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This essay deals with the possibility of a Catholic theology of the Cross. The first problem which arises is whether it is theologically necessary or even legitimate to single out this question within the wider context of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. Why should theology as a whole concentrate or seek to base itself on the specific form Jesus' death, assuming that a theology of the Cross could be understood as such, when today's mainstream theology emphasizes rather the inner unity of the salvific mystery of Jesus' earthly existence, rather than focusing on one isolated act – even if it be that of dying? Or should a theology of the Cross be understood simply as an attempt to illuminate the theological significance of the death of Jesus amongst the ‘nexus myteriorum’? Could this attempt result in the insight that the Cross of Jesus does (legitimately) represent a ‘pars pro toto’ for this nexus? But could this not also be said of the resurrection as well? We will see later that it is not the Cross itself (to avoid an improper species of a suffering mysticism), but the Crucified who should be regarded as the critico-theological centre in an indeed possible Catholic access to a theology of the Cross. Such a theology would be able to include more than just a theological reflection on the specific form of the death to which Jesus was subjected.

In this article it will not be possible to draw historico-theological connections back to Paul's understanding of the Cross,2 although this would be fruitful for the question whether contemporary theological reflections on the Cross find a legitimate basis in Paul. We must leave open the question whether the reception of Paul's theology of the Cross has been historically and theologically justified. Specifically, it is not unambiguously clear that the Cross is central to Paul's theological thinking, or simply an intermediate stage within his theological development.

Our question is different. It deals with the problem of whether there is sufficient and explorable ground within contemporary Catholic theological thinking for an approach to a theology of the Cross which takes into consideration not only the dialectics of salvation history (falsely considered as exclusively Protestant, especially Barthian), but in fact makes of it a structuring and guiding principle. We have to recognize the somewhat static framework of traditional Catholic thinking in the ontological analogy (analogia entis) between man and God, which implies a certain harmony between the two. The never-interrupted reception of Paul's understanding of the Cross can at least show how central the Cross has become in Christian spirituality - especially in Catholic theology, as well as in the liturgy of the church.

Although the question whether Catholic theology can adopt dialectical thinking is not new,3 the hypothesis I wish to pursue focuses on the Ignatian influence on the Catholic Jesuit theologians Erich Przywara, Karl Rahner, Jon Sobrino and Hans Urs von Balthasar. This will demonstrate that dialectical theological thinking presupposes the basic form of analogy. At the same time, analogous thinking requires dialetics as a critical principle. Faced with the notion of the Cross, analogia entis enables theology to describe a relationship between the human being and the Cross (the Crucified) in a dialectical form that includes analogical thinking.

Neo-Scholastic Catholic theology distanced itself from Protestant, and especially Barthian, dialectical thinking concerning the sovereign otherness of God. It favoured instead the notion of a particular harmony between human nature and divine grace. Vatican II, however, has re-grounded Catholic theology in salvation history, stressing thereby as fundamental the Christocentric notion of mystery within a dynamic trinitarian matrix of God and the world.4 This has led to a renewed consciousness in Catholic theology of the theological significance of the Cross, without diminishing or undermining other aspects of the salvific activity of God in Jesus Christ.

Yet does this new Catholic awareness of the significance of salvation history not only allow for but make necessary an understanding of the Cross – one that finds in it a regulative and therefore critical principle for theology? This regained consciousness of salvation history does not necessarily imply an agreement on the importance and centrality of a theology of the Cross. This applies certainly to a traditional Catholic perspective, if the former means not only a fundamental salvific historical principle, but also a dialectical critical principle judging and forming theological contents. Even if Catholic theology admits a theological centrality to the notion of the Cross, this would not automatically lead to an exclusively dialectical approach to the relationship between God and the human. Although Catholic theology concurs with the necessity of a fundamental difference between God and the human, it does not typically contrast them as two radical opposites as Barthian theology does.

Yet it is not only the Barthian approach that challenges Catholic theology to find an appropriate answer to the question of a possible dialectical (self-)critical and forming theological principle. There is also a suspicion from within as well as from outside Catholic theology, that the Catholic Church seeks to immunize itself against possible ecclesiological correction stemming from theological reasoning.

To meet these challenges Catholic theology, having re-adopted the perspective of salvation history, should re-consider two longstanding theological insights. The first concerns the eschatological character of claiming that infinite divine reality finalizes the finite in and through earthly time and space, bringing it to an end by finally completing it. This eschatological perspective opens a way for a dialectical approach to the Cross in salvific historical thinking. The other important, more traditional Catholic insight, the notion of analogy, has typically been dismissed as ‘natural theology’ - implying a false harmony between the divine and human - by non-Catholic theologians; yet the classical analogy (analogia entis) in a Thomistic theological context represents the opposite. It is rather a way of thinking about the fundamental relationship between God and the human in terms of a related difference between two subjects related to each other by causal similitude or participation: God is his being, whereas the human has being to the degree of his participation in being, on the basis of God retaining his absolute priority in granting such participation.5 Both insights, therefore, the analogical and the eschatological, although having different provenance (one derives from an Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of religion, the other from a history of salvation theological perspective) may merge in a renewed and heightened appreciation of the Cross.

This article seeks to show that these two basic insights can help Catholic theology find in the Cross an (eschatological) dialectical critical principle that is both able and at the same time needs to encompass the notion of analogy.

One could raise an objection, however, that one need not search for such a critico-theological principle, since it already exists in the form of ‘negative theology’. This has been traditionally associated with the denial of the possibility of affirming statements on the nature of God, retaining as a sole possibility of faithful reason to ‘define’ the divine by what it is not. However, the lack of a concrete, precise and binding notion of the ‘negative’ has arisen as a problem ever since, especially when associated with Dionysios Areopagita's claim of the radical transcendence of the unknowable.6 Such a claim eventually must call into question the fundamental salvific historical ground on which the eschatological insight rests. The assurance of God's revealing ultimate faithfulness to the human and to the world becomes undermined. Negative theology as such therefore remains ambiguous, if it is not encompassed within salvation history. But how can negative theology remain true to the ‘positive’ truth of salvation history and at the same time staying committed to the basic idea that God transcends all human utterances? Negative theology cannot answer this question on its own, because this is its own deepest question. Even if negative theology remains of formal relevance to theology as a whole, it lacks salvifico-theological precision unless it is at the same time bound within a basic ‘positive’ truth from the revelatory order.

If a theology of the Cross perhaps offers such a truth, then such a theology would discover a formal confirmation, criterion, and analogue in ‘negative theology’. In turn, the Cross would function as the material confirmation, criterion and objective analogue for ‘negative theology’, keeping the latter from becoming absolute.

This leads into a critical analysis of the theology of the Cross by examining those Catholic theologians in the late 20th century who made significant use of the salvation historical notion of the Cross from an Ignatian perspective, specifically insofar as they have contributed to the task of bringing analogical and dialectical thinking together.


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Although it is not possible to describe the theological implications of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola in detail in this paper, we must highlight a few of those that received significant attention in the writings of the 20th century Jesuits Erich Przywra, Karl Rahner, Jon Sobrino7 and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

By grounding a theology of the Cross on Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises through these 20th century theologians, it is possible to illuminate a theology that is not centred on the Cross as an instrument of martyrdom, but rather on the personal and existential encounter of the human with the living incarnate Crucified8. This encounter takes the form of an interpersonal dialogue9 between the ‘exercitant’ and Christ in the consciousness of the former.10 By locating the realised relationship between God and the human within the consciousness and conscience of a human being, and even formulating the relationship between God and the human as facing one another, Ignatius demonstrates an early modern thinking.11

This interior dialogue is mediated through an imaginative description of the life and works of the earthly Jesus as single, yet interrelated ‘mysteries’ of the divine self-emptying (kenosis), to be pondered as presented to the individual consciousness during the exercises. Their first intent is that the human gives up all originally disordered affections to reach a state of (affectionate) ‘indifference’ to worldly things, as a necessary precondition for the later formal ‘choice’ of the greater glory of God (‘ad maiorem Dei gloriam’), and not of an imitation of the situation of the Cross. This indifference is thus the basis for the ‘exercitant’ to discern and follow the will of Christ (God) in every concrete situation (including suffering and death). Thereby he (she) is ‘to seek and find God in all things’, to whom honour should be given by the human as the primary task of being God's creature: ‘Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul'.12

By locating the exercises within such a creational theological framework, Ignatius is able to tie the (only seemingly elitist) theological insights of his Christocentric spirituality to the universal creational order of human beings as such. Linking Christocentricity theologically back to creational universalism opens up the possibility and necessity for regarding the former as the free (non-causal) and fulfilling climax of the latter, and the latter as the universal basis for the former. Though Scotistic in arranging a soteriological continuation of creation and incarnation, Ignatius draws the fundamental notion of kenosis into this unity. The (process of) divine self-emptying in a retrospective from the point of view of the risen Christ begins already with creation; further, it does not halt in the incarnation as a single act, but finds its soteriological climax in the crucifixion.

This theological structure of the Spiritual Exercises can be explained in more detail by using the traditional categories of nature and grace and by analysing the Cross in the works of Przywara, Rahner, Sobrino and Balthasar. In keeping with the basic conviction of Ignatius that grace does not destroy or diminish freedom (meaning the freedom that constitutes a human being as a creaturely person, and not the ability of the human to choose God or his grace), he holds that human freedom begins with the original desire (‘desear’) for God. This creational freedom is distorted, however, by wrong desires; it thus requires existential ‘indifference’ towards one's freedom as a creational (and not a soteriological) pre-condition (‘disposicion’) for an encounter with the sovereign grace of God, to be able to enter into a salvific exchange (‘commercium’) with God. Because of this gracious encounter, the human experiences the gift of soteriological freedom located in the ‘conscientia’ of the person. It is only this given responsive freedom that can will the greater will of Christ (God).

Therefore the Exercises are Molinistic (grace does not destroy freedom, but has it as a pre-condition13) in tone, yet on a deeper level they reveal the strictly Augustinian conviction of the divine givenness of a truly human freedom that is different from creational freedom. Only a human freedom that is divinely given in the act of the divine-human encounter is soteriologically relevant for Ignatius.

After having become ‘indifferent’ (of no soteriological value in itself), human nature is to passively respond by receiving grace, in order to be conformed by and to divine grace, as the first of three stages on the way to discerning and obeying the God's will. At this stage full assurance of the forgiveness of sins is immediately given by God, which Ignatius calls ‘consolation without (prior) cause’. This stage, which sees the divine integration of human nature into the order of grace, results in the gift of the renewal of free will and reason.

At the second stage the renewed human nature must experience this assurance through utterances of his (her) conscience, by choosing God's will in concrete situations that make necessary a ‘discernment of minds’ as the criterion of truth. At this stage, however, human nature remains a mere ‘disposition’ for the sovereign grace and glory of God. According to Ignatius, therefore, there is no longer at this stage a relationship of contradiction between nature and grace, but one of the relatively independent standpoint of human nature facing grace within the order of sovereign grace. This divine sovereignty demands and graciously directs the service of the freed human nature towards God's will.

At the last stage on the way to discerning and choosing the will of God concretely, the human has to rely entirely on his (her) own reasoning (‘raciocinacion’). This does not imply a total autonomy of the human in a theological sense, as if Ignatius envisaged the possibility and necessity of ([semi-]pelagiously) an individual relying on their own ‘natural’ strength apart from God's grace. According to Ignatius the human has to rely on the hidden work of God through the human act of reasoning within the enduring order of divine grace. God works his grace through the medium of human nature and not against or without it, once having been taken into the service of God's gracious will.

This Ignatian insight into the relationship of nature and grace corresponds to the understanding of the act of atonement in the Spiritual Exercises. The vicarious act of Christ's atonement incorporates both an exclusive and an inclusive (participatory) moment. The first moment points to the sole role of Christ mediating God's salvation to the human who is passively to receive God's saving grace. The inclusive moment, however, implies the idea of a participatory integration of the reconciled human into the salvific work of Christ14, in the sense of a concrete instrumental discipleship15 in the service of (Christ) God. Thus this integration into God's work does not entail a spiritualistic escape from the world, but, quite the reverse, a ‘mysticism of service’16to the church and the world. The reconciled human has been integrated into the kenotic movement of God into the world in the form of a participation in Christ's crucified love. Such a movement runs counter to a straightforward mystical unification of God and the human, in a worldless spiritualistic sense. This divine-human unification rather finds its appropriate expression in the human engagement in the world.

Atonement can therefore only be recognised in its hiddenness, as faith finds itself consoled by God's rising glory even or especially when confronted with phenomena contrary to God's basic and original salvific will, such as earthly suffering and death. Ignatian spiritual theology knows of the basic significance of the enduring analogy between God as glorious creator and the human as a creature intending to reflect God's glory. The notion of analogy is thus, according to Ignatian thinking, a possible and necessary corrective to a dialectical (meaning simply ‘contradictory’17) understanding of the relationship between God and the human, however soteriological its contents may be when claiming an exaggerated self-absoluteness to one's judgement. It is mainly this insight that has inspired the four Jesuits Przywara, Rahner, Sobrino and Balthasar in their respective theological programmes. It is helpful to start with analysing Erich Przywara's understanding of the Cross, as Rahner and Balthasar have regarded him as their ‘theological teacher’.18


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The Silesian Jesuit Erich Przywara (1889–1972)19 is a philosopher and theologian who was interwoven inseparably with his work in the political and social upheavals of the 20th century.20 The linguistic ‘turmoil’ of his works21 reflects his perception of the tormented world of this period. A constant, earnest search for the truth of Catholicism led him to write prodigiously towards the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Weimar Republic. His main work Analogia entis (1932) constitutes a sustained reflection on the paradoxical unity of God and the world, using the notion of ‘analogia entis’ from the IV Lateran Council, notably as provoked by the recent increase in self-estrangement in the world. Turning to face the growing turmoil in the social and political spheres, Przywara found himself, however, less and less successful in conceiving God and the world as one employing this traditional concept of the analogy of being. At this stage, partly under the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita and Karl Barth, Przywara fell back on radical dialectical thinking to appreciate God's ‘ever greater’ (‘je größere’) transcendence, without forsaking the underlying truth of salvation. He resorted to this approach to maintain a theological ‘bridge’ that could communicate the theological truth of God's hidden presence within every prospect and ‘movement’ in the world.22 For Przywara it was imperative to affirm the salvific and kenotic activity of the ‘ever greater’ transcendent God, even and especially in the most radical spheres of worldly reality, by denying their absoluteness while recognizing their relative truth. During and after the Second World War, Przywara approached desperation. He could not see any way of holding together theologically the increasingly-diverging realities, the risen Crucified in his kenosis and the crucifying world. Towards the end of his life, consequently, he was afflicted with radical (self-) disillusionment.23 The theologian M. Zechmeister calls this last phase of Przywara's life ‘God's night’ (‘Gottes-Nacht’)24 in which his notion of analogy stretches and strains until it resembles a ‘bursting chord’ (‘zerspringender Akkord’).25

Przywara's famous work on the Spiritual Exercises, his three volume Deus Semper maior (1938–1940)26, presents the nucleus for his thinking around which the diverging movements circulated. Deus Semper Maior, particularly, illustrates Przywara's switch from exclusive reliance on analogy towards dialectics, without abandoning the former. Fighting off despair in this commentary on the Ignatian Exercises, Przywara sees a possibility of combining at their deepest foundation dialectical thinking and the analogy of being in the notion of the Cross.

The Cross is the foundational motive and the centre of Przywara's theology, which turns out to have the shape of a Trinitarian soteriology. The dialectical use of the Cross as primary rationale (‘Leitmotiv’), however, is not only present within his explicitly theological work; it lies already hidden and effective in his Analogia entis. Przywara points here to the analogical difference between ‘being’ and ‘nothingness’: God is his being, whereas the creature's participation is ‘becoming’, which is a ‘nothing’between‘being’ and ‘nothing’ (with a negative meaning), before ‘God [who is] beyond nothing’. The basis for the analogy does not therefore lie in the human‘being’, but in the ‘is’ of God being himself, granting participation.27 What does this mean for the Cross?

The Cross according to Przywara represents a ‘rift’ (‘Riß’). Through and with this rift the two dimensions of the divine single dialectical foundational ‘movement’ may be detected: God transcends all human conceptions of himself, yet his revealed ‘agape’ expresses the basic character of salvific kenosis towards a sinful world.

The rift of the Cross also represents two fundamental analogical movements, transecting each another as the vertical (dissimilar) analogy between God and the human removes any possible similarity from the horizontal analogy between human beings. It is the analogy between the ‘ever greater’28 of the divine mystery and the ‘ever more vain’ (‘Je nichtiger’) of the human. The analogy thus takes on a dialectical character when seen from the perspective of the Cross. This means that for Przywara analogical and dialectical thinking are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. In fact, their relationship is one of mutual appropriation and determination: on the one hand analogy is a ‘universal form principle’ (‘Form-Prinzip überhaupt’)29 understood as a ‘dynamic original movement’ or ‘universal rhythm30 underlying all theological ‘tones’, and thus shaping his understanding of the Cross. The latter expresses visibly the ‘ever greater’ being of God. On the other hand, Przywara's dialectical soteriological thinking of the Cross affirms the essentials of salvific history, notably the sinfulness of the created world, on the basis of an analogy between God and the human being. Przywara thus discovers an underlying factual unity between analogy and dialectics in the Cross as the centre of divine revelation in both creation and redemption. This implies a Thomistic (rather than a Scotist) understanding of the relationship between God and the world as creation: divine revelation in creation and redemption is factually one, for God has created the world out of nothing; yet even in the state of sinfulness (which requires a dialectical theological approach), human beings have retained the foundational marks of being made essentially in the image of God (the platform for analogy), who set the world back on the path towards himself through the redemption wrought by Christ. Przywara ‘sharpens’ the contours of analogy, but not by stressing statically the transcendence of God; rather, through dialectical thinking, he appropriates the analogy of being within an overarching and primordial order of divine revelation. As the revelation of God reaches its kenotic climax in the Cross, the analogy between God and the human sets up a kenotic rhythm towards the final redemption of the world.

According to Przywara, the analogy is therefore neither a metaphysical principle intending an ultimate harmony between God and the human31 nor its opposite, a principle establishing an absolute divine transcendence compromizing the soteriological significance of the incarnation as that act whereby God enters most deeply the human sphere.32 Instead analogy is a rhythm within the order of divine revelation. This rhythm preserves the universally effective primacy of the salvific work of God. At the same time it stresses the categorical difference between the ‘ever greater’ God and the human. In this mutual relationship, the ‘ever greater’ is not additional or complementary to the principle of the salvific self-emptying of God; rather, as the analogy assumes the form of kenosis, it is precisely God's transcendent sovereignty over and against the sinful human being that is expressed through his self-emptying, up to the point of the death of Jesus on the Cross. It is therefore a soteriological transcendence of God that is expressed in Przywara's understanding of analogy. God does not disappear ‘upward’ into absolute transcendence, i. e. away from his salvific work; on the contrary, he moves in a ‘downward’ direction towards the ultimate depths of humanity and the world. Especially in Deus Semper Maior Przywara's notion of the ‘ever greater’ being of God is nothing other than the ‘ever deeper’character of God. This divine being reaches towards and into the world's sinfulness in order to undermine salvifically the power of sin and death, by permitting sin to undermine the power of God's love by having it crucified on the Cross. The crucifixion is the symbol of the deepest self-emptying of God, who remains sovereign even within apparently contrardicting appearances. Przywara has thus retained and (trans-)formed the Dionysian-Scotistic notion of the ‘ever greater’ being of God by employing it as a soteriological category.

The late Przywara's disillusionment concerns primarily his construction of the relationship between God and the world. Przywara's Thomistic legacy of the sapiential notion of the world's ‘exitus’ from God and its ‘reditus’ towards him as the single and only foundational order of salvific revelation, combined with the idea of an original and universal divine rhythm of kenosis, led him to view the order of being and the order of revelation as one. Both reflect the structure of God's original self-emptying. This resulted eventually in Przywara's inability to chart a necessary differentiation between the (factual) order of being, sofar as this is perceivable, and a distinct order of revelation as redemption. This is nothing but the missing analogy (similarity within a larger dissimilarity) between the two orders (which amounts to more than recognizing an analogy within each). Because of the flat, univocal relationship between the two, Przywara almost gave way to despair, for he could no longer discern redemption within the sinful state of the created world.

We now turn to Karl Rahner's approach to the Cross, since he was influenced, according to his own words, by Przywara's fundamental theological ideas.33 It will become clear that Rahner radicalized significantly the basic Ignatian notion of kenotic incarnation, which had already been thought through to its limit by Przywara, and led in the end to aporetic philosophico-theological conclusions. Yet Rahner's interpretation of kenotic incarnation moves in a different direction.


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As it is impossible to unfold here the Ignatian influence of Rahner's understanding of the Cross on his whole theology, in the next few pages we will highlight only a few central points. First, we can point to Rahner's explicit statement that the spirituality of Ignatius influenced him more than any other academic philosophy or theology.34 It is thus not surprising that there is plenty of literature on the relationship between Ignatius and Rahner to which one may refer.35 Yet we should look more closely at a possible staurological influence of Ignatius on Rahner's theology. Rahner himself discerns in the ‘confession of the Cross’ the primary characteristic of Ignatian spirituality.36 Does his theology reflect this Ignatian Cross-centredness? First we have to bear in mind the dispute among experts regarding Rahner on a basic methodological question: from which hermeneutical perspective should Rahner's theology be examined and understood? Is there a continuous philosophical line within Rahner's work? If that is the case, would it be necessary to begin with the search for a philosophical framework for his work, possibly a philosophy of transcendence, in order to understand his theology? Or alternatively, is it legitimate to start from a theological perspective to analyse Rahner? And could this be the fundamental insights of Ignatian spirituality and theology?

I wish to argue that taking into consideration the foundational Christocentricity from Rahner's earliest writings onward37, a characteristic that existed prior to his trancendental philosophical style of argumentation, there are at least two legitimate ways of substantiating an interpretation of Rahner. This takes into account both his transcendental (in a philosophical and a theological sense) and an historical perspective. These two ways are a transcendental Christology38 and a salvific historical Christology, which should not be opposed to another. On the contrary, each seems to refer and to be the hermeneutical key to the other. One can thus legitimately describe Rahner's theology from the starting-point either of his well-known transcendental approach to Christology (‘transcendental Christology’), or from his salvific historical Christology, if each approach is taken to include the other in a truly comprehensive analysis.

Still, this methodological question should be distinguished from the question: which one is the ‘material’ basis for the other? Rahner stated that a transcendental Christology can only be developed, ‘when the human being encounters the real Christ-event in a ‘categorical experience’ [‘wenn der Mensch dem faktischen Christusereignis in einer ‘kategorialen Erfahrung’ begegnet']’.39 Transcendental Christology as a creation anthropology can also be called a ‘searching Christology’; it is, however, ultimately based on categorical Christology. At the same time this categorical Christology is expounded by Rahner as a transcendental Christology, in order to claim its universal theological significance.

If one therefore chooses to begin an interpretation of Rahner with his salvific historical Christology, it is still not possible to do this without the hermeneutical key of Rahner's Ignatian spiritual and theological background. The keyword for Rahner in accordance with the Exercises is ‘encounter’, mediated primarily by sensual ‘categories’. This does not reduce Rahner's original theological thinking to a footnote to Ignatius' theology; it means, rather, that the latter has fundamentally influenced Rahner's way of constructing at least his salvific historical Christology. In turn, Rahner with his distinctive theology has contributed decisively to the ongoing process of interpreting the Spiritual Exercises.

This is even, but implicitly and indirectly, true for the earlier ‘philosophical’ works of Rahner. It is important to note in this regard that Rahner's first experiences with Ignatian spirituality and theology predate his philosophical writings. A closer examination of his philosophical writings, such as Geist in Welt (‘Spirit in the World’)40 and the fundamental theological work Hörer des Wortes (‘Hearers of the Word’)41, disclose Rahner's efforts to re-interpret Thomas Aquinas on the basis of a Kantian transcendental epistemology, and also concludes with the recognition of an Ignatian inspiration to these works.42 We do not intend to claim here influence in the sense of a direct derivation; rather, some basic thoughts in Rahner's reflections on the Ignatian Exercises43 and the basic structure of his earlier philosophical works bear striking resemblances: the human as a spirit-in-the-world44 who is ‘open’ absolutely in his or her upward direction can only have a transcendental experience45 of being (and [therein]46 of God) by turning towards the ‘other’47, in the sense of a ‘conversio ad phantasma’.48 Rahner's notion of transcendental ontology thus reflects the ‘appearing’ self-mediation of being by and through symbols, towards an ‘impression’ in the perception of the human self. In similar fashion, the Ignatian Exercises stress sensual and concrete symbols mediating the interpersonal and fulfilling encounter of the human with the crucified Jesus.

However, the decisive reason why Rahner chose to reflect on the transcendental structure of the human in his philosophical writings is to show the anthropological possibility for the condition of the theological fact of God's (kenotic) incarnation, on which his theological writings are based. The relationship between transcendental Christology, as a creational search for the ‘absolute giver of salvation’ (‘absoluter Heilbringer’), and the specific theological idea of its fulfilment in the historical Christ-event explains Rahner's basic understanding of the relationship between philosophy and theology. Transcendental philosophy is an a priori extrapolation from theology, and theology is an a posteriori pre-condition for philosophy.49 His main intention through such a relationship is a re-integration of the constitutive structure of the human being (at first extrapolated) into the order of revelation, to show modernity that human nature is not destroyed by grace, as it is still identifiable, but rather graciously fulfilled.

On this basis it is now possible to reflect on the theological significance of the Cross in Rahner's works. Most important to his understanding is that reality that can bridge the gap between the transcendental and the categorical. This is the reality of the symbol, in which being finds its necessary self-expression.50 According to Rahner's philosophy of religion, it is the sensual reality of the symbol in and by which these two dimensions meet as one: the transcendental receives its grounding and fulfilling categorical response, as in turn the latter mediates itself in and through symbolic being. The transcendental can only reach for its ontological fulfilment in and through a sensually concrete encounter with being.51 This insight is the most fundamental to Rahner's construction of Christology. His Christology contains the reflection on Jesus Christ as the unified and sensually concrete climax of a movement ‘from below’ (which is the transcendental search for self-fulfilment), falling into one with a ‘movement from above’ (which is the unique fulfilling self-giving of God as human transcendence in the form of an individual person).52

Rahner's christological argumentation can therefore be existentially significant, as the notion of this inner ‘symbolic connection’ of the transcendental (creational) and the categorical (historical) points not only to a specific and unique case of God as human in Jesus Christ. It also implies a general and universal anthropological and theological meaning to Christ as the concretum universale, by which Rahner claims to describe a divine-human relationship of existential importance for ‘human being’. He considers the historically fulfilled ‘transcendental’ relationship towards God in Christ re-transformable into an ever actual ‘categorical’ relationship of enduring significance for the transcendental (i.e., human) through using sensual and imaginative53 elements.54

Rahner's understanding of the philosophy of religion in turn discloses a profound influence from the Exercises for his basic theological understanding of the relationship between God and the human: The Christocentric Exercises, together with their framework of elements taken from creation, illuminate the inner theological connection between Rahner's understanding of (transcendental) creation and the (categorical) Christ-event.55 This close connection seems to be Scotist, yet it reveals rather a Thomistic approach to the relationship of God to the world: the salvific reditus of the world once set free on its way back (in-)to God has always been grounded and ensured by the incarnational Christ-event, which, as the fulfilment of human transcendence, reveals the constitutive anthropological structure of the human being as referred essentially to God.

In the incarnation, God takes on the form of an ‘ordinary’ human life. Rahner stresses this, because he favours an understanding of the incarnation that leaves behind the traditional, or what he calls ‘ontic’, christological notion of the divine hypostasis taking on an abstract ‘human nature’.

He links up instead with Ignatius, and in analogy with Przywara, tries to re-think radically the kenotic character of God becoming most deeply ‘human’ against the modern background of a Kantian philosophy of personhood. This means that Rahner still intends to take the full humanity of Jesus Christ most seriously when he speaks of an ‘ordinary’ human life, whereas Przywara tended to identify the dark powers of sin and death as the deepest form of divine self-emptying.

While stressing the full humanity of Jesus, Rahner wants to ensure that the divine mystery remains itself, as the transcendent God remains identical with himself. He therefore invokes the category of symbol in order to develop a ‘strict’ Chalcedonian Christology for a post-Kantian modernity; this is to be certain that the divine mystery remains transcendent. Rahner therefore calls the divinity ‘dispassionate’, while it ‘appears’ at the same time in the form of a sensual historical symbol (in the person of Jesus Christ set as the ‘other’ of God's self-being, and who is able to suffer). This living symbol has to take part in the actual characteristics of human life if it wants to be the historical (categorical) ‘bridge’ between human transcendental freedom and eternal salvation (ultimate fulfilment). The most significant and fundamental characteristic of human existence (‘Dasein’) is the existential of ‘being towards death’ (‘Sein zum Tode’), which resembles Heidegger's terminological approach to existence.56 For Rahner, however, this existential is ambiguous as regards transcendental freedom, differing in this respect from Heidegger, as one's actual and concrete history reveals death as a ‘deed’ of the respective person finalising their freedom, which yet discloses at the same time this original purpose of death. The latter is therefore concretely experienced as a ‘passio’ that comes upon the human and prevents him (her) from fully attaining their authenticity (‘Eigentlichkeit’), which is contrary to God's will in that it is contrary to the purpose of human transcendence.57 This authenticity consists of the self-fulfilment of one's transcendence in the act of self-giving to the divine mystery as the ultimate end of transcendence. If therefore, according to Rahner, God wants to restore the possibility of being authentic, i. e., to save the human from an ambiguous death obstructing self-realisation towards God, God's incarnation must take on a primary form of this existential ‘being towards death’. It must transform it by the divine presence in such a way that the human can have his or her transcendence fulfilled. Yet Rahner is aware that even within the range of the a priori validity of God's salvific will, which the death of Jesus has ensured on the pre-condition of the a posteriori history of guilt, death may not lose its ambiguity in individual and concrete circumstances.

Thus, far from compromizing the Cross as a mere historical contingency in the background of God's a priori redemption, Rahner does not underline the Cross as an instrument of death; it is rather the existential meaning of Jesus' death to which he gives his main theological attention.58 This death has fundamental soteriological relevance for Rahner, for it is the ontological symbol chosen by God to represent his unique (kenotic) incarnational presence in the person of Jesus within the historical context of existential self-alienation.59 The divine incarnation, as the theologically unique and, in this respect, vicarious60 foundation, represents the soteriological possιbility for the condition of the human becoming enabled to fulfil his (her) transcendence ‘in Christ’.

Rahner's notion of a ‘self-redemption’ (‘Selbsterlösung’)61 of the human is liable to be misunderstood as at least semi-Pelagian. It makes sense nonetheless on the basis of Rahner's essential assumption that ‘self-redemption’ rests upon a prior and essential redemption by someone else. According to Rahner, the ‘other’ is God incarnate, with Jesus symbolising the a priori salvific will of God in a true and concrete sense. Thus ‘participating in the Incarnate’ is Rahner's basic formula for his philosophical and theological, and particularly soteriological, reflections on human transcendence.

The soteriological character of Rahner's Christology is thus construed and expressed as a radical incarnation claiming to be the foundational theological framework of an existentialised transcendental anthropology that has already come to itself therein by an originary participation.

This construal displays Rahner's unique and compelling theological approach to the relationship of God and the human being as at one in Christ. At the same time, however, it reveals the problem of Rahner's understanding of redemption. According to him redemption has always taken place as an a priori.62 This is meant not only in a general and ‘objective’ sense. It is also true for him in the sense that salvation has a post-commercial 63 meaning for the individual human being, directed in his (her) transcendence towards the divine mystery, as the deepest inner ground of the individual. This is because Rahner follows the basic idea of Ignatius of a creational relevance of the salvation in Christ: human nature is taken into divine grace (to be understood as Christ's being) by the divine mystery, while nature remains identifiable as nature, however ‘graced’ it has become, in order to ensure the transcendence of God.

Yet Rahner has turned the Ignatian notion of the general claim to grace, which seeks divine-human commercium together with the individual, into an ‘objective’ post-commercial state of grace of Christ, in which all individuals are. They differ only in the degree of their respective ‘categorical’ realisations.

However, Rahner has also pointed out the importance of history and its dynamic for an understanding of the transcendental nature of the human, implying real existential transformation following a categorical encounter with God. It is therefore not correct to state that Rahner merely calls for a conscious realisation of a past, unconscious encounter. Although categoricalisation is not identical with becoming conscious of one's directedness towards Christ, to Rahner categoricalisation is always post-commercial. This means that Rahner can describe the post-commercial state as an ‘objective’ divine fulfilment of one's transcendence, even if the individual is not consciously involved at first.

Yet we must ask whether it is theologically legitimate or at least sufficient to identify ‘being in Christ’ with a rather impersonal notion of transcendental fulfilment. If a theology of the Cross lacks an ‘act’-ually commercial understanding of the divine-human encounter while stressing God's persisting transcendence, as well as emphasising the human's persisting nature in the order of revelation, the risk is that the creational analogy between the ‘greater’ God and the human loses its revelatory meaning of (differentiated) concrete relatedness. Speaking strictly theologically, the notion of analogy makes sense solely within a concretely dialectical order of salvation history in which God and the human are concretely related to one another. Rahner's understanding of the Cross, even if the latter as a basic soteriological symbol with existential meaning represents the decisive connection between salvation history and human transcendence, falls short of concrete actuality. Rahner considers, however, an understanding of the Cross as a (self-) critical principle possible within Catholic theology. Following Rahner, the construction of such a critical theology of the Cross has to build on the assumption that the realisation of one's transcendence encounters obstructions in the form of adverse inner or outer circumstances. One might wonder whether this insight calls for a further elaboration of Rahner's understanding of the Cross in the form of a liberation theology.


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The originally Spanish and later South American Liberation theologian Jon Sobrino has taken up and complicated the Rahnerian notion of a radical divine incarnation into full humanity. Sobrino contextualises this movement from the perspective of the South American political, economic and social reality. Although Sobrino had been spiritually and theologically formed by the murdered Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero64, he has taken liberation theology in a particular direction. Sobrino's theology is shaped by his early Christological concepts, and is in line with that of his Jesuit colleague Ignacio Ellacuría65. This theology finds its theological and ‘prophetical’ basis in a contextualised reading of the Ignatian Exercises; this is of key importance to the interpretation of Sobrino's understanding of the Cross. Referring to ‘fundamental’ theological concepts from Europe (Rahner, Moltmann, Pannenberg), Sobrino has also taken up theological insights from the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopacy from 196866 which was, according to him, the first to have ‘intuitively’ pointed to the theological significance of the relationship between God and the poor. This relationship was later explicitly formulated by the Third General Conference in Puebla in 197967 and has been further elaborated theologically by Gustavo Gutiérrez.68

Sobrino stresses the necessity of an epistemological and theological ‘relectura69 (re-reading) of the Ignatian Exercises from a Latin-American perspective. In this ‘relectura’ one can detect fundamental themes from Jürgen Moltmann, as well as from Rahner relating to his Ignatian way of reflecting on ‘Mystagogie’. It is especially his concentration on the ‘human’ Jesus that shows which way Sobrino wants to think Rahner's incarnational insight through consistently to a contextualized conclusion.

Sobrino puts the relationship between God and the poor in its soteriological and anthropological embodiment, which Sobrino holds to be central, in analogy with his Christology: ‘Similar to Christology there is also the ‘sarx’, the ‘flesh’ in its weakness, and not just the neutral ‘humanitas', …’ [‘So wie in der Christologie gibt es auch hier die ‘sarx’, das Fleisch in seiner Schwachheit, und nicht einfach die neutrale ‘humanitas', …’].70

Sobrino's liberation-theological notion can be characterised as an exemplary contextual theology.71 As a ‘new political theology’72 Sobrino appropriates basic insights from the anamnetic-compassional theology of Israel that has found theological protagonists in Johann Baptist Metz and Jürgen Moltmann. The most fundamental idea underlying Sobrino's liberation theology, however, is Rahner's radical incarnational theology now within a specific context. Of course from time to time Sobrino has explicitly distanced himself from Rahner. Arguing for critical73 dialogue with the Marxist analysis of society relevant for the second phase of the Enlightenment, he regards Rahner and his ‘abstract’ concept of transcendental theology in dialogue with Kantian modernity to be relevant only for the first phase of the Enlightenment. According to Sobrino, this phase has already passed.74 Nevertheless, he has ‘productively’ taken up Rahner's theological potential for humanization. Sobrino's project has been to ‘salvadoranize’ (Moltmann and) Rahner.75

Sobrino's re-reading and practising of the Ignatian Exercises since the late 1960's have been deeply influenced by the situation in which he was living. In return, the Exercises have become for him a hermeneutical key to the present situation in Latin America.76 The reality of Latin America becomes therefore the essential starting-point for Sobrino's theology.

This has led Sobrino to arrive at an explicitly dialectical understanding of the Ignatian ‘choice’ of the greater divine will, that is deeply connected with a clear and unmistakeable ‘option for the poor’ as the ‘option of God’. He thus situates the only possible and necessary ‘locus theologicus et epistemologicus’ for his theological program in the category of the ‘poor’77, in their real state of economic exclusion and social marginalization. On this basis he builds a theology that is ‘practical, prophetic and popular’.78

This implies at the same time, on the basis of the Ignatian notion of ‘the two banners’, the recognition of an ‘anti-option’ by adverse powers and structures, as well as individual ways of living (‘empobrecedores’).79 Yet Sobrino recognises behind his overt dialectics of God's reign (‘reino de Dios’) among the poor80 versus the ‘antirreinoa covert analogy of being which, taken into the order of revelation, shows a God whose kenosis is universally biased towards the ‘poor’. The category of the ‘poor’, related to the notion of the reign of God, becomes then the mediating and relational historical principle for the transcendence of God.

Sobrino's early Christological reflections were contextualized by his later experiences in Latin America into the idea of real discipleship to the Crucified, which then became the leitmotiv of his theology. From the 1990's onwards, Sobrino realized that liberation theology must be further developed into a soteriologically oriented theology of martyrdom, corresponding to a Christology of martyrdom, if it is to follow consistently a Christology of discipleship (‘seguimiento’)81 as at once a hermeneutical and practical principle.82 Facing the various challenges of globalization, Sobrino has been recently developing a concept of utopia by expanding his ‘traditional’ theological view. Building on a concept of utopia, he has been deepening his liberation theology by re-aligning it historico-theologically and eschatologically.83 At the same time, facing the growing world-wide awareness of the importance of protecting nature (creation), he is connecting ecological issues with the basic intentions of his liberation theology to form an ‘ecology of the Spirit’. Since then Sobrino has been using the term of (global) exploitation of human beings and indeed of the entire earth.84

Sobrino's underlying intention is to uncover a new eschatological principle able both to universalize a theological claim for an ‘option towards the poor’ and to provoke an awareness of the as yet limited and sometimes undetectable realisation of this option at present. One cannot miss, however, a certain disappointment in this respect in the later works of Sobrino. Still, according to him the concept of (an eschatological) ‘u-topia’ helps to universalize the theological topos of the ‘poor’, while in turn the latter makes any notion of utopia concrete.

Although his attention is still focused powerfully on a real encounter with the Crucified as the principle of his ‘utopian’ theology, which shows his Ignatian background, Sobrino's notion of the Crucified deviates from the Ignatian tradition on an important issue: the exercitant does not encounter the Crucified Jesus himself when he perceives the ‘Cross’, he encounters instead ‘crucified peoples’ as a ‘sacramental real symbol’ (in the stricter sense) of the divine promise of salvation.

From a soteriological perspective, however, this implies a significant, yet still problematic change of theological subjects: because of Sobrino's radical Antiochian Christology, based on the philosophical difference between (Christological) sign and (God's own eschatological) reality, the Crucified Jesus as an historically unique martyr only represents a ‘sign’ pointing towards God's saving power in the eschatological resurrection of the dead. This ‘being sign’ of Jesus leaves room for attributing the term ‘real symbol’, in a primary victimal sense, to the present suffering people(s) whom Sobrino sees as martyrs (and open to a vicarious sacrificial understanding of their suffering), carrying on God's continual universal work towards his eschatological salvation, whose starting-point is recognisable as the overcoming of unjust attitudes and structures.85 Even if Sobrino admits that there is no causal relationship between human suffering and the power of redemption of oneself or even of the ‘other’, he relativises and compromises the soteriological significance of Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity. This is true because Sobrino subscribes to the notion of an explicitly soteriological character of the ‘crucified peoples’ being able, as real symbols of redemption, to mediate the divine possibility of ‘humanizing humanity’ to all other peoples.86 This redemptive task of the suffering peoples, however, ultimately overstrains the ability not only of one people, but of the human being as such, if loosed from its essential Christological foundation.87

The recognisable overload of Sobrino's theology of the Cross with political and socio-economic motifs, as well as in turn, the excessive ‘politization’ of theological insights, are not directly derived from Marxist ideology. They come instead from a critical analysis of the concrete situation in which Sobrino has been living, yet supported by an unideological and earnest dialogue with a Marxist society-analysis. This is ultimately aporetic, however, as his theological concept may only claim a relevance restricted to the Latin American situation, apart from his far too optimistic anthropology; still, Sobrino's theological claim appears to be universal, especially since he has absorbed or appropriated the analogy of being into his notion of liberation theology.

We must see whether Hans Urs von Balthasar's theological Theodramatic (representing his main work, often called ‘Trilogie’, consisting of Herrlichkeit, Theodramatik and Theologik), and which also implies a specific theology of discipleship, can avoid such aporiai without losing an awareness of the ‘political’ dimension to the Cross.


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Hans Urs von Balthasar's understanding of the Cross must be envisaged under the basic rubric of aesthetics, which is important to him for any anthropologically and soteriologically relevant talk about God (without making aesthetics absolute); the latter had been neglected for centuries, as theology concentrated reflection on the ‘verum’ and the ‘bonum’, but not the ‘pulchrum’, however necessary this was to complement the other two. Balthasar's work is a reaction in particular against a subjectivistic and shapeless internalization of the event of faith, which he is persuaded he perceives in, for example, Rudolf Bultmann's theology.88 His focus on the ‘pulchrum’ takes up Goethe's notion of morphé (‘shape’/‘form’) [‘Gestalt’]) and decisively differentiates his position from Rahner, who for Balthasar had adopted a transcendental line of thinking from Kant and Fichte.89

To forestall creating an aesthetic theology that falls prey to mere aestheticism, Balthasar's key phenomenological category, ‘seeing’, is defined within his onto-philosophical theory of perception as the circumscribing cognitive-existential perception of the ground of being. It encompasses a ‘mere’ verbal mediation.90 Sight of the ground of being can be caught in (not as)91 and through existing beings, because beauty is the necessary transparency of the ground of being. Yet the latter remains an ever-greater transcendent mystery that passes human understanding in the creational order.92 On this basis Balthasar distinguishes between ‘lumen’ as ‘light’ (‘Licht’), and ‘species’ as ‘shape/form’ (‘Gestalt’).93 This distinction forms the essential basis for his slightly subordinationist Christology, as Jesus Christ is taken to represent the ever-transparent shape of divine light without being the light itself. His agenda is to open up Christology for a transparency towards the greater Trinity, shining through the Crucified. This is key for Balthasar's understanding of the Cross.

By stressing the persisting transcendence of the divine mystery as shapeless ‘light’, Balthasar follows a traditional line of negative theology. It is apparent in the notion of an ‘ever greater God’, which Balthasar has critically adopted from the writings of Pseudo-Dionysios Areopagita and Duns Scotus.94 He transforms this notion, however, as he appropriates it into the broader framework of a Thomistic understanding of (non-neutral) human amazement and adoration at the appearance of the greater God as both glorious creator and redeemer in a unitary originary self-emptying. Balthasar drops the ‘ever’, however, in his transformation of the Dionysian God within the order of revelation, to allow the divine kenosis to really and truly shine through the Crucified.95

As the analogy of being is (contrary to Przywara) neither logically nor ontologically prior to the order of revelation (the analogy of faith), but rather vice versa (agreeing with Karl Barth), the ‘viewer’ is already within the originary order of revelation, but he (she) is simultaneously able to perceive the analogia entis in the creational order while remaining within the order of revelation, because the latter gives shape to the analogia entis.96 Thereby analogia entis takes on the form of ‘analogia libertatis97 or ‘analogia caritatis98, as it finds its real and personal form in the shape of the crucified Jesus revealing the ‘greater’ love of the triune God. The analogy of being thus has its cata-logical ground and focus in the analogy of the Crucified.

Balthasar showed his strong theological and spiritual inclination towards the Ignatian Exercises99 by structuring his ‘Trilogie’ according to basic Ignatian stages. Hence, as a precondition Balthasar begins with a ‘conversio ad phantasma’ of the human, who is then able to face the ‘appearance’ of the Crucified. This appearance opens up the possibility of perceiving the ‘glory’ of God as distinctively divine (als das ‘Unterscheidend-Göttliche’)100 in a world of sin (corresponding to reflections of the first week of the Exercises). Parallel to the structure of the latter, Balthasar introduces the reader to the theologically dramatic act (‘Dramatik’), which is the encounter between the Crucified God and the human (the world) (in analogy to the second and third week of the Exercises). This encounter is expanded by basic theological reflections on trinitarian love (corresponding to the Ignatian ‘suscipe’).101

The epistemological centre of this comprehensive ‘seeing’ is for Balthasar the encounter with the Cross of Jesus, as the revelation of the ‘greater’ mystery of the trinitarian love of God. His theory of perception in Herrlichkeit is therefore part of his wider theory of ontological ‘reverie’, whose key term is an existential ‘encounter’, which forms the ontological basis for his epistemology of ‘seeing’.102 This ontological reverie unfolds itself inwardly as a ‘dramatic act’, as the human is drawn existentially by his (her) perception of the Crucified from self-centred sinfulness into the greater sight of the trinitarian love of God, whereby God grants a ‘personal’ freedom in the service of being ‘sent’, in the sense of a participatory Christian discipleship.103Therefore the Ignatian ‘dramatic’ encounter with the Crucified is the decisive hermeneutical key to the Trinity as the epistemological and ontological basis of dramatic perception: The Cross reveals the greater kenotic movement of the Trinity in the specific form (shape) of the Crucified laying claim to the human and the world.

According to Balthasar this unfolding encompasses the analogy of faith and the analogy of being (metaphysics) which shines through the analogy of faith (the order of revelation) as both have been enclosed and kenotically formed by the original ontological kenosis of the absolute being of God as their one foundation. Because of being analogically related to another, they show an analogical structure of participation in the absolute divine being whereby the analogy of being, because of its dialectic character of ‘fullness’ and ‘nothingness’, has been enabled to show the marks of the orignial divine kenosis. This is Balthasar's reason for a universal claim of the Cross as the climax of the revelatory kenosis by taking the analogy of being into the service of representation on the basis of its analogical shape ‘open’ for the divine kenosis seeking expression through representation.

It may follow to pronounce the fundamental and universal character of the original divine kenosis by taking the analogy of being into the order of revelation on the basis of a Thomanically formed Dionysian notion of God's transcendent sovereignty. This sovereignty finds its revelatory ‘aesthetic’ expression in the Crucified. The combination of these notions is, however, problematic because of its missing soteriological‘turning’ towards the world. It lays the ground for the notion of a seemingly self-sufficient being of the immanent Trinity at the expense of the ‘outward’ economic relationship between the triune God and the human.

The core problem is not with Balthasar's decision to take the analogy of being into the dialectical order of revelation, for the former is the possible and necessary medium of universalizing the latter's theological claim. There is also no difficulty in following the Ignatian line by characterizing the order of revelation as kenotic since, according to Balthasar, the incarnation finds its ground in the overflowing fullness104 of absolute divine love.105

The lack of a soteriological ‘turn’ by the analogical revelation of the greater glory of the Trinity constitutes a decisive difference from the theology of Przywara. Balthasar's main emphasis is consequently on the possible and necessary perception of the inner life of the Triune God, as the Crucified reveals this divine reality that at the same time transcends him. The dialectical revelation of God in the Crucified Jesus is the former's true and real self-revelation. The immanent Trinity is therefore not only identical with the trinitarian economy; the former constitutes the economic Trinity, in the life between the begetting Father and the begotten Son in the Spirit, as the immanent Trinity is ‘dramatic from eternity’.106 This immanent dramatic relationship has from eternity ‘enclosed’ and ‘held up’ the ‘farthest distance’107 between the sending Father and the obedient Son in the economy. Even the greatest possible ‘worldly’ contradiction of finiteness to the infinite God has therefore always been ‘enclosed’ in the immanent relationship between Father and Son.108

Balthasar takes pains to avoid a speculative theological Hegelianism, however, which could suggest a mythological involvement of three divine ‘persons’ in the world, as well as the opposite, a Gnostic understanding of revelation as a mere Docetic appearance of God.109 He thus seeks to understand the Cross as God's very own self-statement of his originary kenotic character being simultaneously immutable and passionate (‘leidenschaftlich’).110

The human and the world do retain their identifiable creaturelyness, as the analogy of being persists within the order of revelation. Yet both seem ultimately mere functional extensions representing the single ‘ever-enclosing’ inner-trinitarian event.

This leads us to the most basic problem of Balthasar's theology. Far from protesting against drawing the analogy of being into the order of revelation, Balthasar uses the analogy of being to open up the vision of a unitary original divine kenosis, in which being and revelation co-exist. Balthasar's ‘kata-physical’ theology of the Cross ultimately transposes into an ‘over-critical’ and virtually monistic metaphysics of being.


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The starting-point of our analysis was the search for the basic theological impulses of Ignatius of Loyola in the works of Erich Przywara, Karl Rahner, Jon Sobrino and Hans Urs von Balthasar. All have been more or less explicitly influenced by him. This search was not arbitrarily focused on their respective understandings of the Cross. It is the current research on Ignatius which has especially noticed particularly that Ignatius' Exercises show an orientation towards the salvifico-historical function of both creation and the Crucified Christ, together with a concrete soteriological relationship between God and the human. With the help of the notion of the ‘greater’ divinity of God appearing in the Crucified Jesus, and formed by the concepts of analogical and eschatological thinking, Ignatius tends to regard the creation and the soteriological relationship of the human towards God as basically one. This is the precise way he underlines the universal significance of the Crucified.

It is especially these particular elements of a theology of the Cross that fundamentally formed the theological program of Przywara, who tried to expound the notion of God holding up the world by an ‘ever deeper’ kenosis. It has also influenced the ‘humanizing’ Rahner with his theology of radical incarnation, the contextualizing Sobrino, as well as Balthasar, who with existential significance ‘sees’ the Trinity at the origin of both metaphysics and revelation. All four theologians received the notion of analogy creatively into their respective salvifico-historically oriented and kenotically-embodied understandings of revelation. They were able thereby to identify the creational theological significance of the notion of the (analogically meant) ‘greater’ God, who revealed himself in the Crucified as universally valid, thereby establishing a dialectical and critical claim of divine salvation for the entire world.

As a consequence we may formulate the following insight, grounded in our analytical re-reading of the four theologians: the analogy of being taken into the order of revelation protects salvifico-historical thinking from a ‘pure’ dialectics that would make itself absolute as, in turn, salvifico-historical dialectics opens up the revelatory potential of the analogia entis by tying it to the ‘concretissimum universale’ of the Cross, the Crucified Jesus revealing the salvific will of the ‘greater’ God.

There is therefore the possibility, and perhaps a necessity, for a Catholic theology of the 21st century that orients itself towards basic Ignatian theological motifs to reflect on a dialectical critical ‘theo-logy’ of the Crucified transcending every world view through and by analogical thinking. It would thereby be able simultaneously to achieve a shape for itself coram mundo et coram Deo maiore.

  1. 1 See the complete work, P. Lüning, Der Mensch im Angesicht des Gekreuzigten. Untersuchungen zum Kreuzesverständnis von Erich Przywara, Karl Rahner, Jon Sobrino und Hans Urs von Balthasar (Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie 65), Münster 2007.

  2. 2 Cf. M. Wolter, ‘Dumm und skandalös’. Die paulinische Kreuzestheologie und das Wirklichkeitsverständnis des christlichen Glaubens, in: R. Weth, ed., Das Kreuz Jesu. Gewalt – Opfer – Sühne, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2001, 44–63. While according to Wolter the Pauline ‘word of the Cross’ shows a critical contextual emphasis of the central message of the Gospel, J. Becker recognizes in Paul's theology of the Cross only an intermediate stage in his theological development; J. Becker, Die Erwählung der Völker durch das Evangelium. Theologiegeschichtliche Erwägungen zum 1 Thess, in: Studien zum Text und zur Ethik des Neuen Testaments (FS Heinrich Greven) (BZNW 47), Berlin 1986, 82–101, 100; s. also Becker, Paulus. Der Apostel der Völker, Tübingen 31998, 295.

  3. 3 See e. g. the controversies between Erich Przywara and Karl Barth; B. Gertz, Glaubenswelt als Analogie. Die theologische Analogie-Lehre Erich Przywaras und ihr Ort in der Auseinandersetzung um die analogia fidei, Düsseldorf 1969.

  4. 4 See Second Vatican Council, Dei verbum.

  5. 5 E. J. Ashworth, Signification and Modes of Signifying in Thirteenth-Century Logic. A Preface to Aqunias on Analogy (1991), in: Medieval Philosophy and Theology, 1, 39–67; the same, Analogy and Equivocation in Thirteenth-Century Logic (1992). Aquinas in Context, in: Medieval Studies, 54, 94–135.

  6. 6 Even if this is the case, negative theology makes implicit use of ‘positive’ (very often Platonic) terminology to state its case; s. M. Striet, Offenbares Geheimnis. Zur Kritik der negativen Theologie (ratio fidei 14), Regensburg 2002.

  7. 7 The South American (originally Spanish) Liberation theologian Jon Sobrino is still alive.

  8. 8 Whereas it is disputed among scholars whether the Exercises show an incarnational (and correspondingly ecclesiocentric) or staurocentric access to the person of Jesus and the ‘mysteries’ of his deeds or whether moments of both concepts revealing a certain uneased tension between each other can be found there; see for a primary staurocentric interpretation of the Exercises H. Rahner, Art. Exerzitien, II., in: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche [LThK]3 3 (1995) 1107; also S. Kiechle, Kreuzesnachfolge. Eine theologisch-anthropologische Studie zur ignatianischen Spiritualität (Studien zur systematischen und spirituellen Theologie 17), Würzburg 1996, 320ff; cf. K. H. Neufeld, Kirche und Jesuiten. Echtes Gespür und Kritik, in: ZKTh 128 (2006) 183–204; vor allem 190–194; according to A. Zahlauer, Karl Rahner und sein ‘produktives Vorbild’ Ignatius von Loyola (Innsbrucker theologische Studien 47), Innsbruck 1996, 60, the staurocentric structure of the Exercises are in a certain tension with the Ignatian logic of incarnation.

  9. 9 ‘… que el mismo Criador y Senor se comunique a la su ánima devota’ [‘… that the Creator and Lord communicates himself to the devoted soul’]; s. Ex. spir. n. 15, in: Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu 100, Rome 1969.

  10. 10 The basic Ignatian notion of an experience of a conscious encounter of Christ has to be distinguished from ideology as well as illusion.

  11. 11 Although there are still traces of a traditional view of the divinely given order of human beings and the world.

  12. 12 According to J. E. Vercruysse, Ignatius means Christ with the terms ‘creator’ (cf. ‘created’) and ‘Lord’; Vercruysse, Ignatius von Loyola [Art.], in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 16 (1987) 45–55; here: 52.

  13. 13 ‘Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty…’, in: Spiritual Exercises, no. 234.

  14. 14 In the secondary literature on the Spiritual Exercises it is argued whether that participation means a prolongation in the sense of a coredemption by the believer and thus a human completion of Christ's Cross; cf. Kiechle, Kreuzesnachfolge, 140f. The exclusive moment of the individual atonement is, however, clearly shown in the Spanish term of ‘por’ as in ‘for me’ or ‘for you’ (Spiritual Exercises, n. 116, n. 193 and n. 203). None the less, according to Ignatius the inclusive moment of atonement does belong to a comprehensive understanding of it.

  15. 15 Although the meditations of the Spiritual Exercises on the concrete circumstances of Christ's suffering and death suggest the imperative of an imitation of these circumstances by the exercitant, the main aim of the Exercises is learning to discern the will of God in concrete situations, transcending the single act of crucifixion.

  16. 16 H. Rahner, Art. Ignatius von Loyola, in: LThK2 5 (1960) 613–615; here: 614: ‘Mystik des Dienstes’. However, E. Przywara, Majestas Divina. Ignatianische Frömmigkeit, Augsburg 1925, 73, as well as Hans Urs von Balthasar, Herrlichkeit, Eine theologische Ästhetik. Vol. III, 1: Im Raum der Metaphysik. Part 2: Neuzeit (Auswirkungen), Einsiedeln2 1965, 466, warn of a mysticism of service to be ultimately misinterpreted as contempt for the world through the practised distance from it and from experiencing it.

  17. 17 It is the close theological connection between God's glorious presence on earth and the church which leads Ignatius to develop the notion of a possible contradiction between the reasoning of an individual and the church pronouncing a judgement on any matter. This possible contradiction results in the request to accept the opposite of one's own judgement, not because of a seemingly theological value of accepting irrationalities, but because of the divine basis of the church's judgement on a certain matter. Thus the Ignatian notion of divine hiddenness in contrary appearances finds a theological grounding different from that of Martin Luther's ‘sub contraria specie’.

  18. 18 Karl Rahner, Gnade als Freiheit. Kleine theologische Beiträge, Freiburg i. Br. 1968, 273; H. U. von Balthasar, Rechenschaft 1965, Einsiedeln 1965, 34f.

  19. 19 See as an introduction to Przywara, e. g., Th. F. O'Meara, Erich Przywara, S. J. His Theology and His World. Foreword by Michael A. Fahey, Notre Dame 2002.

  20. 20 See M. Zechmeister, Gottes-Nacht. Erich Przywaras Weg negativer Theologie (Religion – Geschichte – Gesellschaft. Fundamentaltheologische Studien 4), Münster 1997.

  21. 21 His works are full of neologism, complex redundancy and staccato sentences. The latter are more associatively than logically connected.

  22. 22 H. U. v. Balthasar's statement that Przywara's talk of an analogical ‘tanta’ (the ‘ever’ in ‘ever greater’), stressing the dissimiliarity between God and the human within the order of revelation, has resulted in his inability to construct a Christology (Balthasar, Theodramatik II,2, Einsiedeln 1978, 202, footnote 1) misses Przywara's kenotic soteriological understanding of ‘tanta’; s. below.

  23. 23 For the different creative periods in Przywara's life, see K.-H. Wiesemann, Zerspringender Akkord. Das Zusammenspiel von Theologie und Mystik bei Karl Adam, Romano Guardini und Erich Przywara (Studien zur systematischen und spirituellen Theologie 26), Würzburg 2000, 287ff.

  24. 24 M. Zechmeister, Gottes-Nacht (see above).

  25. 25 Wiesemann, Zerspringender Akkord (see above).

  26. 26 Deus Semper Maior. Theologie der Exerzitien. 3 Bde, Freiburg i. Br. 1938–1940.

  27. 27 ‘Das ist analogia entis im Grundbegriff: das innergeschöpfliche ‘ist …’ ist so sehr … ein ‘ist im nicht’…, daß es … sich als ‘Nichts’ zum ‘Schöpfer aus dem Nichts’ verhält', in: Analogia entis. Metaphysik. Ur-Struktur und All-Rhythmus, in: Ders., Schriften. Bd. III, H. U. von Balthasar, Hg., Einsiedeln 1962, 141.

  28. 28 Deus Semper Maior, I, 26.

  29. 29 See: ‘forma sola universalis’, in: Analogia entis, 333.

  30. 30 See Vorwort zur neuen Auflage, in: Analogia entis, 5.

  31. 31 It has been the Protestant theologian E. Jüngel, who broke through the old, sometimes polemic, controversies between Protestant and Catholic theologians about Przywara's harmonizing tendencies in his understanding of God and the human, by denying such tendencies in Przywara's use of the analogia entis; see E. Jüngel, Gott als Geheimnis der Welt. Zur Begründung der Theologie des Gekreuzigten im Streit zwischen Theismus und Atheismus, Tübingen 72001 [1976], 388.

  32. 32 Jüngel, Gott als Geheimnis der Welt, 389, suspects that Przywara stressing divine sovereignty in his understanding of analogy results in the use of the metaphor of the ‘dark night’ instead of the ‘rising light of the new day’. Przywara's use of the metaphor the ‘dark night’ is based on his radically kenotic theological understanding of God's relationship to the world: God empties himself even into the ‘darkest’ powers of sin and death.

  33. 33 Rahner, Gnade als Freiheit, 273.

  34. 34 ‘Aber die Spiritualität des Ignatius selbst, die wir durch die Praxis des Gebetes und eine religiöse Bildung mitbekamen, ist für mich wohl bedeutsamer gewesen als alle gelehrte Philosophie und Theologie’, in: Karl Rahner im Gespräch, vol. 2, P. Imhof and others, eds., Munich 1983, 47–59; here: 51. A. R. Batlogg, Karl Rahner und Ignatius von Loyola. Spiritualität als Quelle für Theologie, in: Zur Debatte 34 (2004) 6–8; here: 6, draws attention to the fact that Rahner intended to understand the Spiritual Exercises not only as a source of Jesuit spirituality, but especially as a subject of theology (‘Gegenstand der Theologie’).

  35. 35 Compare A. Zahlauer, Karl Rahner und sein ‘produktives Vorbild' Ignatius von Loyola (Innsbrucker theologische Studien 47, Innsbruck 1996; for the earlier understanding which sought to reflect Rahner as an interpreter of Ignatius see A. Dulles, The Ignatian Experience as Reflected in the Spiritual Theology of Karl Rahner, in: Philippine Studies 13 (1965) 471–494; the same, Finding God's Will. Rahner's Interpretation of the Ignatian Election, in: Woodstock Letters 114 (1965) 139–152; G. D. Coleman, Religious Experience as Guide of Spiritual Living. A Study in Ignatius of Loyola and Karl Rahner, his Interpreter, Toronto 1974; for the influence of Ignatian thinking on Rahner see particularly K. P. Fischer, Der Mensch als Geheimnis. Die Anthropologie Karl Rahners (Ökumenische Forschungen. Sot Abt. 5), Freiburg i. Br. 1974; Schneider, Unterscheidung der Geister; N. Schwerdtfeger, Gnade und Welt. Zum Grundgefüge von Karl Rahners Theorie der ‘anonymen Christen’ (FrThSt 123), Freiburg 1982; also K. H. Neufeld, Jesuitentheologie im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, in: Sievernich, M. and others, eds., Ignatianisch. Eigenart und Methode der Gesellschaft Jesu, Freiburg 1990, 425–443; for a comprehensive approach see P. Endean, The Direct Experience of God and the Standard of Christ. A Critical and Constructive Study of Karl Rahner's Writings on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Oxford [1991], who examines the significance of Rahner's works to the ongoing ‘Ignatian process’.

  36. 36 Die ignatianische Mystik der Weltfreudigkeit, in: Schriften zur Theologie, III, Einsiedeln u. a. 1956, 329–348; hier. 341.

  37. 37 See his first lecture as a young professor on the doctrine of grace in 1937/38 which he interpreted as ‘De gratia Christi’.

  38. 38 See B. Nitsche, Göttliche Universalität in konkreter Geschichte. Eine transzendental-geschichtliche Vergewisserung der Christologie in Auseinandersetzung mit Richard Schaeffler und Karl Rahner (Religion – Geschichte – Gesellschaft 22), Münster 2001. Nitsche recognizes the specific form of a transcendental Christology in Rahner's works among other forms of Christology.

  39. 39 Rahner, Jesus Christus, in: Rahner and others, eds., Sacramentum Mundi, II, 930; cf. Rahner, Grundkurs des Glaubens. Einführung in den Begriff des Christentums, in: Sämtliche Werke, 26, Grundkurs des Glaubens, Freiburg i. Br. 1999, 196ff.

  40. 40 Geist in Welt. Zur Metaphysik der endlichen Erkenntnis bei Thomas von Aquin, in: Sämtliche Werke, 2, Philosophische Schriften, Freiburg i. Br. 1995, 1–300; translated into English as K. Rahner, Spirit in the World, New York 1968.

  41. 41 Hörer des Wortes. Zur Grundlegung einer Religionsphilosophie, 1941. Neu bearbeitet von J. B. Metz, 1963, in: Sämtliche Werke, 4, Hörer des Wortes, Freiburg i. Br. u. a. 1997, 1–281; translated into English as K. Rahner, Hearers of the Word, New York 1969.

  42. 42 See Lüning, Der Mensch im Angesicht des Gekreuzigten, 167–179; also K. H. Neufeld, Die Brüder Rahner. Eine Biographie, Freiburg i. Br. 1994, 117–120.

  43. 43 See ‘Betrachtungen zum ignatianischen Exerzitienbuch’ (1965) and ‘Einübung priesterlicher Existenz’ (1970).

  44. 44 See ‘Geist in Welt’.

  45. 45 See ‘Hörer des Wortes’; B. Irlenborn tries to show that Krings, Rahner, Lotz and Schaeffler hold a basic element in the understanding of the term ‘transcendental experience’ in common although they differ in their respective approaches. This element is the notion of unthought ‘experience of something’ transcending mere objects; Irlenborn, Was ist eine ‘transzendentale Erfahrung’? Zu den Entwürfen von Krings, Rahner, Lotz und Schaeffler, in: ThPh 79 (2004) 491–510.

  46. 46 The ‘therein’ (‘darin’) only appears in the second edition of ‘Hearers of the Word’ (1963).

  47. 47 However, it has to be admitted that the first edition of ‘Hörer des Wortes’ was oriented towards a material mediation of one's self-finding. J. B. Metz, one of Rahner's theological ‘pupils’, with Rahner's original agreement, undertook the revision of that edition ‘personalising’ the notion of a mediatory encounter.

  48. 48 Hörer des Wortes (1941), in: Sämtliche Werke, 4, 214: ‘Es gibt daher für den Menschen als endlichen und hinnehmenden Geist eine Gelichtetheit des Seins überhaupt nur in der Hinwendung zum materiellen Sein, einen Ausgang zu Gott nur in einem Eingang in die Welt. … Der Mensch hat die Möglichkeit einer ihm das Sein und Gott eröffnenden Einkehr in sich selber nur in der Auskehr in die Welt.’

  49. 49 K. Kilby does not notice this inner connection of the two as she is convinced to have detected a certain tension between ‘Hörer des Wortes’ (calling it correspondingly ‘natura pura’) and Rahner's later theological statements; K. Kilby, Philosophy, theology and foundationalism in the thought of Karl Rahner, in: Scottish Journal of Theology 55 (2002) 127–140, here: 132ff. According to Rahner's understanding of the philosophy of religion (extrapolated from theology) philosophy can only implicitly show that theology is its pre-condition as it has to have its own methodology, yet it is oriented towards finding an ultimate answer in theology. This clearly shows that for Rahner there is no philosophical concept of revelation which has not always been grounded in the latter and from thence extrapolated, however a priori such a concept has to be understood. This has often been criticised as ‘failure’ by some theologians and many philosophers, because Rahner's philosophical reflections have not really been constructed independently of theological claims. But is it possible, necessary or even legitimate to do so? Is this the reason why Rahner gave up searching for an adequate philosophical foundation of his later theological reflections?

  50. 50 Cf. Rahner's philosophical understanding of being which makes itself present as a distinct reality in and through the sensual appearance of the symbol as its self-expression; see Zur Theologie des Symbols, in: Sämtliche Werke, 18, Leiblichkeit der Gnade, Freiburg i. Br. 2003, 423–457; here: 433.

  51. 51 Cf. ‘Die Symbolwirklichkeit ist jene ‘dritte’ (besser: erste, ursprünglich gegebene) Dimension, die das vermittelnde Feld zwischen dem Kategorialen und dem Transzendentalen bildet’, in: N. Schwerdtfeger, Gnade und Welt. Zum Grundgefüge von Karl Rahners Theorie der ‘anonymen Christen (FrThSt 123) Freiburg i. Br. 1982, 231; also J. H. P. Wong, Logos-Symbol in the Christology of Karl Rahner (Biblioteca di Scienze Religiose 61), Rom 1984, 44f.; E. G. Farrugia, Aussage und Zusage. Zur Indirektheit der Methode Karl Rahners. Veranschaulicht an seiner Christologie (AnGr 241), Rome 1985; B. J. Hilberath and others, Das Symbol als vermittelnde Kategorie zwischen Transzendentalität und Geschichte in der transzendentalen Theologie Karl Rahners, in: M. Laarmann u. a., Hg., Erfahrung – Geschichte – Identität. Zum Schnittpunkt von Philosophie und Theologie (FS R. Schaeffler), Freiburg i. Br. 1997, 239–260.

  52. 52 Hans Urs von Balthasar (Theodramatik III, 260–262) is convinced that he detected an ‘extreme Antiochian emphasis’ with regard to the theological structure of the personhood of Jesus Christ in Rahner's works.

  53. 53 We can leave the question of criteriological certainty of imaginative phenomena aside.

  54. 54 See Rahner's statement in ‘Hörer des Wortes’: ‘Denn die Rückwendung des Menschen zu einer ‘vergangenen’ Geschichte geschieht im ursprünglichen Sinn nicht durch ‘historische Studien’, sondern dadurch, daß diese ‘Vergangenheit’ in einer lebendigen Tradition (in menschlich-geschichtlicher Zeit gemessen) Gegenwart bleibt, ja eigentlich immer noch wird’; Hörer des Wortes (1941), in: Sämtliche Werke, 4, 256.

  55. 55 Cf. the Annotations of the Spiritual Exercises.

  56. 56 See Zur Theologie des Todes, in: Sämtliche Werke, 9, Maria, Mutter des Herrn, Freiburg i. Br. 2004, 348–392]. Cf. also Das christliche Sterben, in: Schriften zur Theologie, XIII, Zurich 1978, 269–304; vor allem 290ff. For an interpretation of Rahner's understanding of death, see A. Grün, Erlösung durch das Kreuz. Karl Rahners Beitrag zu einem heutigen Erlösungsverständnis (Münsterschwarzacher Studien 26), Münsterschwarzach 1975.

  57. 57 Rahner calls this actual inclination of death ‘ein an sich Nichtseinsollendes’; Das christliche Sterben, in: Schriften zur Theologie, XIII, Zurich 1978, 269–304; here: 294.

  58. 58 See Das Kreuz – das Heil der Welt, in: K. Rahner, Chancen des Glaubens. Fragmente einer modernen Spiritualität, Freiburg i. Br. 1971, 37–42; here: 42: ‘… radikale[…] Todesabstieg Gottes… als seine höchste Erscheinung und als ihr Eigenstes zugleich.’

  59. 59 Although Rahner intends to interpret all essential aspects of the life and teaching of Jesus as ‘mysteries’, as they are important to his understanding of ‘Mystagogie’ (an ‘introduction’ to a deep spiritual participation in the mysteries of faith by making them existentially significant), he draws particular attention to the Cross because of its significance for an existential interpretation of the human being.

  60. 60 As opposed to Hans Urs von Balthasar's insinuation that Rahner's theology fails to acknowledge a vicarious understanding of the death of Jesus; cf. below under section of Balthasar.

  61. 61 See Das christliche Verständnis der Erlösung, in. Schriften zur Theologie, XV, Einsiedeln 1983, 236–250.

  62. 62 See his remarks on the ‘supernatural existential’.

  63. 63 As opposed to G. Essen who speaks of a non-commercial understanding of the relationship between God and the human in Rahner's works; G. Essen, Die Freiheit Jesu. Der neuchalkedonische Enhypostasiebegriff im Horizont neuzeitlicher Subjekt- und Personphilosophie (ratio fidei 5), Regensburg 2001, 85.

  64. 64 See N. E. Bedford, Jesus Christus und das gekreuzigte Volk. Christologie der Nachfolge und des Martyriums bei Jon Sobrino (Concordia. Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie; Reihe Monographien), Aachen 1995, 54–57. However, Bedford does not entirely realise the continuous essential influence of the Ignatian Exercises on Sobrino's theological concept; cf.. Bedford, a. a.O., 75–79; also Sobrino, Cómo creer hoy? Karl Rahner y Monsenor Romero, in: Sal Terrae 89 (2001) 131–144.

  65. 65 Bedford, Jesus Christus und das gekreuzigte Volk, 58–60.

  66. 66 Cf. G. Collet, Medellín [Art.], in: Religion in Geschichte und Gegegnwart [RGG]4 5 (2002) 953–954.

  67. 67 Cf. Collet, Puebla, 2. [Art.], in: LThK3 8 (1999) 738–739; also Puebla, lateinamerikanische Bischofskonferenz [Art.], in: RGG4 6 (2003) 1824–1825.

  68. 68 See Collet, Gutiérrez, Gustavo [Art.], in: LThK3 11 (2001) 120–121.

  69. 69 Cristología desde América Latina (Esbozo), México 21976, 339.

  70. 70 Zurück zur Kirche der Armen. Die lateinamerikanische Kirche vor dem 21. Jahrhundert, in: StZ 217 (1999) 831–842; here: 834; 837.

  71. 71 Cf. e. g. the contemplative Christology of S. Galilea who since 1976, having been influenced by the writings of Charles de Foucauld, has especially developed a liberation theology and spirituality in form of a correlation of Spanish mystics of the 16th century (Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross and Ignatius of Loyola) and the Latin American search for liberation. Cf. also Enrique Dussel's ‘ethics of liberation’ having taken up Levinas (see Dussel's key terms ‘revelation of God in the other’ and the ‘thinking of transcendence from the perspective of the excluded’); cf. A. Peter, Befreiungstheologie und Transzendentaltheologie. Enrique Dussel und Karl Rahner im Vergleich, Freiburg i. Br. 1988.

  72. 72 New political theology has become sensitive towards the perception of the ‘negative’ which has as its prime reference the negative experiences of the Jewish people, especially the experience of Auschwitz (s. Walter Benjamin, also ‘negative dialectics’ of Adorno and the notion of [the onset of] the ‘dark’ from E. Wiesel) leaving the political theology of the Enlightenment behind which was mainly concerned with the idea of subjectivity. New political theology tries to expound on two corresponding foundational intentions, the ‘deprivatization’ of theology and faith' and the ‘unfolding of this faith in its potential of societal criticism’ (cf. Metz, Zur Theologie der Welt, Mainz 51985, 104).

  73. 73 Jesucristo Liberador, 74f.

  74. 74 Cf. J. Sobrino, Karl Rahner y la teología de la liberación, in: EstCA 39 (1984) 698–701.

  75. 75 El principio misericordia. Bajar de la cruz a los pueblos crucificados, Santander 1992, 15.

  76. 76 Cristología desde América Latina (Esbozo), México 21976, 339; El Cristo de los ejercicios espirituales de San Ignacio, in: Cristología desde América Latina (Esbozo), México 21976, 339–365.

  77. 77 Sobrino refuses to primarily spiritualize the term ‘poor’; see Sobrino, Zurück zur Kirche der Armen. Die lateinamerikanische Kirche vor dem 21. Jahrhundert, in: Stimmen der Zeit 217 (1999) 831–842; cf. also Sobrino, Die zentrale Stellung des Reiches Gottes in der Theologie der Befreiung, in: Mysterium Liberationis. Grundbegriffe der Theologie der Befreiung, I. Ellacuría and others, eds., vol. 1, Luzern 1995, 461–504 (span. original: Mysterium Liberationis. Conceptos fundamentales de la teología de la liberación, I, Madrid 1990).

  78. 78 Sobrino, Die zentrale Stellung des Reiches Gottes, in: Mysterium Liberationis, 464ff.

  79. 79 Sobrino's attitude towards force however remains unclear.

  80. 80 Implying a mutual accessibility of the reign of God and the ‘poor’.

  81. 81 Sobrino, Cristología desde América Latina, 353–354; Die gekreuzigten Völker als der gegenwärtig leidende Knecht Jahwes. Zum Gedenken an Ignacio Ellacuría, in: Concilium 26 (1990) 523–530; De una teología sólo de la liberación a una teología del martirio, in: J. Comblin and others, eds., Cambio social y pensamiento cristiano en América Latina, Madrid 1993, 101–121; cf. also S. Galilea, Christ werden zur Befreiung. Persönliche Bekehrung und soziale Veränderung, Salzburg 1983, 75ff.; for a comprehensive analysis, see L. Weckel, Um des Lebens willen. Zu einer Theologie des Martyriums aus befreiungstheologischer Sicht, Mainz 1998.

  82. 82 Sobrino, Systematische Christologie. Jesus Christus, der absolute Mittler des Reiches Gottes, in: Mysterium Liberationis, 1, 581.

  83. 83 Befreiende Evangelisierung [translated into German by S. Kiechle and M. Maier], in: Geist und Leben 70 (1997) 167–182; Die Erlösung der Globalisierung. Die Opfer [translated into German by B. Kappes], in: Concilium 37 (2001) 628–637; also Christentum und Versöhnung. Unterwegs zu einer Utopie [translated into German by Chr. Roth], in: Concilium 39 (2003) 592–603.

  84. 84 Befreiende Evangelisierung, in: Geist und Leben 70 (1997) 167–182.

  85. 85 Sobrino, Jesuchristo Liberador, especially 253–313; see also Die gekreuzigten Völker als der gegenwärtig leidende Knecht Jahwes, in: Concilium(D) 26 (1990) 523–530; La violencia de la injusticia, in: Concilium, No. 272 (1997) 673–682; Jesús en América Latina, 64; also El crucificado, Estella 1999.

  86. 86 Option für die Armen. Geben und Bekommen, die Menschheit vermenschlichen (translated into by L. Weckel), in: A. Bünker and others, eds., ‘… Ihr werdet meine Zeugen sein …’ Rückfragen aus einer störrischen theologischen Disziplin, Freiburg i. Br. 2005, 111–124; here: 115.

  87. 87 Cf. Bedford's criticism of Sobrino; Bedford, Jesus Christus, 207ff.; cf. J. C. Fuentes Ortiz, ‘Befreiung’ im christologischen Denken von Jon Sobrino. Aspekte zum Begriff ‘Erlösung’, (Diss.) Innsbruck 2003.

  88. 88 Herrlichkeit [H] I, 49.

  89. 89 See Balthasar's (Zu seinem Werk, Freiburg i. Br. 22000, 112) statement on Rahner and himself: ‘… unsere Ausgangspositionen waren immer verschieden. Es gibt ein Buch von Simmel, das heißt ‘Kant und Goethe’. Rahner hat Kant, oder wenn Sie wollen, Fichte gewählt, den transzendentalen Ansatz. Und ich habe Goethe gewählt – als Germanist. Die Gestalt, die unauflösbar einmalige, organische, sich entwickelnde Gestalt – ich denke an Goethes ‘Metamorphose der Pflanzen’–, mit der Kant auch in seiner Ásthetik nicht wirklich zu Rande kommt.’ Cf. W. Löser, Karl Rahner und Hans Urs von Balthasar als junge Theologen. Herausforderungen, Begegnungen, Weichenstellungen, in: Theologie und Philosophie 79 (2004) 401–410.

  90. 90 This is the reason why Balthasar prefers the notion of an imagined picture of the perceived to the use of abstract terminology in the process of grasping it.

  91. 91 This is most relevant for his understanding of the incarnation which shows a slight tendency towards Alexandrinian monophysitism contrary to Rahner who speaking of God's incarnation ‘as’ Jesus reveals an Antiochian tendency stressing the full humanity of Jesus facing God.

  92. 92 H I, 291.

  93. 93 H I, 163.

  94. 94 H II, 167. Balthasar is also able to gather some insights from the thoughts of the early Nicholas of Kues, yet he is reluctant to adopt his platonic tendencies (H III,1, 552–592).

  95. 95 See Balthasar's criticism of Przywara retaining the ‘ever’ in the order of revelation, which makes Balthasar unjustifiably state that Przywara lacks the development of a Christology of its own; cf. also under the section of Przywara.

  96. 96 S. M. Wittschier, Kreuz, Trinität, Analogie. Trinitarische Ontologie unter dem Leitbild des Kreuzes, dargestellt als ästhetische Theologie (Bonner Dogmatische Studien 1), Würzburg 1987.

  97. 97 Löser, Die Ignatianischen Exerzitien im Werk Hans Urs von Balthasars, 173; cf. Löser, Das Sein – ausgelegt als Liebe. Überlegungen zur Theologie Hans Urs von Balthasars, in: Internationale Katholische Zeitschrift Communio 4 (1975) 410–424; also J.R. Sachs, ‘Spirit and Life. The Pneumatology and Christian Spirituality of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Tübingen 1984, 103, 103110.

  98. 98 M. Lochbrunner, Analogia Caritatis. Darstellung und Deutung der Theologie Hans Urs von Balthasars (Freiburger Theologische Studien 120), Freiburg i. Br. 1981, 7; 292f.; cf. also D. Engelhard, Im Angesicht des Erlöser-Richters. Hans Urs von Balthasars Neuinterpretation des Gerichtsgedankens, Mainz 1999, 112–114.

  99. 99 Cf. among others F. Genn, Eine Theologie aus dem Geist der Exerzitien, in: Internationale Katholische Zeitschrift Communio 34 (2005) 186–201. I will leave out the questions whether and in which way Balthasar had also been influenced by Adrienne von Speyr's reflections on the divine mystery.

  100. 100 See H III, 2, Part 2, 482.

  101. 101 It is this basic Ignatian structure of Balthasar's main work which S. Lösel, Kreuzwege. Ein ökumenisches Gespräch mit Hans Urs von Balthasar, Paderborn u. a. 2001, 165, has not considered sufficiently. His affirmation of the Ignatian background of Balthasar thus remains too formal; see however W. Löser, Die Ignatianischen Exerzitien im Werk Hans Urs von Balthasars, in: K. Lehmann u. a., Hg., Hans Urs von Balthasar. Gestalt und Werk, Köln 1989, 152–174; here: 155f.

  102. 102 Theodramatik [TD] II,1, 69.

  103. 103 H I, 237.

  104. 104 H I, 443; cf. Mysterium Paschale, in: Mysterium Salutis. Grundriss heilsgeschichtlicher Dogmatik, vol. III,2, J. Feiner and others, eds., Einsiedeln 1969, 133–326; here: 147.

  105. 105 Contrary to W. Pannenberg, Grundzüge der Christologie, Gütersloh 61982, 330; cf. the same, 317–334: ‘Sie [die kenotische Christologie] kann das geschichtliche Menschsein Jesu mit der traditionellen Christologie nur durch den Gedanken einer Selbstaufgabe des Logos verbinden, verliert aber eben damit die Möglichkeit, Gott als eins mit diesem geschichtlichen Menschen zu denken.’ Pannenberg is right in stating that divine self-abandoning denies any possibility to conceptualize the true and real incarnation of God, but he is not right in claiming that kenosis can only be understood as self-abandoning.

  106. 106 Cf. F. Ulrich, Persönlicher Brief an Hans Urs von Balthasar, cit. in TD IV, 221f; cf. TD IV, 301.

  107. 107 H III,2, Part 2, 217; cf. also Mysterium Paschale, 161; 171–175.

  108. 108 Cf. H. Steinhauer, Maria als dramatische Person bei Hans Urs von Balthasar. Zum marianischen Prinzip seines Denkens (Salzburger Theologische Studien 17), Innsbruck u. a. 2001, 107. According to Steinhauer the ‘ever new advent of God in the world’ during the earthly time as the achievement of the aim of creation has ‘ever been infallibly ensured’. Yet the ontological priority Balthasar has given to the immanent Trinity having ‘enclosed’ the dimension of finiteness ‘from eternity’ (cf. ‘von urher’) shows that God coming into the world has always been realised and not only ‘ensured’; cf. H III,2, Part 2, 370.

  109. 109 H I, 290.

  110. 110 While Rahner needs to employ a radical (almost Antiochian) differentiation between God and the human Jesus as the ‘other’ self-expression of himself to uphold the notion of the immutability of God and at the same time to stress the full humanity of the Incarnate being able to suffer, Balthasar, however, tries to ground immutability and the possibility to be passionate in the one original divine kenosis from creation to salvation, yet refrains from applying the term ‘suffering’ to God.