Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Barth and Von Balthasar

Today while I was supposed to be studying for my Latin exam, I came accross a limited preview on Google Books (always a disaster) of "The Theology of Karl Barth" by (Cardinal) Hans Urs Von Balthasar. It amazed me the way that they discussed the division between Protestantism and Catholicism and it seems like they proposed the only solution to our disagreements.

Now the Confessional Reformed folks that I know seemed to pronounce Barth's name as anathema or near enough, but as I read Balthasar's synthesis of him, he seemed to propose exactly what they dream of. No ecumenism without serious discussion about a unity of faith, and 'doctrinal maximalism' as one person termed it. But interestingly enough, Barth didn't see issues like the Papacy or Sola Fide as the key to understanding the Protestant - Catholic divide, he focused on the fundamental differences, and linked Liberal Protestantism with Roman Catholicism in their trust in human reason. In this he seems to cut away these two great enemies of the Reformed kirk. Barth summed up as THE doctrine of the Anti-Christ as analogia entis or 'the analogy of being', understood as us speaking of God through analogy using reason and revelation. Barth's counter to this was the 'analogy of faith' using only scripture and not reason (allegedly).

While I think Von Balthasar had a brilliant defense against lots of these claims (Barth gives us too much credit when he describes Catholic thought as essentially unified on the Analogy of Being), it's interesting that he has argued that Protestantism is centred on Jesus Christ and his revelation as the fundamental theology of their movement.

I found it interesting that this seems to be a claim post-Barth made alot by people like Peter Kreeft and Fr. Corapi, etc. Von Balthasar's treatment of Barth (in the part that I read at least) seemed to be brilliant and he accepted alot of his criticism, but sought to make his Catholic theology - like Barth's - nonfoundationalist philosophically and this I enjoyed greatly as in some ways I see this as the only way out of modernism and relativism (though it's kinda relativist but that's a long story).

Anyway, I also found it interesting how Balthasar used Yves Congar's contribution to Patristics and Church History to show how every church schism is a loss, and that in countering Protestantism, perhaps Trent and Post-Tridentine Catholicism focussed unhealthily on works and institutions. While Von Balthasar clearly believes in their divine origins and affirms all of Catholic dogma, he is brutally honest in our need to revisit these issues and try to come up with a 'fair and balanced' (gah Fox News) view of the whole truth, rather than just the emphasis of one side of the truth.

All this is what I'd been talking about since I started my whole ranting about 'emphasis in theology'. So yes, I'm indirectly claiming that all of (post)modern theology got it's ideas magically from my own thoughts decades after the events themselves.

No, I'm not really saying that.

But it seems to me that this book "The Theology of Karl Barth" (which I haven't got yet) as well as the work of Karl Rahner and Von Balthasar's "Love Alone is Credible" (which I'm getting for Christmas) will help me piece together a more contemporary picture of the situation, and allow for more fruitful dialogue from both sides of the Tiber.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ignorance as a Defence of Your Faith

(I guess I'm slowly coming back to this blog of Reformed-Roman dialogue...slowly)

I was frustrated tonight when speaking with a fellow Catholic because of this prevailing series of thoughts I see in both Reformed and Roman Christians.

It's the idea that 'if they only knew what we taught, then they'd convert immediately'. I was recruited to convert a Reformed person who is dating a Catholic girl, but I'm refusing to go any further than I've already gone (just showed him the Catholic account of things). I get annoyed because they keep telling me that it's just misinformation. Really? I think that there is a significant number of people who understand 'both sides' and choose their own (including the Reformed side). Was Luther or Calvin or Beza ignorant of the Catholic claims? Clearly not. Were modern theologians like Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Jurgen Moltmann ignorant? No. And are Protestants at present, running the gamut from Michael Horton to Rowaan Williams ignorant of it? Obviously not.

I explained to the woman in mass tonight that actually Protestants are just following the development of doctrine from Augustine's conceptions of Original Sin and predestination, along with a development of Anselm's theory of Atonement, etc. And she laughed and did what all Catholics do... start screaming 'Eucharist!' and 'mere symbol'. By the time I tried to explain that Reformed Christians don't think it's "merely" a symbol and that Anglicans actually can claim it as a sacrifice, etc I just gave up (and Mass was starting).

I thought it was hillarious too as we were singing Vineyard worship songs and the priest faced us (not East), etc that Catholics think they are always more Traditional than everyone else.

Similarly, I get annoyed when Reformed Protestants just assume that Catholics don't understand Protestantism and are just ignorant. All the same things apply as I've written already.

The Point:

There are people whose consciences and in-depth study of scripture and Tradition lead them to Protestantism, as there are those whose same study leads them to Catholicism. Even if we hate each other's theologies (though I don't think I feel this way towards any theology except Anabaptism), can we at least admit that religious views are not just the result of ignorance, and that brilliant and loving Christians exist in both camps? I certainly am not saying, both are right, I'm just saying that both have arguments of at least some validity, and are not solely reducable to misinformation.

My personal example here is my friend Lance and I. We both were at a basic Evangelical Protestant understanding for a year of biblical studies together. As we studied theology he headed towards Lutheranism, and I towards Roman Catholicism. He's getting into Radical Orthodoxy and I'm getting into la nouvelle theologie / ressourcement, and we can actually agree on quite a bit. We obviously disagree on major issues, but I respect his theology and I hope he respects mine. Actually neither of us came up with our theology, as I've said, we left Evangelicalism :)