Hans Urs von Balthasar: Apocalyptic, Politics, and the Church
This dissertation exegetes and develops the apocalyptic theology of the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. It argues that the central subject of the Book of Revelation in the image of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world provides a theological scaffolding in which Balthasar is able to coordinate his theological aesthetics, theo-drama, and theo-logic. Balthasar’s deployment of the Book of Revelation throughout his theological corpus has implications for his treatment of a variety of theological topics, such as metaphysics, history, ecclesiology, and, most notably, political theology. Central features of Balthasar’s apocalyptic theology are identified in this dissertation in order to open up the resources of those features for political theology. The first chapter identifies the features of Eucharistic gratitude, temporal ambiguity, and solidarity and explores how the apocalypse of Christ “echoes” throughout metaphysics, history, and human freedom, respectively; bringing these topics within the larger frame of Trinitarian love. The second chapter relies on the work of God identified in the first chapter to identify the three features of response to the apocalypse of Christ in rejection (antagonism) or acceptance (rapture, institution). This chapter identifies how the apocalypse of Trinitarian love in Christ precipitates an ever-growing hatred from the world from those who reject it even as those who accept it are offered participation via Scripture and sacrament. The third chapter initiates the turn to political theology proper by placing Balthasar in conversation with Saint Augustine, the figure of architectonic significance for Christian political theology. It argues that Balthasar rediscovers Augustine as an apocalyptic, ecclesial theologian and therefore merits greater Augustinian ascription than his contemporaries. The fourth and final chapter places the resources gained from the prior three in conversation with the contemporary Augustinian political theologians of Oliver O’Donovan, John Milbank, and William T. Cavanaugh. The assessment of these figures is largely positive but argues for the superior resources offered by Balthasar. The dissertation attempts to show that Balthasar’s prioritization of the work of God secures the theological before application to the political and thereby forms a more coherent and faithful approach for political theology.