February 1, 2017
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v2.1 Reference

Von Balthasar and the Option for the Poor

Theodramatics in the Light of Liberation Theology

Hans Urs von Balthasar's vast corpus of theological, philosophical, literary, and pastoral writings remains one of the most impressive achievements in 20th century thought. In light of liberation theology and now the papacy of Francis, however, a theological affirmation of the option for the poor remains dangerously weak in Balthasar's corpus. Von Balthasar and the Option for the Poor offers a sympathetic reforming of Balthasar's account of the drama of salvation—what he calls "theodramatics"— in response to this weakness.

Balthasar argues that his theodramatics intends to do justice to human existence as personal, social, and political, but his regular inattention to God's concern for and solidarity with the oppressed undercuts his own intentions. Von Balthasar and the Option for the Poor strongly affirms Balthasar's most fundamental theological commitments, but then reimagines his theodramatics in light of a strong recognition of the option for the poor within divine revelation and oppression as a force within the drama of salvation.

The first half of the book offers a clear account of Balthasar's most fundamental philosophical and theological commitments as a foundation for developing a liberating theodramatics. The second half offers a creative reworking of Balthasar's Christology, anthropology, and ecclesiology in light of the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez, Oscar Romero, and Jon Sobrino as well as seldom engaged texts in Balthasar's corpus. In so doing, Von Balthasar and the Option for the Poor provides a rich and unmatched dialogical engagement between Balthasar and Latin American liberation theology—an engagement that brings greater consistency to Balthasar's thought, increased attentiveness to the shape of divine revelation, and greater responsiveness to the challenges facing the Church in the modern age. As a liberating theodramatics, Balthasar's theological vision is opened to and reformed by a robust affirmation of God's merciful partiality towards the poor and oppressed, the option for the poor as an essential dimension of the Christian life, and the recognition that oppressive structures are theodramatic realities that oppose God's gift of life.

About the Author

Todd Walatka is Assistant Chair for Graduate Studies and Assistant Professional Specialist at the University of Notre Dame


"By bringing Balthasar's magisterial work into engagement with the foundational insights of liberation theology, particularly the preferential option for the poor, Walatka examines the openness to liberation theology latent in Balthasar's thought. At the same time, Walatka demonstrates how that openness can and must be more fully developed if theological aesthetics is to remain internally consistent and true to its purpose as a response to God's salvific work. This book thus represents an important, indeed crucial contribution to the development of theological aesthetics. –"—Roberto Goizueta, Boston College

"At the core of this book is the indispensable character of the preferential option for the poor for theology and the life of the Church. Walatka creates an opening for entering deeply into the theological implications of this option for the poor, and skillfully reconfigures the important work of Hans Urs von Balthasar through a fruitful dialogue with liberation theology."—Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, author of A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation

9780813229485 : von-balthasar-and-the-option-for-the-poor-walatka
256 Pages
$69.95 USD

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