Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Long, Stephen

Second Advisor

Nussberger, Danielle

Third Advisor

Laurance, John


Vital to Balthasar’s own articulation of the dogmas of the Incarnation and the Trinity is the kenotic Trinitarian theology of Sergei Bulgakov. The ways in which Balthasar both incorporates and modifies Bulgakov's Trinitarian theology provide an insight into his overarching theological agenda. My dissertation argues that Sergei Bulgakov, a 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian, is an important resource for Balthasar, directly and indirectly influencing key doctrinal points as well as the overall shape and direction of his theological project. This dissertation explores how Balthasar employs and adapts the thought of Sergei Bulgakov, with the Trinitarian theology of Thomas Aquinas to form a kenotic Trinitarian theology that is based on the notion of Personhood as a relation of self-donating love. It is a Trinitarian theology that is descriptive of both the Divine life as relation and human nature made in the image of God. The structure of this Trinitarian theology leaves a sphere for genuine human and Divine freedom and agency that can be characterized as a real drama. When we look at Balthasar’s Trinitarian theology in light of Bulgakov, and particularly as a re-reading of Bulgakov in light of a Thomistic Trinitarian theology, we are not only able to more clearly understand the implications of Balthasar’s own Trinitarian theology, but also to highlight the beauty and relevance of Bulgakov’s Trinitarian contribution. Finally, this reading of Balthasar’s Trinitarian theology, read in light of a Thomistic adjustment of Bulgakov, provides an excellent point of integration for an ethics that takes into account, not only individual virtues and perfection, but also the social/relational context of human personhood. This ethics is based in a concept of human nature bearing the imago trinitatis, and fulfilling that nature through sacramental participation and ethical extension of Christ’s self-offering love.