I take that both biblically and theologically a vision with a significant degree of content is what defines Christian apocalyptic, and that this vision provides for Christian identity and specifically Christian paths of action and forms of life that may very well exceed what is demanded by secular culture (126-7).

Who owns Apocalyptic Theology? Or what, specifically, makes a theologian an Apocalyptic Theologian?

Cyril O’Regan attempts to answer these question in Theology and the Spaces of Apocalyptic. Although he does not cover the entire spectrum of Apocalyptic Theology (for example, Barth is only referenced a few times), O’Regan provides an overview of its dominant characteristics. O’Regan argues that metaphors of “space” are the best way to define the varying strands of apocalyptic theology: pleromatic, kenomatic and metaxic.

Pleromatic theologians include von Balthasar, Bulgakov and, surprisingly, Milbank and David Bentley Hart. Kenomatic include the figures of Benjamin, Derrida and their theological progeny. O’Regan’s final category, the metaxic, I found to be the least helpful, given that the figures under this heading seemed too diverse. They include Metz, Keller, and Altizer as representatives.

Throughout the book O’Regan makes clear that his preference is for the pleromatic strand of apocalyptic theology, provided it’s qualified by the kenomatic’s concern for justice. Pleromatic apocalyptic theologians are committed to a “Christian vision that has an absolutely comprehensive content, where this commitment can be further parsed into a conviction that Christianity is characterized by a Trinitarian metanarrative, a clear perception that the axis upon which history swings is cross and resurrection, and a sense that human participation in the divine life is incompatible only with a binary construction of transcendence which crucially misunderstands Christianity” (102). Furthermore, pleromatic apocalyptic is defined by a commitment to apophatic theology (104), which in turn relates to a suspicion of a unilateral emphasis on the Spirit as well as on Christ (107). Given that there is no unilateral emphasis on the saving work of Christ, pleromatic apocalyptic is also concerned with the specific forms and practices of the Christian life (108).

Kenotic apocalyptic does not include for O’Regan theologians concerned with Phil. 2 or related scriptural warrants. Instead, his characterization has to do with the “space” opened by Benjamin and Derrida.  These particular kenomatic spaces are “‘theological’ only by courtesy” (113). In fact, kenomatic apocalyptic theology is not really a theology as much as it is “a tactic or set of tactics, and as such it is defined by its capacity to disturb all discourses, not excluding apocalyptic discourses, that are or have become too determinate” (114).

In the end, O’Regan remains suspicious of kenomatic apocalyptic, or better yet, he remains suspicious of Christian theologians who advance the claims of Benjmain and Derrida (67). “As positions, neither Benjamin nor Derrida are adequate for Christian theology, since as theology, there is presumptively a reality whose very nature it seems is to self-disclose, and since as theo-logy there is a Word spoken that articulates itself in words and in and as determinate content that is binding in a quite obtrusive fashion” (113).

O’Regan remains clear: though kenomatic apocalyptic is powerful in it’s unabashed call for justice, it nonetheless breeds a form of revelation that drastically lacks determinative content. It is therefore reduced to a form of revelation that “reveals nothing to everyone” (73) and as such, kenomatic apocalyptic harbors an inherent suspicion of doxology (74). The net result is that kenomatic apocalyptic, in proper Derridan fashion, lends itself to a privileging of “virtual space,” similar to Derrida’s khora (115). Pleromatic on the other hand adamantly refuses any positing of virtual space; everything has been drawn into the exitusreditus scheme of the Trinitarian procession.

O’Regan’s little book reveals that the categories of apocalyptic are far from neutral. One’s proximity to Hegel, Joachim of Fiore, William Blake, Irenaeus and St. Augustine will color the shape of one’s apocalyptic thinking. I think it might also be fair to say that the varying “spaces” of apocalyptic are falling on confessional lines.

The next step is to examine O’Regan’s categories in the light of recent trends toward the Apocalyptic Paul, as noted by Doug Harink and J. Louis Martyn.