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Date of Publication: 2012
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Balthasar (Interventions) Paperback – 30 Nov 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (30 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802827381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802827388
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 927,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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."Tina Beattie-- 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."

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." Tina Beattie -- 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."

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."
Tina Beattie
-- 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."
"Anglican Theological Review"
This book is an astonishingly deft guide to thorny and difficult issues, and a brief, approachable introduction to Catholic theological issues of recent centuries. It is a terrific piece of theological scholarship and critique and will be most appreciated by advanced theology students, clergy and theologians wanting a solid orientation to Balthasar. As simply one of the best introductions to the life, thought, work, contributions, and limitations of Balthasar available today, it is highly recommended.
"Louvain Studies"
In the midst of so much work currently being done on Balthasar, Kilby s (very) critical comments are, in my opinion, much needed signposts along the road toward recovering what is good and worth saving within his oeuvre. There is a great need to strike such a balancing act between critique and recovery in Balthasar s work, and this slim volume contributes greatly toward that highly worthwhile task.
"Reviews in Religion & Theology"
Despite its brevity, this book may well take its place as the most essential secondary source on Balthasar s work. What it lacks in comprehensiveness it gains in deep insights into the recurrent patterns of Balthasar s thinking and the influence of his life experience on those patterns.
"First Things"
This tough-minded yet irenic essay . . . is extraordinarily helpful to those who want to know what the excitement is about and what the limits to that excitement ought to be. "

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."Tina Beattie -- 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.""Anglican Theological Review" This book is an astonishingly deft guide to thorny and difficult issues, and a brief, approachable introduction to Catholic theological issues of recent centuries. It is a terrific piece of theological scholarship and critique and will be most appreciated by advanced theology students, clergy and theologians wanting a solid orientation to Balthasar. As simply one of the best introductions to the life, thought, work, contributions, and limitations of Balthasar available today, it is highly recommended. "Louvain Studies" In the midst of so much work currently being done on Balthasar, Kilby s (very) critical comments are, in my opinion, much needed signposts along the road toward recovering what is good and worth saving within his oeuvre. There is a great need to strike such a balancing act between critique and recovery in Balthasar s work, and this slim volume contributes greatly toward that highly worthwhile task. "Reviews in Religion & Theology" Despite its brevity, this book may well take its place as the most essential secondary source on Balthasar s work. What it lacks in comprehensiveness it gains in deep insights into the recurrent patterns of Balthasar s thinking and the influence of his life experience on those patterns. "First Things" This tough-minded yet irenic essay . . . is extraordinarily helpful to those who want to know what the excitement is about and what the limits to that excitement ought to be. "

About the Author

Karen Kilby is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Nottingham, England.

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Every reader reads from a different perspective, recasting the author's thoughts in the mould of their individual experiences. My own reading of Balthasar is quite different from Karen Kilby's. She is a professional theologian, I am not (and her book will delight those who enjoy the jargon of the professional theologian). However I've read extensively in Balthasar's theology for over ten years. I suppose my reason for reading Balthasar was different from Kilby's. Indeed it would be illuminating to know precisely what Kilby's motive in reading Balthasar was. From the profound, almost comprehensive, antipathy she shows towards Balthasar's project it cannot have been that she came to him simply to listen. It is probable that her pre-disposition removed the possibility of reading Balthasar with any degree of real sympathy and already dictated a confrontational reading.

Balthasar is criticised on a number of specific points. For example his exposition of Church Fathers is criticised for its idiosyncrasy. The point is well made. But a reading that is different from the mainstream need not be regarded as a negative factor. The contributions of the Church Fathers (and of Balthasar himself) are layered, stratified and elusive and therefore not limited to one `authentic' interpretative perspective. It will however be a brave (or reckless) man or woman who presumes to possess a fuller, more comprehensive grasp of their subject than that which Balthasar possessed.

In assessing Balthasar's contribution it is well to take full account of those who interacted most closely with him, especially Henri de Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger - who both knew a thing or two! - but neither felt the need to ring the warning bells that Kilby chimes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview if not slightly over-critical 13 Feb. 2014
By Ian Chamberlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Karen Kilby presents in this slim volume a brief overview and critique of the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the 20th Century's most prominent Roman Catholic theologians. The initial contextual set up, that is a glance at the context from which von Balthasar arises, is very helpful. Understanding how various influences including de Lubac, and even Karl Barth (although von Balthasar seems to be more reacting to Barth's theological enterprise at times), is very helpful to getting some idea of what he is trying to say.

My only complaint about the book is that the author seems at times to engage in the same "flattening" or generalization that she critiques von Balthasar for, and sometimes seems over-critical of Balthasar's work. Although she advocates for a middle ground between von Balthasar's denigration in the 50s/60s and his lionization in the post Vatican-II theological milieu, she has not done a very good job of articulating where that middle ground is. As a non-Catholic reader of Rahner, I would like to see the middle ground between "heretic" and "Post Vatican-II Saint" of the church, and unfortunately, that middle ground was not discovered in this book. Unlike the author's own book introducing Karl Rahner (published by SPCK), the author rarely stands up to explain or cast something that might be perceived as an inconsistency or error in a more charitable light (which perhaps indicates the author's preference to Rahner's theological approach).
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A critical introduction to her "introduction to criticism". 12 Mar. 2014
By Mateus de Castro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First of all, I don't think anyone is beyond critique. I do think highly of most of what I read from von Balthasar, and do think he is a fantastic theologian and thinker.

It's the time, I think, after some great writer's death, that the "heat" of the critique is rightfully elevated. But also the time when people will try to make a name by "beating a giant". Kilby's book is a lot of critic, some introduction, and not enough arguments to defend her thesis. At least not enough to actually be the book to "beat the giant".

There are some very strange things in this book. First, is the easy claim that his style gets in the way of his theology. As she puts it, the way von Balthasar pretends to "impose the truth". In the end, she thinks he says: "some said that in the past, then others said that, and now I say this". And that would be a problem. That's, I'm sorry to say, silly. I've never seen a theologian, a philosopher, a historian, and probably no writer that, when explained something, didn't sound like he is determining what's right and what's wrong. That's what you do when intending to throw light on issues. You say what you think it's true. And von Balthasar, by the way, always give all sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion. Never felt imposing to me. And certainly if it did, it wouldn't hurt the argument. If it was true, I wouldn't mind the style. If it was false, I wouldn't be ashamed to say so. Sorry, maybe I'm not that sensible as to invalidate a conclusion because the person sounded too deterministic. And that's certainly not the feeling when reading von Balthasar.

You can turn the argument around, and she will be the victim of her point. And everyone who ever wrote. So, his way to "sum things up" should not make you more prudent when reading his works. As nothing should make you less prudent when reading anything.

Then there's the problem of the scope of his work and thought. It would be advisable, when writing such a critique, to go deeper in his thought. And it would be ridiculous to claim that this was achieved in this book. I can't even know how much she read. But, granted, I think (or hope) she read a lot, if not everything (which I have a problem in believing). And if so, this book is very critical, emphasis on the critical, but just about specific points. And the implication is that these points would be enough to command the von Balthasar reader into distrusting him. Or at least not giving him so much credit. Well, I think this book fails to provide such "proofs".

That said, let's be clear now. Von Balthasar's writing is not simple theology. The amount of knowledge and culture he displays in his work is beyond normal. Just to start to making a real critique of him, you would have to go deep (and I mean deep) into history, general knowledge, arts, and a lot more. And that maybe for just one aspect of his work. I have never read a book from him that didn't challenge me to read at least 5 other books on various themes, just to have a deeper understanding of that particular aspect of his knowledge. Or maybe I've felt that need to read 5 more books for every 10 pages of his works, can't be sure...

This kind of critique is almost a disservice to knowledge itself. It pretends to invalidate a monumental work with some small, badly selected, personally viewed, aspects. It's doing what she condemned of him. It's an ode to shallow thinking. Even if you call it an "introduction" to try to justify the small scope. It's not an introduction, by any means. Maybe it should be called "a small introduction to all my criticism". Not an introduction to von Balthasar's theology or thinking.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Does Jesus Shine Through?' 17 Jan. 2014
By R. C. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Every reader reads from a different perspective, recasting the author's thoughts in the mould of their individual experiences. My own reading of Balthasar is quite different from Karen Kilby's. She is a professional theologian, I am not (and her book will delight those who enjoy the jargon of the professional theologian). However I've read extensively in Balthasar's theology for over ten years. I suppose my reason for reading Balthasar was different from Kilby's. Indeed it would be illuminating to know precisely what Kilby's motive in reading Balthasar was. From the profound, almost comprehensive, antipathy she shows towards Balthasar's project it cannot have been that she came to him simply to listen. It is probable that her pre-disposition removed the possibility of reading Balthasar with any degree of real sympathy and already dictated a confrontational reading.

Balthasar is criticised on a number of specific points. For example his exposition of Church Fathers is criticised for its idiosyncrasy. The point is well made. But a reading that is different from the mainstream need not be regarded as a negative factor. The contributions of the Church Fathers (and of Balthasar himself) are layered, stratified and elusive and therefore not limited to one `authentic' interpretative perspective. It will however be a brave (or reckless) man or woman who presumes to possess a fuller, more comprehensive grasp of their subject than that which Balthasar possessed.

In assessing Balthasar's contribution it is well to take full account of those who interacted most closely with him, especially Henri de Lubac and Joseph Ratzinger - who both knew a thing or two! - but neither felt the need to ring the warning bells that Kilby chimes.

The most forthright of Kilby's criticisms, and the most devastating from her perspective, is her claim that Balthasar's theology was too knowing: `he frequently seems to presume ... a God's eye view'; `writing above scripture, above tradition, above history'. A `performative contradiction'; `the way his theology is done presumes something which the content of his theology rules out'. This criticism begs the question how, without personal access to the author, one is able to gather how theology is `done' except from the `content' the text itself. If the `content' of the text `rules out' criticism of the method, then the criticism of method would seem to rest wholly in the critic's imagination. But leaving aside that quibble, it is beyond me how anyone reading Balthasar can fail to see that his habitual method is 'to test what [he has] said against the teaching of Holy Scripture, after which to review the historical evolution of the [idea]' (The Christian State of Life, 266).

The way Balthasar's theology was `done' has however been disclosed in the content of his writing, it was through expansive reading, pervasive meditation and continuous prayer (the latter being the theological method for which he most pleaded). Is there not a fully legitimate sense in which a theology forged in the furnace of Scripture and shaped on the anvil of the Church's tradition will be - indeed ought to be - done with `a God's eye view'? It used to be called `prophetic' - a category that seems to be excluded from a post-modern perspective.

May we listen to Balthasar himself:
'[...] what does method mean anyway? Methodos is the pursuit of a way, and when One claims to be the way and we believe him, method could be translated as sequela, following. Since the Logos calls himself truth, there is no seamless truth other than his exposition of God, indeed of God the Father in the Holy Spirit. This exposition is at one and the same time utterly and plainly right and utterly mysterious.' (Balthasar, Theo-Logic, II, 363 and 364)

Jesus Christ comprehends scripture, tradition and history; the one who sits at his feet, hears him and follows may with some justification be found to see things with `a God's eye view' - which is not to claim that he will know things with `a God's mind knowledge'!

May this not be the hanging thread which deconstructs the core thesis of Kilby's book? To reject (what Kilby regards as) Balthasar's (fallacious) omniscience, his unwarranted presumption of `a God's eye perspective', implies (intentionally or unintentionally) omniscience, not an omniscience of perspective but an omniscience of wisdom: `a God's mind wisdom'.

In other words Kilby's claim is to know what Balthasar does not: that his methodology is deceiving and hubristic. Her assessment argues greater skill, acumen, insight and discernment to be able to understand, dissect and assess Balthasar's method. (Although in reality much of Karen Kilby's analysis appears misconceived and mistaken, indeed it appears to manifest an almost vitriolic - though ungrounded - antipathy towards her subject. This evident lack of appreciation necessarily means a failure truly to engage with Balthasar's theological contribution.)

As the focus of Karen Kilbly's attack is not on this or that theological construct within Balthasar's work but on the methodological foundation upon which Balthasar's entire theological project rests, she leaves her readers with no alternative than to decide the issue on the basis of the credentials of either author, rather than between two fairly conducted arguments. This is always so where the conflict is between two fundamental positions, where the debate rages over opposed absolutes, when it is methodology rather than conclusions that are in review. The nature of Kilby's assault means we are forced to choose to trust either one or other protagonist, not on the basis of rational argument but on the basis of holistic credibility, of their `gestalt' if you will - the very thing characterising Balthasar's project that Kilby rejects. You choose: Balthasar or Kilby?
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for a balanced perspective 16 Jan. 2014
By Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are countless books and articles expounding and praising Balthasar, but very few that take a serious critical look at what may be wrong or questionable in his methodology, motives, and conclusions. If you are looking for a more realistic assessment of this influential theologian, Kilby's book is essential.
5.0 out of 5 stars Treading the Balthasar Landscape 23 Dec. 2015
By Denis E. Mcgrath - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss-German catholic theologian of contemporary stature, has gained popularity in some circles. He is erudite; a prolific writer but appears to lack a specific methodology in his approach to theological questions to the point of over-reaching in his conclusions. Professor Kilby points out that he can be read to attain insight but one needs to approach his writings with caution. His dramatic approach tends to muddy doctrinal orthodoxy because he is trying to extend his theological horizons beyond traditional boundaries. Nonetheless, Kilby’s book is good to have on hand when wandering in the great dramatic theological landscape of Balthasar.
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