Posts Tagged ‘Balthasar’

Stories upon Stories upon Stories

June 15, 2008 Leave a comment

The Bible is not simply one story but many stories. And these stories form patterns that are repeated again and again. For example, the creation story appears in Gen 1 and Gen, but then variations of the creation story reapper throughout the scripture in places like Job, Proverbs 8, John 1 and Romans 1. Each story reflects a different aspect of the pattern.

Some of the many stories appearing in the Scriptures include:

The story of the Law

The story of Sojourn

The story of Slavery and Exodus

The love story between a Groom and Bride

The story of Father’s and Sons

The story of rebellion and redemption.

These are just some of the many stories that appear, reappear and reappear again. All these stories might and probably would have seem disconnected. But Jesus comes and fulfills/embodies every story. All the stories are flowing in and out from Him.

These stories might also be thought of as bardic songs. The ancient Celtic bards would sing songs of adventure and love and nature and war to the people. Their songs not only entertained but also helped forge a common memory of the tribe.

As we read the story (and sometimes realize we are acting in some of the story patterns), we also discover that we are being forged into a common memory of a family that spans time from beginning to end.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar speaks of the complexity of interwoven stories. He calls this a “symphony,” ” a dance fo sound.” Here are few of his thoughts on symphony from the classic treasure, Truth is Symphonic – Aspects of Christian Pluralism.

In his revelation, God performs a symphony, and it is impossible to say which is richer: the seamless genius of his compositions or the polyphonous orchestra of Creation that he has prepared to play it. Before teh Word of God became man, the world orchestra was “fiddling” about without any plan: world views, religions, different concepts of the state, each one playin gto itself. Somehow there is the feeling that this cacophonous jumble is only a “tuning up”: the A can be heard through everything, like a kind of promise. “In and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets…” (Heb 1:1). Then came the Son, the “heir of all things,” for whose sake the whole orchestra had been put together. As it performs God’s symphony under the Son’s direction, the meaning of its variety becomes clear….Initially, (the musicians) stand or sit next to one another as strangers, in mutual contradiction, as it were. Suddenyl the music begins, they realize how there are integrated. Not in unison, but what is far more beautiful–in sym-phony.

Thank You Hans Urs Von Balthasar

May 15, 2008 Leave a comment

I am grateful to Hans Urs Von Balthasar for writing about the riches of God in ways that both challenge my mind and stir my heart to worship. The Beauty of Jesus captured Von Balthasar soul, and his writing carries the sweetness of a beloved child entranced by the riches of his heavenly Father.

I first discovered Von Balthasar while ambling through a used bookstore in Knoxville. I found a small, stained book with only one word on the cover: Prayer. For three dollars I purchased his classic theological devotional that wounded me with God’s love. Since then I have been enriched and mentored by many books from this man who wrote with a heart to stir God’s people to prayer.

Here is a small excerpt from this rare treasure:

“We yearn to restore our spirits in God, to simply let go in him and gain new strength to go on living. But we fail to look for Him where He is waiting for us, where he is to be found: in His Son, who is His Word….we fail to listen where God speaks; where God’s Word rain out in the world once for all, sufficient for all ages, inexhaustible. Or else we think that God’s Word as been heard on earth for so long that by now it is almost used up, that it is about time for some new word, as if we had the right to demand one. We fail to see that it is we ourselves who are used up and alienated, whereas the Words resounds with the same vitality and freshness as ever; it is as near to us as it always was. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom 10:8). We do not understand that once God’s Word has run out in the midst of the world, in the fullness of time, it is so powerful that it applies to everyone, all with equal directness; no one is disadvantaged by distance in space or time. True, there were a few people who become Jesus’ earthly partners in dialogue, and we might envy them (in) their good fortune, but they were as clumsy and inarticulate in this dialogue as we and anyone else would have been. In terms of listening and responding to Jesus’ real concerns they had no advantage over us; on the contrary, they saw the earthly, external appearance of the Word, and it is largely concealed from them the divine interior.”

Here is an excerpt from another stunning classic, The Heart of the World.

Dogmatic Theology and the World of Algebra

October 7, 2007 Leave a comment

Hans Urs Von Balthasar writes, “Dogmatic theology is the articulation of the conditions of possibility of Christian action in the light of revelation.” Reflecting on Balthasar’s idea, it seems to me that revelation is a lot like algebra. Unlike like the simple math of 2 + 2, which corresponds directly with the natural world, Algebra creates a seperate world of logic. Within this world formulas like a + b -c are used in a world that does not directly correspond to the natural world but has implications for the natural. As mathmatics continues to move further into theory and speculation, we discover a seperate world that becomes further and further abstracted from the natural.

Within this speculative world, one does not abandon logical consistancy. There is a logic within the mathmatical world that is self-containted within the argument. In Balthasar’s statement above, I see at least two worlds. First, I see the natural world where Christian action takes place. Then there is the world of revelation that is not discovered through natural observation.

The gospel makes the audacious claim that Jesus is God in the flesh. Some people may like the story but refuse to listen to logical claims within the context of the world of revelation created by the Bible. There are actually two arguments to explore here: one, the logical continuity of this world of revelation, and two, whether this world of revelation corresponds to this natural world. In other other words, is the archetect of the moral universe with the gospel story, the same architect of the natural in which we live.

Obviously, for Balthasar this world of revelation does correspond to the natural world. Working from a theology of analogy, Balthasar is wrestling with the question of a transcendence and immanence. How can man who is limited by time and space speak of a Creator outside of time and space? Space doesn’t provide a place to work through his analogy of being here, but bascially man does learn of the transcendent God through analogy.

As author of time and space, God creates a world of analogy with pointers to his character in all of creation. Man himself is created as the image of God. Yet, at the point of analogical connection, creation’s dissimilarity with the Creator is greater than its similarity with God. Without expanding on this idea further here, I suggest this idea provides the basis for that this world of revelation directly corresponds with the natural world.

Using the Bible and the Tradition of the Church, Balthasar works through the logic of revelation, which ulimately suggests that Jesus’s self-emptying act in the cross is God’s absolute expression of love. The first question one asks when facing this world of revelation might be, “Is the story of revelation satisfactory?” Does the story work? When someone says that they like the story of Jesus or that they find the story appealing, they are on some level responding to the logic of this world.

While not all Christians work through the logic of this world, they do begin with a belief in the story. As faith seeks understanding, this belief may work through the logic of the world on some level. As one makes a connection between the world of revelation and the natural world, one begins to discover the historical claims of Christianity. Thus revelation is seen as historical. It is not reached through reason but through faith. Yet working from faith, reason wrestles with the claims of revelation and the implications of revelation for action.

So for Balthasar dogmatic theology articulates how this world of revelation both creates the possibility for action and the implications for that action within the natural world. This is where it becomes difficult. In wrestling with the claims of revelation, theology explains the implications for actions in ideal terms. For example, the Christian is called to love as Jesus loved. The self empyting act of the cross is the pattern for behavior.

Yet as real human beings seek to act out these implications, their adherence to the challenge of Christian action is always less than ideal. Some people outside the world of revelation look at Christians behavior. Seeing actions that fail to reflect the image of love, they reject or challenge the claims proceeding from the world of revelation.

How does a Christian respond to this unbelief, scorn and even strong rejection and even hatred of the world of revelation? I think we continue to listen to the claims of dogmatic theology. We continue to observe the pattern of the cross. We continue acting by the power of the Spirit who helps us to translate this revelation into the natural world. In spite of our flaws, we continue seeking to embody self-emptying love revealing in some small measure that claim of revelation that love alone is credible.

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Objective Remembering

October 4, 2007 Leave a comment

Hans Urs Von Balthasar challenges me to the call to live as a historical person–grounded in the earthiness of daily life.

In “Love Alone is Credible,” Von Balthasar presents an extensive discussion on the nature of the the Son’s kenotic (self-empyting) act as the absolute expression of love. In the midst of his essay he talks about the act of remembering this act through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, the church actively remembers Christ. Much more than simple recall, eating the bread and drinking the wine is act of faithful remembering that is only possible via the Holy Spirit. Von Balthasar writes:

In the ever-present Anamnesis (“Do this in remembrance of me,” 1 Cor 11:25) of the self-sacrifice of God’s love (unde et memores), the living and resurrected Christ becomes present “until he comes again” (Mat 18:20)–but present “until he comes again” (1 Cor11:26), and therefore, not looking backward, but with eyes set forward, into the future and full of hope. Only non-faith and nonlove can imprison Christians in their past.; the Spirit has set them free to enter into every age and every future; indeed, the move forward, fashioning and transforming the world in everything they do in light of the abundant image that rises before the, not subjectively but objectively, at every moment.

This one passage has stuck in my mind. If I am hearing him correctly, I hear that the physical act of communion that is memory and presence is both a human act and a Spirit act. The church is freed from simple subjectivity that relegates it to an ahistorical existence on thought and inner experience. TheEucharist grounds us in time and yet by the Spirit in all times.

In remembering the church is enacting. The communion meal sets the tone for action in all spheres. We becomes the self-emptying body of Christ poured out for the world. Thus like Paul, we are compelled to reconcile all things to God. From the mundane to the spectacular activities of each day, we exist as living witnesses of Christ’s presence by His Spirit.

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