Two of the most important theologians of the 20th century now have collections on Pre-Pub! Joseph Ratzinger (now pope Benedict XVI) and Hans Urs von Balthasar were founding members of the Communio school of theology, which has become dominant in the Catholic Church and has had major influence on Protestant thought. Indeed, the great Swiss Reformed thinker Karl Barth once said of his life-long friend von Balthasar that no one understood his thought better.
The Communio School of Theology
Like the Protestant neo-orthodox theologians, the Communio school denies the validity of “natural” theology, emphasizing that all creation, and most significantly all of human experience, finds meaning and truth only in the person of Jesus Christ. There is no neutral ground, no realm where reason functions “unencumbered” by revelation: grace abounds. What this means is that reason and revelation, nature and grace, are not sealed off from each other, but find fundamental unity within the Trinitarian God and within mankind, made in his image. This reality finds perfect expression in the Incarnation. Man’s encounter with Christ is the content of the Communio approach to theology, which von Balthasar described as “essentially an act of adoration and prayer.”
Within Ratzinger’s Christocentric thought, the Incarnation is the only source for what is true about God and about man: love is the ultimate reality of the cosmos. Von Balthasar is perhaps best known for his aesthetics, for his contention that beauty reveals God and that beauty itself is defined by the Incarnation: Christ is beauty and what is beautiful is Christological. Both thinkers work within the paradigm of “ressourcement”—a return to the sources of the faith: Scripture and the Church Fathers. In doing so, they opened up new (or old) avenues for Christian theology.
Communio Opens Doors to Ecumenical Dialog
Both von Balthasar and Ratzinger encountered stiff resistance within the Catholic hierarchy and the academy, sometimes even being accused of heresy. But their theology was so powerful and subtle that it slowly won adherents and had a direct effect on the theology expressed at Vatican II. Through the pontificates of John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) the Communio approach has become dominant in the Church. What’s more, the emphasis on “ressourcement” has opened new opportunities for ecumenical dialog. Indeed, Joseph Ratzinger himself suggested that the Augsburg Confession might be accepted by the Catholic Church, and the Communio approach has underwritten the fruitful Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue of recent decades.
Communio theologians have re-shaped Catholic thought and have built bridges—between modern Christianity and the ancient Church and between contemporary denominations. Add this powerful and profound perspective to your Logos library. The Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Collection ships tomorrow, so place your pre-order now. The Hans Urs von Balthasar Collection is almost through Pre-Pub and will ship soon, so keep an eye out for this too.