2008 Balthasar Blog Conference Conclusion

Looking Back

The 2008 Balthasar Blog Conference has come to a close. I am quite pleased with how the event turned out. We had nine excellent “plenary” essays and nine responses, all of a very high caliber. The essays covered a wide range of topics and texts. Lois M. Miles discussed the significance of Adrienne von Speyr’s contemplative and mystic reading of Scripture upon Balthasar’s interpretation of the Bible. Cynthia Nielsen, in conversation with W. T. Dickens, looked at Balthasar’s biblical hermeneutics, focusing on his understanding of the Bible as a self-interpreting christocentric narrative in which authorial intention and the regula fidei are important tools in proper exegesis. Daniel Wade McClain examined the relation between revelation and aesthetics, paying special attention to the nature-grace distinction. Heather Reichgott treated Balthasar’s affirmation of “pluralism” within the Bible, with a particular emphasis on the well-known problem of the contradictory accounts of the resurrection in the Gospels. Balthasar, she notes, refuses to explain away or systematize these narratives, but instead allows the scriptural polyphony to witness to the living Lord.

Francesca Murphy presented us with three different readings of Exodus 3 and the revelation of the divine name by √Čtienne Gilson, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), and Balthasar. Each of them offers theological and ontological interpretations of this narrative, and while Ratzinger and Balthasar also incorporate historical-critical research, they all attempt to understand in this story the being of God as eternal and creative love. Halden Doerge examined Balthasar’s figural reading of the Old Testament and his christocentric theology of Israel. Here the important issue of supercessionism was raised, which Balthasar rejects but not always unambiguously. Andrew Ryan Guffey discussed Balthasar’s interpretation of the Apocalypse of John not as a blueprint for “horizontal” history, but rather as an objective revelation of the “vertical” theodramatic history between God and the world. As Guffey notes, Balthasar situates the Apocalypse within a theological aesthetic in that it is descriptive and interpretive of the theo-drama, and not a prescriptive ethic or vision of world events. Guffey closes by acknowledging that the ethic of the Apocalypse, according to Balthasar, is doxological. In my own contribution to this conference, I analyzed the exegesis of various biblical texts in Balthasar’s discussion of the apokatastasis in Dare We Hope? I looked at the internal contradiction with Scripture as well as certain controversial texts (e.g., Matt. 25 and Acts 3:21), and I argued that his interpretation of the Bible in this book was more of “hermeneutics of crisis” than a “hermeneutics of hope,” in that he rested content with an existential tension that did not seem to be christologically determined. Finally, John L. Drury discussed Balthasar’s interpretation of the resurrection event in Mysterium Paschale. Drury looked first at how Balthasar conceives of the relation between theology and exegesis and then turned to three exegetical moves which demonstrate his careful integration of both in his own theological interpretation of Scripture.

All together, these essays attest to Balthasar’s rich and profound contribution to theology. While there are still plenty of debates to be had over certain presuppositions or conclusions, all agree that continuing engagement with Balthasar’s work is of crucial significance for the future of ecclesial and biblical theology.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to the future, what should this conference examine next? While at first I considered making the next Balthasar Blog Conference about Balthasar and missional theology, I have since, in light of the debates surrounding my essay, decided to propose that the 2009 Balthasar Blog Conference examine the topic of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism. This topic holds a lot of promise for an online conference, partly because there is just so much interesting material. Balthasar discusses everyone from Luther and Schleiermacher to Bultmann and Moltmann. And, of course, Karl Barth. (We could even throw in Kierkegaard, Kant, and Hegel, among others.) Moreover, someone could also interact with Rodney Howsare’s book, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Protestantism. Theologically, the big issues include nature and grace, the Trinity, the divine attributes, analogy (of being and of faith), and pretty much anything related to ecclesiology. All in all, I think this is a very interesting and exciting topic. If you have an interest in participating in this conference, please let me know. I will try to accommodate as many people as possible. Most likely, it will be held around the same time next year.


Thanks for putting on an excellent blog conference, David. I look forward to its 2009 instantiation.

For everyone who has enjoyed this conference, I would like to remind you that the 2008 Barth Blog Conference is coming up in June over at DET. I'm sure that David will keep you all posted as that conference draws nearer.
Anonymous said…
This was a truly great blog conference. Well done, David. I'll look forward to next years, and I will probably have some material dealing with Balthasar and Luther that might fit the bill.
Anonymous said…
David, a personal thanks for all the hard work. I am glad to hear of your inspired desire to tackle the topic of Balthasar and Protestantism (a rather huge and intractable field, the Reformation traditions, and I was about to recommend including the Orthodox and Oriental traditions!). Again my warm felicitations on a blog conference and its excellent contributors and respondents; I found it all most engaging, stimulating and energizing. Cheers!
Anonymous said…
Thanks very much for putting this on. I enjoyed it very much. I really liked Guffey's piece on the Apocalypse. All the pieces were good.

I think the idea of von Balthasar and ecumenism might be better than von B and Protestantism. One could have von B and Bulgakov as well as von B and Barth! But either way, count me in.

Francesca Murphy
Anonymous said…
Congrats on the successful conference. Of course, in the spirit of inter-blog relations, I'd like to contribute something on Balthasar and Anglicans... I'll narrow and refine closer to that time, if that's ok.

Anonymous said…
New to the site... just stumbled across it actually. But I'm working with Balthasar's aethetics down at Baylor and I'd love to join in this year's conference. I have a paper on Balthasar's reading of Luther in the Aesthetik.
Hey Matt,

Thanks for the comment. I would love to have you involved in the 2009 conference. I plan to post some stuff about this soon. Just so you know in advance, I'm hoping to keep this year's contributions much shorter, somewhere in the 750-1500 word range. Shorter entries tend to produce more conversation. Feel free to send me your contribution at my Gmail address, available through a link in my profile.