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Trinitarian perspectives in Barth and von Balthasar

di Chiara Bertoglio (20 dicembre 2015)

1. Introduction

To compare the Trinitarian perspectives of the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) and of the Jesuit Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) means engaging with the thought of two of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. Their long and intense friendship crossed the boundaries of confessional and theological differences, resulting in a fruitful intellectual debate. However, due to their difference in age, Barth was more influential on Balthasar than vice-versa: their respective standpoints are often indirectly linked by that of Erich Przywara (1889-1972), another Jesuit whose treatment of the analogia entis proved influential on both.

Contemporary systematic theology is indebted to Barth and Balthasar especially for their contributions towards the recovered centrality of Trinity and Christology; however, Balthasar's book on Barth's theology1 is focused rather on the debate about the analogy of Being and the analogy of Faith, to which I will return later. Although Balthasar's account of Barth's thought sometimes rests on oversimplifications or faulty presumptions,2 his book was highly appreciated by Barth himself, and still constitutes an exegetical milestone for the understanding of their respective theologies.

In the following pages, I will attempt first to summarise the most important features of Barth's Trinitarian theology, and then to compare them with Balthasar's, outlining their points of convergence and Barth's influence on Balthasar, but also how Balthasar offers interesting alternatives to some of the most problematic aspects of Barth's theology.

In particular, I will be concentrating on Barth's collocation of his Trinitarian theology within the framework of his discussion of Revelation and the Word of God, as well as on his concept of the divine hypostases as "modes of being"; I will also compare Barth's and Balthasar's viewpoints on how Christ's suffering relates to inner-Trinitarian relationships, and on the Spirit's role in the immanent Trinity; and I will show how the two theologians' respective viewpoints on the divine processions and on God's creative activity influence their understanding of human freedom and obedience.

2. Barth's Trinitarian theology

It is impossible to consider Barth's Trinitarian theology independently from his Christology and Pneumatology, as well as from his doctrine of revelation, of grace and election and of analogy. Moreover, there is little scholarly agreement on the consistency of his Trinitarian thought throughout the entire Church Dogmatics3: as I will discuss later, for some commentators two Trinitarian doctrines are found in his greatest theological accomplishment, whereas for others there is a non-contradictory evolution, and for still others his overall approach undergoes no significant change.

2.1. Revelation and the Word of God

One of the most important expositions of Barth's Trinitarian doctrine is found in CD I/1, within the framework of his treatment of revelation and of the "Word of God": thus, Barth's dogmatics represents his answer to his crucial theological interest,4 i. e. the question of the identity of God, the subject and content of revelation.5 Thus, for Barth, the doctrine of the Trinity is "an analysis" of the revelation statements;6 biblical revelation, in turn, is the "self-unveiling, imparted to men, of the God who by nature cannot be unveiled to men", disclosing the "hidden, disguised and unknown".7

Both the collocation of Barth's Trinitarian doctrine and this definition mirror one of his primary concerns: revelation cannot be considered as a set of propositions; natural theology cannot reach by itself any supernatural truth, and dogmatic theology should not start by metaphysical disquisitions regarding the divine essence, since, in revelation, God's unity is inseparable from his Trinity, as is God's being from his becoming.8

The impossibility for human reason and natural theology to "reach God", for Barth, is ontological ("we have no organ or capacity for God").9 The Word's self-revelation enables us to know both our "God-less condition" and God's Lordship, which is not knowable in isolation from his being with and towards humanity in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, and in the Holy Spirit.10

Thus, revelation is never a human "discovery"; it is always the result of God's action, which creates faith and through it the knowledge of God in Christ. By this, Barth approaches the inherently modern problem of epistemology in a thoroughly polemical fashion.11 Revelation is thus a gift, not a given;12 knowledge of God (as well as speech about Him) is "an event enclosed in the mystery of the divine Trinity".13 Indeed, revelation almost coincides with God's possibility of letting us hear the Word; our epistemological questions become our receptivity for God's self-revelation and for his triune identity. The Trinity thus is theology's "ontic and noetic" basis, defining its "whole compass".14

Revelation is, for Barth, a true miracle of Grace,15 which is constantly and continuously enacted by God, and is closely related to the miracle of reconciliation and atonement;16 it is made possible within the mystery of God's Triunity, where God is, manifests himself and is known as Revealer, Revelation and Revealing.

"God reveals Himself. He reveals Himself through Himself. He reveals Himself"17: the analysis of this statement, with the three different emphases, is for Barth at the root of the doctrine of the Trinity.18 Revelation, a supremely free initiative of the loving God, is thus grounded in God's self-knowledge (the perichoresis), in which humanity participates by grace. This aspect is fundamental, otherwise Barth's theology could imply "that the Trinity exists for the sake of revelation and thus for the sake of our knowledge of God",19 and thus represent a variety of modalism.20

However, Barth distances himself also from a Rahnerian coincidence of immanent and economic Trinity, since this compromises both God's freedom21 and his hiddenness, notwithstanding revelation.

2.2. Persons or modes of being?

As stated above, for Barth God's trinity and his unity cannot be treated separately, since the God who reveals himself is the Triune God. Moreover, the conflicts between threeness and oneness only arise when philosophical considerations are added to the substance of faith,22 and, properly speaking, "even numerical predication with respect to God is strictly metaphorical in nature".23 However, the self-revealing God is the Father-Creator, the Son-Reconciler, the Spirit-Redeemer, whose economic action mirrors the immanent Triunity: a single Subject in three "modes of being" or in a threefold equal "repetition".24 The Father's Wiederholung in the Son is also his self-differentiation between hiddenness and revelation; in the Spirit it is his coming to us.25

One of the most distinctive (and debated) features of Barth's Trinitarian theology is his use of the term Seinsweise26, "mode of being", instead of the traditional "person" for the divine hypostases.27 Since in modern times the word "person" commonly indicates "personality", it can (and should) be appropriately used for God in his divine nature, his freedom and lordship, and not for each of the three hypostases individually.28 In God, self-consciousness, mind, will and energy of operation are not plural.29

God's eternal self-differentiation is therefore the root of incarnation, and thus is in "the eternal act in which God elects himself for the human race"30: generation and procession are willed by God, and are paradoxically grounded in his eternal decision for the covenant of grace. The mutual indwelling (perichoresis) of the three "modes of being" guarantees both the unity of God31 and his self-knowledge, imparted to humankind by grace, within the active relationship among the hypostases. Conversely, through "appropriation" Barth can differentiate the characterising actions of the three divine "persons" without denying the fundamental unity of their being and operating.32 Thus, the Father's eternal fatherhood (generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit) is the ground for his description as "Creator", although, by virtue of the Wiederholung, the creative activity is not unique to the Father.33

2.3. Trinity and Christology

It is impossible to treat Barth's Trinitarian theology without referring, albeit briefly, to the main themes of his Christology: thus the doctrine of God's Word (CD I/1) is complemented by that of election (CD II/2) and of the Son's obedience (CD IV/1). The relationship between these three passages, however, is not a straightforward one: for several commentators,34 Barth's work on the doctrine of election reshaped some of his basic assumptions, and the Trinitarian perspective of CD IV/1 is substantially different from that of CD I/1. However, this theory is still debated.35

Barth's Trinitarian theology has been defined as "epistemologically Christocentric".36 Through a construal of the Chalcedonian doctrine of hypostatic union, it interprets both God's "becoming non-God" in Jesus and the mode of his revelation, in which Jesus is both "subordinate to" and "coordinate with" the Creator.37 God's revelation in Christ is thus indissolubly bound to election, which was for Barth the fundamental Christian doctrine and an expression of God's sovereign liberty, in which he is eternally "intending" to elect and to redeem humanity in Christ.38

This brings us to a crucial question: how does election relate to the immanent Trinity? The logos ensarkos, "pro-nobis", is within God's "inner being",39 where Jesus' historical event pre-exists eternally in God. This implies that the election of Jesus Christ is part of God's eternal life, as is the "divine-human history enacted in Jesus". Myers goes as far as to define Jesus as "the free necessity of God's deity".40 However, this seems to reach beyond Barth's own statements.41

A similar problem is posed by the role of Christ's suffering within the immanent Trinity, and how it can be harmonised with God's immutability.42 Barth's viewpoint is (uncharacteristically) almost apophatic,43 but McCormack interprets it as the inherence of suffering within God's life, in the Word's "appropriation" of the human experiences of Christ.44 Certainly, here, the dimension of faith and of "hiddenness" is essential: the hypostatic union in Christ is beyond human rationality,45 and Jüngel's use of the terms enhypostasis and anhypostasis46 may contribute to understand how Jesus' temporal existence is present in the "eternal decision of God"47 without creating a breach between the "logos incarnandus" and the "logos incarnatus".48

Analogous problems apply to the relationship between the Son's divine nature and Christ's humility and obedience. Here Barth's statements are more unequivocal, but not less problematic: "the one God is both [...] a First and a Second, One, who rules and commands in majesty and One who obeys in humility", in the communion of the Spirit; within God there is "an above and a below, a prius and a posterius, a superiority and a subordination", whose distinction is precisely the ground for the divine unity.49 Surely, Barth rejected any form of subordinationism,50 but it has been argued that in practice he suggested a kind of "functional subordination"51 within the immanent Trinity, partially determined by the logical priority of creation over redemption.52

The main point, however, is that if obedience is a "pre-eminent characteristic" of the man Jesus, it should also be "a disposition predicable of the Son as such",53 and thus become "essential to God"54: otherwise, the danger of modalism lies in ambush.55

Indeed, Barth is rather clear in stating that Christ's humility is "a free choice made [...] in execution of a will which imposed itself authoritatively upon Him; which was intended to be obeyed".56 This is shown in his discussion of Christ's dereliction, where Jesus is "emphatically separated and distinguished from Him who is properly called God".57 However, as Myers states, this "wound within God" is not a "contradiction of God's deity", since "God's triunity is always already a cruciform triunity".58

It is striking, nevertheless, that this most troubling moment of Christ's life becomes for Barth a qualifying element of the Father's life, who is "revealed" in and through Good Friday, i. e. "on the death of man", "dealt" to him by God".59

These harsh and somehow disturbing statements should be interpreted within the framework of Barth's indebtedness to Anselm's theology: although Anselm's perspective emphasises the spontaneous and voluntary character of Christ's sacrifice, the concept of "satisfaction" is notoriously problematic when transferred "from devotion to dogmatics"60 and can imply a latent pluralist Trinitarian concept.61

However, we should not forget the stress laid by Barth on the fact that the Father and the Son, the One who "decrees in majesty" and the One who "submits in humility" are "the same",62 and that we should avoid projecting a human sense on the words "command" and "obedience";63 instead (as Balthasar will state more clearly), they should rather be read in terms of the Son's eternal generation by the Father (although this can imply, in turn, a confusion between the willed act of election and the divine processions).64 For other interpreters, Barth's use of "First", "Second" and "Third" in his reference to the divine hypostases65 could imply that "both submission and command are true of the divine nature and so both are true of each person equally".66 Nevertheless, the implicit risk of subordinationism is not completely avoided and Barth's statements allow for a multiplicity of interpretations.

2.4. Trinity and Pneumatology

Since Barth never completed a structured "doctrine of Redemption" (the "future of reconciliation", operated by the Spirit),67 the characterising features of his Pneumatology should be traced to his Trinitarian and Christological expositions.

At the level of revelation, the Spirit enables our speech about Christ and our capacity of hearing the Word, and he realises the "miracle" of faith. Within the immanent Trinity, the Spirit is defined by Barth as the "common factor" of the other two hypostases, "not in so far as they are the one God, but in so far as they are the Father and the Son".68 His communal agency operates on different levels, first and foremost between Father and Son.69 Within the immanent Trinity, the Spirit occupies a "mediating position" between the two;70 he is the act of their mutual love and indwelling and the agent of their koinonia, as well as the "bond and boundary between them", establishing their "union-in-distinction" and their "distinction-in-union".71

This primordial communion acquires a dramatic dimension with the Son's incarnation: the Spirit effects and maintains the "communio naturarum" between Christ's divinity and humanity, as well as the union between Jesus and God.72 If Christ's incarnation is depicted by Barth as the "exile" of the Son "in a far country",73 the Spirit's role is to sustain the koinonia of Father and Son in spite of the abyss of Christ's dereliction and death.74

Through Christ, the Spirit also realises our union with God, and operates the "impartation" of revelation to believers: thus "the saving work of the Spirit is Trinitarian in ground, Christocentric in focus, miraculous in operation, communal in content, eschatological in form, diversified in application, and universal in scope".75

As concerns the procession of the Spirit, Barth is adamant in his defence of the filioque clause, whose denial would compromise the very "unity of the Trinity".76 His approach is straightforwardly Augustinian: the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, but "principaliter" from the former.77 However, the combination of this traditional view with some ambiguous statements exposed Barth once more to the charge of subordinationism. In particular, he wrote that "Even if the Father and the Son might be called 'person' (in the modern sense of the term), the Holy Spirit could not possibly be regarded as the third 'person'"78: an obscure assertion, throwing a sinister light on his Pneumatology. Moreover, it has been feared that Barth's view might adumbrate "a model of two subsistents linked by a quality",79 with a latent pluralism and diminution of the triadic structure: a problem which might invalidate, in Williams' opinion, the entire structure of Barth's Trinitarian doctrine.80

2.5. Trinity and ecclesiology

Notwithstanding these concerns, the Trinitarian structure of Barth's theology shapes his ecclesiological and moral doctrine as well. The Church is called to participate in the Triune God's supreme communion through Christ and in the Spirit, and thus is engaged in the divine perichoresis which allows the disclosure of God's self-knowledge.81 "In his unique being with and for and in another", the triune God "does not exist in solitude but in fellowship", since he wishes not to be any longer "without the beloved": self-communication is written within his very nature.82

Moreover, the Church is the temporal figure of the relationship between humanity and the Triune God as Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer;83 the divine triunity also shapes the structure of Barth's theological ethics. This is derived from the Bible only indirectly: the revelation shapes Barth's incarnational Christology, enabling him to propose a Trinitarian theology, which in turn forms the model for human and social behaviour and has also political consequences. Thus, Barth does not build an abstract ethical model (just as he did not erect his Trinitarian dogmatics outside the revelation framework), but suggests that human actions should be determined by our condition toward the Triune God, i. e. a relationship of creatures to the Creator, of sinners to the Reconciler, and of redeemed to the Redeemer.84

2.6. Problematic issues

In order to engage properly with Barth's theology, it would be necessary to be familiar with the unity of his thought, to have a culture and perceptiveness comparable with his, and to be able to discern between the transient and the definitive aspects of his theologising. I cannot claim to fulfil any of these criteria. However, in this section I will attempt to point out some issues in his Trinitarian theology which have elicited debate in the relevant literature, and/or which I find problematic.

A first problematic aspect regards Barth's theological style, which has sometimes been charged of excessive assertiveness.85 True, his Trinitarian theology is grounded in revelation. However, since Trinitarian dogmatics is not found explicitly within the biblical testimony, and since Barth does not give great importance to the interaction between the Scripture and the Church's tradition86 and worship, the risk of potential arbitrariness seems to be lurking. Similarly, and especially as concerns such subjects as the immanent Trinity, a certain tendency to "revelation positivism" and a lack in the "apophatic"87 (as well as the mystical) dimension have been observed. For example, Torrance rightly questions Barth's choice of electing revelation instead of worship as the root of his Trinitarian theology.88

A similar issue is encountered regarding Barth's reductive treatment of human freedom as regards the acceptance of revelation and the relationship with God89: as Williams correctly suggests, one of the paradoxes of Christ's incarnation is precisely God's "self-surrender" to humanity.90

Another frequent criticism concerns two apparently opposing risks in the treatment of the immanent Trinity, i. e. that of pluralism and that of unipersonalism.91 In particular, the idea of Wiederholung seems to suggest that "personality" proper is primarily a characteristic of the Father, whereas Son and Holy Spirit are "repetitions" of the first subject. On the other hand, the reduction of the Spirit to a "nexus" might create a dialectical polarisation of Father and Son,92 leading to a potential pluralism. Of course, as mentioned before, Barth opposed the concept of "personality" as referring to any individual Seinsweise. However, his statements on the Spirit being "less personal" than the other two, and the potential reduction of the Spirit to a "quality"93 do not dispel all suspicions. Moreover, there are some ambiguities or unusual attributions among the Trinitarian appropriations proposed by Barth.94

To stay on the topic of the Father/Son relationship, personally I feel uncomfortable with the projection into the immanent Trinity of a markedly Anselmian atonement Christology. Paradoxically, notwithstanding the overwhelming importance given by Barth to the concept of revelation, the relationship between Father and Son seems not to coincide with that described in the Gospel. The term "Lord" is normally applied to Christ: characterising the Son only by his obedience and humility seems to contradict the glorious status given by the Father to him.95 Finally, the dialectic of command and obedience strongly suggests the presence of two wills, although this is explicitly denied by Barth.96 Of course, the Son's obedience and humility are repeatedly highlighted in the Gospels, but they do not exhaust the possibilities of the Father/Son relationship.

Indeed, what characterises the Son as such within the immanent Trinity is his being begotten, and this begetting has never been understood as a form of subordinationism in orthodox theology. However, we may say that one of the characteristic features of the Son is his "receptivity" toward the Father; and, etymologically, "obedience" derives from the Latin obœdire, "giving heed".97 Thus, the Son's "receptivity" of the divine life somehow implies his receptivity toward the Father, in the mutual perichoretic indwelling and without subordination. True, Barth suggests this correlation of obedience and begetting,98 but the stress laid in the Son's humiliation and compliance is much stronger and evident.

Related with this topic is the feeling of a certain lack of relationality between the divine hypostases,99 especially in consideration of the rather abstract quality of the expression Seinsweise. Clearly enough, Barth aimed at avoiding the risks of social trinitarianism and pluralism; however, just as "one cannot pray to a mode",100 the relational dynamics within a Trinity of "modes of being" may appear slightly understated. Similarly, Barth's use of the term "form" to describe the Son's generation seems to insert a distinction between substance and form in the divine nature;101 and the "alternative" suggestion of a Trinity made of "Revealer, Revelation and Revealing" appears to be slightly anthropocentric, almost as if God's self-differentiation was instrumental to his revelation to humanity. As mentioned before,102 Barth explicitly rejected this possibility; however, his lexical choices are not unambiguous here. The eternal dimension of the Trinity seems to be conditioned by the temporal necessity of revelation; similarly, if God's "Lordship" is one of the temporal names of God,103 Barth's derivation of the immanent Trinity from the analysis of the statement that "God is the Lord"104 seems to pose the same problem.

On the other hand, Barth's theology has often been reproached with an insufficient appraisal of creation and of the created world,105 which seems to be marked, in his view, by a radical negativity. Certain statements in CD support a concept of God in which he appears as the "author of sin",106 and unquestionably there seems to be no "active power of evil"107 to be defeated by the crucified and risen Christ. Of course, the risk of Manichaeism in the opposition of good and evil is constantly lurking, and the Barthian view of sin is consistent with his adoption of an Anselmian theology of atonement instead of the Patristic interpretation of the "Christus Victor". However, Barth's insistence on the radical fallenness of humanity,108 on the absolute incapacity for humanity to know God and on the inherence of Jesus's atoning sacrifice within the immanent Trinity109 seem to suggest that original sin is more radical than the "original innocence" in which God, according to the Bible, created human beings. Apparently, the created man as such is not "capax Dei", capable of a relationship with God (which obviously means neither to comprehend or "objectify" him, nor to be able to know him outside a relationship with him).

Finally, it should be said that in several instances the problematic issue is the form of Barth's thought rather than its content: thus, the word "mode" in Seinsweise unavoidably suggests a modalist approach110 (although it has been abundantly shown that it was neither what Barth had in mind nor what he wrote in his theology); the words "obedience" and "command" should not be interpreted in a human sense,111 but nevertheless convey a strong implication of distinct (if not contrasting) wills. As we will see, although Balthasar adopts several important features of Barth's theology, the semantic shift caused by their different lexical choices often produced significant theological results.

3. Balthasar's Trinitarian theology in dialogue with Barth

Although all comparisons between the theologies of Barth and Balthasar should constantly take into account Balthasar's own discussion of Barth's theology,112 it can by no means constitute the only basis for contrasting their respective Trinitarian perspectives. Balthasar's discussion of the analogy of being in his book on Barth is certainly relevant to Trinitarian topics (as I will discuss later), but its primary focus is neither on the method applied by Barth to his Trinitarian theology nor on its content. Indeed, Balthasar himself lists Barth's Trinitarian approach among the subjects on which a "clear convergence" is found between the Barthian viewpoint and his,113 and he repeatedly emphasises that Barth's theology (precisely in its Trinitarian foundation) is directed against Schleiermacher rather than against the Catholic perspective.114

Thus, Balthasar's Trinitarian theology is surely indebted to Barth's on some crucial points (most significantly, as we will see, the diastasis, and the very focus given to Trinitarian topics throughout his opus); however, Balthasar's erudition and his flexible use of scriptural, traditional, mystical and literary sources do not prevent his thought from being very original -- too much so, for some of his critics.

Indeed, the sources of Balthasar's Trinitarian theology are rooted within the Patristic tradition (especially Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor),115 and in the medieval theology of Richard of St. Victor and Aquinas. Balthasar draws upon Richard's painstaking refusal of any form of tritheism116 and on his definition of the divine hypostases as different "modes of procession".117 Thus Balthasar, unlike others, does not contest Barth's use of "mode (Weise) " in his discussion of the divine Seinsweise; instead, he favours "procession" over "being (Sein) " on the grounds of their disagreement about the analogy of being. In Richard's wake, Balthasar stresses the relational element and prefers exsistentia instead of substantia, since the former indicates both being and procession.118 At the same time, Balthasar adopts Aquinas' differentiation between esse and essentia to establish his own ontology on a Trinitarian basis119 and to frame both "divine revelation" and "human good" within the mystery of God's Triunity.

Thus, in harmony with Barth, Balthasar maintains that the only possible access to the mystery of the Trinity is within "its Revelation in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit".120 Summarising Barth's Trinitarian thought, Balthasar points out the originality of the Reformed theologian's approach: his rejection of a philosophical or naturalistic approach to God, his focus on the Word of God and on revelation, the continuous actuality of revelation as a dynamic process and the Triune God's utmost freedom and sovereignty in his self-revealing, where unity and trinity cannot be independently considered and analysed.121

However, the Barthian theme of a "tension" between God's hiddenness and revelation122 is developed by Balthasar within the framework of an incarnational discourse from the one side, and of his treatment of the analogia entis on the other. Thus, Christ is the centre of Balthasar's method, as the Trinity is its goal, and a merely analogical discourse on the Trinity is doomed to failure if it is not inherently Christocentric.123 It is on this basis that Balthasar grounds his treatment of "all analogy, [of] all identity in difference"124: a crucial topic on which the two theologians' respective viewpoints are clearly ajar.

3.1. Trinity and the "analogia entis"

Balthasar's response to Barth's refusal of the analogia entis had a precise aim, i. e. to show that Barth's position was grounded in terminological misunderstandings due to confessional prejudices. For Balthasar, Barth was not disagreeing with the Catholic perspective on the analogy of being as such, but rather with his own (mis) interpretation of this same doctrine.125

For Barth, the Catholic interpretation of the analogia entis was almost idolatrous, since to posit the category of "being" as a common feature of both Creator and creature was akin to establish "Being" as a divine subject "prior" to God.126 As said before, for Barth there could be no philosophical approach to God's being (or to his uniqueness) outside the self-revelation of the Triune God; to use the analogy of being for referring both to God and to his creature was to posit a reality "behind" Christ's incarnation or even the very Trinitarian processions, and to limit the utmost freedom of God's self-revelation.127

Consistently with his position, Barth (as previously discussed) contested the role of natural theology and philosophy, as well as all attempts to "reach God from below" (among which the Catholic approach to the vestigia Trinitatis).128 Balthasar, instead, admitted the possibility of such an "ascending" movement, although under two major provisos: first, that no analogy can adequately represent the Creator/creature relationship without taking into account the "ever greater dissimilarity" between them; and second, that the space of God's freedom in his self-revelation should by no means be limited.129

The role of Balthasar's discussion of analogy within the relationships between his own Trinitarian theology and Barth's is crucial, as it raises not only methodological questions (e. g. the use of analogy instead of dialectics in the theological discourse and its very possibility), but also fundamental dogmatic matters (e. g. the Son's role within the Trinity and in His incarnation, or the goodness and fallenness of the created world).130 Thus, for Balthasar, most conflicts between Barth's position and his own (such as the "Christomonism" I will discuss later, or his excessive systematisation) could be solved through a proper understanding of the analogia entis, "construed within the analogy of faith".131

Balthasar's position, elaborated in dialogue with Barth's,132 is at the same time the simplest and the highest possible: the true analogia entis "is" Jesus Christ.133 Not only His incarnation represents the "prototype for the relation of all things to the Father";134 but, in Balthasar's opinion, the relationship is valid even the other way around: "Interhuman relationships [...] are a true presupposition for the fact that Jesus can become our brother".135 Thus, for Balthasar, the human capacity for relationship is one of the primeval and most important among the vestigia Trinitatis. On the other hand, and with equal importance, "the possibility of distance between creature and God" is grounded and contained within the difference inherent in the Trinity,136 and this in turn has fundamental implications for the theology of creation and of the created world's goodness.137 In the next paragraph I will try to show how Balthasar's concept of diastasis (which is in turn, to some extent, indebted to Barth) grounds his Trinitarian, Christological and soteriological theology.

3.2. Generation and procession

In harmony with tradition, Balthasar describes the relationships of procession and generation within the immanent Trinity as the Father's giving "all that is His, including His divinity, to the Son"138: this is an active and eternally present process, instead of a "rigid block of identity" bestowed once and for all.139

However, this "gift" is characterised by a strongly kenotic perspective, in which a dimension of "risk" and suffering is more than implicit140: the Father's generation of the Son is the primordial kenosis,141 characterising love by sacrifice even within God's life142 (it is a "self-devastation", in Bulgakov's forceful expression).143

Balthasar writes about the reciprocal self-surrender and mutual "deference" of Father and Son, happening in the Son's generation (to which the Son "consents", "allowing" the Father to realise his Fatherhood)144 and in His Eucharistic offering on the cross.145 However, generation is by no means merely "undergone" by the Son himself: the Son's receptivity of the Father's life is thoroughly active and represents his eternal thanksgiving to the Father in the Spirit.146 The Son's generation, however, implies for Barth an "infinite difference",147 or even "distance" (diastasis148) between the two: whereas the common understanding of gift is as something creating proximity,149 here it implies an infinite distance, which the Spirit only can bridge.

The Father's eternal self-determination to generate the Son and to create the world is "proper" to his very identity150 (there is no logical possibility to think of something "prior" to this determination)151: God's distancing Himself from Himself embraces and founds all differences in the created world,152 whose very possibility is "grounded in [...] Christ";153 within this "embrace", all things are made beautiful, in a characteristically Balthasarian concept, as, for God, "it is absolutely good that the other exists154".

This differentiation is neither an alienation nor a "multiplication",155 but it is rather a gift of freedom: through the "groundlessness of freedom in the generation of such total otherness" Balthasar gives a new and fascinating interpretation to the dogma of God's creation "out of nothing".156

The Spirit thus is the One who bridges the "distance" between Father and Son,157 as well as the One by whose grace the distance from creature to Creator is overcome158: the span of this (bridged) distance is therefore so inclusive that Christ's taking the place of the condemned sinner encompasses even the reality of sin itself and transforms His dereliction into the supreme Eucharistic thanksgiving.159

3.3. Trinitarian inversion

Another highly original point of Balthasar's Trinitarian theology is his view of so-called "Trinitarian inversion", i. e. the "economic reversal"160 of the Son/Spirit relation during Jesus' life.161 It is the Spirit who "incarnates" the Son,162 and who reveals the Father's will to Jesus, eventually leading him to his redemptive suffering, death and rejection.163 Thus, Christ's mission (since the very moment of Incarnation) is entirely marked by the utmost obedience,164 since his awareness is soteriologically "veiled"; only the risen Christ will resume his active role in the Spirit's effusion.165

For Balthasar, indeed, Christ's mission (including his suffering and rejection) is identical with the Son's generation166: with Aquinas, Balthasar posits the coincidence of intradivine processio and extra-divine missio from the viewpoint of the divine Persons.167 However (with Barth and against Rahner), this should by no means be intended as a coincidence of economic and immanent Trinity168: the former, in Balthasar's words, is rather a "translation"169 of the latter, as well as the basis of any human speech about and knowledge of it.

3.4. A suffering Trinity?

This has however another noteworthy consequence: it is Christ's cross which reveals the Trinity as love,170 but as a kenotic and somehow "suffering" love.171 If Christ's experience of the Father's rejection is lived by the Son in his eternal and divine nature, then this abandonment seems to be inherent to the immanent Trinity.172 Thus, the Father's kenotic generation of the Son is corresponded by the Son's kenotic self-giving; in both, "omnipotence and powerlessness are united".173

The immanent Trinity's diastasis is therefore the condition for Balthasar's idiosyncratic understanding of Holy Saturday.174 Christ's suffering does not end with his death,175 nor is his descent into hell a victorious triumph: rather, in hell he (in his divine nature) experiences the utmost rejection by the Father,176 in a total passivity,177 and is "made sin" through his contemplation of death (visio mortis). All the sins of humankind are "transferred" upon him,178 who experiences the Father's wrath and curse, so that they both feel the Trinity as "destroyed";179 however, the Spirit's bond encompasses even this infinite distance, and thus sin itself is enclosed within the divine love.180 As Pitstick puts it, apparently the Father's acts of begetting, "crushing" (the Son into Sheol) and "withdrawing" (his divine attributes) coincide eternally in the immanent Trinity.181

Balthasar's highly controversial, although somehow fascinating view, has been seen by some (famously by Pitstick) as a heterodox contradiction of the Church's understanding of Holy Saturday; at the very least, Balthasar's confidence in depicting the immanent Trinity's life and the Descent is rather unsettling.182

3.5. Drama and obedience

Within a Trinitarian concept construed on gift, thanksgiving and kenosis, the Eucharist becomes the "stage" of Balthasar's "theo-dramatic"183: Balthasar adopts theatrical metaphors184 to indicate the "roles" of the divine Persons (representing the Father as the "author", the Son as the "actor" and the Spirit as the "director"). Through these analogies, Balthasar achieves a theological framework in which immanent and economic Trinity, as well as the history of salvation (in which the Father's "script" is "his own bending-down to the suffering creature in the form of Son and Spirit"),185 are organically conceived.

Within this Eucharistic perspective, the ecclesiological dimension of responsiveness, modelled on the Son's, is crucially taken into account: Balthasar's kenotic perspective stresses that this obedience is a feature of the Triune God.186 Thus, the eternal generation of the Son is the Father's kenosis; creation is a second kenosis in which God "allows the free emergence of what is other than himself";187 incarnation and crucifixion constitute the third kenotic action of the Triune God, pointing out that obedience is not "relegate [d] " to Christ's humanity.188 Therefore, in my opinion, Balthasar's theology of "obedience" acquires a dimension which largely transcends the common meaning of the word: if the divine generation (i. e., the Father's gift of Himself, in his full divine nature, to the Son) is a form of kenosis, then the obedience of the created world might become very close to the "divinisation" of which the Eastern Orthodox tradition often speaks. Indeed, Balthasar himself states that Christ's obedience and sacrifice draw the Church and mankind "into the interior space of the Trinity"189: the immanent Trinity's mutual gift of love constitutes, in Christ, the basis for the analogous (although "immeasurably dissimilar") self-donation of human beings.190

It should have become evident, by now, that Balthasar's Christological and Trinitarian theology is often very close to Barth's, and is frequently strongly indebted to his viewpoint. However, their differences are all the more significant as the similarities are striking. For both, indeed, the economic and the immanent Trinity are "mutually interpretative", and in both authors Christ's kenosis (in which dereliction and divine nature can coexist, within "God's Trinitarian suffering in Christ")191 is "the form of the intratrinitarian relations".192

This shared Christocentric approach, however, does not prevent Balthasar from criticising what he refers to as Barth's "Christomonism",193 i. e. his inclination to assimilate all created reality to revelation in Christ and to deny the possibility of an active response to God's initiative.194

3.6. Pneumatology

Thus, Balthasar's Trinitarian and Christological framework inspires the shape of his Pneumatology. At the level of the immanent Trinity, Balthasar shares with Barth the adoption of the filioque clause on theological grounds: the Spirit's identity cannot be conceived outside the Father/Son relationship, in which the Father's identity is eternally bound to his determination to generate the Son.195 Given what has been said on the "Unvordenklichkeit" of the Son's generation and of his obedience, we can understand the Spirit's role at the immanent and economic level: his presence in Christ as a man (within the "Trinitarian inversion") is the economic form of the filioque, whereas his action in communion with the Son is represented by Balthasar through Irenaeus' image of "the two hands of the Father".196

Therefore, the Spirit operates in creation, to which he gives life, bearing witness that God's nature is in the "gift of otherness";197 within the Church, moreover, the Spirit gives testimony to the Son's revelation of the Father's truth, i. e. allows our knowledge that the Son is the eternal verity and that all reality is revealed in the mystery of Easter.198

3.7. The Trinitarian dimension of human freedom

If the possibility for creation is grounded within the eternal "Abstand" between Father and Son in the Spirit, thus -- through his construal of analogy -- Balthasar can develop the dialogue between nature and grace within the Catholic framework199 (in response to Barth's reductive view of creatural freedom). From the one side, God's infinite freedom ceases to be conceived as a menace for human liberty, since we are called by grace to participate in the Trinity's life where "self-determination and obedience, independence and discipleship"200 are not in contradiction. From the other, human freedom is not posited outside God (as Barth feared), as it is not the human capacity to do whatever we want. Instead, by grace, we are established "on the receiving end" of the Father's love, in a creative act which mirrors the Son's "begottenness".201 And, similar to the Son (and through him) we can become "actors" in the "theo-dramatic", i. e. cooperate "within the gambit of the grace made available by [the] Son",202 and to participate in the Son's Eucharistic thanksgiving. Thus, the Church becomes an active agent in the Son's eternal glorification by the Father, and the Son makes us, by grace, what we originally are, within a spiritual and ethical process of growth and assimilation.203

4. Conclusions

My effort in the preceding pages has been to give a brief account of the main features of Barth's and Balthasar's respective theologies of the Trinity, and to point out some common aspect as well as some important differences in their individual outlooks. At the threshold of Christianity's 21st century, two theologians from two of the principal Christian confessions elaborated, in a friendly dialogue, two of the most comprehensive theological opera of their time, and both grounded their work on the two pillars of Trinitarian and Christological theology within the framework of revelation. Their attempts to trace the two main dogmas of Christianity to their Scriptural and traditional roots were fundamental in showing that many dogmatic differences between the Catholic and the Protestant viewpoint may become just different (and complementary) shades of a same truth instead of insurmountable barriers. As Williams masterfully puts it, both their divergences (some of which I tried to point out above) and the risks inherent in their respective viewpoints can be "held in a unifying tension by the sheer fact of the narrative of Jesus Christ at the heart of the whole discourse".204 And it is from their common focus on Christ that the theologians of the 21st century should be inspired in all their attempts to progress in the knowledge of God, to transmit it to their contemporaries, and to establish a fruitful ecumenical dialogue tending to unity.

5. Literature

5.1. Primary

5.2. Secondary

I vostri commenti

Saremo felici di ricevere commenti a questo articolo. Nel caso abbiate dato l'assenso, il vostro commento potrà essere eventualmente pubblicato (integralmente o in sintesi). Grazie!


  1. Balthasar 1992. Testo

  2. Cf. Webster 2004: 246-247. Testo

  3. I will adopt the usual abbreviations throughout this essay. For Barth: CD (Church Dogmatics); GD (Göttingen Dogmatik). For Balthasar: GL (The Glory of the Lord); KB (The Theology of Karl Barth); MP (Mysterium Paschale); TD (Theo-Drama); TL (Theo-Logic). Details in bibliography. Testo

  4. Cf. KB: 87; Jones 2008: 38; McCormack 2011: 87 and 91. Testo

  5. CD I/1: 296; cf. Pannenberg 1991: 222-223; Moltmann 1981: 139-144. Testo

  6. CD I/1: 308; cf. Biggar 2000: 223-224; Aguti 2011, §2. Testo

  7. CD I/1: 315, 320, 324; cf. Hart 2000: 37. Testo

  8. CD I/1: 168 (cf. 111-113, 295-305. Cf. Williams 1979: 161; Schwöbel 2000: 25; Torrance 2000: 85-86; Jüngel 2001: xxv passim; Jowers 2003: 232. Testo

  9. CD I/1: 168; cf. 257 and GD: 456. These statements partially constitute his polemical answer to Catholicism (against the analogia entis [CD I/1: 166] and the openings of Vatican I to natural theology) and especially to Schleiermacher and the "German Christians" (cf. Torrance 2000: 75-76; Paradiso 2011, §3b). Testo

  10. CD I/1: 161, 199, 320, 407; cf. Williams 1979: 147; Torrance 2000: 73-74 and 82. Testo

  11. Cf. Schwöbel 2000: 24, 29-32. Testo

  12. CD I/1: 214; 176; cf. Hart 2000: 45, but also Williams 1979: 189 ("Having created free men, [God] submits to man's judgement, man's freedom to reject"). Testo

  13. CD II/1: 181. Testo

  14. Torrance 2000: 74. Cf. CD I/1: 156-162, 298-304; cf. Williams 1979: 148 and 159. Testo

  15. Cf. Hart 2000: 44; Molnar 2011: 15. Testo

  16. Cf. GD: 155; CD I/1: 238; cf. Hart 2000: 41-43. This approach had been developed even more radically by Barth in his Römerbrief (Barth 1933), where faith and religion stood in opposition, symbolising respectively God's gracious condescendence and the human attempt to reach God, the Ganz Andere (cf. Aguti 2011, §1); God and man are separated by an "epistemological gulf" which can be crossed only by God's grace (Wingren 1958: 24). Testo

  17. CD I/1: 296. Cf. Hart 2000: 49. Testo

  18. He also uses other triads, such as e.g. "unveiling, veiling and impartation", or "form, freedom and historicity", or "Easter, Good Friday and Pentecost": CD I/1: 332; cf. McCormack 2011: 96. See also Jowers 2003: 235-236. Testo

  19. Torrance 2000: 77. Testo

  20. Barth explicitly rejects both subordinationism and modalism (cf. CD I/1: 320-324; 328; 353; 381-382; 397). For a thorough discussion of how modalism is incompatible with Barth's trinitarian theology and its root within revelation, see Jowers 2003, especially 237ff. Testo

  21. Rahner 1997, esp. 21ff.; cf. CD I/1: 330, 333, 371--373; CD II/1: 301--311, 314-315, 326--327, 518, 562. See also Jowers 2003: 240. Testo

  22. Cf. Jowers 2003: 234. Testo

  23. McCormack 2011: 98 (cf. 100). Cf. CD I/1: 354. Cf. also Kelly 1978: 268. Testo

  24. CD I/1: 350, 352-353, 362-364, 384-389 and 390-398; 399-413 and 414-447; 448-465 and 466-490 respectively. God is not 'three divine I's', but the 'one divine I' three times (CD I/1: 351); thus Wiederholung is the Barthian interpretation of the homoousios (cf. McCormack 2011: 97). Testo

  25. Cf. CD I/1: 320, 324 and 331-332; cf. 315-316: God becomes his own alter-ego (cf. also Torrance 2000: 79). Testo

  26. CD I/1: 158-161. Testo

  27. Indeed, hypostasis means subsistentia, a "mode of existence", and not substance; John of Damascus, as well as the Cappadocians (Basil and Gregory of Nissa: cf. Ayres 2004: 359) speak of three "tropos hyparxeos", "modes of origination" (CD I/1: 363 and 365; cf. also St. Maximus: Ambiguum 26, PG 91: 1265CD); Aquinas defines the divine persons as "res subsistentes in natura divina" (ST I.Q.29 a. 4: cf. CD I/1: 366), and Calvin speaks of "subsistentia in Dei essentia" (Instit. I, 13, 6). Cf. Aguti 2011, §2. However, the strongest influence on Barth's adoption of the term comes certainly from Isaak Dorner (cf. Dorner 1965: 214). Cf. Moltmann 1981: 139, n. 21; Jowers 2003: 240ff.; Taylor 2003: 33-36. Testo

  28. CD I/1: 162 and 349; CD II/1: 296-7. Cf. Torrance 2000: 86; Torrance 2003: 81; Aguti 2011: §2; McCormack 2011: 93-94. Testo

  29. McCormack 2011: 100. Testo

  30. McCormack 2000: 103. Cf. ibid.: 104 and McCormack 2011: 94-95. Testo

  31. Cf. CD I/1: 370. Testo

  32. CD I/1: 373 (cf. ibid.: 353 and 362-364). Cf. Jowers 2003: 236-237; McIntosh 2011: 223. Testo

  33. CD III/1: 49; cf. Williams 1979: 165-166; McIntosh 2011: 226. Testo

  34. Cf., for example: Williams 1979: 175 etc.; McCormack 1995: 20-22 (where great importance is given to Heppe's influence, cf. Heppe 1984); McCormack 2000: 101-102; Jowers 2003: 246 etc.; Jones 2008: 8; McCormack 2011: 89; Myers 2011: 121 and 129; Tolliday 2011: 138 and 159. Testo

  35. Cf. e.g. Taylor 2003: 34; 41-42; Molnar and Hunsinger (cf. Myers 2011: 121). Testo

  36. Cf. McIntosh 2011: 227-228. Testo

  37. CD I/1: 412. Cf. Hart 2000: 51-52; Giles 2006: 295; Tolliday 2011: 143. Testo

  38. CD II/1: 123-125; cf. Williams 1979: 179-180; cf. Jüngel 2001: 96 etc. Testo

  39. Robinson 2011: 30. Testo

  40. CD IV/1: 53. Cf. Williams 1979: 127, 131 and 132; Myers 2011: 132-4. Testo

  41. "If we say that God's relation to man in Jesus Christ is constitutive of his simply being God, we introduce an anthropologically conditioned necessity into God, and destroy the gratuity of grace" (CD I/1: 420-1). Testo

  42. Cf. McCormack 2011: 104. Testo

  43. Cf. CD IV/1: 186: "Our concept of God is too narrow, too arbitrary, too human, all too human [...]. It must lie far from us to wish to be wiser than He" etc. Testo

  44. McCormack 2011: 105, 107, 108 etc. Testo

  45. "It is impossible to listen at one and the same time to the two statements that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and that the Son of God is Jesus of Nazareth. [...] When one is heard, the other can be heard only indirectly, in faith" (CD I/1: 180). Testo

  46. Jüngel 2001: 96. Testo

  47. CD II/2: 99. Cf. also Williams 1979: 78. Testo

  48. Cf. Jones 2008: 206. Testo

  49. CD IV/1: 200-203. Testo

  50. Cf. CD I/1: 381. See also Jones 2008: 9, and Tolliday 2011: 140. Testo

  51. Cf. The Doctrine of the Trinity and its Bearing on the Relationship of Men and Women, 1999, in Giles 2006, Appendix B. Testo

  52. Cf. CD I/1: 412; Giles 2006: 295; Tolliday 2011: 140. Testo

  53. Jones 2008: 206. Testo

  54. McCormack 2011: 109; cf. ibid.: 111; cf. CD IV/1: 193. See also Letham 2004: 397, Jones 2007: 156, and Myers 2011: 129. Testo

  55. Tolliday 2011: 150. However, not all of Barth's interpreters agree with this viewpoint: cf., for example, Giles 2006: 293. Testo

  56. CD IV/1: 193. Testo

  57. CD I/1: 385. The expression "properly called God" in this context sounds slightly problematic. Testo

  58. Myers 2011: 130-132. Testo

  59. CD I/1: 387-388. Cf. Williams 1979: 163. Testo

  60. Pelikan 1986: 100-101; cf. Kilby 2012: 102. Testo

  61. The study of Anselm was a turning point for the evolution of Barth's thought (cf. Rashdall 1919: 444-446; Williams 1979: 176-178; Webster 2000: 5; Schwöbel 2000: 28-29; Wigley 1989, chapter 4; Hunsinger 2000a: 136; Wigley 2006: 238). Of course, Anselm's theory of the atonement had had in turn an important influence on Reformed theology (cf. Pelikan 1971: 360; Pelikan 1986: 94-95). Testo

  62. Cf. CD IV/1: 209. Testo

  63. Cf. McCormack 2011: 112 and Giles 2006: 292. Testo

  64. Cf. CD IV/1: 209; McCormack 2011: 110 and 114-115. Testo

  65. In CD IV/1: 202. Testo

  66. Baddeley 2004: 33. Cf. Giles 2006: 286. Testo

  67. Cf. Hunsinger 2000b: 178. Testo

  68. CD I/1: 469; cf. 455 and Williams 1979: 164. Testo

  69. Ibid. Testo

  70. CD I/1: 482. The term "mediation" seems slightly inappropriate here, as it evokes a slightly Hegelian dialectics between Father and Son. Cf. however Howsare 2009: 128, on Balthasar's use of the same concept. Testo

  71. Habets 2011: 163. Cf. Hunsinger 2000b: 180; Guretzki 2009: 291. Testo

  72. Cf. Hunsinger 2000b: 179. Testo

  73. Cf. CD IV/1: 157ff. Testo

  74. Cf. Williams 1979: 181-182. We will see how Balthasar's diastasis is indebted to this Barthian concept. Testo

  75. Hunsinger 2000b: 179 (cf. 189); cf. McCormack 2011: 96. Testo

  76. CD I/1: 483. Barth's treatment of the filioque clause is found in CD I/1: 477-489. Testo

  77. CD I/1: 482. Cf. Augustine, The Trinity, 15.26.47. Cf. Habets 2011: 166. Testo

  78. CD I/1: 469. Cf. Williams 1979: 170. Testo

  79. Williams 1979: 182. Testo

  80. Cf. Williams 1979: 171. See also Moltmann 1981: 142-143; Letham 2004: 287-288. Testo

  81. Cf. Hunsinger 2000b: 188. Testo

  82. Cf. CD II/1: 275, 33 and 277 respectively. Testo

  83. Cf. McIntosh 2011: 230. Testo

  84. Cf. Biggar 2000: 216-220 (cf. 223-224); Schwöbel 2000: 33. Testo

  85. Cf. Webster 2000: 9. However, for Kilby Balthasar is even more self-assured than Barth: Kilby 2012: 164-165. Testo

  86. Cf. Barth's viewpoint on the absence of any "special or second revelation of the Spirit alongside that of the Son" (CD I/1: 475): although the statement is open to several possible interpretations, it seems to mirror a Reformed viewpoint on the possibility of a creative and ongoing interpretation by the Church of the revelation accomplished in Christ. Testo

  87. Cf. Torrance 2000: 83-84; and this notwithstanding Barth's repeated statements on the radical hiddenness of God (cf. CD I/1: 165 etc.). Testo

  88. Cf. Torrance 2000: 79. Testo

  89. Cf. Wigley 2007; Kilby 2012: 60. Testo

  90. Cf. Williams 1979: 189 and 192. Cf. CD I/1: 476, and see later Balthasar's viewpoint on this subject. Testo

  91. Cf. Laats 1999: 43-54; Letham 2004: 271-290. Testo

  92. Of course, this "dialectic" might be more indebted to Idealism more than Barth would have admitted: cf. Williams 1979: 181; Jowers 2003: 240ff.; see e.g. CD I/1: 295-299. Testo

  93. Cf. Williams 1979: 182; CD I/1: 537. Testo

  94. E.g.: traditionally it is the Son, and not the Spirit, who is defined as the "Redeemer" (whereas the Spirit is traditionally the "Comforter"); see also McCormack 2011: 95, on the "revelation" of the Son or of the Father. Testo

  95. Cf. Wingren 1958: 24-25 on the absence of a "Christus Victor" in Barth's theology. Testo

  96. Cf. CD IV/1: 201, 204-205; 208-209; see Williams 1979: 175; Giles 2006: 290. Testo

  97. Cf. John 15:15. Cf. also Jones 2008: 9 and 207; McCormack 2006: 249 Testo

  98. Cf. CD IV/1: 209. Testo

  99. Cf. Torrance 2000: 79 and 82; McCormack 2011: 94. Testo

  100. Jowers 2003: 240ff. Testo

  101. Cf. CD I/1: 318. However, see Phil 2:6-7. Testo

  102. Torrance 2000: 77. Testo

  103. Cf. ST Ia q.13 a.7. Testo

  104. Cf. CD I/1: 314 etc. Testo

  105. Cf. Williams 1979: 188-189; cf. also Balthasar's viewpoint in the following pages (however, see KB: 114 and 157, and Wigley 2006: 34-35). Testo

  106. Cf. e.g. CD III/3: 327; Jowers 2003: 242. Testo

  107. Cf. Wingren 1958: 24-25 and 37-38; cf. Williams 1979: 173. Testo

  108. Cf. Barth 1946: 97-101. Cf. Hunsinger 2000b: 184: "Grace is not a matter of repairing this or that human capacity, but of contradicting fallen human nature as a whole [...]. Grace is rather that miracle by which human reason in its radical fallenness is so contradicted, disrupted and liberated that it provisionally grasps revelation" (my italics). Testo

  109. Cf. CD II/1: 123-125. Testo

  110. Cf. Jowers 2003: 240ff. ("The very use of a term like 'modes of being' for the trinitarian persons suggests at least insensitivity to the danger of modalism"). Cf. Torrance 2000: 81. Testo

  111. Cf. McCormack 2011: 112 and Giles 2006: 292. Testo

  112. Balthasar 1992 (KB). Testo

  113. Cf. KB: 24 and 89. Testo

  114. Ibid.: 87 and 89. However, cf. 226. Testo

  115. Cf. Paradiso 2011, §1a. Testo

  116. However, cf. Kilby 2012: 58; 104 Testo

  117. TD5: 82. Testo

  118. Cf. Paradiso 2011, §1b. Testo

  119. Wigley 2006: 175. On the relationship between Balthasar's viewpoint and Siewerth's reading of Aquinas, cf. Paradiso 2009: 107ff.; Nichols 2001: 189. Testo

  120. TL2: 117. Testo

  121. KB: 87. Cf. Scola 1995: 56. Testo

  122. Cf. GL1: 418; Wigley 2006: 103. Testo

  123. Cf. Howsare 2009: 121-122. Cf. Wigley 2006: 218-219; Scola 1995: 57; Nichols 2001: 85. Testo

  124. Williams 2004: 50. Testo

  125. As Wigley demonstrates, Barth interpreted the Catholic viewpoint through Przywara's writings: Balthasar's response to Barth challenged the correctness of his interpretation of Przywara, and added that Przywara, authoritative as he might be, was by no means the official spokesman of Catholic theology (Wigley 2006: 30). Testo

  126. For Balthasar's viewpoint, Cf. KB: 286; TL1: 18; TD3: 223. Testo

  127. Cf. CD I/1: 334ff; TL2: 87-123; McCormack 2000: 109; Wigley 2006: 29; 58; Howsare 2009: 123 and 129; Robinson 2011: 54. Testo

  128. Cf. CD I/1: 336ff.; KB: 163. Testo

  129. Cf. Howsare 2009: 124 and 125; Balthasar 2013. Testo

  130. Cf. KB: 63; McCormack 1995: 1; Scola 1995: 55; Webster 2004: 248. Testo

  131. Wigley 2006: 39; cf. ibid.: 76. See also McCormack 2000: 108. Testo

  132. KB: 114; cf. Howsare 2009: 130. Testo

  133. TD3: 223ff.; cf. Scola 1995: 55; Chia 1999: 238. Testo

  134. Williams 2004: 40; cf. TD2: 267. Testo

  135. KB: 163. Cf. however McCormack 2000: 108. Nonetheless, it should be emphasised that Balthasar actively rejected the flavour of "social Trinitarianism" latently present in some of Barth's statements on the Trinitarian grounds of human love and diversity: cf. CD IV/1: 202; TD2: 316-334. See also Wigley 2006: 179-180; Reali 2011. Testo

  136. KB: 286. Testo

  137. Cf. Howsare 2009: 134. Testo

  138. TL2: 126-127. Testo

  139. Cf. TD4: 66. Testo

  140. Cf. Kilby 2012: 122. Testo

  141. Cf. MacKinnon 1986: 7; Scola 1995: 63; Wigley 2006: 219; Reali 2011. Testo

  142. Cf. Howsare 2009: 139. Testo

  143. Cf. GL7: 213-214; TD2: 264 (note 27); Williams 2004: 38. Cf. Bulgakov, in Williams 1999: 194, and Nichols 2005: 20 and 309-311. Testo

  144. TD2: 256 and 189-334; TD3: 149-229; TD4: 75; GL7: 115-235. Howsare 2009: 133; 137; 139; Wigley 2006: 154. Testo

  145. TD3: 170; TD5: 243-244 (quoting Schürmann 1975: 146). Cf. Scola 1995: 63; Howsare 2009: 133, 137, 139; Reali 2011. Testo

  146. Cf. TD3: 519; TD5: 75, 79, 87. This applies, although to a lesser degree, to God's creative activity as well: "the receptivity of creation does not exclude radical participation by grace in the divine life". Williams 2004: 46-47. Thus Balthasar gives to the created world a degree of freedom in receptivity which Barth denied (cf. ibid.: 43). Testo

  147. Balthasar 1978: 45. Testo

  148. The term comes from Gregory of Nyssa, although for him there was no diastasis within the Godhead: Jones 2011: 191. Cf. TD2: 257; Balthasar 1993: 173; Balthasar 1995: 27-35. For O'Hanlon, Balthasar's diastasis is metaphorical: O'Hanlon 1990: 141-143. In other situations, Balthasar uses the German word "Abstand" which can mean both "distance" and "difference". Testo

  149. TD3: 301-302; TD4: 323-5; 332. Cf. Kilby 2012: 99-100. Testo

  150. Cf. GL3: 367-368. Cf. Williams 2004: 43. Testo

  151. Balthasar uses the word "Unvordenklichkeit [der Liebe]", meaning something (i.e., God's love) for which a "before" is not thinkable. Cf. TL2: 135, with Adrian Walker's footnote (n. 11: "God the Father has [...] loved the Son before there is any chance of reflective deliberation about whether he wants or not"). See also TD3: 516. Testo

  152. Cf. Williams 2004: 45-47. Testo

  153. KB: 287. Cf. TD3: 518. Testo

  154. Scola 1995: 62; cf. TD4: 71-74; GL7: 22-23. See also Howsare 2009: 124. Testo

  155. Here we can possibly find a polemical hint against Barth's use of the word Wiederholung: cf. Williams 2004: 44, rightly pointing out Balthasar's use of Nicholas of Cusa's expression "non aliud" to indicate the difference between Creator and creature. Testo

  156. Cf. TD2: 266; TD5: 247; and Williams 2004: 41-42. Testo

  157. Cf. Scola 1995: 59-64; Morrison 2004: 133-4. Testo

  158. Cf. KB: 292; Reali 2011. Testo

  159. TD4: 323 and 348. Cf. Williams 2004: 40; Wigley 2006: 169. Testo

  160. Balthasar 1996: 231. Testo

  161. Cf. Balthasar 1993: 467; MP: 13. Testo

  162. Cf. TD3: 183-191; 521-523. Testo

  163. Cf. Morrison 2004: 30; 139. Testo

  164. Balthasar 1990: 45-46; cf. TD3: 171; 522. Testo

  165. Cf. Wigley 2010: 137. Testo

  166. TD3: 157; 188; TD4: 53-57. Cf. Scola 1995: 58; Morrison 2004: 159; Kilby 2012: 95-97. Testo

  167. Cf. TD4: 53-57. Cf. Scola 1995: 58. Testo

  168. Cf. TL2: 138, where Balthasar commends Barth's approach to the immanent and economic Trinity. Testo

  169. Cf. TD3: 508. Testo

  170. TD5: 250; MP: viii; Balthasar 1969: 71-75; cf. Kromholz 2000: 35-42. Testo

  171. Cf: Kilby 2012: 120. Testo

  172. Cf. Kilby 2012: 101-102; 111. Testo

  173. Morrison 2004: 134; 162; cf. Kilby 2012: 115-120. Testo

  174. MP: 148-181. Testo

  175. MP: 151. Testo

  176. Cf. Balthasar 1978: 65; Morrison 2004: 91-94; Kilby 2012: 107-109. Testo

  177. TD3: 226; MP: 172; 180. Testo

  178. Cf. TD4: 335. On Balthasar's indebtedness to the Protestant view of substitution (and to Barth), cf. Oakes and Pitstick 2006; Pitstick 2007; Kilby 2012: 102. Testo

  179. TL2: 294-298; cf. Pitstick 2007: 119. Testo

  180. Balthasar 1975: 67; 82; cf. Pitstick 2006. Testo

  181. Pitstick 2007: 240ff. Balthasar's kenotic perspective is certainly indebted to Barth's Trinitarian theology, although, for Williams, Balthasar's "anchoring" of the Trinitarian discourse "in the specificity of the Cross and the dereliction of the Crucified" is one of the most original aspects of his Trinitarian thought (Williams 2004: 49-50; cf. Williams 1979: 130; Myers 2011: 125). Testo

  182. Cf. Kilby 2012: 13; 112; etc. Probably, much of Balthasar's characteristically self-confident writing might come from his reliance on von Speyr's mystical visions. Testo

  183. Cf. Reali 2011. Testo

  184. Although, as Williams points out (2004: 47), this choice implies the risk of "creating a divine narrative". Testo

  185. Cf. TD1: 268ff.; TD3: 532-535. Testo

  186. Cf. Howsare 2009: 126. Testo

  187. Wigley 2006: 115; cf. Howsare 2009: 129. Testo

  188. Howsare 2009: 126. Testo

  189. GL1: 618. Testo

  190. Cf. Quash 2004: 151. Testo

  191. Cf. TD5: 236-239. Testo

  192. Webster 2004: 252. Testo

  193. Cf. KB: 326ff (which is strongly indebted to Schmaus' Katholische Dogmatik, esp. Vol. II); Howsare 2009: 130; Kilby 2012:25. Testo

  194. Cf. Wigley 2006: 47; Howsare 2009: 136. Howsare correctly points out that Balthasar's criticism is equally directed against both extremisms: Barth's from the one side, and Rahner's on the other. Testo

  195. Cf. TL3: 190-200; 218; 380-392; Wigley 2006: 221. Testo

  196. Cf. TL3: 196; Scola 1995: 59; Howsare 2009: 128. Testo

  197. Williams 2004: 47. Testo

  198. TL3: 13; cf. Wigley 2006: 221-222. Testo

  199. TL2: 184. Cf. Wigley 2006: 48 and 80. Testo

  200. KB: 129. Cf. 134 and 155: for Barth, according to Balthasar, the "original sin" coincides with the aim of "natural theology", i.e. to reach God without His grace. Testo

  201. Cf. KB: 157: "It is an inherent good for something to stand over against God because it is a mirror-image of the way the persons of the Trinity relate to each other". Testo

  202. Howsare 2009: 138;f.Wigley 2006: 139-140. Testo

  203. GL7: 397; TD2: 284-311. Testo

  204. Williams 2004: 50. Testo