Regarding both Maurice Blondel’s and Karl Barth’s theological projects, von Balthasar writes:

“They were looking for another direction: they wanted to be pioneers of the concrete and historical aspects of ontology. In no way were they looking in the direction of a philosophical nominalism or of a modern ‘vitalistic philosophy’ in which the permanent essences are only the ephemeral configurations of an historical life that is continually metamorphosing. Their intent was entirely theological; they wanted to draw all intraworldly being and essence (whose self-sufficient validity they did not deny) to the concrete, personal and historical Logos” (The Theology of Karl Barth, 341).

Rowan Williams clarifies why this notion of concrete historical ontology is so important:

“‘Dialogue’ with ‘the world’ is so much more complex a matter than it sometimes seems to be for Rahner; because the world is not a world of well-meaning agnostics but of totalitarian nightmares, of nuclear arsenals, labour camps and torture chambers… Balthasar’s harsh clear-sightedness is an important disturbance of any assumptions about easy ‘humanist’ convergences in our world” (“The Apprehension of Being,” 100).

Caravaggio’s The betrayal of Christ captures this notion perfectly. 

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