The Word Has Been Abroad – Introduction 1

We begin with a proxy. Life does not leave time for Hans Urs von Balthasar‘s seven-volume The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, but it does leave time for Aidan Nichols’s guide to this seven volume work, The Word Has Been Abroad. So where you see a characterization of Balthasar, remember its a characterization of Nichols characterizing Balthasar.

The Glory of the Lord is itself but the first piece piece of Balthasar’s systematic theology trilogy, and the one in which he meditates upon the good, the beautiful, and the true. The rest of the trilogy includes the five-volume Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, examining “the action of God and the human response, especially in the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday” and the three-volume Theo-Logic (in which Balthasar examines ontology and the relation of the nature of Jesus Christ (christology) to reality itself.

Happily, Balthasar seems to be a biblicist, in the best sense of the word. That is, he has a high view of and robust respect for holy scripture and its role in the life of believers. Importantly, for our purposes, he begins his systematics in The Glory of the Lord with aesthetics and an extended consideration of beauty (glory) and its role. This is important, because I anticipate that human attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding beauty significantly determine the nature and extent of their interaction with culture.

The key to the trilogy is found in the Scholastic notion of transcendental determinations of being, qualities so pervasive throughout reality that they crop up in all the categories of particular being, and so may be said to ‘transcend’ such categorical distinctions as those differentiating substance and accident, quality and mode. . . .There is a correspondence, an analogy, as well as a staggering disproportion . . . between worldly beauty and divine glory. There is a correspondence, an analogy, as well as a staggering disproportion between finite freedom and the infinite freedom of God. There is a correspondence, an analogy, as well as a staggering disproportion between the structure of created truth and the structure of divine truth. (xix)

Many recent theological debates have quibbled over the extent that we can (and should) learn of God and glimpse His mission in the world in the created order and through “common grace.” This fundamental premise of the Trilogy gives greater texture to this proposition (that general revelation does have much to teach of God and something of his mission as well), and reminds us of just how BIG are His presence and activity in the universe and its creation. The discussion of general revelation, common grace, and their role in the church has seemed rather flat to me; this analytical key to the Trilogy begins to restore multidimensionality to that debate.

Beauty corresponds to glory. It may take some time to unpack and examine that one.

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