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Prof. Karen Kilby visits Radboud

Date of news: 3 March 2016

On 3-4 March 2016, the Titus Brandsma Institute and the Center for Catholic Studies organized a Study Day for Ignatian Spirituality at Radboud University in Nijmegen. The guest speaker was Prof. Karen Kilby (Durham) who gave two presentations entitled, ‘What does theology have to do with spirituality?  Some reflections with the help of Karl Rahner’ and ‘The problem of suffering in Hans Urs von Balthasar: theological and spiritual perspectives’.

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In the first talk, Prof. Kilby argued that spirituality and theology should not be separated since theology relates to faith. Prof. Kilby described two strategies for relating theology and spirituality: i) to embed theology into spirituality as prayer; or ii) to view theology as a ‘second order’ activity that lived spirituality regards as its object. The former has the undesirable tendency for elitist forms of monasticism, and the latter can become obsessed with observation, description, and grammar instead of the practice of faith. Prof. Kilby proposed that Karl Rahner offered a better point of departure. Rahner often wrote about the intellectual difficulties that ordinary believers confronted on a day to day basis. Prof. Kilby argued that Rahner’s approach was to deploy theology as a kind of therapy for spirituality in order to increase spiritual awareness and to become more conscious of what is truly meaningful.

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In the second talk, Prof. Kilby argued that Hans Urs von Balthasar articulates a theology of suffering using the doctrine of the Trinity, which has the undesirable effect of sacralizing human suffering. For Prof. Kilby, this can lead to dangerous forms of spirituality that seek out suffering or try to create a theodicy that ‘explains’ why it is good for someone to suffer. This talk led to a debate about whether or not theodicy is something that theologians should aspire to articulate.