Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Heresies of Balthasar

For the past month, I have been slogging through Alyssa Lyra Pitstick's monumental tome Light in Darkness, subtitled, "Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ's Descent into Hell." It is a massive work, but tremendously thorough and takes on von Balthasar like few in the post-Conciliar Church have been willing to do. Balthasar is most known, of course, for his idea that we may reasonably hope that hell may be empty, but Pitstick takes the fight to the heart of Balthasar's theology: his doctrine that Christ was abandoned by the Father and suffered the pains of hell on Holy Saturday. As Pitstick demonstrates, this theology of the "Descent" is actually central to all of Balthasar's theology and actually serves as the premise upon which he will build his conclusion that we may hope for universal salvation.

I have not finished the book yet, though I am drawing close. Even so, I can say that Miss Pitstick has done us all a tremendous service in putting this work together. I for one an appalled that so many otherwise orthodox individuals in the Church, from theology professors right on up to John Paul II and Benedict XVI, find Balthasar's theology credible. I dismissed his "hope for universal salvation" theory as completely contrary to our tradition about two seconds after somebody explained it to me, and it mystifies me that so many other learned persons continue to dally with it. But Pitstick's book does more than expose the flawed thinking behind Balthasar's empty hell theory - it exposes him as heretical (or at least extremely counter to tradition) in his Christology, soteriology, Trinitarian theology, sacramental theology, ecclesiology and almost every other area across the theological spectrum, leading the reader to the conclusion that, not only is Balthasar mistaken on his empty hell hypothesis, but his entire corpus of theology is extremely questionable and that this man is far from the trustworthy theologian that Ignatius Press and many in the Magisterium would have us believe.

Case in point (and there are many cases to which we could point); Balthasar's concept of sin. The traditional Catholic concept of sin is that sin is understood as a privation, especially with reference to original sin, which is a privation of grace. St. Thomas says that every sin is a kind of privation, either of "form or order or due measure" (De malo, 2:2). St. Thomas affirms Augustine's teaching on sin as a privation of the good:

"Sin is nothing else than a bad human act. Now that an act is a human act is due to its being voluntary, as stated above, whether it be voluntary, as being elicited by the will, e.g. to will or to choose, or as being commanded by the will, e.g. the exterior actions of speech or operation. Again, a human act is evil through lacking conformity with its due measure: and conformity of measure in a thing depends on a rule, from which if that thing depart, it is incommensurate" (STh, I-II, Q. 71, art. 6).

Here we see Thomas stating that sin is an act that falls short of a standard ("due measure"); in other words, it is a lack of the good, a privation of something that ought to be, although Thomas is careful to explain that sin is not a "pure privation" (I-II, Q. 72, art. 1); in other words, to say it is a privation is not to say that sin is "nothing." Sin is "a word, deed, or desire, contrary to the eternal law" (I-II, Q. 71, art. 6),   "an act deprived of its due order"; since all creatures desire the good, truly or mistakenly, sin occurs when a lesser, perceived good is substituted in place of the eternal good. This act falls short, is defective of perfection, but is nevertheless a real act, though an act whose nature is to be sinful by defect. Thus, sin as an act willed by the sinner is certainly a reality, but it has no ontological existence, nor could it, being understood as a privation.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"The act [of sin] is something positive. The sinner intends here and now to act in some determined matter, inordinately electing that particular good in defiance of God's law and the dictates of right reason. The deformity is not directly intended, nor is it involved in the act so far as this is physical, but in the act as coming from the will which has power over its acts and is capable of choosing this or that particular good contained within the scope of its adequate object, i.e. universal good" (source).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church will also use terms that present sin as a privation; it is a "failure", a "wound" (CCC 1849), the latter of which was a popular term in antiquity and the Middle Ages to explain the concept - just as a wound or sickness is the privation of health, so sin is the privation of the good.

Most readers of this blog are familiar enough with the traditional doctrine of sin as a privation that I don't think I need to cite any more sources to establish it. This is an important point, however, because Balthasar will go on to misinterpret the traditional approach taken by St. Augustine and St. Thomas to mean that sin is "nothing." He will state that the idea of sin as a privation does not adequately grasp the reality of sin's horror.

It stands to reason that, since a privation does not have ontological existence, it cannot be objectively separated from the subject in which that privation is found. One cannot have sickness in and of itself apart from a subject who is sick (we may have a cancer cell isolated in a test tube, but that is not sickness. Sickness does not arise until that cancer attacks a human host, who, as a person, becomes sick due to the absence of health brought about by the cancer). Similarly, we cannot isolate sins from the sinner. The way sin must be handled is to be "washed away", "blotted out" or "expiated" in the context of the restoration of the sinner himself. A piece of wood with a hole in it cannot be repaired by trying to remove the hole from the wood; the hole must be filled in the context of the wood, because a hole can only exist in something.

Balthasar's dissatisfaction with the privation theory of sin leads him to posit a real, ontological existence for sin, contrary to Augustine, Thomas, the implications of the Catechism and almost all of ancient and medieval Catholic tradition. Sin becomes an ontological reality by a sort of negative creation, in which man, by the passion and willfulness that he puts into sinning, turns sin into a positive reality. Balthasar says:

"It is possible to distinguish between the sin and the sinner...Because of the energy that man has invested in it, sin is a reality, it is not 'nothing.'" (Theo-Drama, vol. V, pp. 266, 314).

Because sin has this ontological reality, it can be abstracted from the sinner and, consequently, removed to another locus. Here Balthasar's theology of sin crosses into his soteriology. Because sin is a reality that can be separated from the sinner, it is possible to "load" it on to Christ, who literally assumes the sins of every person in His death, but especially in His Descent:

"[Sin] has been isolated from the sinner...separated from the sinner by the work of the Cross" (ibid., 285, 314).

Thus, because sin is able to be loaded onto Christ, Christ literally takes the sins, and the guilt, of every sinner on to Himself, and in His death and Descent, literally becomes sin, in such a real, metaphysical sense that Balthasar makes the shocking statement that the Incarnation is "suspended" while Jesus is in the tomb:

"Holy Saturday is thus a kind of suspension, as it were, of the Incarnation, whose result is given back to the hands of the Father and which the Father will renew and definitively confirm by the Easter Resurrection" ("The Descent into Hell", Spirit and Institution, Explorations in Theology, vol. IV, pp 411-412).

If all sin and all guilt and all punishment for sin has been loaded upon Christ by the Father, who wills to actively "crush" and punish the Son as if He had sinned, then there is no more wrath or punishment left that any sinner could endure eternally. All his sins have been abstracted from him and loaded on to Christ. Conversely, if there is no wrath left for the sinner, there is no real merit left for the saint, at least in the way traditional Catholic theology has understood it. Here, Balthasar sounds downright Lutheran in his understanding of salvation:

"[The sinner's] hope can only cling blindly to the miracle that has already taken place in the Cross of Christ; it takes the entire courage Christian hope for a man to apply this to himself, to trust that, by the power of this miracle, what is damnable in him has been separated from him and thrown out with the unusable residue that is incinerated outside of the gates of the Holy City" (Theo-Drama, vol. V, 321).

The language of the sinner clinging "blindly" to an act that has already taken place reminds one of the Protestant jargon of "resting in God's finished work"; as with Luther, the sin of man is separated from him and placed on Christ, who in turn bestows upon us righteousness. The difference between Balthasar and Luther here is that Balthasar appears to make the operative principle the virtue of hope rather than faith. Balthasar vehemently denied that his soteriological doctrine was Lutheran, because he emphasized charity and hope along with faith and thus technically did not teach "faith alone" (and Balthasar emphasized the redemptive nature of the Descent, something Luther ignored), but in practice, it seems that Luther and Balthasar are very close together here inasmuch as they both agree in sins being abstracted from the sinner, "loaded" upon Christ who is then punished with God's wrath, and the sinner appropriating the righteousness of Christ by faith-hope in a finished work that has already been completed.

There is so much more we could point to with Balthasar, but here I merely wanted to show how he breaks from Catholic Tradition not only in his teaching of an empty hell, but on many other things as well; in this case, the idea of sin having a positive existence that can be abstracted and separated from the man, as opposed to the traditional Catholic idea of sin as a privation.

I highly recommend Pitstick's book. I will also probably do some more stuff on Balthasar in the future on here because his teachings are so pernicious. I knew he was questionable, but until I read Pitstick's book, I did not understand how truly horrific and contrary to Tradition some of his concepts really are.

46 comments:

Kneeling Catholic said...

Thanks for taking Balthasar on!

I have heard a little of the book you treat. I suspect Balthasar imbibed Calvin's view of Christ's enduring the 2nd Death. Something St. Edmund Campion condemned most strongly in his "Ten Reasons". ...

... Times, times, what a monster you have reared! That delicate
and royal Blood, which ran in a flood from the lacerated and torn
Body of the innocent Lamb, one little drop of which Blood, for
the dignity of the Victim, might have redeemed a thousand worlds,
availed the human race nothing, unless _the mediator of God and
men, the man Christ Jesus_ (I Tim. ii. 5) had borne also _the
second death_ .....

I am not Spartacus said...

The Pastor of St Thomas More in Boynton Beach openly preaches the heresy that Christ literally became sin- which means that the sacrifice offered to God was a sinful one.

This "new theology" is protestant/Lutheran, but, remember, the real problem is the SSPX

BONIFACE said...

What is really troubling is then Cardinal Ratzinger's words at Balthasar's funeral:

"What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction [elevation to the Cardinalate], and of honor, remains valid, no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith."

Lord, have mercy!

Call Me Ishmael said...

Boniface, have you read James Larsen on the subject? I found it very enlightening and without the imprudent remarks or out-right insults at the Holy Father you can find in other writings that deal with a similar subject.

http://www.waragainstbeing.com/ - make sure to read the introduction before anything else. Specifically Part II: The Philosophy of Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar:
http://www.waragainstbeing.com/partii-brokencisterns

BONIFACE said...

I have not, but Alyssa Lyra Pitstick's book has absolutely no "attacks" or anything else negative about the Holy Father whatsoever. It's immensely scholarly. I'll check Larsen out, though.

Call Me Ishmael said...

That's a good thing that it doesn't contain such "attacks", as you call them. I came into the Catholic faith through an ungodly mixture of the writing of the SSPX and sedevacantists. They did their good but also gave me quite the twisted notion about what was an actual insult, as I didn't even lift my eyebrow at what I now see are the most grievous detractions. After a more moderate (but still very traditional) transformation, I try very hard to stay away from writings that deal too uncharitable with the any of the recent Popes for fear of falling into the same old hamster-wheel.

You should check it out, I do recommend him. Oh, and I misspelled his name, it's Larson, with an o, not Larsen. Sorry.

I am not Spartacus said...

Mr Larsen's study is invaluable.

That aside, never forget that he who was to become Pope identified Catholic Traditionalists as, essentially, antiCatholics who will be resisted with firmness:

"Among the more obvious phenomena of the last years must be counted the increasing number of integralist groups in which the desire for piety, for the sense of mystery, is finding satisfaction. We must be on our guard against minimizing these movements. Without a doubt, they represent a sectarian zealotry that is the antithesis of Catholicity. We cannot resist them too firmly. "

(Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, pp. 389-390)

Imagine being zealous in desiring piety and mystery..that is SO Pre-V2

I am not Spartacus said...

I have been re-reading Mr. Larson. His series is remarkable and quite chilling.

I think it is all over for the Traditional mass and I wonder how the SSPX, the FSSP and other Trad Orders will respond when the 1962 Roman Missal is subjected to the long knives of the reformers

Call Me Ishmael said...

I am not Spartacus:

I remember a story from a Desert Father about a monk who was commanded under holy obedience to water a dead tree. He did so, and after a long time it became alive and bore sweet fruit. In short, I see the dead tree as the Novus Ordo mass, and you can deduce the rest.

I think the only interesting order to keep an eye on in the turbulent times to come is the FSSP. SSPX will eventually become an alternative schismatic Church, while the ordinary traditionalists (ICKSP / IGS / monasteries et cetera) will submit to all change and be hollowed out. FSSP will probably shatter and break apart from within, as they're already walking on a fine line.

In whatever case, there is no point in occupying your mind about these things. What will come will come. It'll all be sorted out eventually. I like to meditate on how our situation would be described in Holy Writ, and I think that it would all be summarized in a single sentence of few words: "And so the LORD delivered them up to their confusion." That's what all of our bitterness, confusion, and near-despair these 50-100 years would and will be reduced to in the end.

BONIFACE said...

From what I understand, there are already some serious problems at the FSSP seminary and that some of their high profile priests are considering leaving the order and possibly starting a new one.

Call Me Ishmael said...

Really? Hm. I don't want to engage in gossiping or rumour-spreading, but I am genuinely interested in what I can find out about the actual situation of the FSSP, as it is the one fraternity I've felt most drawn to in becoming a seminarian. I am not from America nor even a country with any FSSP activity what so ever, so I have no access to any information but what comes to me through the most open (and therefore censored) channels. I think I would then be justified in asking if you could clarify what problems you mean. How long has this been going on?

Nick said...

What problems did you hear about the FSSP?

BONIFACE said...

Well, I don't want to talk because a lot of it is second hand, and I am not an FSSP expert. But I have heard that some of their more well known priests may be leaving the order and that there are some other administrative problems, but I can't say anything for certain.

Nick said...

I would guess the troubles have a lot to do with many diocese not liking them and thus trying to set up road blocks.

Call Me Ishmael said...

What in the world was wrong with my comment so that you would not post it? :-|

BONIFACE said...

Sorry - I thought I did but for some reason it wasn't showing up. I just looked and it still wasn't posted even though I had allowed it to go, so I went in and tried to publish again. It should show up now. I publish ALL comments unless they are completely asinine, so don't presume it was ever intentional if that happens again.

I am not Spartacus said...

How many Catholic Priests do not know the difference twixt expiation and propitiation?

The Pastor at St Thomas More in Boynton Beach Florida thinks that Calvary was a sacrifice of expiation not propitiation; well, at least he has the excuse that he is a convert from So. Baptism.

CMI said...

Sorry. I guess I assume I'm being censored now because I can't get a single comment through on Rorate Caeli after they applied their new Protect the Modernists Act. They let people shred tradition, lobby for darwinistic evolution, insult traditionalists, and attack the historicity of saints and martyrs that have appeared in the traditional calendar for almost a thousand years or more, but when you try to defend the truth your comment just doesn't appear. It's most frustrating. And I've never even been to a Traditional Mass (to my shame)!

Don't let that happen here. I don't know what happened to them, it's just... weird.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear CMI. Agreed. They used to regularly post my thoughts but no more. Sadly, I think it is headed in the direction of the type of conservative catholicism best exemplified by The BBB (Brick By Brick) Bund, WDTPRS.

It is worth noting that Rorate Caeli Contributor, Jordanes, who is not a bad guy, is also a contributor at WDTPRS and his bailiwick is to suppress conversation about our ancient enemy The Jew at both those sites while also posting his ritual denunciations of the "discredited" blood libel etc etc

C'est la vie.

BONIFACE said...

Jordanes used to comment on here all the time. I have occasionally blocked a comment that I thought was over the top anti-semitic, too, though.

Call Me Ishmael said...

"Our ancient enemy The Jew" is a bit too musty for me as well, Impostor Spartacus, while I am at the same time acutely aware of Matthew 27:25, the oft repeated "for fear of the Jews," Benedict XIV's A Quo Primum, and other things. You shouldn't refer to the Jews as some mass-body of shared-consciousness a.k.a. "The Jew." While I, like any good Christian, would be seen as a dreadful nazi and anti-semite by those humorous ADL-types you have in America, I'll still say that language use like "The Jew" does leave a poor taste of that bitter year 1939 in ones mouth.

At the same time, doesn't the title-ringing The Jew - the Jew, the Jew of Jews, the Real Jew, the most jewish Jew ever - simply refer to Jesus?

/ Call Me Ishmael

I am not Spartacus said...

Boniface. I support your actions for antisemitism is a sin but to be anti-Jew is quite rational and traditional.

Well, it used to be until The advent of the New Theology and V2; now, we have Popes visiting Synagogues and not preaching Christ and Conversion and we have Our Holy Father writing his series of books and stating that We Catholics no longer have to concern ourselves about conversion of the Jews etc etc.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ishmael 1 Thess 2: 14,15 For you, brethren, are become followers of the churches of God which are in Judea, in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered the same things from your own coutrymen, even as they have from the Jews, Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men;

A Jew is one who rejects Jesus whereas a semite is no longer considered a Jew by the Jews in Israel (law of return) if he converts to Catholicism.

That is to say that to be a Jew is not considered a matter of race, it is a condition vis a vis whether or not he accepts Jesus as The Messiah.

Now, if you think the New Testament is antisemitic, rather than anti-Jew, do not ever read what St. John Chrysostom had to day about them and their Synagogues.

Oh, BTW, if you were to take a look at the Chair of Peter in The Basilica of Saint Peter's in Rome, you could see a statue of St John Chrysostom on the right (as you look at it) and he is a Doctor of the Church.

As to your reference to Jews and WW2, I wonder if you realise the extent to which that reveals the success of zionist propaganda in what was formerly known as Christendom as what happened to Jews in WW2 has supplanted Deicide as the worst crime of all time.

It only a short period of time, we have gone from The Jews killed Christ to The Jews are helpless victims of hatred which is directly tied to Catholic Doctrine.


And now, I apologise to Boniface for causing this thread to drift off topic. I will cease

BONIFACE said...

No worries, Spartacus. Yes, Judaism, as it exists since the coming of Christ, represents only a rejection of God's plan. It is when people start talking about Jewish conspiracies and Holocaust denial that I get uncomfortable.

Call Me Ishmael said...

I reacted to your use of "The Jew," not "the Jews" (or even "The Jews"). There's a lot of difference in those formulations. The latter refers to a people (that doesn't accept Christ and is our enemy, if want to use that language) and the former implies, as I wrote, "some mass-body of shared-consciousness" about which I said "that language use like "The Jew" does leave a poor taste of that bitter year 1939 in ones mouth." I already wrote in my past post everything you did (only shorter) to avoid having to go through this.

We're not enemies here.

/ Call Me Ishmael / CMI

BONIFACE said...

It is important to recall also that, although we may have people who oppose the Church, I always remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ishmael.

What to me that is nettlesome is that The Catholic Church, via its then official media organ, warned the world that were the world to continue to let The Jews run roughshod over them then The Jews would reap the very whirlwind you cite as the bitter taste of 1939 that you experience in your mouth.

That is, The Catholic Church warned the world, and The Jews, that there would be hell to pay for what the Jews were doing to Christendom roughly one-half century prior to Hitler

However, so few know the truth about that waning that the vast majority of the members of The New Israel continue to identify the WW2 years as the definitive event of history against which all other crimes and offenses are to be measured against or compared with.

And, of course, the reason so few Catholics know about the facts is that The Jews control the media and education and Holy Mother Church seeks to sue for peace with the ADL and B'nai Brith etc etc

That is, what has come to be known as the holocaust has supplanted the Crucifixion of Christ as the turing point of history and in what are now formerly Catholic Countries in Europe, one can be sent to jail for not publicly confessing the truth of the holocaust while an entire country in the M.E. is comprised of those who are Messiah-Deniers and not a word in protest against that reality is to be heard from those who pitch their tents of Faith in New Israel.

In my small corner of the world it is MUCH worse to be a Messiah-Denier than it is to be a holocaust -denier.

Here is the link to the C.C. series on The Jews.

http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/jq1.htm

Tawser said...

You have to remember how bad the situation in the church was during the period when Balthasar was most popular. Compared to most of the other major theological figures of the day--Rahner, Kung, Schillibeck (sp?) et all, he WAS orthodox. I think it is true to say that he was at least orthodox in intent. He seriously believed that what he taught did not contradict the tradition. He was deluded and mistaken but at least he was not malicious. And in the climate of the 1980s, that was as close to actual orthodoxy as most theologians got. Just thinking about that period makes me break out in a cold sweat.

BONIFACE said...

Tawser-

You are partially right in comparing him to the others, but he plainly knew he was contradicting tradition. If you read his comments, especially on the Descent, he calls the traditional doctrines "pious fantasies" and is very clear that he understands that much of what he proposes is novel.

Nick said...

One can be genuine but still in blatant opposition to Tradition. I don't think the "compared to others he was orthodox" argument is safe, for Catholicism is sufficiently robust and systematic that it's very hard to botch it. Either you have it all right or you have it all wrong.

In the case of liberal/heretical "scholarship," they truly do know better. Basic Christology, basic Soterilogy, basic Ecclesilogy are all pretty easy to learn, and yet these "teachers" sought to undermine them at every turn.

The very fact their reference point was never Papal Encyclicals or Council Decrees is proof they were up to no good. All you are left with is inventing your own theology, a la Protestantism.

Tawser said...

The "pious fantasies" comment is shocking but once again remember the historical context. I became a Catholic in 1983 and I remember the confusion and the skepticism of that period all too well. The revision of the liturgical calendar had left millions of Catholics with the distinct impression that the church itself now believed many of its own traditions (remember St. Christopher?) to be no more than "pious fantasies." The simple fact that Catholics had believed something for centuries (limbo?) no longer seemed like a sufficient argument for believing it now. I remember being taught in RCIA about the distinction between tradition and Tradition. And 98 percent of what Catholics had ever believed was dismissed as tradition (small t). I am glad that Balthasar is falling out of favor. But given the extraordinary confusion of the post-conciliar period, I understand why well intentioned conservative Catholics turned to him for refuge. He was one of the few post-conciliar theologians who had least "sounded" Catholic.

I am not Spartacus said...

...and so much for the Civilta Cattolica series on The Jewish Question :)

Alexander said...

The very fact their reference point was never Papal Encyclicals or Council Decrees is proof they were up to no good.

Indeed.
They drool over novelty and the chance to become famous. I have seen this first hand. They make up crap and try to weave it together with sophisticated wording all to puff up their pride in hopes that they will become recognized as a “leading scholar” among other like-mined neo-Modernists in academia. This is why they either do not use traditional sources or employ the resourcement technique to try and hold their house up that is built on sand.

Anthony Puccetti said...

The idea that Christ was abandoned by the Father is not Balthasar's invention and it is not heretical,
if it only means that Christ was not given consolation by the Father.

Saint Liguori says this in his book Reflections and Affections on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ:

"Jesus, seeing that he found no one to console him upon this earth, raised his eyes and his Heart to his Father, craving relief from him. But the Eternal Father, beholding the Son clad in the garment of a sinner, replied, No, my Son, I cannot give Thee consolation, now that Thou art making satisfaction to my justice for all the sins of men; it is fitting that I too should abandon Thee to Thy pains, and let Thee die without solace. And then it was that our Saviour, crying out with aloud voice, said, My God, my God, and why hast Thou too abandoned Me? Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? In his explanation of this passage, the Blessed Denis, the Carthusian, says that Jesus uttered these words with a loud cry, to make all men understand the greatness of the pain and sorrow in which he died. And it was the will of the loving Redeemer, adds St. Cyprian, to die bereft of every consolation, to give proof to us of his love, and to draw to himself all our love: "He was left in dereliction, that he might show forth his love towards us, and might attract our love towards himself."

The idea that Christ suffered the pains of hell on Holy Saturday is not justifiable by either scripture or theological tradition.

BONIFACE said...

The idea that Christ was abandoned by the Father is not Balthasar's invention and it is not heretical,if it only means that Christ was not given consolation by the Father.

Yes, but that is not what Balthasar means by it. What he means is that

(a) the Father is actually angry with Jesus - He punishes Jesus as if Jesus Himself had committed the sins He is being punished for.

(b) Jesus is deprived of the Beatific Vision of God (which Balthasar actually denies Jesus really has anyway).

(c) Jesus Himself actually believes that He is abandoned by God in an absolute sense - in other words, Jesus believers error.

(d) God the Father, on Holy Saturday, turns away from Jesus in such a definitive way that the very fabric of the Trinity is stretched and the Incarnation is "suspended."

Balthasar is talking about much more than lack of consolation, which we all agree upon (although Jesus still had the Beatific Vision at the time of the Crucifixion).

Anthony Puccetti said...

"Most readers of this blog are familiar enough with the traditional doctrine of sin as a privation that I don't think I need to cite any more sources to establish it. This is an important point, however, because Balthasar will go on to misinterpret the traditional approach taken by St. Augustine and St. Thomas to mean that sin is "nothing." He will state that the idea of sin as a privation does not adequately grasp the reality of sin's horror."

It is true that the idea of sin as a privation does not adequately grasp the reality of sin's horror. Think of murder and rape and cruelty. To say merely that those actions fall short of the good is absurdly inadequate. The most important traditional understanding of sin is that it is an offense against God. Balthasar was wrong,
however,to misconstrue the privation idea as meaning that sin is nothing.

"It stands to reason that, since a privation does not have ontological existence, it cannot be objectively separated from the subject in which that privation is found."

Sin does have an ontological reality,because it is an act of will.

""It is possible to distinguish between the sin and the sinner...Because of the energy that man has invested in it, sin is a reality, it is not 'nothing.'" (Theo-Drama, vol. V, pp. 266, 314).

Because sin has this ontological reality, it can be abstracted from the sinner and, consequently, removed to another locus. Here Balthasar's theology of sin crosses into his soteriology. Because sin is a reality that can be separated from the sinner, it is possible to "load" it on to Christ, who literally assumes the sins of every person in His death, but especially in His Descent:

"[Sin] has been isolated from the sinner...separated from the sinner by the work of the Cross" (ibid., 285, 314)."

It is true that sins are separable from persons and that they are loaded upon Christ. They are separable because they are not intrinsic to our personhood,but are stains upon our nature,will and conscience. We say in the liturgy,
"Lamb of God,who takes away the sins of the world",which means he separates our sins from us. 1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree. And it is a Church doctrine that Christ suffered and continues to suffer for our sins. So why would you disagree that our sins are loaded upon Christ?

Anthony Puccetti said...

Bonifiace,

You did not include quotes from Balthasar in your article where he says those things.

BONIFACE said...

Well, I would just disagree about the privation theory. I think it is sufficient.

I mean that sin has no objective existence outside of a sinner who actually commits them. Sin is an action done contrary to the divine law, and as such, requires an agent to commit it. I do not believe you can abstract an act from the one who commits it.

It is not wrong to use language about Christ bearing the sins of the world, but I do not think it is in the way Balthasar suggests. Many of the medieval commentators, and other Catholic commentators, see Christ "bearing the sins of the world" as meaning that Christ, in His passion, became of victim of the sins of men, not he literally "became sin", as Balthasar asserts, and was "crushed" by the Father.

BONIFACE said...

Anthony,

That is because the article didn't deal with all that stuff specifically, but just the aspect of Balthasar's understanding of sin. I will be doing more on Balthasar soon, with plenty of quotes to satisfy you.

Anthony Puccetti said...

"Well, I would just disagree about the privation theory. I think it is sufficient."


It's true that sin is characterized by privation of grace and the good,
but sin itself is an act of will.


"I mean that sin has no objective existence outside of a sinner who actually commits them. Sin is an action done contrary to the divine law, and as such, requires an agent to commit it. I do not believe you can abstract an act from the one who commits it."


"Abstract" isn't really the right word. Sin is relational. It is an offense against God. Although it clings to the person who sinned,it is still a stain that can be removed by God,and it also is an
offensive thing in itself to God and he hates it in itself,apart from the person.

I would be interested in seeing the quotes from Balthasar which you think are heretical. He was the contemporary theologian whose thinking the Pope Benedict most liked. They were friends and the pope never criticized his theology in print. They co-authored a book called Mary,The Church at the Source.

BONIFACE said...

Keep an eye out for my next post in which Balthasar denies that Christ has the beatific vision. Doesn't it also trouble you that he says the Incarnation is 'suspended'?

BONIFACE said...

Anthony,

Okay, here you go:

http://unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2012/04/balthasar-christ-and-beatific-vision.html

There are plenty of troubling quotes from Balthasar in this one. I know that some, including our current pope, defend this man's theology, but even if I grant that he may not be in outright heresy, he is definitely at odds with Pius XII and Aquinas on the question of the Beatific Vision.

William Meegan said...

There is an old American Indian saying that fits your personae quite aptly: "You are as far from yourself as a sow is from the moon".

It is obvious that you worship the teachings of theologians over the source material of New Testament. How can any theologian have a greater authority than the sacred scriptures???...

Few people attempt to answer the question, why did God abandon Christ on the Cross???... Even Jesus cries from the cross, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?" One does not have to be a theologian to understand why God abandoned Christ on the cross; however, a Catholic has to be at least a mystic to answer that question: i.e. a personal friend of God. Ask yourself this question in relationship to this problem, 'if Christ is one of the three persons of the Trinity and therefore is God, how can God abandon God???...'

The answer to this question is right there in the New Testament. It may not be in sequential order in the way modernity writes out a narrative but none the less the answer is there and in sequential order.

Jesus after being Baptized went off and was tempted by the devil (crucial to the answer) and then choose twelve disciples: why only twelve disciples???... Twelve happens to be a number of mathematical perfection in relationship to the creation process. In choosing twelve Christ was teaching humanity how to arrange life on an individual level. Twelve happens to the closing of the Mystic Circle: in every sense it is life in the Garden of Eden, lived here on Earth here and now not in some distant past. Since Jesus stopped at twelve he had achieved his goal. Remember at the Baptism of Christ God declared that Jesus was his beloved son? Here it can be seen that the Trinity is in unity.

Fast forward to the last supper when the Mystic Circle of twelve was broken. Judas Iscariot was tempted by Satan and, for all intent and purpose, the mystic circle was broken right then and there. Once the circle was broken God fled from Christ. Saint John tells us in God there is no darkness. Christ's scream from the cross does not tell us when God deserted him. In recent times we see movies where a circle is drawn and those inside are protected; however, if there is so much as one part of the circle that is not closed all evil rushes in: this is the same idea here in the New Testament and undoubtedly the source material for such skits in literature an movies in modern times.

Fast forward to Pentecost Sunday when Mathias was chosen to take Judas' place amongst the twelve. The moment that Mathias was elected the Holy Spirit (an aspect of the Trinity) descended upon the twelve: meaning that the Mystic Circle was once again closed.

That should answer your question as to why God deserted Christ.

Boniface said...

Uh..except God did not desert Christ. Christ was quoting Psalm 22 to demonstrate its prophetic fulfillment.

William Meegan said...

You are forgetting that the textual materials has Jesus actually testifying to the fact that God deserted him. It is not me that says it, it is Christ that says it.

Boniface said...

Except for the citation of Psalm 22 we already discussed, what possible citation are you referring to where Jesus says God "deserted" Him?