God’s Eye View

Balthasar
A (Very) Critical Introduction
Karen Kilby
Eerdmans, $23, 188 pp.

A half-century after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, it is worth remembering that many important twentieth-century Catholic theologians suffered years of neglect, rejection, or official condemnation before finding vindication at the council. Among those disciplined or silenced by the Vatican were Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and John Courtney Murray. After decades of steadfast struggle to engage theology with the philosophical and cultural challenges posed by modernity, these theologians succeeded in helping shape a new framework for the church in the modern world. Yet although their work fundamentally shaped the documents of the council, the full impact of their ideas continues to be resisted by the Vatican—and none of them sits at the center of theological excitement in the increasingly conservative church of the early twenty-first century. Today the buzz belongs instead to Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Karen Kilby’s excellent introduction to the Swiss theologian notes that Balthasar’s career had the same basic pattern as his contemporaries’, but with an even longer period of neglect. Unlike many of his peers, Balthasar owed this neglect not...

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About the Author

Luke Timothy Johnson, a frequent contributor, is the R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Two of his most recent books are Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale) and Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Eerdmans).