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Einbergung des Menschen in das Mysterium der dreieinigen Liebe: Eine trinitarische Anthropologie nach Hans Urs von Balthasar.

"How can You be at the same time compassionate and without passion?" Anselm asked of God in his Proslogion. This same question occupies, in differing ways and from different perspectives, the three books under review.

Krenski wrestles with this issue directly. After reviewing the impasse to which theology was delivered by its axiom of God's apatheia and impassibility, he briefly surveys the contemporary scene and shows that a break with the tradition is well-nigh inevitable, noting that an important consequence of such a rupture is "that an apparently unbridgeable cleft opens up between the traditional doctrine of God's incapacity to suffer and the supposedly modern talk about the suffering God" (58). But as the word "supposedly" implies, this tension is not completely new, nor does it arise only from modern challenges such as 20th-century genocide or the impact of process theology. The issue also arises internally from the communicatio idiomatum, the doctrine that any attribute that applies to one of Christ's natures applies to the whole of his person as well, so that in some sense we must say that God "suffers" and indeed even "dies." But how can this be understood without either ending up as an evangel of Nietzsche's kerygma that God is dead or in a kind of Sabellian modalism in which the Godhead fully undergoes what Jesus experiences?

It is no accident that each of these books has taken up this theological aporia by coming to terms with the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, for this issue determined the whole shape of his theology. Krenski and Meuffels concentrate on B.'s Theodramatics, while Klaghofer-Treitler focuses more on his Aesthetics and "Theo-logic" (without, however, neglecting the Theodramatics).

Krenski possesses a thorough command not only of the Balthasarian literature but also of the theologoumenon of the merciful/passionless God and the contemporary challenge to it. A close reading of this important work makes clear how complex the issue is and how many themes in the Christian dispensation must be marshalled for its satisfactory resolution. Krenski first gathers all those elements that B. would call an "instrumentary": an analysis of how a concrete form (like a work of art) can express a universal truth in its very concreteness (contra Plato, who saw the universal behind the manifestation, not in it); the biblical materials of God's love, mercy, wrath, intervention, etc.; the forms of drama as analogues for the biblical drama; and finally the epistemological issue of what kind of perception faith furnishes.

His third chapter is the core of Krenski's book. It is a complex treatise, but its complexity is due to the total interrelatedness of all of the elements of the Christian kerygma of redemption: for redemption to be effective, it must redeem from suffering, but only through it; and it is the indissoluble connection between these two prepositions that accounts for the complexity of the theology (however simple the proclamation of the Church might have been in its earliest stages, as in Acts 2:24, 32-33). Krenski correctly sees that the distinction within the Trinity between Father and Son establishes the "fundament," as he puts it, for all further distinctions: between God and creation, between the abandonment felt by Christ in death and the hovering presence of the Father directing this death to be the salvation of the world, and between the tension of Jesus saving through his suffering and our being saved, eschatologically, from suffering.

This redemption then unfolds in a drama of salvation history that takes place because of the "economic" interplay between the Son's processio from the Father and Christ's missio on earth to be the incarnation of the Father. But the Incarnation cannot be understood univocally, which would lead to Patripassianism. The resolution of these tensions can only be resolved, in Krenski's interpretation, through an understanding of divine suffering that is analogical. Krenski argues his way to analogy in the same way B. does, negatively. That is, he first rejects what he calls the model of univocation (pain as a moment of God's self-realization) and the model of equivocation (the reduction of pain to God's economy). The rejection of these two alternatives leads to the only other option left: an analogical understanding of movement, suffering, and involvement by God in human history. It has often been urged that the resort to analogy in the history of theology has always been, when logically analyzed, a counsel of despair, an implicit admission that theology cannot really speak of these matters but must continue to do so faute de mieux. Krenski does not address this challenge directly, but he does make clear in his initial marshalling of the evidence that the issue will not go away, that the evidence cannot be wished away, and that therefore theology cannot abdicate its responsibilities in the face of its logically daunting task.

Klaghofer-Treitler's book forms an admirable complement to Krenski's for it deals more explicitly with the methodological issues that so determine B.'s approach. As its title implies, this work is not so much concerned with the dilemmas of passiology as with the prior issue of how the phenomenon of word/form can assume a divine nature and be God's Word and Form in history. This accounts for Klaghofer-Treitler's much greater emphasis on the methodological foundations of B.'s thought in his Aesthetics and also for the continual attention he pays to B.'s Theo-logic, where these themes once more are taken in all their logical complexity.

The reader will come away from this work impressed not only by the author's thorough command of B.'s theology but also by how crucial the role of apologetics is in his thought. The capacity of human words and human forms to take on a divine nature depends not only on God's intervening decision to become man ("grace") but also on the initial capacity of the humanum to receive the divine ("nature"). This insight opens the way to an apologetic examination of creation itself as an act of grace (an important theme throughout B.'s theology), something the Church Fathers saw as the vestigia Dei. It is also for Klaghofer-Treitler the basis for the possibility of the sanctity of the Christian becoming a true agent and continuation of the Incarnation in the history of salvation after the coming of Christ, which is why a treatment of the saints and of the specifically katholische Denkform assumes so important a role in his presentation.

This is a theme that constitutes the heart of Meuffels's dissertation. Here everything revolves around the issue of anthropology, and for that reason the question of apologetics is especially determinative. Beginning with a presentation of "man today," Meuffels proceeds to show how anthropology forms a Herzstuck of B.'s theology, and then shows how inherently dramatic this anthropology is, understood under the rubric of God's "world drama" with the whole of the human race.

This book, as one would expect of a dissertation, hews closely to the direction and outline of B.'s Theodramatics, but Meuffels shows an admirable familiarity with the whole corpus of B.'s theology and continually points to the interconnections between particular points made there with statements located in other works, including the collected essays.

One feature I particularly appreciated was Meuffels's stress on the positivity of the other (258-68). There is today a new resurgence of interest in "negative theology," but in that renewal of interest there is, in my opinion, the danger that the positivity of creation (and therefore its being "positively good") might be overwhelmed, making creation and the drama of salvation seem less crucial than it is or revelation less revelatory than it is. Meuffels, however, makes clear that the Einbergung of man in the mystery of the triune love does not overwhelm by drowning the creature but by exalting the creature to be "no longer servant, but friend" (John 15:14-15). And friendship demands a positivity of standing over against the other; without that, the whole world would collapse into the maya of pure illusion.

I happen to have read these three works in the order reviewed, and I cannot help in retrospect but regard that as a happy coincidence: Krenski's book is the most demanding of the three, but a thoroughgoing effort to wrestle with the issues he raises provides a superb foundation for understanding the positions B. takes in the other issues stressed by Klaghofer-Treitler and Meuffels.
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Author:Oakes, Edward T.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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