I have been interested in von Balthasar for a while. He is a significant trinitarian theologian of the mid 20th century and a good friend of the reformed theologian Karl Barth. I started reading Stephen Long’s book Saving Karl Barth, which is a joint biography of Barth and von Balthasar’s friendship. But I realized I didn’t know enough about von Balthasar’s theology. So I set it aside.
Credo is the first of von Balthasar’s books I have finished. I also have his book Prayer, which I started but have not finished. The book prayer has been praised by Eugene Peterson and a number of others as being one of the best books on prayer written.
Credo was not written as a book. But is a compilation of church newsletters articles about the Apostles’ Creed written in the year before his death. As a book it is very short. The introduction is a third of the book.
I did not grow up with Creeds. They are late additions to my faith. But I have been convinced that the creeds are important. Earlier this year I talked my small group into doing a video about the Apostles’ Creed. The one we did was a shortened form of a 12 hour (way too long) documentary. But at 2 hours it had such short clips and bounced from talking head to talking head so quickly, it was hard to get that much out of it.
Credo is different. It is short. Each of the 12 sections is a couple pages long. And it is one of the great theologians of the 20th century intentionally writing for the lay person. It is quite readable. There wasn’t anything that I thought brought fundamentally new understanding about the Creed. But that isn’t really the point. Creeds are somewhat like the Christmas and Easter stories. We know them and introducing new things about them requires innovation. The point of the creeds isn’t innovation by historic orthodoxy.
The focus is really the trinity. I was hoping for a bit more on the later sections, which were a bit weaker than the initially sections on God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Credo isn’t a book I would rush out and buy. But it is one of those books I would look for in a used bookstore or library. It is helpful, quick and devotional.