Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Addendum on Balthasar, Universalism, and Ralph Martin's critique

As an addendum to our earlier post, "Blogger takes on Barron, Shea, Balthasar" (Musings, November 3, 2013), I am posting here some excerpts from an interesting piece by Christopher Blosser, in which a reading of Ralph Martin's critique of Hans von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and others, awakens some doubts about their credibility across the board. As always, he's detailed and thorough, and I don't think it's nepotism to suggest that he can be worth reading.

Christopher Blosser, "Balthasar, Universal Salvation, and Ralph Martin's 'Will Many Be Saved?'" (Against the Grain, November 5, 2013). Excerpts:
... Martin's devastating critique of Balthasar, however, comes as more of a surprise. For even with figures as highly esteemed as Avery Dulles, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict giving a stamp of theological toleration (and/or approval) to Balthasar's hope for universal salvation -- Martin's detailed exposition of Balthasar's tendency to ignore, misquote or mischaracterize his sources (whether from the Scriptures, the Fathers or the mystics) as well as his questionable theological reasoning should give pause for all....

Martin devotes a substantial amount of his book to exposing what appears to be, from a standpoint of academic integrity, a rather questionable treatment by Balthasar of myriad sources -- the Scriptures, the Fathers, the mystics, in support of a position that is squarely at odds with the weight of Catholic tradition. Indeed, my experience o Martin was not unlike that of reading the late Ralph McInerney's "Praeambula Fidei": Thomism And the God of the Philosophers, in which he laid bare Henri De Lubac and Etienne Gilson's (mis)interpretation of Cajetan and Aquinas....

... If Martin's critique of Balthasar is correct (as McInerney is in his criticism of De Lubac) -- if their scholarship on this particular subject is simply not to be trusted, and found wanting -- it casts some doubt upon the integrity of their work as a whole. Where else could they have gone wrong?

At the very least, I do find myself reading the work of both De Lubac and Balthasar with a more cautious eye, and a more attentive ear to those sounding the alarm.

One final piece of theological trivia worth noting -- Balthasar ends Dare we Hope with a lengthy citation from the unpublished theological speculations of Edith Stein, "“which expresses most exactly the position that I have tried to develop.” Stein asserts that while the possibility of the soul's refusal of grace and consequent damnation in principle cannot be rejected, "In reality, it can become infinitely improbable — precisely through what preparatory grace is capable of effecting in the soul." According to Stein,
The more improbable it becomes that the soul will remain closed to it. . . . If all the impulses opposed to the spirit of light have been expelled from the soul, then any free decision against this has become infinitely improbable. Then faith in the unboundedness of divine love and grace also justifies hope for the universality of redemption, although through the possibility of resistance to grace that remains open in principle, the possibility of eternal damnation also persists.
But here's the catch: While Balthasar identifies himself completely with this passage from the saint, Stein herself moved beyond it and revised her position in later years:
Schenk, “Factical Damnation,” p. 150, n. 35, points out that while Balthasar makes this his final position, it was not the final position of Edith Stein herself. Schenk points out that these were passing comments in a work that she herself never published, and that in 1939 in her spiritual testament, she significantly modifies. “The possibility of some final loss appears more real and pressing than one which would seem infinitely improbable.” Hauke, “Sperare per tutti?” pp. 207-8, makes the same point as well as the additional point that not everything a saint or Doctor wrote is honored when they are recognized as saints or Doctors.


JFM said...

Plain E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t ! ! !

Not because I want to see anyone punished, but because I want the conversation to relate to what has been revealed, and not simply with what fits with how I would like things to have been revealed.

The Ghost of Tyburn said...

I would add the 2nd edition of Lawrence Feingold's The Natural Desire to See God if you want the final demolition of de Lubac's Nature/Grace distinctions:


Once you read that along with McInerny's Preambula Fidei, you'll have a very clear glimpse of why Garrigou Lagrange's star is rising while Von B and De Lubac's Wish Upon a Star eschatology is fading as surely as the color from those felt banners.