All posts in “Trinity”

Trinitarian Theology after Barth: a Review

Book: Trinitarian Theology after Barth (Princeton Theological Monograph) ed. by Myk Habets and Phillip Tolliday, with a foreword by John Webster (AMAZON LINK)

Publisher: Pickwick Publications (an imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers), included in the Princeton Theological Monograph Series #148 (PUBLISHER LINK)

Overview: Like any collection of essays, there will always be those essays that hit a home run, those that intrigue great interest, and sadly sometimes also those that fall flat. In this collection there were far more home-runs and sparks of intrigue than in most of the collections I’ve read, and for that reason alone this is an excellent and thought-provoking book well worth your time. It will be of special interest for those wanting to study Barth’s Trinitarian theology, and particularly to examine the diverse streams of thought of those who have more or less followed after his work. Continue Reading…

God is Love in Himself (Karl Barth CD I/2)

Here’s a wonderful little quote from Karl Barth; enjoy!

“We will now try to give the briefest possible outline of what the love of God is which is the real basis of our love to God, determining its character. One thing is certain, that according to Holy Scripture it has nothing to do with mere sentiment, opinion or feeling. On the contrary, it consists in a definite being, relationship and action. God is love in Himself. Being loved by Him we can, as it were, look into His ‘heart.’ The fact that He loves us means that we can know Him as He is. This is all true. But if this picture-language of ‘the heart of God’ is to have any validity, it can refer only to the being of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It reminds us that God’s love for us is an overwhelming, overflowing, free love. It speaks to us of the miracle of this love. We cannot say anything higher or better of the ‘inwardness of God’ than that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore that He is love in Himself without and before loving us, and without being forced to love us. And we can say this only in the light of the ‘outwardness’ of God to us, the occurrence of His revelation. It is from this that we have to learn what is the real nature of the love of God for us.”

(CD I/2, 377)

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God Corresponds to Himself (Jüngel and Barth)

Gods-Being-is-in-BecomingIf I ever succeed in writing a book that’s even half as theologically precise as Eberhard Jüngel’s God’s Being Is in Becoming, I will die a happy man. 1 This book is an incredibly dense work of theology. With a precise eye for detail Jüngel interprets Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity in a profound and intricate way, all the while with a concise style any writer would be wise to emulate. Though because it is such a dense book, it is at once an incredibly difficult book. Though this is not exactly due to Jüngel’s style (though that’s probably also the case), but because of the subject at hand: the doctrine of the Trinity. If anywhere in theology there is required careful precision and complexity, it is here.

I am about two-thirds of the way through the book; so far I’m enjoying it immensely, and I’m looking forward to the final section. When I was reading (slowly) today, as I tried to grasp the concepts Jüngel was trying to bring forth from Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, one point in particular struck me that I want to briefly quote and discuss here. That is, the notion that, “God corresponds to Himself”.

God Corresponds to Himself

The interesting thing about this phrase isn’t just how profound it is (though it is) and how important it is for understanding the Trinity (which it is), but the fact that for Jüngel, this phrase sums up the entirety of Barth’s project in the Church Dogmatics. He writes that the entire Dogmatics is basically an interpretation of this idea! So it is important to understand what he means by it and how it relates to the Trinity. But first, we’ll quote Jüngel for context:

“…God’s being ad extra [externally, for us] corresponds essentially to His being ad intra [internally, in Himself] in which it has its basis and prototype. God’s self-interpretation (revelation) is interpretation as correspondence. Note: as interpreter of Himself, God corresponds to His own being. But because God as His own interpreter (even in His external works) is Himself, and since in this event as such we are also dealing with the being of God, then the highest and final statement which can be made about the being of God is: God corresponds to Himself.

Barth’s Dogmatics is in reality basically a thorough exegesis of this statement. Once it is not understood as an attempt to objectify God, but as an attempt to grasp the mystery of God where it is revealed as mystery, then this statement implies a movement which, over and above brilliance and diligence, makes possible a dogmatics of the stature of the Church Dogmatics. The Dogmatics is a brilliant and diligent attempt to reconstruct in thought the movement of the statement ‘God corresponds to Himself.'” 2

What does Jüngel mean by “correspond” here? He further states,

“That God corresponds to Himself is a statement of a relation. The statement means that God’s being is a relationally structured being.” 3

This is, for Jüngel, another way of explaining God’s self-relatedness. This self-relatedness is God’s distinction, the distinction of God in three modes of being.

In other words, here we have the doctrine of the Trinity, not abstractly, but concretely related to the world. This idea that God is the one who corresponds to Himself is another way of saying that God is the one God who reveals Himself in His Self-revelation (Jesus Christ). The fact that God reveals Himself is for Barth the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. He writes, “One may sum up the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity briefly and simply by saying that God is the One who reveals Himself.” 4 For Barth, this phrase works out into God’s three modes of being:

God reveals Himself. He reveals Himself through Himself. He reveals Himself. If we really want to understand revelation in terms of its subject, i.e., God, then the first thing we have to realize is that this subject, God, the Revealer, is identical with His act in revelation and also identical with its effect.5

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in revelation is God the Revealer, God the revelation, and God the effect of revelation; but since God is this in revelation, God is this in Himself. Therefore, this is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. That God reveals Himself through Himself as His own self-interpreter, means that God is the Triune God.

And this is what Jüngel is getting at. That “God corresponds to Himself” is another way of saying that God is who He is in His self-revelation. God’s being in revelation corresponds to His being in Himself. This point dictates the whole of the Church Dogmatics as Barth thinks in Trinitarian and Christocentric terms through the whole of God’s acts in election, creation, reconciliation, and redemption.

Conclusions

This is an incredibly complex subject, but Jüngel is precise in his work. This notion that God corresponds to Himself is important for Barth’s theology, and for Trinitarian theology as a whole. It is fascinating that Jüngel calls this the idea which Barth is working with in his entire Church Dogmatics, but the more I think about it the more I think he is right.

Take, for example, the doctrine of election. For Barth, election is God’s self-determination in Jesus Christ to be God for us; election is Jesus Christ. God says “Yes” to Himself and that “Yes” is echoed in our humanity in Jesus Christ. That God corresponds to Himself here means that God’s act in Jesus Christ for us corresponds to God’s act in Himself. God therefore is the God who from before all time determined to be our God, to be for us in Jesus Christ. The revelation of Jesus Christ as God for us corresponds to the being of God for us, the God who from before all time determined to be our God. This is why, for Barth, election must be Christocentric: Jesus Christ is the object and subject of election, the electing God and the elect human being.

There is much to think through in regards to this idea, as it is a tremendously potent idea, but for now I wanted to show how it relates to Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, which permeates the whole of his Dogmatics. Jüngel’s book is incredibly dense and full of insights into the being of God. I’m excited to finish reading it, and for a long time after continue thinking through these ideas.

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Notes:

  1. Here’s a LINK if you want to buy the book.
  2. God’s Being Is in Becoming, Jüngel p. 36. Brackets and emphasis (bold) mine.
  3. Ibid p. 37
  4. CD I/1, 380
  5. CD I/1, 296

5 Great Quotes from CD I/1 (Karl Barth)

barth-reading-retouchedYesterday I finished reading Karl Barth’s first book (volume I/1) in his magnum opus The Church DogmaticsAnd as before, today I want to present a “summary” of this work in the form of five quotes taken from it. Though a summary is nearly impossible for Barth, due to the dense complexity of his thought. However, these quote are presented here with the hopes of giving a taste of the brilliance of this book. The main subject of this work is the Word of God. This includes Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, the foundation of which Barth finds in the event of Revelation (a.k.a Jesus Christ).

Several things however have been exclude from this summary. These include the prolegomena (or introduction) Barth writes for the whole dogmatics, his doctrine of the “three-fold Word of God”, and finally his exposition of parts of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. These sections are highly complex in themselves and cannot possibly be summarized in a single quote, and for this reason they are excluded from this summary.

Essentially, therefore, all I present here is Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, as it is worked out in terms of revelation. Barth saw revelation as the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, and therefore understood the Triune God as the Revealer, the event of Revelation, and the effect of Revelation. Or, in other words, as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So without further ado, here are five great quotes from CD I/1 which present this doctrine: (All page numbers are from the Hendrickson version. Brackets are my comments.)

#1 “Revelation in fact does not differ from the person of Jesus Christ nor from the reconciliation accomplished in Him. To say revelation is to say ‘the Word became flesh’.” (P. 119)

#2 “God reveals Himself. He reveals Himself through Himself. He reveals Himself. If we really want to understand revelation in terms of its subject, i.e., God, then the first thing we have to realize is that this subject, God, the Revealer, is identical with His act in revelation and also identical with its effect.” (P. 296)

#3 “Thus it is God Himself, it is the same God in unimpaired unity, who according to the biblical understanding of revelation is the revealing God, the event of revelation and its effect on man.” (p. 299)

[or, in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit]

#4 “The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian…” (p. 301)

#5 “One may sum up the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity briefly and simply by saying that God is the One who reveals Himself.” (p. 380)

Bonus quote: “We do the bible poor and unwelcome honor if we equate it directly with revelation itself.” (p. 112)

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