SCECS Spring Lecture

On Wednesday, Jan 23 from 10:00-11:15am in Scarborough 116 the Center for Early Christian Studies at Southwestern is please to host Dr. Matt Emerson, who will deliver a paper is entitled:

“‘The one who trampled hades underfoot’: A comparative analysis of Christ’s descent to the dead and Trinitarian relations in Second Century Christian texts and Hans urs von Balthasar”

This essay compares Hans Urs von Balthasar’s view of the descensus with second century writers’s comments on the subject. In both Theo-Drama IV and Mysterium Paschale, Balthasar suggests that the descensus existentially separates the divine hypostases of Father and Son. He also repeatedly argues that his position is faithful to the Great Tradition.

While there has been much debate about Balthasar’s view of the descensus, this debate has focused mostly on the issues of universalism and penal substitution, leaving the issue of Trinitarian relations either to the side or without an analysis of its historical precedent (or lack thereof).

In what follows we attempt to address this lacuna by asking whether Balthasar’s view of the descensus, in which the divine hypostases of Father and Son are existentially separated, is in fact supported by the Tradition.

While we could ask this question with respect to a variety of eras within dogmatic history, here our focus is on second century texts – texts that stand at the fountainhead of Christian doctrinal reflection. After surveying the second century Apostolic Fathers, second century Jewish and Christian traditions (e.g. the NT Apocrypha), second century apologists, and Melito’s Peri Pascha, the essay concludes that Balthasar’s position does not find historical support in the second century. Perhaps his view is in line with the Great Tradition elsewhere, but it is not grounded in the seminal century of Christian doctrinal reflection.

Dr. Emerson received his Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as the Dickinson Associate Professor of Religion and Director of the Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Intercultural Studies programs at Oklahoma Baptist University.

He is also the author of several books, journal articles, and essays, including Between the Cross and the Throne: Reading Revelation (Lexham, 2016) and The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (B&H Academic, 2017). In addition to his responsibilities at OBU, Matt serves as co-executive director of The Center for Baptist Renewal and co-editor for the Journal of Baptist Studies.

I hope you will make plans to join us and please feel free to contact Dr. Stephen Presley ( with any questions regarding this event.