Sunday, December 14, 2008

Balthasar, Oakes, Pitstick

Mark at Reason in the Light of Faith remembers the Balthasar controversy from First Things: FIRST THINGS Moment of 2007. A couple of things were curious about this debate:
  1. Did David Schindler weigh in on it? Or Fr. Garownski? Or Juan Sara?
  2. Nobody mentions Origen's devotion to the kenosis of the Logos...
Other highlights:
  • Pitstick's opening salvo claims that Balthasar's theology on the descent into hell "retains the form in its general expression but changes the content to the point of contradicting the original" (First Things December 2006).
  • Oakes: "When I first read Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, I realized that her arguments depended on three hidden presuppositions: a crypto-Monophysite Christology, a crypto-Jansenist theology of grace, and a crypto-Lefebvrist view of the Church’s teaching office. So in my two responses to her views in First Things, I decided not so much to defend Balthasar as to force Pitstick to remove the “crypto-” prefixes-by having her openly avow this trifecta of revanchist Catholicism. I deny that my attacks were ad hominem, as the letters from Robert Colau and Benjamin Petty claim, for I focused exclusively on her reasoning." (First Things March 2007).
As far as I'm concerned, these two quotes encapsulate the debate. Pitstick cries heresy and Oakes cries heresy in response. Heresy, however, is a juridical ruling of the Church and not the result of opinion, theological or otherwise. So, I'll leave the inquisition into heresy to others...

Balthasar speaks of the descent into hell throughout his works, but here's a section from his book, Credo: Meditations on the Apostle's Creed:
"Descended into hell." Naturally, since "Death" is "followed by Hades" (Rev 6:8), regarding whose hopelessness the Psalms give us a realistic picture. It was as a humanly dead man that the Son descended to the dead, and not as a victoriously living one with an Easter banner, such as is depicted in Eastern icons through an anticipatory projection of the Resurrection onto Holy Saturday. The Church has forbidden the signing of hallelujahs on this day. And yet this new dead man is different from all the rest. He has died purely from love, from divine- human love; indeed, his death was the supreme act of that love, and love is the most living thing that there is. Thus his really being dead — and that means the loss of any and every sort of contact with God and his fellow human beings (one might reread the Psalms on this) — is also an act of his most living love. Here, in the utmost loneliness, it is preached to the dead, indeed, even more: communicated (1 Pet 3:19). The redemptive act of the Cross was by no means intended solely for the living, but also includes in itself all those who have died before or after it. Since this love-death of our Lord, death has taken on a quite different meaning; it can become for us an expression of our most purest and living love, assuming that we take it as a conferred opportunity to give ourselves unreservedly into the hands of God. It is then not merely an atonement for everything that we failed to do, but, beyond that, an earning of grace for others to abandon their egoism and choose love as their innermost disposition.

From Holy Saturday onward, death becomes purification. On that day, the dead Lord opened up a way out of eternal forlornness and into heaven: the fire that purifies the dead toward greater love. Under the Old Covenant, that did not exist; for everyone, there was only Sheol, the place of being dead. Descending into this, Christ has thrown open the entranceway to the Father.

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