The concept of person in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar

Ann M Callahan, Fordham University


In his theological dramatic theory Theodramatik, Hans Urs von Balthasar presents the drama of human existence as a play within the larger play of God's drama, his involvement with his creatures in the drama of salvation. The protagonist of that larger drama is Christ whose divine person is understood by Balthasar in terms of his salvific role, his universal mission. Balthasar's theological concept of the human person is derived from his identification of Christ's person and mission: to be a person is to be given a unique role in God's drama, a specific share in the mission of Christ. Balthasar's definition of person as mission in Christ raises questions about the meaning of the term "person," its applicability to human beings everywhere, and about the relationship between nature and grace which is presupposed by the concept. Chapter 1 of this dissertation examines Balthasar's Christocentric formulation of the relationship between nature and grace presented in his study of the theology of Karl Barth and the more experiential account of that relationship provided in his theological anthropology. In Chapter 2 the polar tension between person and nature which emerges in the anthropology is illuminated by Balthasar's study of the world view of St. Maximus Confessor, who presents Christ as the free synthesis of all the polarities in the cosmos. Maximus' understanding of the relationship of the whole and the part is the key to understanding the relationship between person and nature both in Christ and in the human being. The centrality of Christ as the concrete universal in whom all the polar tensions of being are united is considered in Chapter 3 from the perspective of Balthasar's aesthetic concept of form. As the form of faith and the definitive form of God's self-revelation, Christ's person is the informing presence who transforms the created form of the creature into a likeness to God. This relationship between the created image of God and Christ, the archetype, in whom all have been created, by whom all are redeemed, is presupposed by Balthasar's theological concept of person as mission in Christ which is presented in Chapter 4 and then evaluated.

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Recommended Citation

Callahan, Ann M, "The concept of person in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9416662.