Love’s Beauty at the Heart of the Christian Moral Life: The Ethics of Catholic Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Author: Barrett, Melanie Susan
Year:2009
Pages:336
ISBN:0-7734-4649-4
978-0-7734-4649-6
Price:219.95
This study develops the ethical theory implicit in the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a prominent twentieth-century Swiss Catholic theologian. Balthasar’s attempt to critically retrieve the concept of beauty for Christian theology yields important ethical insights, culminating in an aesthetic and dramatic theory of ethics: one in which the perception of the beauty of God’s love in Christ becomes a foundational experience for moral formation and ongoing ethical discernment.

Reviews

“I commend this work as a complex, clearly written introduction to a dauntingly challenging thinker—Hans Urs von Balthasar—and as a contribution in its own right to Christian moral theology." – Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago Divinity School

“. . . excellent and original analysis of the theological ethics involved in the theological aesthetics of the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.” – Prof. David Tracy, University of Chicago Divinity School

“These chapters are truly original and constitute a genuine advance on all current scholarship, very much including German research. . . . will be an essential addition to every research library, one that every graduate student in Balthasar’s theology will want to own, and a book that will probably be on the required reading list of advanced seminars in Balthasar’s theology.” – Prof. Edward T. Oakes, University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary

“Barrett hits the nail on the head regarding the fundamental deficiency a Balthasarian ethic: ‘What is really missing, in other words, is a more rigorous and more fully integrated philosophy. . . he lacks a genuinely practical philosophy.’ But he intentionally avoided writing a moral theology itself. Because of the richness and genius what he did write, however, many want to extend his work into ethics. For such a task, Barrett’s study will be an essential guide.” – Prof. William F. Murphy, Pontifical College Josephinum

"Barrett draws out of Balthasar’s corpus a sustained argument for the moral importance of theological aesthetics, and complements the small body of secondary scholarship on Balthasar’s ethics by establishing the centrality of virtue, and in particular love, in the Swiss theologian’s vision of the life of Christian discipleship. Her book is an important contribution to Catholic moral theology, and a welcome point of access - through the lens of Christian discipleship - for those seeking an introduction to this monumental figure’s thought." - Prof. William C. Mattison III

Table of Contents

Table of Abbreviations
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Introduction
I. Why Aesthetics? Ethical, Metaphysical, and Epistemological Considerations
I.1. Approaching Ethics “Aesthetically”: Problems and Solutions
I.2. Elimination of Aesthetics from Theology: The Protestant Side
I.3. Elimination of Aesthetics from Theology: The Catholic Side
I.4. Toward a Solution: Clarifying the Task at Hand
I.5. Constructing a Theological Aesthetics: Philosophical Assumptions
I.5.1. Form and Splendor
I.5.2. Coming to Know Objective Beauty
I.6. Perceiving the Divine: Is Natural Religion Possible?
II. Theological Perception: Contemplating Christ “Aesthetically”
II.1. God Reveals Himself to Us
II.2. How Do We Recognize Jesus as God? Balthasar’s Aesthetic Theory of Theological Perception
II.2.1. Aesthetic Contemplation – What is it? How Does it Work?
II.2.2. Aesthetic Contemplation of the Christ-Form
II.3. Conclusion
III. Spiritual and Moral Response to the Glory of God in Christ
III.1. One Possible Response: Refusing God’s Love
III.2. Another Response to God’s Love: Love Awakens Love
III.3. Attunement to God
III.4. Attunement to God in Christ
III.5. Christian Obedience: Limits and Qualifications
III.6. Christian Action: Being Sent On a Mission
III.7. Conclusion
IV. The Christian Moral Life
IV.1. Becoming Virtuous: Christ as Concrete Ethical Norm
IV.2. Love’s Perfectionist Orientation: All Are Called to Love Perfectly
IV.3. The Process of Moral Formation
IV.3.1. Contemplation
IV.3.2. Cultivating Love and Other Virtues
IV.3.3. Mission and Identity
IV.4. Conclusion
V. Further Refining Balthasar’s Ethics
V.1. Christian Moral Judgment
V.1.1. Actions in accord with Christ are animated by radical love of God and of neighbor, which implies a radical commitment to justice
V.1.2. Actions in accord with Christ aim toward the unity of all humankind
V.1.3. Actions in accord with Christ recognize the limits of what reasonably can be achieved
V.1.4. Actions in accord with Christ consider the consequences without being consequentialist
V.1.5. Actions in accord with Christ follow God’s law without being legalistic
V.2. Conclusion: Critiquing Balthasar’s Ethics
Bibliography
Index