Hans Urs von Balthasar’s discourse on the descent of Christ into hell and its implications for the Triune God have been disputed for half a century. One of the Trinity has Suffered evaluates and revises von Balthasar’s theology of divine suffering in a way that interacts with and significantly enriches contemporary Catholic theology.

In this book, Joshua R. Brotherton engages twentieth-century Thomistic theology, as well as the thought of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) and Pope St. John Paul II. Drawing from the vast secondary literature on von Balthasar, Brotherton offers a balanced assessment of his work on the topic of divine suffering, both critical and appreciative.

Recognizing von Balthasar’s laudable attempt to integrate mystical spirituality and systematic theology, Brotherton seeks to distinguish valid insights from confused mixtures of metaphorical, meta-symbolic, and philosophical (metaphysical) discourse on God, particularly with respect to the classical problem of how the Creator who willed to become incarnate may be said to suffer. Truly, “One of the Trinity has suffered,” and yet this mystery of faith must be carefully explained and understood in conformity with sustained Catholic reflection on divine immutability and simplicity, the dual nature and unique personhood of Christ, the Trinity of divine subsistent relations, the freedom of God in creating and becoming man, the analogy of being, the problem of evil, and the immensity and infinite value of Christ’s redemptive suffering.


About the author:

Joshua R. Brotherton holds an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Dallas, an M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Catholic University of America. He has published in a wide variety of scholarly journals.



“Hans Urs von Balthasar’s speculations on Christ’s descent into Hell and its significance for the Trinity have been celebrated by some as epochal insights and denounced by others as bordering on heresy. Joshua Brotherton admirably avoids partisan extremes in this careful and penetrating analysis. Displaying a striking command of the issues and literature, Brotherton sympathetically lays out Balthasar’s important contribution, but does not shy away from fundamental criticism.”

—Michael Root, Catholic University of America


“Joshua Brotherton’s reading of Balthasar’s reflection on the Trinity from a Thomistic point of view is at once fundamentally appreciative and critical, in equal parts surprisingly positive and bracing. At no time does one doubt his grasp of those theological points that divide Aquinas from Balthasar. Yet marking disagreements is in the service of staging a genuine encounter between two theologians who are an expression and fruit of the Church. The encounter needs to continue.”

—Cyril O’Regan, University of Notre Dame


“With breadth of vision, Brotherton orients the reader to the state of this highly relevant question and stimulates further debate. Reading Balthasar in light of Maritain and others, he attempts a critical and broadly Thomistic appropriation of central elements of Balthasar’s thought. Through a complex negotiation, Brotherton seeks to retrieve Balthasar’s essential view of Christ’s salvific suffering, while resisting Balthasar’s projection of kenosis into the Trinity itself—a problem he perceptively traces to Balthasar’s lack of an adequate theory concerning the relationship of grace and freedom.”

—Robert J. Matava, Christendom College


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6 x 9


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One of the Trinity Has Suffered: Balthasar’s Theology of Divine Suffering in Dialogue