Chapter two continued his examination (see previous entry) of Christianity's attempt to demonstrate its credibility. The turn to an anthropological method of trying to achieve this credibility was less successful than the long run that the cosmological method enjoyed. In making man the measure of all things, modernity fundamentally undercut any attempt to approach God who must, be definition, be beyond man at some level. Various attempts to render Christianity credible from within a purely subjective perspective--Pietism, with its emphasis on the affective; Schleiermacher's re-working of Pietism in a more intellectually-rigourous mode; and 20th Century Personalism--all fail to allow any real bridge beyond subjectivity and into a real revelation of God. Von Balthasar concludes that there is "no way of 'backing' or 'underpinning' the text of God's word and giving it another background in the hope of making it more easy to read and more comprehensible."
III. So Love is proposed as a "third way" alongside the cosmological and anthropological approaches to claiming the credibility of Christianity. It is an approach that can be described in terms of an aesthetics--a reflective awareness of the reality of beauty. Aesthetics comes close to the Personalism rejected in the last chapter in that "understanding" is recognized as being achieved in a "miracle." But the beauty that produces love has an objective quality to it, and it is this contact with the Objective that personalism failed to achieve. And when the beauty that provokes love is the divine Love of the Trinity, then this encounter is a real--not a constructed--encounter with the Objective, and one which has real authority. This love can be perceived or not perceived at all, so the seeing requires that "miracle" of the beginnings of supernatural love.
IV. We have some understanding of what love is from our human experiences of love, but these are found to be limited. Yet we recognize higher stages to what we experience--like faithfulness is to the erotic impulse--and we see in this that what we know as love is a movement. But love is caught in a contradiction between its desire for and movement toward eternity and its mortality, rooted in human morality. In addition the Cross reveals the egoism of what we call human love and we become aware of a corruption not only in our concrete choices and loves, but underlying our very attempts and desires to love. In various philosophies (Buddhism and Gnosticism are cited) we can try to get over these failing and limitations by universalizing "love," but in doing so we abstract it away from the concrete, finite differences and realities we find in one another. Christianity, Von Balthasar argues, says that the essential act of God on our behalf cannot be understood (or anticipated) apart from itself. It will only become an evident love of God's in the face of an undeniable, unabstracted Concrete: other people.
V. The love of God prepares one for its recognition. A prevenient grace allows for this, a unilateral action for all humanity on God's behalf. The marriage image is utilized as basic and true of all love. Free choice--enabled by grace--is recognized as constitutive of this love. Mary's choice being the great model of this. Only then in this love and choice can it be fully realized, perceived and discussed.
Everybody got that? To be continued....