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Suffering, Tragedy, Vulnerability: A Triangulated Examination of the Divine–Human Relationship in Hans Urs von Balthasar, Rowan Williams, and Sarah Coakley

CHA, BORAM (2019) Suffering, Tragedy, Vulnerability: A Triangulated Examination of the Divine–Human Relationship in Hans Urs von Balthasar, Rowan Williams, and Sarah Coakley. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The present thesis puts the trinitarianism, christology, and anthropology of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s kenotic theology, Rowan Williams’s tragic theology, and Sarah Coakley’s ascetic theology into critical and triangulated conversation: in order to argue that suffering and death is ontologized at the same level as love and life in God in the kenotic trinitarianism of Balthasar; that the tragic is given an ontological value in the tragic imagination of Williams; and that vulnerability is essentialized in the ascetic spirituality of Coakley. I will argue that, on the whole, their arguments tend to put a positive light on the darkness of suffering as that which proves to be christologically meaningful, and portray the divine–human relationship competitively in a shared proclivity for emphasizing Jesus’s cry of dereliction on the cross (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”).
A concern that moves the tripartite chapters forwards is to examine how these three respected thinkers are inclined more or less to conceive the divine–human encounter and the God–world relation competitively, and to show how that unfortunate conception serves to sacralize suffering, tragedy, and vulnerability in their accounts of divine–human relationship. In this context, I will consent to Coakley’s critique that the classical understanding of non-competitive divine–human relation is undermined in Balthasar’s kenotic theo-dramatics; and I will argue that although a non-competitive account is formally affirmed and espoused by Williams as well as Coakley, it is effectively operative neither in Williams’s tragic imagination nor in Coakley’s kneeling practice. What a non-competitive account of divine–human relations means is gradually fleshed out, with recurrent references to Kathryn Tanner, over the course of the thesis. It is given fuller expression in the final chapter’s examination of the coincidence of divine–human goodness implied in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, albeit without intending to delve into specialist knowledge.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Hans Urs von Balthasar; Rowan Williams; Sarah Coakley; non-competitive divine-human relation; creation ex nihilism; the Gospel of John; the cry of dereliction; kenosis; evil as privatio boni; divine impassability; John of the Cross; John Barclay; David Burrell; Christ Hymn; Gillian Rose; Linn Marie Tonstad; the Book of Revelation; the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world; suffering; tragedy; vulnerability
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:27 Nov 2019 11:36

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