Pope John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) both held Hans Urs von Balthasar in high regard. Many assume that their praise of Balthasar indicates approval of his controversial theology of Holy Saturday, but this book by Lyra Pitstick shows that conclusion to be far from accurate.
Pitstick looks at what John Paul II, Ratzinger, and Balthasar have in fact said regarding the creedal affirmation that Christ “descended into hell,” and she shows that there are radical differences in their views. She then addresses a number of important questions that follow from these differences.
This careful, concise exploration of what three of the twentieth century’s most famous Catholic theologians had to say about Christ’s descent into hell provides an accessible take on a difficult point of theological debate.
The truth that Christ ‘descended into hell’ to crush the powers of evil and to lead into heaven those who had died longing for Him is weak in the consciousness of many modern Western Christians, and into this vacuum have come theologies of the descent such as Balthasar’s. . . . Lyra Pitstick’s work is extraordinarily timely, since she firmly lays to rest any claims that, on this issue, Balthasar had the agreement of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Her work is both accurate and supportive of authentic devotion.
—Richard Conrad, OP, Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars, Oxford
This is a very fine piece of scholarship, evincing an authentic quest for truth. It treats one of the topics mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed, the serious study of which has been compromised by the influence of a certain pseudo-mysticism on the part of the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. . . . Pitstick’s work is an excellent exercise of theological method, faithful to Christian revelation as transmitted by the Magisterium and elaborated in a clear, critical, systematic way. It is accessible not only to theologians but to all those wanting to deepen their understanding of the Apostles' Creed.
—Manfred Hauke, University of Lugano, Switzerland
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Lyra Pitstick is an associate professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado. Her book Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell won a John Templeton Award for Theological Promise.