Oct. 10, 2012 - John Caruana

posted 9 Oct 2012, 09:13 by Daryl K.   [ updated 22 Oct 2012, 11:51 ]
"Balthasar and the Descent into Hell: Transcendence after the ‘Death of God’"
Recent continental philosophy of religion has converged on the death of God theme. One
dominant expression that has emerged in this endeavour has been decidedly immanentist in
orientation (Badiou, Vattimo, Žižek). Hans Urs von Balthasar offers a viable challenge and
alternative to this approach. His thought is remarkably in line with the postmodern suspicion of
ontotheological thinking. Yet in his hands, the death of God – a way of talking about God which
he fully affirms – does not justify a jettisoning of the category of transcendence. The wedge that
Balthasar introduces in death of God thinking involves drawing attention to the much neglected
second day of the Paschal narrative: Holy Saturday, Christ’s descent into hell. By contrast, most
death of God accounts are overly preoccupied – a tendency that goes back at least to Hegel - with
the morbidity of Golgotha, that is, Good Friday. Certain contemporary immanentist philosophers
seem drawn to the death of God because they perceive it to be paradigmatically reflective of the
human predicament, namely, that we are radically alone, abandoned to our own devices. But
Balthasar’s reflections on Holy Saturday manages to retain a profound recognition of the frailty
of human finitude while still acknowledging the way that the finite order is infused with the
infinite – understood as divine gratuitous love. For that reason, Balthasar represents an important
resource for that strand of continental philosophy of religion that refuses to relinquish the
concept of transcendence.

John Caruana
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Ryerson University

Wednesday, October 10, from 3-5 PM, in Boardroom 1 (main floor) of the TST building at the corner of Queen's Park and St. Joseph (47 Queen's Park)