The Pope, the Cardinal, and the Jesuit: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on Christ’s Descent into Hell (query manuscript)

Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007).

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  • For a quick introduction to the issues at stake, one might take a look at some book reviews. Positive reviews include the following:
    • Manfred Hauke, in: Rivista Teologica di Lugano (November, 2009): 536-40 (in Italian).
    • Anne Barbeau Gardiner, “Balthasar, Christ’s Descent, and the Empty Hell,” in: New Oxford Review (July-August, 2007).
    • Cyril O’Regan, in: Religious Studies Review (September, 2008): 177.
  • Reviews by authors who disagree with my methodology or conclusions include these:
    • John D. O’Connor, O.P., in: New Blackfriars, 88 (November, 2007) 1018: 745-47.
    • Markwart Herzog, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung, 133 (2008) 10 (in German).
    • Mark A. McInstosh, in: Modern Theology, 24 (January, 2008) 1: 137-39.


NOTE: Please contact me if you are interested in reproducing articles. Articles may not be reproduced without permission. All works are copyright of the author, except as otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

“Response to Webster and Lauber,” Response to Karl Barth Society Panel, Scottish Journal of Theology, 62 (May 2009) 2: 211-216.

  • This article is the abridged version of my response to the Karl Barth Society’s panel held on my book, Light in Darkness, in San Diego, Nov. 17, 2007.
  • Pdf of published version (© 2009 Scottish Journal of Theology, Ltd.) The published version is also available online; access may require subscription.
  • Manuscript text of delivered comments

The panelists were John Webster, Paul Griffiths, and David Lauber:

  • Drs. Webster and Lauber published a version of their comments in the same issue of the Scottish Journal of Theology as my response:
    • John Webster, “Webster’s Response to Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, Light in Darkness,” 202-210.
    • David Lauber, “Response to Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, Light in Darkness,” 195-201.
  • Dr. Griffith’s published comments appear as “Is There a Doctrine of the Descent into Hell?” Pro Ecclesia, 17 (Summer, 2008) 3: 257-68.
  • Other articles of interest in the same issue of Pro Ecclesia are:
    • Jared Wicks, S.J., “Christ’s Saving Descent to the Dead: Early Witnesses from Ignatius of Antioch to Origen,” 281-310.
    • Thomas Joseph White, O.P., “On the Universal Possibility of Salvation,” 269-80.

“Development of Doctrine, or Denial? Balthasar’s Holy Saturday and Newman’s Essay,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 11 (April 2009) 2: 129-45.

  • This article is a response to Edward T. Oakes, “The Internal Logic of Holy Saturday in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, Vol. 9, no. 2 (April 2007): 184-199.
    • My manuscript (pre-peer reviewed) version submitted for publication
    • Final published version; access may require subscription.

Contribution to “What to Say about Hell: A Symposium,” Christian Century Vol. 125, no. 11 (3 June 2008): 22-25, 27 (24).

The details from Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgment may mislead if taken as context to my comments; an image of Christ’s descent into hell such as found on this website would have been more illustrative.

“The Passion and Triumph of Eternal Spring,” Gonzaga Witness (April/May, 2007): 16-17.

Written for the students producing an award-winning independent publication at Gonzaga University, this article is a succinct summary of the paschal mystery, including Christ’s descent into hell. It remains something of a personal favorite.

“Responses to ‘Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy,’” First Things (March, 2007): 12-14.

“More on Balthasar Hell, and Heresy,” First Things (January, 2007): 16-18.

“Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange,” First Things (December, 2006): 25-29.

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus (of blessed memory) introduced my then-forthcoming work in the pages of First Things and later paid my work high compliment in the First Things blog, On the Square. The three articles above followed his introduction and are an exchange between Edward T. Oakes, S.J., and myself on Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday. A related exchange between the two of us appeared at the same time in On the Square.

  • Fr. Neuhaus’ introduction is “Challenging a Giant,” First Things (April, 2006): 67-68.
  • Published version of article exchange:
  • Blog exchange:
    • Fr. Oakes’ original blog
    • Dr. Stephen M. Barr’s response
    • My response
    • Fr. Oakes’ final comments here and in First Things (February, 2007), 63.
  • Fr. Neuhaus’ final comment

“Yes, Christ Descended into Hell—and That is Cause for Joy and Hope,” Inland Register, April 27, 2006, p. 17.

Book Review:

  • Review of: Adriaan Theodoor Peperzak, Philosophy Between Faith and Theology: Addresses to Catholic Intellectuals in: Philosophy in Review (August, 2006): 281-283.

Conference Presentations and Public Lectures: