Love itself is understanding : Balthasar, truth, and the saints.
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Moser, Matthew Alan.
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This study examines the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar on the post-Scholastic separation between dogmatic theology and the spirituality of Church, which he describes as the loss of the saints. Balthasar conceives of this separation as a shattering of truth — the “living exposition of theory in practice and of knowledge carried into action.” The consequence of this shattering is the impoverishment of both divine and creaturely truth. This dissertation identifies Balthasar’s attempt to overcome this divorce between theology and spirituality as a driving theme of his Theo-Logic by arguing that the “truth of Being” — divine and creaturely — is most fundamentally the love revealed by Jesus Christ, and is therefore best known by the saints. Balthasar’s attempted re-integration of speculative theology and spirituality through his theology of the saints serves as his critical response to the metaphysics of German Idealism that elevated thought over love, and, by so doing, lost the transcendental properties of Being: beauty, goodness, and truth. Balthasar constructively responds to this problem by re-appropriating the ancient and medieval spiritual tradition of the saints, as interpreted through his own theological master, Ignatius of Loyola, to develop a trinitarian and Christological ontology and a corresponding pneumatological epistemology, as expressed through the lives, and especially the prayers, of the saints. This project will follow the structure and rhythm of Balthasar’s Theo-Logic in elaborating the initiatory movement of his account of truth: phenomenological, Christological, and pneumatological. In each of these, truth is consistently expressed as and known through dialogue — through the rhythm of expression and response, donation and receptivity, kenosis and obedience. Dialogicality is the rhythm of love, and hence the proper form of truth. It is for this reason, we shall argue, that Balthasar’s account of truth requires the saints as those whose lives are fundamentally dialogical insofar as they are constituted by prayer.