Reading von Balthasar one finds many of the same concerns and interests that motivated a number of other mid-twentieth century theologians, Catholic or Protestant. But in von Balthasar one hears such a different theological voice coming through, and this is surely because of von Balthasar’s immersion in patristic writers. As Ben Quash puts it, Balthasar found in the patristic writers “‘mystical warmth’ and ‘rhetorical power,’ and no fear of paradox. He found a genuinely prayerful theology; a reverent relationship to God and a sense of his dynamism and freedom.” In von Balthasar God is free and unconstrained by late modern notions of causation or agency; God’s own self-engagement with humanity can only be characterized—as von Balthasar will emphasize time and again—as “excess”, the “ever-greater”, the “yet more”.
Only God, acting in Christ, takes man’s finitude, guilt, and death seriously into account. He does not stand aloof in contempt for the things of this world and the activities to which it is tragically committed, in order to resettle man in a spiritual world on the other side; he relates the whole fiasco of life in this world to the beyond, so that it makes sense, making all man’s troubles in the world the foundation of his work of resurrection, salvaging the ‘mark of the nails’ (Jn. 20:25) in the glory of eternal life. The sweat and blood of man were not in vain; God acting freely salvages everything when the world is cast in its final and perfect form. Hence in the solution that God offers to this mystery which is man, the tensions still exist, and no aspect of man’s being is merely suppressed. For God is great enough to embrace this eternally open being in the ever greater expanse of his own openness (Engagement with God: The Drama of Christian Discipleship , 84)