Flesh

So, I have this class on the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. The more I read the more disturbed I become at his view of God. But, maybe more frightening is his view of human nature.

He isn't the only person in this contemporary era to have a flawed understanding of human nature. Think about your own human nature. What comes to mind? It's complicated, right? But, most of us, if we are honest, will recognize a stark dichotomy within us. We will see a lot of beauty and mystery. Man is a wondrous animal. Look at the art! Look at the thought! The heights of human goodness transcend the tips of the mountains. Yet, at the same time, our depths are depraved. Aquinas even states that man without law devolves to behavior lower than the brute animals. The atrocities that we are capable of are worse than demonic. Yet, the disorder, the depravity, is not properly part of our nature.

The doctrine of Original Sin is essential for understanding man and Christ. Our proper nature, our original nature, does not possess the disordered passions that we currently experience. It does not possess the weakened will that we have. It does not possess the dulled intellect. These characteristics that we all experience are not proper to our nature. They are results of the sin of Adam. Our nature has been distorted.

Now, this is important for us because it lets us know important information about ourselves in treating the illness of vice and sin. But, it also let's us know what Mary is not. Mary, remember, because of the Immaculate Conception, does not participate in Original Sin. Those three things are not present in her. She is as Adam and Eve were before the fall. This is important because it tells us something about Christ. Christ received his human nature from Mary. He inherited from her a human nature undefiled by Original Sin.

So here is the problem with von Balthasar on this point. He presents to us a flawed image of Christ's humanity. In his work "The Heart of the World" he presents Christ as having experienced irrational disordered emotions. It is important to not get confused here. Emotions are good. They are part of our nature. The problem after the fall is that they are no longer harmoniously ordered by reason. It is this sort of humanity, fallen humanity, that he attributes to the person of Christ. This is a serious error. 

The motivation for this is to try and present a God who experiences the same disordered state that we experience in the face of tragedy. But, the reality is very different. Christ is the savior not because he experiences exactly what we experience. Christ is the savior because he takes all things that are proper to man and through his redemptive act in the Paschal Mystery he restores the right relationship between God and man. He redeems what is proper to the human nature. He does not redeem what is not proper to the human nature. In the resurrection those things that are improper to human nature will no longer adhere to us. They have no part in Christ.

We must take seriously the statement that Christ was like us in all ways except sin. All the debates about the knowledge of Christ, the will of the Christ, the affective life of Christ in our contemporary time are colored by this same impoverished understanding of human nature like that found in von Balthasar. We must resist this temptation.