Von Balthasar, an Aesthetic Theologian

Von Balthasar

Von Balthasar is one theologian that I am happy to have stumbled upon. In my opinion he is one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century on par with the likes of Karl Barth. Strangely enough most protestants are not familiar with him, but they should be.

The main reason he is not well known in the protestant realm is because he was a Catholic. This shouldn’t stop protestants from reading his works because he shares many similarities with our line of belief (especially the reformed tradition). This is probably due to the heavy influence of Augustine in his life. In fact, while reading him I see striking parallels with Van Til and John Frame. He is basically a Catholic presuppositionalist.

His most well known contribution to Christendom is Aesthetic Theology (not a Theology of Aesthetics). Simply put, this involves seeing the beauty of the Lord in all of life. His beauty should be integrated into all our theology and apologetics. He notes that beauty catches men off guard. They are powerless against it. It enraptures them. This is the path our apologetical method should walk down. In the end if it doesn’t lead to the glorious cross and resurrection, it is not worth it. It is this historical event and the historical person of Jesus Christ which is the Church’s ultimate apologetic. The grandiose beauty of it cracks hard hearts and makes man fall on his face and say, “My Lord and my God.”

I just wanted to give a brief introduction to this man. I hardly did him or his contributions justice. But if you want to investigate him further then here are some resources.

A Brief Biography

An Article about his Aesthetic Theology

An Introduction to his Apologetics

Suggested books by Von Balthasar:

The Glory of the Lord: a Theological Aesthetics: This is his most authoritative work. This is not the place to start with him though because of its sheer size. It consists of three volumes and I have only read bits and pieces of it.

Love Alone is Credible: This is probably the first book you should read because it will help you understand his other writings. Its foundation is the unifying love of the trinitarian God.

The God Question and Modern Man: I really enjoyed this book. It is an analysis of contemporary man and is very relevant to our culture. It is an apologetic book and is a primer for Catholic presuppositionalism.

Truth is Symphonic: Aspects of Christian Pluralism: This is his commentary on how the Church should endorse variety within its body.


5 responses to “Von Balthasar, an Aesthetic Theologian

  1. Man, I really need to reads me some Vonny B. In one of my first classes, Scott Swain referenced The Glory of the Lord: a Theological Aesthetics a bunch of times…but I’m afraid. Oh so afraid.

  2. Afraid or not (the bio says he’s thomas aq in disguise…kidding) I’m jumping in. Thanks Richter, and, actually, this is a great reminder to read outside what’s ‘normal’ for a slug like me. Now get your butt down here and lets start something crazy in the 505…florida aint got half the love.

  3. Just a minor quibble, from someone who’s working on a degree in theological aesthetics: It’s theological aesthetics, not aesthetic theology. You might as well use the name he gave it! “Aesthetic theology” sounds too much like a “pretty theology” or something. Anyway, I’m glad to see someone spreading a love for von Balthasar among the Protestants. 😉

  4. Oh, I should also mention: if you never have, you should check out the work of my late professor, Alejandro García-Rivera – particularly his book A Wounded Innocence. Alex was a former scientist turned Lutheran pastor turned Catholic theologian with particular interests in theological aesthetics and theology of suffering.

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