The enormously prolific Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was marginalized during much of his life, but his reputation over time has only continued to grow. He was said to be the favorite theologian of John Paul II and is held in high esteem by Benedict XVI. It is not uncommon to hear him referred to as the
great Catholic theologian of the twentieth century.
In Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction
Karen Kilby argues that although the low regard in which Balthasar was held from the 1950s to 1960s was not justified, neither is the current tendency to lionize him. Instead, she advocates a more balanced approach, particularly in light of a fundamental problem in his writing, namely, his characteristic authorial voice — an over-reaching "God's eye" point of view that contradicts the content of his theology.
Read a blog post by Kilby
about the book on EerdWord
, the Eerdmans blog.
— King's College London
"With an exceptional knowledge both of Balthasar's vast corpus and of the burgeoning secondary literature on him, Karen Kilby has given us a highly perceptive and accessible analysis of the influential Swiss theologian's work and legacy. Her book is always fair-minded, but it is also unerringly incisive and tenacious in its argument that Balthasar's project has a 'performative contradiction' at its heart. She is as attentive to his method and habits of mind (where so many of his vulnerabilities lie) as to the explicit content of what he says. By denying Balthasar the status of sacred cow, Kilby ensures that he will remain a much more useful and productive source of nourishment for the next generation of theologians."
David Burrell, C.S.C.
— University of Notre Dame
"Karen Kilby exposes the plotline of Balthasar's formidable opus and proceeds to offer circumspect criticism of the supremely confident modes of expression his speculation can take. With grammar as a critical tool, she inquires trenchantly what might allow this 'theological novelist' to know his divine characters so well as to spin the story he does."
— University of Roehampton
"This book should be essential reading for anybody interested in contemporary Catholicism and its most flamboyant theologian. Kilby approaches her subject with a lucidity and balance that are rare in studies of Hans Urs von Balthasar. While meticulously careful to avoid gratuitous criticism, she offers a timely caution against the uncritical acceptance of Balthasar's work and its influence on much recent theology and doctrine."