Catholic Church: April 2003 Archives

At Disputations


I've meant to say a few words regarding some of the on-going commentary at Disputations. Of recent date, John da Fiesole has been posting some interesting ruminations and aggravations at, toward, and about the theology of Hans Urs van Balthasar. Now, I am not a Balthasarian champion, neither am I a detractor. I do not think him a destructive modernist who, with fire in his eyes set about the deconstruction of all that we hold near and dear. On the other hand, I also do not hail him as Prince of Theologians.

Frankly, much of what he writes bores me to tears. I tried earnestly and with great vigor to plow my way through his treatise on Prayer--to no avail. This is not a failing on his part, but on my own. The digests I have read regarding his thoughts on the population of hell (among other things) have been intriguing and utterly fascinating--but I have against Balthasar the fact that the native language was German and nearly everything German in translation is leaden and dull. Even Thomas Mann is a labor in English. I can't imagine that if the wooden prose that represents itself as the translation of Thomas Mann actually reflected his felicity in German that anyone would ever have read a word. I have noted this same problem with the vast majority of works in translation from German.

But the case of Balthasar once again raises a point I often make and often get derided for from the Thomists and proto-Thomists out there. Thought and speculation about God is wonderful and good so long as it leads the thinker and those who can follow him or her toward God. But thought about God is not an end in itself. We will not be quizzed about whether the Father and the Son were or were not separated or united in the final moments on the cross. I suppose it is an interesting matter for theological speculation--but I honestly can't see how it would make an iota of difference in my life if I knew and truly understood the answer. And it does make a great deal of difference (or could if I would let it) to my present life because it is utterly frustrating, aggravating, and irritating not to know the answer and be able to apply it to something.

So, Balthasar, Rahner, Küng, Häring, you name whom you choose--even the remarkable St. Edith Stein in much of her work (The Problem of Empathy, for example), do not do much to enhance my love of God. And yet, I rejoice that they have written, as their work undoubtedly must move people of a certain bent closer to the Lord. Anything that does that is a good work--not to be denigrated or derided. But I would venture to guess that despite the pleadings of the few about the importance of such things, for the vast majority of us, the simple complexity of the words of our Savior and of the authoratative exposition of His teaching through the magisterium suffice. If we do not understand ever nuance of how we got to where we are, it is hardly a salvation matter. And if we do not care to do so, it is not a comment upon those who pursue such things with great vigor.

"In my Father's house there are many mansions." And I suspect that each of those mansions has as many libraries, courtyards, salons, ballrooms, and parlors. If some find themselves in at the desk one library, while others are on the window seat with a book of poetry--still there is room for us all.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from April 2003.

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