholicism which seems
at first sight identical with his own project, but which he would sharply distinguish from it. In his own preferred
terminology, an 'aesthetic theology' is not
yet a 'theological aesthetics', and it is the
latter alone that he seeks. Balthasar's objections to the more limited objective of such aesthetic exegesis or
apologetics is twofold: first, the beautiful, pulchrum, is here removed from its original position as a total reading
of Being (a transcendental), and reduced to a separate object with a (limited) science all its own. And secondly,
this partly coincides with, and partly reflects, the abandonment of the attempt to see the biblical revelation
within the total form of a theology that includes philosophy.
The main push towards the making of an aesthetic theology, as Baithasar sees it, came from the side of German Idealism.
For, on the one hand, in a period when, over against the rationalism of the French Enlightenment, the human value
of a traditionally transmitted popular culture was in process of being rediscovered, Christianity was too rich
a resource to abandon. If it could not be presented as truth, it could at least be salvaged as beauty. And on the
other hand, for those who continued to find the Protestant gospel believable in its own terms, and wished to commend
it to others, some imaginative refurbishment seemed necessary for a religion too often reduced to (literally) bare
essentials by the more zealous disciples of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.
Balthasar has no objection in principle, of course, to the bringing together of a theory of beauty and Christian
revelation: the question is, How is it to be done? In effect he creates the category of 'aesthetic theology' for attempts in this direction which, though well-meaning,
are not quite correctly conceived. Thus in J. G. Herder, there is a misconstrual of the relationship between theological
beauty and the beauty of the world: the particular miracles of Scripture are but the universal miracle of existence
made image. The Spirit's bestowal at Pentecost is only the manifestation of what man should and could be. Speaking
of Herder's Spinozist-sounding treatise Gott, one of
his last writings, Balthasar comments that
Herder's ambiguities in this work are but one expression of the great amphiboly
between pantheism and Christianity that pervades the whole age, from Fichte and Schelling to Hegel: the fluid identification
of the natural and the supernatural which both 'humanized' Christianity and failed to hear its true message.
And he proposes, harshly enough, that, in comparison with such aesthetic harmonies as these,
the 'trenchant antitheses' of not only Schiller
and Kirkegaard but even Karl Marx would do the Church less harm. Again, in René de Chateaubriand - whose
Génie du Christianisme arose, like Herder's enterprise,
from the desire to answer Voltairean scepticism - an aesthetic apologetics using a criterion of this-worldly beauty,
human and cultural, is applied not only to the effects
of Christianity (which is legitimate) but to Christianity's essence as well.
In his [Chateaubriand's] work, the world of revelation does not bring with itself its own criterion
and its own beauty, a criterion and beauty by which man,
the world, and culture could measure themselves. The point of reference lies, at best, in the harmony between nature and supernature, but for the most part it is to be found
in nature, in its own satisfaction and development.
At the same time, however, even these projects provide Balthasar with some valuable contributory
themes. Examples from Herder would be the notion of the imagistic texture of Scripture as a series of poetic worlds,
and the idea that, as made to the image and likeness of God, man can see, in his own imagehood, both himself and
his divine origin. Also congenial to Balthasar is Herder's notion that, to be interpreted aright, the images of
Scripture must be interpreted in the Spirit: only so can they be transparent to der
Bildende, the Maker of images - God himself at work by way of union with man. Again,
Balthasar mentions with apparent commendation Herder's conviction that a 'philosophy
of beholding', defined in terms of the interplay of signs and their significance,
is more important, taps more fully the deep springs of our being, than does conceptual demonstration. Herder's
idea of divine revelation as a throwing open - but only in the form of an unveiling by signs - appeals to the Swiss
theologian, as does his habit of speaking of Christ as the expressive image of the Godhead in and through all the
ways his humanity communicated itself, right up to his resurrection. In a sense for which his continued bodiliness
is essential, Christ's life is the highest form of religious 'sculpture'. Lastly, Herder always thinks of Greek culture within the world of the ancient Near East as a whole,
and in so doing avoids that programmatic contrasting of the Christian and the Hellenic which, in Baithasar's eyes,
has vitiated much modern theology.
In Chateaubriand, despite the latter's fervent Catholicism, Balthasar finds less to his purpose, though it can
hardly be strange to his method to 'approach Christianity where it has
become incarnate in culture', so long as this is done by one who has grasped 'the fact of Christianity from the very depths and fulness of his being as subject, with
a heart that longs to believe, to hope and to love' - Balthasar's summary of Chateaubriand's
At the beginning and mid-point of Germanophone Romanticism, a movement which is both contemporary
with, and intricately related to, German Idealism, Balthasar finds figures who exemplify the strengths, rather
than the weaknesses, of 'aesthetic theology'.
Baithasar can hardly award higher praise than in saying of Jakob Georg Hamann that he
was alone in seeing that the real problem was how to construct a theory of beauty .. . in such
a way that, in it, the total aspiration of worldly and pagan beauty is fulfilled while all glory is at the same
time given to God in Jesus Christ.
Though Hamann presents the beautiful, in optimistic fashion, as the world's primordial being,
he also recognises that nature - and especially human nature - is alienated from its origin, such that the glory
is concealed. A major theme not only of Balthasar's theological aesthetics but of his Christology and triadology
at large is first heard when we read of how Hamann treats the Word of God, witnessed to in Scripture, as a new
revelation of God's glory in its seeming opposite. One of his major presuppositions is contained in the recollection
that, for Hamann, not only Judaism but also paganism are providentially ordered towards the Word, who fulfils both
by his disclosure of the 'primal splendour of
the love of a God who humiliates himself'.
Glory as kenosis: the formula does justice both to the
eighteenth-century philosopher and to the twentieth-century theologian. Hamann celebrates the folly of the God
who as Creator penetrated into nothingness and as Redeemer became man, to be exalted on the gibbet of Golgotha.
What in Zwey Scherflein ('Two Mites'), Hamann had called
the 'aesthetic obedience of the Cross' brings
us to the inner heart of all reality: the bridal union of the Word made flesh with his fallen and dismembered body
of his Bride, humankind, who in his dying he at last takes home again to himself. If only Hamann had been understood
the story of the relation between theology and beauty, Christianity and culture, would have been, so Balthasar
believed, a great deal happier.
What Hamann represents, as a Lutheran, at the opening of the Romantic era, the little-known Swiss religious thinker
Alois Gügler presents in Catholic form at its high noon. Since Gugler was born in Balthasar's own city, Lucerne,
there may be some local pride at work in the description of his writing as the inspired perfecting of Romantic
aesthetic theology. Though conscious of the characteristically Romantic and Idealist temptations to which Gugler
was prone, Balthasar evidently regards the massive five-volume study Die heilige Kunst as worthy of a much fuller theological investigation than he could find space for in Herrlichkeit.
For Gügler the (general) divine self-revelation in creation, once grasped at depth, discloses the supernatural
orientation of the world and humanity. The art of all peoples shows some glimmerings of awareness of this mystery,
but only the Hebrews testified in an adequate way to this primal experience. Only they managed not to misuse the
image-making faculty which mediates between the 'holy night' (an expression taken from the poet Novalis) of the inner world of mystery and the 'day-world' of the senses. They persevered in the sanctuary of an 'adoring silence' before the God whom no man can image. By contrast,
the Greeks fragmented the divine 'Rock' into
the many faces of mythology - itself a medium suited well enough to communicating worldly beauty, but not divine.
Mythology is 'the pervasive falling away from pure infinity and the thoroughgoing
deification of nature and of man'. Nonetheless, sparks from the true Source can occasionally pass through the myths of the pagans. The attraction
of this basic conception for Balthasar can easily be discerned in his encomium of it.
The advantages of such a conception are, first of all, the 'redeem-ability'
of all that is outside the Bible as it is taken into the reality of revelation in Christ [though in point of fact,
his summary of Gügler's thought has yet to mention the incarnation]; second, the consequent applicability
(albeit with caution) of the universal phenomena of life, nature and history to our interpretation of revelation
properly so called; and third, the avoidance of an isolationist historical 'positivism' of Biblical revelation
in favour of a view of the relationship to God that sees it as already having been established in the very essence
of all created reason and nature, even though its presence and reality have somehow been 'buried alive' 
For Gügler, Hebrew history manifests the truth of all history, while Christianity is the
fulfilment of all religions. All the principal stages of human history, from the childhood of man, through his
adolescence to his less than perfectly integrated maturity are brought to expression in the history to which the
Hebrew Bible bears witness; while in Jesus Christ the gap between what is and what ought to be is bridged, in such
a way that both nature and history are fulfilled. This outline of Gügler's overall conceptual scheme enables
Balthasar to explain what his Luzerner forebear meant
by art in general, by the 'holy art' of Scripture
in particular, and by the interpretation of that unique art which is exegesis.
By a synthesis of Romantic and Idealist motifs, Gügler defines art as the expression (into form) of the interior feeling of infiniteness which derives from the complete
dependence of a finite 'I' on the infinite 'I', thus leading to an exteriorisation of the experience of God through
the affections. Gügler speaks of this in a musical metaphor as the tuning (Stimmung) of God and man. 'Man has been attuned by God's breath to reflect
and express the attunedness (Gestimmtheit)
of matter and spirit, nature and God.' The goal of revelation is precisely this attunement of man's heart to God, the Bride to the Lamb, as
the Father draws us to him through the Son, Jesus Christ, while the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the attunement
And this explains what the 'holy art' of the
Bible must be. Hebrew aesthetics will not take worldly beauty as the measure of divine revelation. On the contrary,
it will subordinate its symbols to the hidden Source which the religious art of the pagans has largely lost. Then
in the New Testament what is given with the Old comes to its fulfilment, for an art that embodies infinity and
spiritual wholeness necessarily reaches perfection when God himself is incarnate, embodied, in this world. However, Baithasar draws attention to an ambiguity here in Gügler's
thought. Because the relation of promise and fulfilment in Christ appears to be the interpretation by a Word deriving
from without of a light breaking forth from within, Gügler deflects attention from the visibility of Jesus
Christ to his luminous presence in souls and to the significance of his verbal elucidation (Erklären - the pun on terms
for 'light' or 'clarity' is the same in Latin and German) of the ancient covenant to the Jews.
From this it follows that exegesis - the due interpretation of die
heilige Kunst of Scripture - will necessarily have a specific character. In Balthasar's
words: exegesis (for Gügler) is
the progressive returning of everything history has formed back to the original
Light.. . and the interpretation of it by reference to this origin. Such exegesis is possible only from the perspective
of a total overview of salvation-history and of all God's revelation .. ., an overview too of Christ's totality..
. and above all, of a living interior contemplation of the divine life..
It is not difficult to divine in Gügler's requirements that exegesis be contemplative, and
that it attempts to draw out the central themes of Scripture in the light of revelation's totality (and notably
the interrelation of Old and New Covenants), an early premonition of Balthasar's own view.
And yet Balthasar does not exonerate Gügler from his wider criticisms of Romantic theology at large, and notably
from a tendency to a monistic identification of light and eye, object and subject, truth and knowledge, as well
as to the equating of spirit with the supernatural, so that the former's distinction from nature becomes identical
with the latter's provision of grace and revelation. Gugler's deep intention was to trace analogies here: his central
'model' of art should have carried instructions
as to how it was being set to use, with sameness and difference, in various realms of the real. Unfortunately,
the categories of Romantic thinking could not provide him with the understanding of analogical method he needed.
We have here a clue, dropped by Balthasar, of how his own theological aesthetics will not turn its back on the
achievements of Scholastic - and especially Thomistic
- divinity. Thus Balthasar is not sorry - despite the desiccation to which Neo-Scholasticism was prone - that the
Thomist revival, assisted none too unwillingly by the authority of the papacy, should have brought the Romantic
theology, and its 'aesthetic and religious monism',
to the ground.
For what he terms 'the basic intuitions of the common Tradition' were perfectly capable of expression in Thomist form, so long as (and this qualification is extremely
important to him) the Thomism in question 'sought to grow beyond strict
scholastic requirements and develop a universal perspective'. In fact, his only example of how an aesthetic theology might be so
refined and corrected as to become an authentic theological aesthetics comes from the pen of a Thomist Ultramontane,
albeit one of an unusual sort: Matthias Joseph Scheeben.
Balthasar's criticism of Scheeben - whose theological journey follows a remarkably straight course from the early
Natur und Gnade of 1861 to the uncompleted Dogmatik of the 1870s and 1880s - is not that he is a Thomist but that a
theological aesthetics inspired by Thomism (I have called it elsewhere 'that
extraordinary thing, a lyrical Scholasticism' should, first, have defined itself so thoroughly by the pursuit of a separation (not just distinction)
of nature and grace and secondly, and not unconnected with this, a 'certain
ahistoricity' in his theological plan of things, entailing a failure to take in the more
negative aspects of the world
- sin and suffering - with full comprehension. In context it was an intelligible and perhaps even a necessary counter-reaction
that Scheeben should so have turned around the characteristic impulse of Romanticism to identify God's first gift,
creation, with his second gift, grace. In his insistence that grace is in no sense merely a modal supplement to
nature, Scheeben snaps the links that could suggest a smooth passage from the second to the first. Grace is not
merely a new dignity for man, but a new substance, a new being, pulling him free from the limitations of nature.
In Balthasar's graphic - indeed startling - illustration:
God's revelation of himself, according to Scheeben, means the transporting
of man from his own immanent and finite sphere into the divine, transcendental, and infinite sphere, an experience
such as is portrayed, for instance, by the well-known Renaissance woodcut which shows a man piercing the sphere
of the world with his head and gaping with astonishment at the mysteries beyond the world.
If this will not do, no more will Scheeben's failure to focus more clearly on the darkness of
a fallen world. Just because his departure point is the world of grace, worldly existence and its ruptured condition
enter his optic only obliquely. One consequence especially baleful in Balthasar's eyes is the failure to 'understand the "beauty" of the Cross without the abysmal darkness into which
the Crucified plunges'.
The bridal union of humanity with God, if its biblical basis is to be taken au sérieux, has as its background the harlotry of Zion.
And yet these defects leave the central achievement of Scheeben's theological aesthetics intact. The glories of
grace, being as these are the glories of God himself, are infinitely more sublime than any natural beauty. As the
preface to Herrlichkeiten der göttlichen Gnade has
The beauty . . . of the Catholic faith lies precisely in the fact that, in the mysteries of grace, it displays
before us an immeasurably exalted elevation of our nature.
By the punning connexion of 'sublimity' (Erhabenheit) and 'elevation' (Erhebung), Scheeben wishes to bring out the way the beauty relevant to theology is ultimately God's own substantial
beauty, poured out onto creatures. In the present life, such grace-beauty is believed on, not seen, and yet by
what Scheeben terms a 'transposition of our eye'
to God's own viewpoint we begin to contemplate now what we shall enjoy for ever in heaven. God's plan for the world
is what the Dogmatik calls a 'work of creative universal architectonics', but Christian wonder is directed above all to the transfiguration of the creature through grace as found,
first of all, in Christ, and then, through the God-man, in the 'sponsal' being of Mary.
As Scheeben's powers mature, the dualistic impression left by his early work begins to fade, for more and more
is he absorbed by the interpenetration of the orders of nature and grace. Balthasar, if not exactly lost for words,
nevertheless considers the mature Scheeben's work the last word of all previous theology in its character as an
expression of '' -
the attractive pull of the divine glory. And in a fine précis, he sets forth Scheeben's vision of faith
in terms of three moments: the Trinity as a mystery of self-giving fruitfulness; the hypostatic union of divinity
and humanity in the person of Christ who thus can mediate the trinitarian self-communication to a creation made
to receive it; and Mary's bridal motherhood as the epitome of a world that the grace of Christ has prepared for
itself. What is breathtaking in Scheeben's thought is the way this trio of interrelated doctrinal themes is made
to yield the criterion for a rethinking of every aspect of ecclesial and Christian reality, and not for these alone
but for a reconceptualisation of the nature of the world and the formal structures of being. God's plan for the
world is marian: it is for the 'glorification'
of nature in its 'servanthood'.
The uniqueness of Scheeben's conception lies in the fact that the vision of
faith allows him to grasp certain fundamental laws of Being in such a vital manner that he is then able to illumine
faith's mystery from the standpoint of ontology.
In particular the philosophical concepts of matter and form, applied by Scheeben to the duo of
nature and grace, undergo a transfiguration at his hands when re-conceived in the light of the bride-bridegroom
relationship of the world and God's grace in Christ and Mary. Nature is the 'womb
of matter' without which the shaping power of grace has nothing to render fruitful. Scheeben
sets this principle to work at all the analogically related levels of the real. Thus the human will too, spiritual
though it be, is natural material to be in-formed by grace. Grace begets in the will. When we think of grace so
acting on the will as to inspire the affections and indeed its entire interior disposition we should do so by using
the analogy of a fructifying seed, rather than the notions
either of (merely) moral influence or (sheerly) physical impulsion. Only a 'conceptive', feminine attitude to grace can enable the will to proceed in a 'partitive', generative fashion to gracious decision-making. The same approach characterises Scheeben's account
of the foundation of all revelation-dependent thinking and acting - the act of faith itself. Just as in ordinary
living there is such a thing as 'natural faith',
whose logic issues from the esteem we accord to the 'dignity' of the person speaking, and our desire to 'model' ourselves on this person in trust, so in specifically Christian, supernatural faith, the light of grace,
containing within itself a judgment of the trustworthiness of the divine speaker, couples with the pre-existing
relation between the reason of the would-be believing subject and the object with which revelation history has
presented him or her. The light of faith constitutes, then, as Baithasar approvingly cites Scheeben on this point,
the 'seed and impulse, or the running start,... the paving of the way,
and initiation' of the assent of faith itself. All of this will be highly pertinent to Balthasar's own 'aesthetic' presentation of these same topics.
Nor does the exemplary force of Scheeben's theology for Balthasar restrict itself to the area of fundamental theology.
It penetrates into dogmatics proper as well. Unhappy with the Scholastic formula of Christ's humanity as the 'conjoined instrument' of the Logos, he used the marital analogy
to speak rather of the in-formation of Christ's humanity by the Word of God, leading to the 'reciprocal information of two forms', one human, the other divine. And
this same wechselseitige Ineinandersetzung zweier Formen
is nothing other than the 'co-inherence' (perichdresis) of divine and human in Christ once proclaimed by the Greek
Fathers and now rethought in terms of a Christian ontology. While, then, Christ's human nature has a supernatural
foundation, his total person can be described as, in a profound sense, wholly natural - 'in the sense that in this union all nature's organic, moral, and matrimonial relationships find
their highest form and fulfilment and indeed their ultimate ground'. At this point, Balthasar fears, some Protestant readers may feel that
Scheeben has closed the gap between nature and supernature only too successfully!
In this unique person, Jesus Christ, God and God's creation are nuptially united. His Calvary sacrifice, and its
acceptance in the resurrection, means the outpouring of the whole glory of God onto the substance of the creature
whose surrender in self-oblation the Father wills not as destruction but as a making room for the fire of the divine
Love. It is in the closing paragraphs of his account of Scheeben's thought that Balthasar for the first time introduces
the punning sense of Herrlichkeit as not only 'glory' but 'lordliness' (from the German Herr, 'Lord')
which the English translators of his theological aesthetics will incorporate into their title 'The Glory of the Lord'.
I. H. U. von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord. A Theological Aesthetics (E.t. Edinburgh and San Francisco 1982-89). Cited subsequently as GL, and here at I, p. 20.
2. GL I, p. 21.
3. GL I, p. 22.
4. GL I, p. 26
5. GL I, P. 29.
6 T. S. Eliot, 'Choruses from The Rock', X, in Collected Poems, 1909-1962 (London 1963), P. 183.
7. GL I, p. 29.
8. GL I, p. 36
10. GL I, P. 39.
11. GL I, p. 41.
12. GL I, p. 43.
13. GL I, p. 48.
15. G. Nebel, Das Ereignis des Schonen (Stuttgart
1953), p. 148
16. GL I, p. 68.
17. GL I, pp. 75-76.
18. See my 'François Dreyfus on Scripture Read in Tradition', in Scribe of the
Kingdom. Essays on Theology and Culture (London 1994), 1, p. 33.
19 GL I, p. 78.
20. GL I, p. 90.
21. GL I, P. 94.
22. GL I, p.91.
23. GL I, p. 80.
24. GL I, p. 82.
25. The only study, written before the posthumous publication of the final volume of Gugler's
work, is biographical rather than theological in focus: and this is j. L. Schiffmann, Lebensgeschichtc
Alois Güglers (Augsburg 1833).
26. A. Gügler, Die heilige Kunst
I (Landshut 1814), p. 143, cited at GL I, P. 96.
27 GL I, P. 97.
28 GL I, p. 100.
29. Cf. A. Gugler, Die heilige Kunst
II (Lucerne 1817), p. 197
30. GL I, p. 101-102
31. GL I, p. 104.
32. A. Nichols, OP., 'Homage to Scheeben', in idem., Scribe of the
Kingdom. Essays on Theology and Culture I (London 1994), p. 213.
33. GL I, P. 106.
34. GL I, p. 117.
35. M.J. Scheeben, Herrlichkeiten der göttlichen Gnade (Freiburg 1862), p. 1.
36. Idem., Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik III (Freiburg
1887), section 268.
37 GL 1, p. 110.
38. M. J. Scheeben, Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik I (Freiburg 1873), section 38, quoted in GL
39. Ibid. II (Freiburg 1878-80), section
223, cited at GL 1, p.114
40. GL 1, p.116
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