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Balthasar and Theological Style

MYERS, CHRISTOPHER (2023) Balthasar and Theological Style. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 06 December 2026.


Among the multiple volumes of his great Herrlichkeit, Hans Urs von Balthasar pointed to the volumes on theological style as particular favorites, and in a retrospective essay, he mused that the meaning of theological style should be taken up as an alternative to typical discourse about theology. On the basis of Balthasar’s exhortation, this thesis examines the meaning and import of the concept of theological style. I argue that, considered in light of Balthasar’s stated preoccupation with masterpieces, his use of the term theological style is a shorthand way for considering what Balthasar takes to be the characteristics of truly great theology in distinctly aesthetic terms. For Balthasar, a great theological style results from the confluence of three factors, the glory of divine revelation as understood by the teaching of the Church, both of which are brought to expression by the particular charism of the theologian.

But even more interesting than the what of a particular theological style is how Balthasar goes about discerning each theological style. In the second part of the thesis, I argue that each of his essays on the twelve exemplars of theological style seek to “sketch” the given theologian, much in the same way that an artist might sit before a masterpiece and sketch it. Balthasar’s sketching reveals what he takes to be the essential qualities of each theological style and his broader thematic preoccupations within his theological aesthetics. In closely considering these sketches, we see a set of interlocking and mutually complicating themes emerge, themes which I argue bear directly on Balthasar's vision of theological aesthetics. I consider the themes of eros, kairos, and kenosis, both as a way to examine the individual theological styles within these volumes, and as a way to evaluate Balthasar himself. In the final section, I take up Balthasar’s strange, lyrical work of spirituality, Heart of the World, and offer a reading of that work in terms of Balthasar’s own theological style and the three themes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Balthasar, Theological Aesthetics, Theological Style
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 May 2023 12:32

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