Readers who have read all, or even most, of the chapters of this volume will already have come to the conclusion of this chapter: Hans Urs von Balthasar has bequeathed to the world a theology that is extremely hard to assess. Subtle and vast, his theology is also composed of parts so densely and tightly interwoven that no component can be jettisoned, or even much altered, without affecting the whole. For that reason (among others), judging the future influence of his theology is even more difficult. Take, for example, this programmatic manifesto, tucked away in one of his more obscure writings, where he is speaking of the effort it cost him to revise his one-volume dissertation, Prometheus, into the large, three-volume work, Apocalypse of the German Soul, a labour he undertook, he says, because he was resolved to 'rebuild the world from its foundations'.
But how does an outsider to his project even begin to assess such a
programme? At least for Balthasar himself, it would seem that the only way
of guessing what the future might hold for his theology is to see if he will
finally succeed in ‘rebuilding the world from its foundations’. Ambitious
Balthasar certainly was, but will he prove successful in his ambitions? Very
few readers, and among them only the captious ones, will deny that Balthasar
was a great theologian; but will he prove an influential one in the long run?