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Run, run from von Baltasar! May 1, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, disaster, error, foolishness, General Catholic, priests, sadness, scandals.

Unam Sanctam Catholicam is a terrific blog.  It’s another blog that my friend Steve B turned me on to.  He’s done a series of posts lately on the problems of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a very popular theologian (and priest) who is far more erroneous and dangerous than is commonly accepted.  Aside from his notorious and self-serving claim that hell may well be deserted of humanity, there are numerous other disfigurements of Catholic belief in his theology.  It is a sad testament to the level of catechesis and adherence to traditional belief that von Balthasar is praised to the heavens even at the very highest levels of the Church. 

Unam Sanctam has put together another post on von Balthasar, dealing with his claim that Jesus Christ, One in Being

No clerics for von Balthasar

with the Father through the great mystery of the hypostatic union, did not actually enjoy the Beatific Vision, or the presence of God, while He was on earth.  This is contrary to Dogma.  I will give an excerpt of the beginning of the post, do go to Unam Sanctam and read the rest (I add some emphasis and comments):

Despite his eminence, many have raised concerns about his teaching, notably his thesis that Catholics may reasonably and with sincere hopefulness postulate that hell may be empty. This is the most often criticized doctrine of Balthasar’s, if for no other reason than it is the most easy to understand. Yet it is not the most troubling of his teachings. Among other things, Balthasar attributes to Christ ignorance and positive error [A creature, attributing error to the Divine!  Hubris!], denies the Traditional understanding of the “Harrowing of Hell”, suggests that Christ suffered the pains of the damned, says the blessed in heaven have faith,[Impossible.  St. Paul states that faith is the hope or evidence of things unseen.  In Heaven, we will possess the Beatific Vision, we will see God in His Glory! Faith is superflous in Heaven, and it is Dogma that of the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity, only Charity exists in Heaven, which is partly why St. Paul stated that of these three, charity, or love, is supreme]  states that the Incarnation can be “suspended”, suggests the theoretical possibility of the blessed in heaven still turning their back on God and losing their salvation,[This man is a raving heretic.  I cannot believe how many conservative Catholics honor him] posits more than one Divine Will in the Godhead, calls God the “Super-Feminine” and “Super-Death”, and denies that Jesus Christ experienced the Beatific Vision.  [That’s an amazing, dismaying list]

Though in my uneducated, arm-chair theologian opinion, an assertion of any one of these points would make Balthasar a heretic, in this article I wish to tackle on the last mentioned assertion: that Jesus Christ, while on this earth, did not possess the Beatific Vision. In this article, we will (1) explain Balthasar’s theory of the visio immediata, (2) explain Balthasar’s reasoning, and (3) demonstrate how they are at variance with traditional Catholic theology. All quotes will be cited; sources are at the bottom of the post. Unless otherwise stated, all works are by Balthasar.

The Teaching of Balthasar

Traditional Catholic Christology states that Christ, from the first moment of His conception and uninterrupted throughout His earthly life, possessed the Beatific Vision by virtue of the Hypostatic Union between the human nature of Jesus and the Word of God. Actually, this vision is actually greater than the Beatific Vision experienced by the saints, because the attachment of a normal human soul to God through grace is accidental – we receive the grace of God gratuitously through adoption; but the attachment of Christ’s soul to God is substantial, proceeding from a union of natures. Therefore, Christ not only has the Beatific Vision, but experiences it in a unique way that surpasses the experience of even the saints.

Note that the possession of the Beatific Vision by Christ has also traditionally been offered as an explanation as to why He is free from sin. [Thus, by cleverly denying the presence of the Beatific Vision, one can easily pivot to denying the Incarnation and Divinity of Christ]

Balthasar denies that Christ possesses this vision, as we have defined it above. Instead, he posits something that he calls the visio immediata Dei in anima Christi, or “immediate vision of God in the soul of Christ”(1). This terminology in and of itself is not problematic; the phrase visio immediata Dei has sometimes been used interchangeably with visio beatifica in Catholic Tradition (see, for example, Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals, pg. 162). But, as we shall see, Balthasar here uses traditional vocabulary but drastically redefines what is meant by the term. The visio immediataof Balthasar has nothing in common with the Beatific Vision of Tradition.

In the first place, Balthasar states that it is necessary for Christ’s mission that His human knowledge may not possess “supratemporal contents, nor contents from another period of time” (2). Christ has no infused knowledge of the past or the future. [This is heresy.  It denies that Christ actually prophesized while alive, such as when he predicted the fall of Jerusalem shortly before His Passion.  This is a very common modernist claim, modernists refusing to accept that Christ was anything more than a man, with strictly human capabilities.  That’s also why you may hear a homily sometime claiming that the “real miracle” of the loaves and fishes was that people generously shared their food with each other. That’s a pretty paltry miracle, and undermines the whole Eucharistic miracle]

Secondly, though this visio immediata reveals God’s will to Christ, it is not constant, but rather moment to moment:
“[the visio immediata Dei] at the very least…may fluctuate between the mode of manifestness (which befits the Son as his “glory”) and the mode of “concealment” which befits the Servant of Yahweh in his Passion…The second mode here is derived from the first: a living faith is content to stand before the face of God who sees, whether or not one sees himself” (3)

Mickey Mouse theology?

Notice that the visio immediata ‘may fluctuate’ depending on whether God wants to glorify Christ or conceal Himself from Him at any given time. In other places, Balthasar will states that what Christ knows about Himself and His mission is “successively revealed” (4) and changes over time (5); it is manifest to Him “step by step”, sometimes clearly, other times obscurely (6).|

It’s pretty deep water that Boniface, the author at Unam Sanctam Catholicam, is treading in, but he does a very admirable job and presents the authentic Catholic position with copious supporting evidence and notes.  I haven’t included Boniface’s critiquing of von Balthasar, so please go to his site and read his very well supported analysis there. 

I will close on a personal level.  I once had a guy who really got into my blog.  He and I shared alot of views.  We even met up once for lunch, as he was local, to discuss plans to try to get Latin Mass going in the North Deanery of the Dallas Diocese.  But, I did a post a long time ago that was not even critical, but  just questioning of von Baltahsar, and he got all mad, and left.  Which I bring up, because if you read this analysis of von Baltasar and get offended, I’m sorry.  But, we can’t be so hung up on this or that theologian or priest or whatever that we miss the broader picture.  The only really safe heroes we can have in the Faith are those who are dead and who have been raised to the altars.  And in this day and age, when error is so rampant, it is advisable to adhere to those tried and true sources from Tradition. So, if this post makes you mad, please keep that in mind.


1. Dismas - May 1, 2012

Steve B. is guiding you very well, and he is right on the money.

It is far more effective when people answer their own questions for themselves as opposed to someone else answering them. Answering the question, “Why is it that ‘conservative’ Catholics are fond of von Balthasar (here you may insert an endless list of other phenomena that would clearly have been labelled ‘heretical’ in saner times)?” can be very revealing.

“Conservative” Catholicism is just a different shade of liberalism, appearing “conservative” simply because it is compared to positions more obviously non-Catholic. In reality the term has no meaning and is actually misleading. In fact, “conservative” Catholics can be more dangerous to the Faith than their more obvious liberal brethren, simply because of their false patina of orthodoxy.

There are not different “types” of Catholicism. There is Catholicism and there is non-Catholicism. Good post.

2. Robert - May 3, 2012

Bull. Catholicism then is what you say it is. That is the worst kind of non-Catholicism I have ever heard. In fact there is a word for it: Protestantism.

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