Earlier I discussed Johann Baptist Metz’s critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar on the basis of his alleged tendency to “sublate” the history of human suffering into the Trinitarian history of God in such a way that the particular historical character of such suffering is glossed over. I think that ultimately such a criticsm of Balthasar fails to really find its target. For Balthasar, the self-dispossessing, kenotic love of the Trinitarian God made known in Christ doest not give us a conceptual system that harmonizes the horrors of human existence and sin with the infinite redeeming love of God. As Balthasar says in his superb little summa, Love Alone is Credible:
“We are therefore not required to bring a systematically conceived hell into harmony with the love of God and make it credible, or indeed to justify it conceptually as love (and perhaps merely as the revelation of self-glorifying divine justice), because no such system could be constructed out of a possible “knowledge” apart from or beyond love and at the same time related to it. We are required only not to let go of love, he love that believes and hopes and through both is suspended in the air so that its Christian wings may grow. Soaring in the air, I also necessarily experience the abyss below, which is only part of my own flight.”
For Balthasar, the claim that the infinite love of the Trinitarian God has entered into the fullest depths of human suffering and hell does not offer a conceptual justification for such suffering and sorrow, but rather speaks a word of vulnerable hope into the abyss of death that may be believed and acted upon. It seems to me that Balthasar and Metz are actually after exactly the same thing, an apocalyptic proclamation of the radical newness promised in the future of the God of Jesus Christ. Neither seek to justify or escape the abyss of human suffering, but rather seek to continue to traverse it in hope that the all-consuming love of the Triune God may be found therein.