Lovely lecture last night with Hugh Bowron speaking on Barth and Von Balthasar re Descent into Hell, under the general lecture series heading of 'Intimacy with God.' Personally I appreciate lectures like this from experts whose knowledge goes well beyond mine and in the process of sharing that knowledge challenge me about what I really believe, in this case about the atonement.
Just to give one instance I was intrigued to learn that Von Balthasar considers the Descent of Christ into Hell on Holy Saturday to be a separate event from the crucifixion and the resurrection. Barth, expectedly for a Reformed theologian, has nothing to do with such thinking, the crucifixion being the decisive salvific event.
Oh, dear, to report those few thoughts is to raise more questions for readers here than answers about what Hugh said for he said much much more than my few words can express. Suffice to say that when we think with luminous theological minds beginning with B (Barth, Balthasar and Bowron) we are forced to think about 'what was really going on' in the event of the cross. For myself I am left wondering if Barth and Balthasar mishandle the mystery of Holy Saturday, the former not exploring it enough as an 'event', and the latter making too much of it. Would our understanding of salvation be radically altered if Scripture made no mention at all of the Descent into Hell? Admittedly that possibility would suit Barth's position on the matter.
Either way, Holy Saturday is a quiet day and it would be enlivened by a metaphorical cup of coffee with Barth and von Balthasar, to say nothing of a real cup with other theologians whose surnames begin with B - not only Bowron but also Black and Brown who were present last night, and Burgess who was mentioned in dispatches (Andrew Burgess, Principal-elect of Bishopdale Theological College, who speciality is the theology of Barth).
A 'Descent' of a different kind is on the agenda today: off to the deconsecration of the Cathedral this morning. I think black suit and clergy suit will be de rigeur for this momentous day in the history of this building.