Are Theologians Saints? Are Saints Theologians?

balthasar“In the whole history of Catholic theology there is hardly anything that is less noticed, yet more deserving of notice, than the fact that, since the great period of Scholasticism, there have been few theologians who were saints. We mean here by ‘theologian’ one whose office and vocation is to expound revelation in its fullness, and therefore whose work centers on dogmatic theology. If we consider the history of theology up to the time of the great Scholastics, we are struck by the fact that the great saints, those who not only achieved an exemplary purity of life, but who also had received from God a definite mission in the Church, were, mostly, great theologians. They were ‘pillars of the Church,’ by vocation channels of her life: their own lives reproduced the fullness of the Church’s teaching, and their teaching the fullness of the Church’s life.”

-Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology. From here


6 comments so far

  1. Lucas Endicott on

    Fascinating. I can’t help but think (and I think von Balthasar is hinting at this) that this is perhaps evidence of an unfortunate division of theological inquiry and the pastoral office… Are the roots of this division found in “the great period of the Scholastics”? Give me the answer, Jeff.

  2. jeffreimer on


    I think you’re right. I imagine, though I have not read it, that von Balthasar would locate the split in the late scholastic period with the rise of nominalism and voluntarism leading ultimately to the Enlightenment and modernity.

  3. Ryan on

    Is that a picture of Ben Stein?

  4. jeffreimer on

    Yep, that’s what it says in Greek on the left.

  5. Josh on

    Ben Stein – both theologian and saint. The Lord bless you, Ben Stein.

  6. jeffreimer on

    Yes, indeed. Cf. Ben Stein’s robust but haunting apophatic theology or via negativa in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: “Bueller? Bueller? Anybody? Anybody?”

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