The two-fold task of A Symphony of Distances is to provide an overview of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s use of distance imagery with regard to personal distinctions in the Holy Trinity and to offer a critical analysis of him as a modern Catholic theologian.
A metaphor of "distance" integrates all of Balthasar’s theological thought as a primary cipher for the many symbols through which he reads the Christian theological tradition in a trinitarian and eschatological mode. The book follows a chronological, four-stage development of Balthasar’s trinitarianism through the lens of this distance metaphor as it occurs across representative texts. The critical analysis employs the conceit of a symphony of four musical movements that correspond to four varieties of theological distance. These distances show certain correspondences of God’s creation and redemption of the world—marked by the first two "distances"—with the relations of the divine persons to each other in the economy of salvation and in the eternal Trinity itself—marked by the third and fourth distances. "Listening" to the four movements of Balthasar’s theological distances enables his readers to "hear" the themes of all four movements in the ascending order of richness, complexity, and inclusivity over the long development of his thought.
This fundamentally positive approach of A Symphony of Distances allows for a thorough critique of the internal consistency of Balthasar’s applied method, of the controversial use of gendered trinitarian notions in his speculations on divine pathos, and of his adequacy to the tasks of modern theology. The final judgment is that Balthasar’s theology of distance can be accepted, with reservations, as a positive element of his contribution to contemporary trinitarian theology. The book can thus serve as a critical reference for readers who find Balthasar’s notion of trinitarian distance, and indeed his trinitarianism as a whole, to be compelling, confusing, or frustrating.
"This book gives a fresh reading of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology through the pivotal category of 'distance,' tying together different aspects and phases of his work. It sheds new light on his patristic ressourcement, his ecumenical dialogue with Karl Barth, his reading of scripture, and his theological collaboration with Adrienne von Speyr. An all-around wonderful contribution to trinitarian theology."~Andrew Prevot, Boston College