Christ and Analogy: The Metaphysics of Hans Urs von Balthasar

This was A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Yale University, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2010. It is available through


The current project is an attempt to reconstruct the metaphysics of Hans Urs von Balthasar. The task is largely to present from his opus magnum (a triptych encompassing Herrlichkeit, Theodrama and Theologik) the positions that must be understood if one is to understand the project as a whole, and to present them in the form of deductions from first principles.

Therefore, taking von Balthasar’s starting point in the person of Jesus Christ as the metaphysical first principle, the first question is to ask what the relationship between that reality and the created world is. This question is answered in general terms as being one of participation. This general answer is then set in contrast to theologies of identity, in which God and the world are ultimately reducible to one another, a contrast which highlights that the relationship between Christ and the world that von Balthasar wants is one of analogy.

The specific notion of analogy von Balthasar is working with is one that requires a robust place for historicity—accordingly, some time is spent establishing the historical dimensions of the Incarnate Christ. This enables the understanding of analogy as likeness within greater unlikeness to emerge, an understanding which roots the unlikeness in the aseity of God. This in turn grounds a likeness whose strength will be seen in the way that creatures in their being image the Trinity. The theological upshot is a view of the divine activity in which every action of God from Trinitarian procession to final redemption is seen as self-giving, which is understood as the fundamental character of divine love.