Thursday, November 30, 2023

Faith is not belief without evidence

I am tired of hearing atheists say "faith is believing things without evidence." No definition of faith in Christianity says that.Let's Get this out of the way up front. Heb 11:1: faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the argument (argumentum) of things that are not apparent.Most translations say "evidence of things not seen."This does not say faith is belief without evidence it says faith itself is a kind of evidence because it points to the reality that caused one to have faith.

The most important dictionary in theology is the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. There are two kinds, one for theologians and one for ideas. Let's consult the latter.

faith (Gr. pistis, Lat. fides, “trust,” “belief”) In Christianity, belief, trust, and obedience to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is the means of salvation (Eph. 2:8–9) or eternal life (John 6:40). Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will. See also salvation.[1]

According to that definition there is nothing like a lack of evidence. There Is no hint that faith involves a lack of evidence. Consulting the same source for different uses of the term "faith:"

faith, explicit (Lat. fides explicita) Faith in that of which one has knowledge. Thus the term may be understood as referring to what one professes to believe because of what is known.[2]

Here faith is equated with knowledge. Since evidence involves knowledge and builds on knowledge it would seem that faith is actually dependent upon evidence rather than being without it.

faith, implicit (Lat. fides implicita) The Roman Catholic view that one believes as true “what the church believes,” even without certain knowledge. It was rejected by the Protestant Reformers as a true faith because the element of knowledge was lacking.[3]

The Catholic view seems closer to being without evidence, but not an exact fit. In any case that view was rejected by the reformers and is not really compatible with the Protestant view.The Protestant view rests upon knowledge, which again, would have to involve evidence at some point. Thus direct contradiction to the atheist bromide.

Then we turn to the protestant notion of "saving faith." That is faith that saves. Remember Paul tells us salvation is by Grace through faith:“For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).[4]

faith, saving. The gift of God through the Holy Spirit whereby one accepts and believes the promises of the Gospel as the reception of salvation through the life and the work of Jesus Christ. One is incorporated into Christ, participates in his benefits, and is an heir of eternal life. [4]

No indication is given that there is no preliminary basis for belief which might involve evidence.Before one can trust God one must believe that God is. None of these definitions preclude basing that initial belief upon evidence. It is after one accepts the conviction that God is real that faith might supersede evidence in matters such as trusting God for salvation.

Let's turn to some major figures in Christian theology to see if they define faith as belief without evidence:

St. Augustine

Faith, to Augustine, is a humble posture of seeking and confession, in which the individual confesses their sin and brokenness before God, and by his Grace, is cleansed. The individual surrenders to the God who is already present in the soul. This initial work begins the process of cleansing the soul so that it can see clearly. As the individual continues to seek God, the soul is continually cleansed as a gracious process, which slowly flakes away the filth of the Fall. Augustine believed that much could be known through Platonic meditation: eternal things and God’s presence could be apprehended, but God could be known only for a moment.[5]

Thomas Aquinas

Popular accounts of religion sometimes construe faith as a blind, uncritical acceptance of myopic doctrine. According to Richard Dawkins, “faith is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence...Such a view of faith might resonate with contemporary skeptics of religion. But as we shall see, this view is not remotely like the one Aquinas—or historic Christianity for that matter—endorses.

To begin with, Aquinas takes faith to be an intellectual virtue or habit, the object of which is God (ST IIaIIae 1.1; 4.2). There are other things that fall under the purview of faith, such as the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. But we do not affirm these specific doctrines unless they have some relation to God. According to Aquinas, these doctrines serve to explicate God’s nature and provide us with a richer understanding of the one in whom our perfect happiness consists (Ibid.).[6]

Here again knowledge, an intellectual thing, compatible with evidence. How could faith be based upon knowledge and be an intellectual act and yet without evidence? By intellectual he means one consciously assents to belief.

Marin Luther

... faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.[7]

John Wesley

With a deep conviction, Wesley repeatedly stresses the necessity of faith. ‘Saving faith is a sure trust and confidence which a man has in God, that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he is reconciled to the favour of God.’1 It is also clear that Wesley sees faith as a gift of God, although he does not emphasize that very much.[8]

There is an initial coming to faith where one decides "I do believe in God." In that stage evidence is not a contradiction to belief. Most of the activity of faith involves personal trust in God's salvation and his providential care. In this regard evidece is irrelivant, unless we want to think of the content of personal experience of God as evidence.It is evidence of God's goodness. I think for the most part evidence is irrelevant to faith. Faith is not belief without evidence, it's the content of a relationship with God and is based upon the private experience of God's love.


[1] "Faith," The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms,SECOND EDITION, Revised and Expanded,Donald K. McKim ed.,Louiscille Kentucky:John Knox Press, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mark Hansard, "Faith and Reason, Part 2 Augustine," Intervaristy: Emerging Scholars Network, (August 18,2018)

[6]Shawn Floyd,"Aquinas Philosoph8ical Theology,"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosphy,

[7]An excerpt from "An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans," Luther's German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546.

Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER'S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]

[8]J. W. Maris, "John Wesley's Concept of Faith," Christian Library taken from Lux Mundi 2010

Joseph Hinman's new book is God, Science and Ideology. Hinman argues that atheists and skeptics who use science as a barrier to belief in God are not basing doubt on science itself but upon an ideology that adherer's to science in certain instances. This ideology, "scientism," assumes that science is the only valid form of knowledge and rules out religious belief. Hinman argues that science is neutral with respect to belief in God … In this book Hinman with atheist positions on topics such as consciousness and the nature of knowledge, puts to rest to arguments of Lawrence M. Krauss, Victor J. Stenger, and Richard Dawkins, and delimits the areas for potential God arguments.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Sunday, November 26, 2023

"The Bible is Just Mythology"

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology[1] we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible[2] 1976).

But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God. The mythological elements are more common in the early books of the Bible. The material becomes more historical as we go along. How do we know? Because the mythical elements of the first account immediately drop away. Elements such as the talking serpent, the timeless time ("in the beginning"), the firmament and other aspects of the myth all drop away. The firmament was the ancient world's notion of the world itself. It was a flat earth set upon angular pillars, with a dome over it. On the inside of the dome stars were stuck on, and it contained doors in the dome through which snow and rain could be forced through by the gods (that's why Genesis says "he divided the waters above the firmament from the waters below”). We are clearly in a mythological world in Genesis. The Great flood is mythology as well, as all nations have their flood myths. But as we move through the Bible things become more historical.

The NT is not mythological at all. The Resurrection of Christ is an historical event and can be argued as such (see Resurrection page). Christ is a flesh and blood historical person who can be validated as having existed. The resurrection is set in an historical setting, names, dates, places are all historically verifiable and many have been validated. So the major point I'm making is that God uses myth to communicate to humanity. The mythical elements create the sort of psychological healing and force of literary strength and guidance that any mythos conjures up. God is novelist, he inspires myth. That is to say, the inner experience model led the redactors to remake ancient myth with a divine message. But the Bible is not all mythology; in fact most of it is an historical record and has been largely validated as such.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no need to argue evolution or the great flood. Evolution is just a scientific understanding of the development of life. It doesn't contradict the true account because we don't have a "true" scientific account. In Genesis, God was not trying to write a science text book. We are not told how life developed after creation. That is a point of concern for science not theology.

How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? Not because it contains big amazing miracle prophecy fulfillments, not because it reveals scientific information which no one could know at the time of writing, but for the simplest of reasons. Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.


[1]C.G. Jung and Carl Kerenyi, Essays on a Science of MythologyOakton VAL Mythos, 1969. [2] Gaalya Cornfeld, Archaeology of the Bible Book by Book,New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Interview with Randal Rauser
I am under the weather so I don't feel like prepearing a real essay tonight. This is my Randal Rouser interview about my secomd book. It's on his site,this is the link.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Evolutionary Development of The God Concept part 1

An Atheist on Cadre blog linked to a Wiki article (an article flagged as needing work be that as it may) saying:

Barbara King argues that while non-human primates are not religious, they do exhibit some traits that would have been necessary for the evolution of religion. These traits include high intelligence, a capacity for symbolic communication, a sense of social norms, realization of "self" and a concept of continuity.[1][2] There is inconclusive evidence that Homo neanderthalensis may have buried their dead which is evidence of the use of ritual. The use of burial rituals is thought to be evidence of religious activity, and there is no other evidence that religion existed in human culture before humans reached behavioral modernity.

That is supposed to prove that religion is made up entirely by humans with no God involved. I suggest that evolutionary nature of religion in and of itself is not enough to rule out God,After all of God users evolution in creation then we should expect God to allow evolutionary nature of religion to shape human development. Here is my article (part 1) showing how the evolutionary nature of religious development is not contrary to God.

All experiences of the divine must be filtered through cultural constructs, or symbols. God is beyond our understanding, thus beyond language. If we are talk about our experiences, however badly, we must filter them through culture.

RELIGION, although inherent in man, borrows its expressions from the setting or milieu in which man appears. The forms through which man expresses the supernatural are all drawn from the cultural heritage and the environment known to him, and are structured according to his dominant patterns of experience.In a hunting culture this means that the main target of observation, the animal, is the ferment of suggestive influence on representations of the supernatural. This must not be interpreted as meaning that all ideas of the supernatural necessarily take animal form. First of all, spirits do appear also as human beings, although generally less frequently; the high-god, for instance, if he exists, is often thought of as a being of human appearance. Second, although spirits may manifest themselves as animals they may evince a human character and often also human modes of action.[1]

Narrative is psychologically important to humans because it enables us to put things in perspective, to put ourselves into the story and to understand. Anything can be narrative. Even when events are taken as historical and the consciousness of myth falls away, the narrative is no less naratival. The resurrection of Christ, the existence of Jesus and his claims to be Messiah, all I take to be history and truth. Yet these are also part of the meta-narrative of Christianity. The meat-narrative is not closed or not an ideology or truth regime as long as it can be open to outside voices and to adult itself to them. For that reason the narrative hast to be fluid. The reason for this is that it has to explain the word in a new way to each new generation. To the extent that it can keep doing this it continues to be relevant and survives. This is equivalent to Kuhn’s paradigm absorbing the anomalies. Even when a certain set of fact is held out as historical and more that, but “the truth” such as Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, there is still an interpretation, a spin an understanding of just exactly how to put it, that varies from time to time and culture to culture. The facts of the event don’t change, the historical significance of it doesn’t change, but the way of relating it to each generation anew does change. This is not say that ideology doesn’t change, but the change is much slower and less obvious and less fluid. Even when the meta-narrative of a given religious tradition features factual material it’s not closed in the sense that ideology is closed and it’s still fluid.

This is not to say that religious traditions don’t get infected with ideology. When traditions take on ideology they usually form something more than Orthodoxy, something like “fundamentalism.” Orthodoxy is just the recognition of stable boundaries that ground the fluid nature of the narrative in expression of continuity. While ideology seeks to create a black hole, like the eternal conflict between communism and anti-communism, that absorbs all light and allows nothing to escape; the attempt to suck everything in one eternal understanding. Ideology in religious tradition probably is most often he result of literalizing the metaphors. When we forget that the metaphor bridges the gap between what we know and we don’t know—through comparison--and that it contains a “like” and a “not-like” dimension, we begin to associate the metaphor with truth in literal way then we begin to formulate ideology. Critics of religious thinking might be apt to confuse dogma with ideology. Religious ideas are not automatically ideological, dogma is not automatically ideological. It’s the literalistic elements in some religious thinking (not all of course) that closes off the realm of discourse and crates a closed truth regime. The danger of form ideology may be acute in a religious setting since it is easy to confuse the metaphor with literal truth by casting over it the aura of the sacred. We often associate the things pertaining to belief in God with God, and in so doing forger a literalism that closes off discourse. Yet religious belief as a whole is too fluid to be fully ideological. Ideology is self protecting and self perpetuating. Thomas Kuhn’s talk about damage control in paradigm defense is a good example of the self defending nature of ideology. While meta-narrative often reflects concepts of divine truth, it’s too changeable to be ideological. Even though theology resists change and novelty is a bad thing in theological parlance, meta-narrative changes in spite of it all. The fact of changed is noted in the many examples of different versions of the same myth. One such change turns upon a burning question that must be raised at this point, why did religious thinking move from numatic realization to a theocentric nature?

Why “God?” The same can be asked of the female form? Why a pseudo-parental, suzerain figure who creates the world and is in charge of the cosmos? Why not, since this model is obviously a metaphor comparing the unknown with some aspect of reality we know well, why that aspect and not another? What did people worship before they worshipped gods? Anthropology tells us that the shamanistic style of animism is older than the concept of a creator god.[2] This form of belief dates back to the stone age. Native American tribe “Shosoni, like other hunting people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, have an idea of a “master of the animals,” or an “owner,” a supernatural being who is in charge of the animals:

Hunting peoples in Africa, Europe, Asia and America have developed the idea of a supernatural owner of the animal species, or of all animals, who protects them, commands them, and at request from hunters delivers them to be slayed and eaten. The concept is not infrequent in North America. The master of animals is a spirit, generally figured as an animal. The Shoshoni have possibly in very remote times known the coyote, or rather the mythical Coyote, as a master of animals. With the impact of Plains Indian culture the buffalo and the eagle have halfway achieved the position as master of animals and master of birds, respectively. In all fairness it should be pointed out, however, that this type of concept is very little noticeable among the Shoshoni.[3]

We must be cautious but since “shamanism” is connected to animism this owner of the animals might imply a transition between animistic thinking and beliefs in gods. We can’t say that all religions evolved in the same way in every location, but it does seem that in general it was an evolution from nameless “spirits” to specific pantheon of gods. The development of the concept of God was probably influenced by thoughts of parents, of tribal chiefs, or the leader, long before they became complex enough to fit a suzerain model. Yet it does seem that the concept of God evolved out of an understanding of nature oriented religion and evolved slowly over time based upon comparison with the authority figures we know best in life.

In his work The Evolution of God,[4] Robert Wright distills the work of anthropology over the last two centuries and demonstrates an evolutionary development, form early superstition that personified nature (pre-historic people talking to the wind)[5], through a polytheistic origin in pre-Hebrew Israelite culture,[6] to monotheistic innovation with the God of the Bible.[7] Wright is distilling a huge body of work that stretches back to the ninetieth century, the work of countless archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists. Another such successful distiller of scholarship in recent years is Karen Armstrong. In her work A History of God: The 4000 year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, [8] she presents a similar evolutionary story, focusing specifically upon the Biblical religions. She sees the pre-historical religious scene through the eyes of wonderment at the world around us. The cave paintings she understands as an attempt to record participation in the all pervasive aspect of the enchanted world.[9] The general agreement between scholarship, social sciences, and the work of anthropologists is that the concept of God is a product of the evolution of human thought.[10] At one time the concept was not, then it began and it has developed over time. Of course the great body of this work is coming out of naturalistic assumptions, especially in the ninetieth century. In the anthropological study of the evolution of religion those assumptions centered around the concept of projection in human thinking. People are projecting the relationship with the father or the king. This assumption can be traced to the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, social critic and precursor to Marxian analysis (God is the mask of money). He understood the concept of projection in terms of Hegel’s philosophy of spirit.[11] In The Essence of Christianity Feuerbach argues that superhuman deities are involuntary projections based upon the attributes of human nature.[12] How this thesis came to be the basis of modern anthropological understanding of religious evolution is not hard to seek. As Harvey puts it “It became the Bible to a group of revolutionary thinkers including, Arnold Ruge, the Bauers, Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Frederic Engles.[13] This circle became a major part of the basis of modern social thought. While modern anthropology has not necessarily played out Feuerbach’s actual inversion of Hegel it has taken its que from him by making assumptions about theoroes of prodjection of one kind or another. Hegel did not think of God as some projection of human imagination. Feuerbach inverted Hegel’s concept to produce the idea. Hegel understood stages of human culture as “moments in the unfolding of absolute spirit.”[14] Thus, as Harvey points out, the various stages in religious development can be seen as stages in the self manifestation of Spirit.[15] In other words, from the cave paintings, to the shamans and the wind talkers to the highest aspirations of Judo-Christian ethics, Spirit (God), is making himself aware of himself by moving through progressive revelation to humanity. “In other words, the history of religion culminating in Christianity was a progressive revelation of the truth that the absolute is not merely an impersonal substance but a subject.”[16] Feuerbach inverts this principal by asserting that finite spirit is becoming aware of itself through externalizing its own attributes and then projecting them into magnified from.[17] On Feuerbach’s part this was the result of a long struggle with idealism. Be that as it may, and for both sides, it’s clearly the roots of ideology. It sowed the seeds of ideology in terms of the social sciences naturalistic assumptions. Now we find those same kinds of assumptions being made with regard to the laws of physics. Paul Davies has been quoted to say that the traditional view of the laws of physics are just seventeenth century monotheism without God, “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,”[18] The assumption of modernity is always that belief in God is dying out, religion is of the past, these are the things that are dying. Armstrong sounds the death knell and starts singing the dirge in first book. She observes that “one of the reasons why religion seems irrelevant today is that many of us no longer have the sense that we are surrounded by the unseen.”[19] It’s so irrelevant she’s writing books about it.As Thomas Borges, the Sandinista leader said, "that God refuses to die."20

(Original publication Tuesday, March 21, 2017) sources

[1] Ake Hultkrantz, “Attitudes Toward Animals in Shashoni Indian Religion,” Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2. (Spring, 1970) © World Wisdom, Inc. no page listed,online archive, URL:, accessed 3/21/13

[2] Weston La Barre, “Shamanic Origins of Religion and Medicine,” Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, vol 11, (1-2) Jan. June 1979 no page listed, PDF, URL: accessed 3/22/13.

[3] Hultkrantz, op. cit. the author also cites other works by himself on the matter: Cf. Hultkrantz, The Owner of the Animals in the Religion of the North American Indians (in Hultkrantz, ed., The Supernatural Owners of Nature, Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 1, 1961). Hultkrantz, The Masters of the Animals among the Wind River Shoshoni (Ethnos, Vol. 26:4, 1961).

[4] Robert Wright, The Evolution of God, New York: Back Bay Books, reprint edition, 2010. The book was Originally published in 2009. The company “Back Bay books:" is an imprint of Hachette Books, through Little Brown and company. Wright studied sociobiology at Princeton and taught at Princeton and University of Pennsyania. He edits New Republic and does journalistic writing of science, especially sociobiology.

[5] Wright, ibid, 9 [6] ibid. 10 [7] ibid, 11 [8] Karen Armstrong, A History of God: The 4000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994. [9] Ibid, 4-6 [10] T. M. Manickam,, Dharma According Manu and Moses, Bangalore : Dharmaram Publications, 1977,6. [11] Van A. Harvey, Feuerbach and The Interpretation of Religion, Carmbridge: Press Syndicate for the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought, 1995/1997, 4. Harvey is professor emeritus, taught religious studies at Stanford Univesity. His Ph.D. from Yale in 1957. His thesis supervisor was H.Richard Neibhur.

[12] Cited by Harvey, ibid., 25.

[13] ibid, 26

. [14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

[16] ibid.
[17] ibid, 27

[18] Dennis Overbye, quoting email message from Paul Davies, “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown,” “Science” New York Times. December 19, 2007. on line edition URL: accessed, 3/25/13.

[19] Armstrong, op.cit. 4.

[20]Redding, What Difference does a revolution make? I no longer have the book and can't find a reference to it. He quoted the famous leader of the Sandinistas, the founder of their party. Borge wrote to other revolutionaries with the proposal of a united front. He was a Christian even though he was a communist revolutionary.He wrote ro Father Ernesto Cardinal and told him "I tried to kill a God I thought oppressed the poor but God would not die." He tried to be a communist atheist but God kept coming back in his heart. Instead God led him to reach out to mainstream reformers.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Being itself, and the Personal God.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988) I feel like I talk too much about Tillich and not enough about other theologians who agreed that God is being itself. Balthasar is not as well known but is as deeply respected as Tillich in Catholic circles. He believed God is being itself and personal.

Balthasar one of the most interesting and brilliant figures of the twentieth century, yet hardly anyone has heard of him outside the confines of academic theology. Even most theological students in the Proestant world are not very familiar with his works. He was a friend of John Paul II, called “the most cultured man of our time by Henri de Lubac. His achievements are called ‘breathtaking’ my one of the major catholic theologians of the century, Carl Rahner.[1] He wrote over a thousand books and articles. He was born in Lucerne Switzerland, 1905, and Grew up a Catholic, son of a pious mother.[2] He took his doctorate from the Liberal Protestant University of Zurich, having grown up educated by Benedictines and Jesuits. He became a Jesuit priest. He worked as a student Chaplin in the 30s. He became good friends with Protestant theologian Karl Barth, one of the greats of the century.

Balthasar was unable to work as a full fledged Jesuit priest due to the war years and the arrangement the government had between Protestants and Catholics, he was seen as belonging to the area of south Germany. He made a living as a translator and lecturer and editor. He ran publications and started a spiritual community. He spent most of his adult life this way, in association with a woman named Speyr who was never recognized as a mystic by the church. He had miracles and visions but being unrecognized, Balthasar’s community was not accepted and he was unable to gain a post. This situation dominated his life in the 40s,50’s, and 60s. He had to leave the Jesuits. He also lectured in these years on spiritual topics and made a living that way, but his health deteriorated as a result. In the 60s he began to be recognized as a theologian and was given honors and doctorates. In 1988 John Paul II made him a cardinal. That was also the year of his death. His community of st. John was a publishing house and he ran a journal called Communio. These eventually found great success in the 70s and were recognized by the Vatican. The major avenue to his success was his books and his lectures.[3]

Balthasar’s overall theological project centers upon the dualities between human conflict with ourselves and our place in being. Examples of the dualities that fascinate Balthasar include: our own contingency and that of the world around us in contrast to the sense of being itself.[4] Balthasar openly and obvious equates being with God. In his work about Balthasar’s live, David L. Schindler includes a short article by Balthasar himself called “a Resume of my Thought.”[5]-] He begins this “resume” by talking about the dilemma between human contingency and limitation in contrast to the infinite nature of being. This does not necessitate asserting God up fornt although he’s not concerned with a “proof.” His thesis is that all human philosophy either explicitly or tacitly concerns itself with this topic and by implication tacitly affirms the infinite and the absolute.[6] He comes to the conclusion that the duality is inescapable. The finite is not the infinite. Even the monism of the east is seen through nuanced dualities. Thus he asks the question “why are we not God?” The basis of the question is that we are aspects of being. We are products of being, yet we are contingent being, Why are we contingent and not necessary? The solutions that he ponders seem to end in one way or another with an indignant God creating a finite world out of need or alienation from his own infinity. He finds that only the God of the Bible offers a satisfactory answer, and that answer is in a sense the opposite of what we would think.

The common human tendency is to think God created because he needed something. Balthasar is hinting, I think, that God creates because its his nature as being to foment more being, in other words, its creative and God is Creative. It is not for God’s need that he creates but for what will become our need once we are created. In other words, God created us so that we can enjoy being, not because he needed us because once a part of being we would need and would be fulfilled in the need by love. No Philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question [why did infinte create finite?] St Paul would say to philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to obtain the Divine. That is why all pre Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand this God, creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. “I who have created the eye do not see? I who have created the ear do not hear?” And we add who who have created language, could not speak and make myself heard?” This posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is Biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.[7]Notice how he capitalizes “B” in being and refers to being as “himself.” He personifies being and clearly speaks of it as the creator.

Balthasar sees the understanding of the revelation of “being himself” (my phrase based upon his) to humanity as rooted in the most fundamental human relationship. He says, “the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited opens unto him.”[8] What he means by that is it is only through being por soir, for itself, in other words, consciousness, that we are able to comprehend the infinite and that only in contrast to the finite. Before we can do that, however, we have to become aware of ourselves so we can know we are finite. I think he’s making an implication that love is a link to being itself, and that through our encounter with love, the mother, we encounter the father, so to speak—by way of encountering love. We can see this in four truths that Balthasar finds rooted in this encounter: (1) realizing that he Is other to the mother, the only way the child realizes he loves the mother; (2) love is good, therefore, being is good; (3) love is true, therefore, being is true; (4) love evokes joy therefore being is beautiful.[9] Notice the link between being and love. He is one of the rare theologians to point out this curial link.The one, the true, the good, the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of being, because they surpass all the limits of essence, and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals—between those of the creature and those in God.[10] In this quotation he as much as equates being and God, since he speaks of the attributes of being then connects the understanding of these to the link between God and the creature. There is more to be said about Balthasar based upon this observation and it will figure importantly in two more chapters, including the last one, and the over all conclusion.

Balthasar confirms for me so many things I thought but didn't have the courage to say, or that I "sort of thought" but didn't have the intellect to formulate. I think he boldly and unabashedly resoled the problem of paradox between personal God and being itself. He was the first to show me the link bewteen being and love (although Tillich does mention it but I saw it in Balthasar first). He capitalizes "B" in "Being" and speak of Being a "he." The idea that God created not becasue he "needed to" but becasue his nature is creative.

[1] Joel Graver, “a Short Biography,” website:Hans Urs Von Balthasar, an Internet Archieve. URL sighted: (visited 12/3/10).

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, “overview of Balthasar’s project: URL:

[5] Hans Urs Von Balthasar, “A Resume of my Thought,” in David L. Schindler, Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco:Ignatious Press, 1991, on like version p1-2 URL:

[6] Ibid, 1

[7] Ibid., 3

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

Posted by Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) at 5:22 AM Labels: apologetics, being itself, existential theology, God takl, Hans urs Von Balthasar, Paul Tillich, Personal God, philosophy of religoin