Hans Urs Von Balthasar on Scripture

“The Holy Scriptures, taken in isolation, cannot provide the word of response, because the letter kills when it is separated from the spirit, (sic) and the letter’s inner spirit is God’s word and not man’s answer.” Love Alone is Credible ( San Fancisco: Ignatius, 2004), 77.

The bible taken in the framework of sola scriptura falls because it cannot bear the weight of testifying to the love of God as is required of it The Scriptures can invite us to witness to the Life Of God’s self emptying love, but scripture is the invitation not the event itself and even then one of many invitations which work together to create our subjective response to God’s action in our behalf. Ultimately only Jesus can do this, thus the scriptures can only testify to the act of God which interprets itself to us. The cross is the apex of our understanding and begins a whole new way of thinking. It begins to reclaim the absolutism placed on anything but Christ Himself, even the law and all its commandments are secondary, even our highest dogmas are idols if they do not point to Christ Himself, either we understand this and live as such or else we have failed to do Christian theology.

The bible alone cannot teach us to recognize Christ because the inner life of scripture concerns Jesus, not our response to this event or how it should be ordered. We must receive our response from Jesus’ manifest encounter with us as living event. This event of Spirit provides us with the only appropriate response to the radiating glory we recognize when we first see God’s love in the cross, namely awe.

This event defies being constricted to any word, for in it He is the One who is not constrained. The cross is the absolute freedom of God to be for us, and it will not be bound to any word, save that name of Divine Love itself. Even the canon is suspect in the face of the radiating glory of this event, taken together with witness and our own compulsion to discern the great mystery it becomes intelligible in the Spirit, but taken in isolation the text becomes the aberration of the True Word that is Christ.

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6 thoughts on “Hans Urs Von Balthasar on Scripture

  1. Quite wonderful, and again, reminds me very much of Bonhoeffer.

    There’s so much of the fire of Christ in this response to scriptures and the canon, that I’ve found it pretty much thwarts and disarms the literalist and fundamentalist who has made scripture, and not Christ, “and him crucified” the center and circumference of Christian life.

    Thanks. Loved this.

    • This is a stream of thought derived via Bonhoeffer and Barth, but it’s what I’ve found to be true.

      Inerrancy and infallibility are stupid ideas, because they only apply to autographs we no longer have and can reconstruct, but , only in theory. What’s the point of having an infallible document if it doesn’t exist to be verified as infallible?

      It disarms literalism by seeing the importance of scripture as authoritative to the Christian community for ordering life, not answering science.

      It disarms fundamentalism by not reducing the scriptures to a dead weight that have the oppressive power to compel me via their perfection. The broken text reflects the broken God. Without the cross at our center, we’re idolaters.

      Thanks for your insight Steve, always a pleasure.

  2. Wow, loved what you said….your response was quite moving, rhythmic, even poetic….really good stuff, my friend, and able to stand next to the words of a Barth or Bonhoeffer. And that’s not flattery, but just the facts…I know the writings too well not to hear and feel the semblance.

    Keep up the great work,

  3. So glad to see that you two have “met”! I see you both as having, in so many ways, the same vision of the way things could be if both Jesus’ and Buddha’s ways of compassion and selfless love were fully realized in all our lives. Both of you have a lot to teach.


    • Thanks for introducing us Nancy, I’m really blessed to drop by Steven’s blog when possible.

      We’re all in this together, and yeah the world could be a better place if everyone cared for these teachings, but they don’t and that’s ok too. We just live as if they’re always reading us, because they are. We have to be the change we desire to see.

      You’re a blessing Nancy,


    • Thanks Nancy! Eli is a true “rock,” and I mean that in the best biblical sense. The light of of the “good news” shines in his words, and while I my see some things differently, there’s no questioning his good heart. It gives me confidence that his God would never forever exclude me, or anyone, from His heart.

      See you around the blogs,

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