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
"Sees deeply into the 'theo-poetic' or symbol-laden lattice-work of Hans Urs von Balthasar's writings and so discovers for the sake of its readers the rigorous and multiple notions of distance that bind together Balthasar's cosmological, Christological, eschatological, and trinitarian theorizing. It contains in its pages a passion for Balthasar and indeed for his critics, but it is moved most of all by a doxological passion that seeks to confess the reality of the Triune God."~Anne M. Carpenter, St. Mary's College of California
"With striking subtlety, academic rigor, and literary acumen, Christopher Hadley presents a masterly study of Balthasar’s trinitarian theology that invites prayer and reflection as much as it does intellectual engagement and dialogue. Readers will be drawn deeper into the divine mystery of God’s paradoxical distance and immanence, guided through Balthasar’s expansive thought by Hadley’s knowledgeable navigation and insight. This book is a major contribution to Balthasar studies and fundamental theology and is a must-read text for anybody interested in twentieth-century Catholic theology."~Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind.
"Skillfully displays the imperative, meticulous work of tracing the development and interplay of Balthasar’s reliance on four related senses of ‘distance’ in his elaborate and much debated trinitarian theology. With an appreciative and critical hermeneutical eye, Hadley details Balthasar’s noteworthy receptions of Gregory of Nyssa’s, Maximus the Confessor’s, and Barth’s invocations of distance at the same time responsibly singling out the gender-essentialist barriers Balthasar erects that impair the richest expression of trinitarian distance-in-relationship. This study hears and honors the significance of Balthasar’s theological contribution and the equal importance of feminist theologians’ critiques of where Balthasar falls short, giving us a welcome performance of a further movement in the symphony of distances."~Danielle Nussberger, Marquette University
" A Symphony of Distances does not simply make a compelling case for the centrality of the theme of diastasis in Balthasar; it does so with impressive nuance, accessibility, and range. One of the book’s primary strengths is how it retrieves Balthasar’s early patristic work on Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor as a productive lens for rereading problematic elements of the later trilogy within the long arc of Balthasar’s oeuvre. Hadley’s book—at once about metaphysics, grace, Christology, Trinitarian theology, pneumatology, and theological anthropology—represents a balanced but resolute challenge to Balthasar’s importation of sexual difference into the immanent Trinity as a methodological outlier to his more capacious theology of distance."~Jennifer Newsome Martin, University of Notre Dame
"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