Monday, December 11, 2006

Markus Barth: on demythologization

Bultmann’s program of demythologization is based on a peculiar definition of myth which baffles the reader at the same time by its simplicity and by its disregard of the involved history, development, and scholarly discussion of the myth. According to him, myth is present wherever the unworldly is spoken of in a worldly way, where one speaks of the gods in a human way, where the transcendental is objectivized. It seems as if the whole problem of myth were narrowed down to a specific way of thinking and speaking.

—Markus Barth, “Introduction to Demythologizing,” The Journal of Religion 37:3 (1957), 148.
I think it is worth pointing out that, while Markus Barth is correct in criticizing Bultmann’s limited rather unusual understanding of myth, what Barth demonstrates is precisely why Bultmann should be taken much more seriously than he is. Bultmann is not simply a pawn of the scientific Enlightenment; he is concerned about proper speech about God. Myth is improper because it confines and objectifies God. Myth, in other words, is for Bultmann what metaphysics is to theologians post-Karl Barth. This is why Jüngel is quite right to see a deep correlation between Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity and Bultmann’s program of demythologization: both are concerned about proper talk of God.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Some recent scholarship

Dear readers,

I would like to highlight some upcoming Jüngel scholarship from a friend of mine, Dr. Christopher J. Holmes of Providence Seminary in Manitoba.

Upcoming in the Toronto Journal of Theology is a translation of Jüngel's Die Ewigkeit des ewigen Lebens, which he has translated as The Eternality of Eternal Life.

As well, in the next issue of IJST (Oct. 06) his piece "The Glory of God in the Theology of Eberhard Jüngel" will appear.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Some theses on heresy

In his “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie” (presented in Tübingen, 1969/70), Eberhard Jüngel includes a series of 30 theses on heresy and superstition. Here’s a selection:
  • There is no heresy that does not ultimately give rise to christological defects or wrong christological decisions.
  • Heresies are attempts to enrich faith illegitimately.
  • The basic form of all heresies is addition.
  • The basic heresy of addition is a denial of the particula exculsiva “solus Christus” and an attack on the particulae exculsivae “sola gratia,” “sola fide” and “sola scriptura.”
  • The cause of all heresies is the inability (i.e. the unwillingness) to let God be heard in Jesus Christ.
  • Heresies are unholy.
  • A theology that does not say No to untruth cannot say Yes to truth.
  • A merely negative defence against heresies is itself heretical.
  • A mere recitation of confessions of Jesus Christ does not preserve theology from becoming heretical, but makes it all the more heretical. The mere recitation of confessions is christological superstition.
—Eberhard Jüngel, “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie,” in Unterwegs zur Sache: Theologische Bemerkungen (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1988), pp. 283-84.

Monday, September 11, 2006

God and the Crucified

"European Christianity hsa considered itself capable of thinking of God in his being as God without thinking of him simultaneously as the Crucified... the perfection of God required by the law of metaphysics forbade imagining God as suffering or even thinking of him together with one who was dead. This prohibition and its alleged reason are seen, however, from the perspective of the word of the cross, to be the basic aporia into which European theology has blundered" (GMW, 39).

This may be one of Jüngel's most crucial insights (pun intended!), but he gets it from the Lutheran tradition, so he can't claim it as coming to him ex nihilo. He also rightly qualifies the social and continental location of theology he is criticizing, not necessarily because the criticism can't be levied against theologies in other places, but because he is mostly in dialogue with the European theological tradition.

He goes on to state that "faith in the crucified One as true God and the theological consequences of this faith do not merge easily and without difficulty." You can say that again. This is a constant challenge, danger, aporia. Nevertheless, naming the aporia goes a long way towards addressing the issue. At least the lack is now known. It has been diagnosed.

Thinking God together with the crucified is what leads Jüngel to understand God as not simply "necessary" (the traditional metaphysical understanding of God in relation to the world), but rather as "more than necessary". This is a metaphysical way of saying what can be said more precisely and yet less clearly as "God is not God without humanity." Or at least God does not desire to come to Godself without humanity. If this saying confuses you, then see, you've already started not thinking of God together with the crucified, because isn't the crucified human?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gott als Geheimnis der Welt, Marginalia, and Deus Caritas Est

Some of us read, admittedly, pretty dense theological prose. But even within the world of academic theology, Jüngel is considered a special case. I think Gott als Geheimnis ranks up there with Paul Ricoeur and a few others as a volume, and a writer, worth reading who, simply put, intimidates through their erudition.

So, I confess, I've been slow to post anything related to my reading of this book as a result of sheer terror.

I understand that one way to overcome writers block is to write about anything at related to the topic, simply to clear the air. In that spirit, I'll note to all interested readers that:

a) I purchased my copy of God as Mystery from an on-line seller through Amazon for $45. This was the cheapest copy I could find. The actual seller, Fullerstone Books, was selling it in store for $67. I'd be interested how much readers of this blog would be willing to pay for a copy.

b) My book has had two previous owners, Raymond Cannata, and W. Jim Neidhart, both of Randolph, NJ. So apparently two people in Randolph have either read or owned Jüngel.

c) My translation was done by Darrel Guder. I believe this is the only English translation. I wonder how Guder, then Director of of the Institute of Youth Ministries at Fuller, convinced folks that translating Jüngel counted as a "youth" ministry?

d) My used volume has that tacky paper around the outside to protect, and came with one used band-aid stuck inside.

e) I intend to read the book in tandem with a study of the Pope's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est with the longer view of writing a paper connecting the two as they relate to a practical issue in public theology. Ostensibly, Jüngel's book is an exposition of the statement from 1st John: "God is Love." We shall see.

Thanks for the invitation to participate in this dialogue, and I hope my contributions are, on the whole, salutary.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I hope

I believe, therefore I hope. Faith necessarily becomes hope. For faith knows itself grounded in a history that carries the future in itself. The believer is certain that the final future which determines world history in its totality and each individual life-history within it, is a future already decided in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The believer has a foundation for hope, hope in his or her own resurrection from the dead and an eternal life in communion with God.

For faith, then, it is not a matter of some vague hope to which one clings because without it a miserable life would be only just endurable or perhaps could no longer be borne at all. Hope is hope in God and in his coming kingdom and as such grounded in the certainty of faith. The revelation of God which has already taken place (though in the form of a particular kind of hiddenness) promises and guarantees the surpassing of hope through the one who, now in glory, comes again to the world and reveals himself directly to the world and to all people. This is why the believer hopes for the Day of the Lord, which will no longer be limited by darkness and will bring everything to light. For in this day the saviour of the world will bring everything into his light and thus into the proper light. It will be a saving light, precisely because it will be the judgment which discloses what has been. I believe, therefore I hope that world history will not be the judge of the world, such that murderers would always triumph over their victims. Rather I hope that Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, in order to reveal himself again in this judgment as the one who calls sin by name and thus as the saviour who liberates the sinner from sin.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 15

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

GBB: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 17-27

God’s Being Is in Becoming: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 17-27: The vestigium trinitatis as a hermeneutical problem

Key Concept
: The revelation of God is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Summary: The question of vestigia trinitatis [vestiges of the Trinity] has exercised theologians throughout the history of the church. The attempt to reveal a connection between God’s being and created reality by finding trinitarian structures in nature raises the primary question of this chapter: What is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity? Vestigia present us with a hermeneutical problem by posing the more specific question: Is the root of the Trinity found in the created “trinities” that we see in nature, or is the root found elsewhere? More broadly speaking, is the doctrine of the Trinity based on something natural to this world or not? Barth offers two ways of understanding vestigia: either (1) as the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, or (2) as a mode of theological language which attempts to appropriately bring the triune God to speech. These two options will guide our overview of this section.

A second question follows from the first: What is the capacity of language? Does language have the capacity to grasp revelation? Barth presupposes that human language is “shaped in form and content” by the creaturely conditions of this world, but he also recognizes that revelation is indeed brought to speech. In light of the actuality of human speech about revelation, Barth addresses the possibility of this reality. What makes speech about God’s revelation possible? Does language grasp revelation, or is it rather the fact that revelation grasps language?

We are led, then, back to the question of vestigia trinitatis and the two options for interpretation: Either we understand God from things made, or we understand things made from God (Deum ex factis, sed ea, quae facta sunt, ex Deo); either creaturely realities form the basis for our doctrine of God, or God’s self-revelation enables expression in human speech; either the capacity to speak about God is natural to human language itself, or it is “ascribed to the language . . . from without.” Barth views the first option as the analogia entis and the latter as the analogia fidei. Insofar as vestigia determine our doctrine of God, we are dealing with a true analogia entis; but insofar as they are simply one way of expressing God’s triune self-revelation in human terms, they demonstrate the analogia fidei. In our two options, we are thus led to the heart of the problem of theological language.

Whether or not Barth properly understands the analogia entis as espoused in the Catholic tradition (and Jüngel argues in God as the Mystery of the World, pp. 281-86, that Barth actually gets it wrong), we can still use the typology of analogia entis and analogia fidei to represent two opposing strands of theological thought: the former allows created reality to determine speech about God, while the latter allows God’s revelation to determine speech about God. Barth recognizes that analogy is not only necessary but indispensable to the theological expression of revelation, yet in his analysis of analogy he has one overarching rule which is normative for all theological language: God must come to speech as God. God must not be brought to speech as the conclusion to a logical proof, or as the infinite projection of the created “trinities” found in nature. God must come to speech as God. In order for this to happen, language must be “commandeered” by God’s revelation. Where language is commandeered by revelation, “there is a gain to language. The gain consists in the fact that God comes to speech as God.” In the opposite scenario, language tries to commandeer God, in which case there is not a gain to language but rather a “loss of revelation”; God is brought to speech not as God but as an object of the world. To explain this further, Barth uses the concepts of interpretation and illustration.

According to Barth, “revelation will submit only to interpretation and not to illustration.” With this distinction, we add another layer to the distinction between analogia entis and analogia fidei. Interpretation allows revelation to come to speech by permitting the content of revelation to determine the linguistic form. Illustration adds to revelation in that it re-presents revelation in the language of the world. Interpretation assumes that language must conform (or, rather, be conformed) to what is demanded of it “from without,” from God’s self-revelation. Illustration begins with the assumption that language has the capacity to bring revelation to speech on language’s own terms. To clarify, illustration itself is not contrary to appropriate theological language, rather the “desire to illustrate revelation” results in “a desertion of revelation.”

To summarize, the interpretive analogia fidei brings revelation to speech as revelation—i.e., as the Word of God—and thus there is a gain to language. In contrast, the illustrative analogia entis brings revelation to speech as both revelation and language, which results in a loss of both revelation and language. The possibility of this actuality is grounded in the fact that revelation itself speaks and makes demands of language. Consequently, “the revelation of God itself is that which makes the interpretation of revelation possible.” We thus define revelation as the “self-interpretation of God,” and as God’s self-interpretation, revelation is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity. God’s self-interpretation in revelation makes the human interpretation of revelation in the doctrine of the Trinity a possibility.

Key Quote:
When language seeks to be itself revelation, it loses itself as language. But where revelation commandeers language, there takes place the Word of God. The Word of God brings language to its true essence. . . . Yet in what sense can revelation make demands of language? It can do so only because, as revelation, revelation itself speaks. ‘If we know what revelation is, even in deliberately speaking about it we shall be content to let revelation speak for itself.’ The revelation of God thus does not ‘commandeer’ language as a dumb aggressor but rather gets involved with and in language through speaking. The revelation of God is no silent demand for language, but rather by speaking revelation makes demands of language. Thus the revelation of God itself is that which makes the interpretation of revelation possible. This is because ‘revelation is the self-interpretation of God.’ But as the self-interpretation of God, revelation is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity. Consequently, the doctrine of the Trinity is the interpretation of revelation and thus the interpretation of the being of God which is made possible by revelation as God’s self-interpretation. (26-27)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification: A Series

My series on Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification is finished, although the topic itself is far from exhausted. The following are links to each individual post. I welcome comments and criticisms.

On the Doctrine of Justification: A Series

Part I: Introduction to the doctrine of justification in the theology of Eberhard Jüngel

Part II: Solus Christus

Part III: Sola gratia

Part IV: Solo verbo

Part V: Sola fide


Jüngel, Eberhard. God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1983).

—. Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, trans. Jeffrey F. Cayzer (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 2001).

Recommended Reading:

—. The Freedom of a Christian: Luther's Significance for Contemporary Theology, trans. Roy A. Harrisville (Minneapolis: Augsburg, ET 1988).

—. "On the Doctrine of Justification" in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 1:1 (1999), pp. 24-52.

—. Theological Essays II, trans. J. B. Webster and A. Neufeldt-Fast (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1994).

Monday, August 21, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part V: Sola Fide

Part V: Sola fide

In our discussion of the final Reformation phrase, “by faith alone,” we reach the heart of the doctrine of justification and, in fact, the heart of the Christian faith itself. All proponents of the traditional teaching on salvation argue that our faith is what saves us, which is perfectly correct when placed in its proper context. Jüngel, following the Reformers, is deliberate in emphasizing all four particles in this specific order—solus Christus, sola gratia, solo verbo, and now sola fide. The question posed to the traditional view is whether we actually possess any of these soteriological foundations. The first three clearly belong to God alone: the Christ of God, the grace of God, and the word of God. But what about faith?

First, at the very least, we can see that faith is impossible without Christ, grace, and the word. Without the gospel word that interrupts us with the grace of God in Jesus Christ, faith is an impossibility. But thanks be to God that the impossible has become an impossible possibility! Second, recent New Testament scholarship has made a convincing argument that Paul’s statement, “faith in Jesus Christ,” should also be understood as “the faith of Jesus Christ” (cf. The Faith of Jesus Christ, by Richard Hays). Third, theology supports this exegetical move in the doctrine of the mediation of Christ. Jesus is the only the mediator between God and humanity, but his role of mediation was not limited to his passive obedience on the cross as the bearer of our sins before the Father; that is, the cross and resurrection do not exhaust the significance of Jesus. While the cross rightfully receives the emphasis in Christology and soteriology, all too often such a narrow focus fails to give attention to the incarnation and the life of obedience that Jesus lived. What theologians like T. F. Torrance quite rightly affirm is both the passive and active obedience of Jesus Christ. Jesus not only fulfilled the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but he also fulfilled the necessary human response of faith and obedience. Jesus was our mediator not only in death but also in life. Jesus stood fully in our place, as the one who lived and died on our behalf. His death was our death, and his life of faithful response was our faithful response.

We return to the question: What about our faith? Does not Paul write in Romans that the righteousness of God “comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” and that God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:22, 26)? And did not Paul and Silas tell the jailer in the Acts of the Apostles, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31)? And as 1 John 5:1 declares, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.” It would seem from such passages that our faith saves us, or that our faith does something necessary for us to be the children of God. In a certain sense, yes, our faith is essential and necessary. But in what way? To answer that question, I shall quote from Eberhard Jüngel on the subject of faith.
Why and how is faith justifying faith, fides iustificans? Why and how is it that very faith which justifies human beings? What is human faith that it can achieve such great things? The simplest answer to the question of the nature of human faith is that faith is the human ‘Yes’, the affirmation, coming from the heart, to the definitive affirmation from God which comes to us in the occasion of our justification. It is the human ‘Yes’ to that clear and already accomplished negation by God which we have because of that definitive affirmation in Jesus Christ. Believers say Yes to God’s Word, to God’s judgement, to the judgement of God which condemns sin and condemns the sinner to perish, but also acquits us, because it acquits sinners. Believers agree that God’s condemning and acquitting judgement is already accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ. It has been accomplished to such a degree that a sinner’s death lies behind us and the life of the just lies before us, right now. Faith is our heartfelt affirmation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It affirms Good Friday and Easter Sunday as being the two great events which are decisive for all human beings. Because it is this heartfelt affirmation, faith is justifying faith, it is fides iustificans. (E. Jüngel, Justification 237)
Faith is our ‘Yes’ to God’s ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus Christ—this is the meaning of sola fide. Faith is our affirmation of God’s affirmation of us. Faith passively accepts what was actively accomplished on our behalf. In terms of the atonement and the being of Jesus Christ, faith is not a deed or work which actualizes what would otherwise remain merely potential and thus ineffective. In terms of our own relation to this salvific event, however, faith does indeed effect something, but only as a passive relation to the divine self-determination in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Faith is the opening of our hearts to the person of Jesus Christ. Faith allows the word of God to penetrate, disrupt, and reorient our very existence: “Faith is understood here as the relation of man who responds to the God who addresses him, a relation which is made possible by the event of the God who speaks and which is existentially called into being” (Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World 163). Faith is “called into being” by the word, and thus faith depends upon the creative grace of God. By faith alone, we are existentially made new so that we ontically correspond to the God who recreates sinners as the people of the covenant. To put this another way, in faith we correspond with the person that we already actually are in Christ—i.e., we correspond with ourselves, with the self that already died and was raised to new life. In faith, our existential self in the ‘here and now’ corresponds with the ontological self in the ‘there and then.’
Man is removed—through the word of God addressing him—in faith into that very defined extra nos which has in the series of human being-here and being-now a concrete historical place in a very definite ‘here and now’ (hic et nunc), namely, in the ‘there and then’ (illic et tunc) of the cross of Jesus Christ. (GMW 183)

The faith of human beings is their heartfelt Yes to Jesus Christ and to the divine judgement that has been passed and enacted. This Yes comes from the heart, because the divine judgement has come into the heart of believers, striking them in the centre of their existence. … The Yes of faith is the most concentrated expression of human existence. When we believe, our whole existence becomes a single Yes by which we are affirming God’s decisive judgement over all human existence and thus over our own existence. But who is really making the decision here? Who makes the decision in my heart? Do I make the decision about myself? (Justification 238)
The answer must be, ‘No, only God determines who we are. Only God can make the judgment about my being.’ This is not a comfortable thought for a free-thinking, Enlightened, individualistic society which proclaims the pseudo-gospel of self-realization and self-determination. The modern individual thinks that she must “find herself” or that he must “become all that he can be.” Inevitably, in such a corrosive milieu, faith becomes an individual act of self-determination. We make a “choice” for God, just as we make a choice to go to this particular college or this particular church. “Faith is frequently understood as being a human decision for God, whereby the human Self makes its own fundamental decision about itself. Faith has been interpreted as a free and fundamental decision of the human subject” (238). All of this is part of an individualistic, voluntaristic culture which relocates action and identity in the individual human. ‘You are what you do’—this is what we are told by parents, media, books, even pastors. The gospel of Jesus Christ declares something else entirely, a message of radical passivity and dependence upon the God who alone is self-determining. And in that God determines God’s own being, God also determines our being. In that God justifies Godself, God also determines that we shall be justified.

Faith is thus not our decision for God, but our acceptance of the fact that God has already decided about us. Faith is our existential Yes of acceptance to the historical-ontological Yes of God actualized in the person of Jesus Christ. By faith we do not ‘make something of ourselves’; instead, we discover that we have already been made. We discover that we are not our own, that we belong to the Creator of heaven and earth. Faith is a journey of discovery in which we discover ourselves at the same time that we discover God.
By responding with a heartfelt Yes to God’s effectual justifying judgement, we are affirming that a gracious decision has already been made concerning us and that the justified and thus new nature is already established by this effectual divine decision. We discover ourselves as new people, constituted by God. Faith is a self-discovery that begins at the same time as we discover God. It is the discovery of a self-renewal that affects the whole person. Those who discover themselves as new persons cannot make themselves into new persons; nor can they decide to exist as such. (241)
Faith is the “act of saying Yes to my own negation and affirmation by God” (242). Faith is the Yes of Mary when she answers the angel, “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Faith follows after the word of God in obedience. Faith is being-after God’s promise, just as theology is thinking-after God’s self-revelation. In theology, one thinks after the movement of God in the triune economy of salvation history. In faith, one responds after the movement of God who addresses us and calls us outside ourselves. Faith is a movement of our own being that follows God’s being. But in that we follow God’s being, we are also following our own true being. Thus, as we follow God in faith, we come to find our own true identity in and with God. Because God posits Godself as a being-in-becoming—who created human creatures as beings-in-becoming by God’s grace alone—we are freed from the sinful pursuit of trying to “become” something new in ourselves. Instead, in freedom, we recognize that God has already determined us to be new creatures in Jesus Christ. In our faithful affirmation of this divine determination, we then allow God to alter us and make us new creatures here in the present. In the freedom of faith, we passively follow the active God who creates ex nihilo. Faith is a process of being shaped, of being conformed to the image of God in Jesus Christ (conformitas Christi). Faith is a being-after, a being-taken-along by God:
Faith … is the immediate form of being taken along by God. Faith is the ego’s going out of itself unceasingly. … God does not come near to us without moving us out of our self-realized nearness to ourselves: ‘he puts us outside of ourselves’ (ponit nos extra nos). God is only present to the ego which has been moved outside of itself. On the other hand, God with me is removed from me for the very reason that he comes nearer to me and is nearer to me than I am able to come near to myself. That very thing which is closest to me is that which is radically removed from me. It can be experienced only in the ecstatic structure of this ‘we being outside ourselves’ (nos extra nos esse). (Jüngel, GMW 167, 182)
In conclusion, faith brings us back to the other three particles of justification. Faith follows the word of God which addresses us, a word of promise and grace that was embodied and effected in Jesus Christ. Faith begins in the heart of God and finds completion in the heartfelt trust of the person who entrusts herself to God. Faith is indeed the narrow way, but it is a way that was traveled for us in Jesus of Nazareth, who represents us as the faithful Son before the loving Father. Consequently, faith does not belong to the one who believes, because the one who believes recognizes that God has displaced us from ourselves. We no longer possess but are instead possessed by God; we are not our own, but we belong to God. True faith affirms that “every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), including but not limited to the gift of faith, which is more accurately the gift of ourselves. We live anew as those who are gifted with ourselves, as those who continually receive our being from God. Insofar as we receive ourselves from God—insofar as we allow ourselves to be displaced, allow God to be nearer to us than we are to ourselves, and entrust ourselves to God as those who live-after the life of Jesus Christ—we become truly human. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). The truly human person lives outside of herself and entrusts herself wholly to God alone.
Faith, the heartfelt Yes to God’s judgement, is the foundational act of a life lived definitively outside itself. Faith thus follows the movement of the Word that justifies sinners. In faith we agree that God’s justifying Word is calling, taking and placing us outside ourselves. In faith we go outside ourselves, that is, in conformity with the divine decision that affects us. In faith we comprehend the movement of our own justification which has already taken place in Jesus Christ, and it is in that comprehension – and not in some other way! – that we also complement that comprehension. As those who have been moved, we move; as those who have been moved by the grace and the Word of God, we move in accordance with this movement of divine grace and the divine Word. Believing, we trust God and thus entrust ourselves to the movement of grace and God’s Word. That is why the external righteousness of God becomes in faith our own righteousness. For, as we believe, we allow ourselves to be transposed to the place which is our rightful place, that is where we, as human beings, are in our rightful human place: with God and his righteousness – with the God who is gracious to us and who, out of his grace, has suffered the judgement of a sinner condemned to death in order to bring new, justified life to light out of the darkness of such a death.

That is where I come to myself. That is where I am righteous. Outside myself I am in full possession of myself. If such a thing as Christian mysticism existed, it would consist of some such crossover of the inward and the outward, whereby the God who speaks to me in the act of justification calls me out to him in a fellowship of life. Of course, such fellowship can only be a fellowship along the way. The mystical union would not be the goal, but the way. Furthermore, it would be a way where the world was not shut out, but viewed from a new perspective. It follows that this would be a way where our senses might not – as is otherwise the case in mystical exercises – be excluded, but rather would be heightened, so that we would have eyes to see, ears to hear – to hear and be amazed. It would be a mysticism of opened eyes and opened ears. (242-43)
What all four particles emphasize is our human passivity before the God who came in Jesus Christ, whose grace overcomes the world, who speaks to us in the “word of the cross,” and who lived a human life of faithful obedience. Justification by faith alone is passive because God is active, inclusive because we are excluded from the act of atonement, gracious because we are judged, dialogical because God speaks to us and we hear the word of truth, and creative because the triune Lord who made heaven and earth determined in Godself to bring about a new creation. All of this coheres in Jesus Christ, who is the proleptic realization of God’s eschatological promise to be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). In him, all things are reconciled (2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 3:28); in him alone we find our true freedom as the children of God.

All four particles are thus nothing more than a gloss on the twin proclamations of the gospel: solus Deus [God alone] and Deus pro nobis [God for us]. The God who is the exclusive source of life is also the God who condescended to be with us and who took our place in life and in death so that new life might be ours without restriction. We can then say that solus Deus pro nobis is the sum of the gospel. We find our identity and true humanity in nothing and no one apart from the God who accomplished all things ‘for us and for our salvation.’ God alone for us—that is the summa.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part IV: Solo Verbo

Part IV: Solo verbo
The God of grace, the God who justifies the ungodly is a God who speaks. This very fact, that he is not a silent partner, but speaks as he interacts with us, is grace. (Jüngel 198)
The justification of the ungodly is a word event. Primarily, this is because the justifying grace of God is actualized in Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate. Secondarily, God’s grace reaches us existentially in the “word of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18), in which the reality ‘there and then’ in AD 1-30 becomes our reality ‘here and now.’ Jesus Christ is the Word of God to us, for us, and with us. In him God has spoken new life through the cross and resurrection. In him God has revealed the No of judgment and the Yes of reconciliation. In him the dialectic of rejection and justification are conjoined and completed. In him we hear the word of the gospel: Immanuel, God is with us.
God has spoken, spoken once and for all, in the person of Jesus Christ, who died for all human beings and was raised from the dead (Heb. 1:2). And he has said what he had to say once and for all in the story of this person. Paul compresses this neatly when he writes: ‘in him it has always been “Yes”’ (2 Cor. 1:19 [NIV]). And this Yes of God’s happened when God gave his grace its due place and thus set in motion the justification of the ungodly. (198)
Justification is a trinitarian dialogical event. We can describe the dialogical theo-drama of salvation in the following way. In the protological first act, the triune God constitutes Godself in triunity by speaking the primal Yes ad intra—the Father speaks, the Son is spoken, and the Spirit unites the divine dialogue—followed by the second act, in which God both reveals this Yes ad extra in the incarnation of the Word in time and space and empowers the Yes of God’s Word through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who welcomes broken humanity into the divine dialogue of grace. The economic work of the triune God is thus an act of self-communication to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who comes to us now in the “word of the cross,” the gospel of grace, in which we hear the proclamation of our justification and the invitation to respond with thanks and praise. The Yes of God to humanity invites us to respond with our own Yes.

The event of justification in the economy of salvation has a two-fold movement—ontological and ontic, or christological and existential—which begins when God speaks the divine Yes as a judgment on the life and death of Jesus “in the form of a Word that raises from the dead” (199). God’s Yes to Jesus establishes the ontological status of humanity, who are all elect in the incarnate Word, the one mediator between God and humanity. The event of justification is then realized existentially when God speaks the divine Yes to human beings in the kerygma. The human response of faith establishes the ontic status of each individual by bringing the inner person into correspondence to God. The passive new human responds with her own Yes to God in invocation and thanksgiving through the Eucharistic fellowship of the communio sanctorum. The joy of this Yes overflows to the outer person who is liberated to continue this dialogue in human acts of love. To quote Luther, “nothing happens but that our dear Lord himself speaks with us through his holy word, and we in turn speak with him through prayer and praise.” Thus we do not act on our own power but only out of the encounter with the speaking God who conforms us into Christ’s image, and thus into the imago Dei. God pro nobis graciously communicates to humanity, and humanity—by grace alone—is able to respond.

The divine Yes sums up all we need to know of justification solo verbo, but we must remember that this Yes always includes the divine No. Both the No and Yes of God are brought together in the person of Jesus, who took upon himself the No of judgment against sin and the Yes of pardon from sin: in the Word incarnate we see the word that both judges and pardons. This judgment reaches us in the gospel, the “word of the cross,” and an encounter with God’s Yes to us gives our very existence “a word-shaped structure” (199). As those defined by the word of God, we take on the forma verbi—the “shape of the word”—and the church functions as the creatura verbi—the “creature of the word.”

The drama of the word provides the framework for our analysis of justification by the word alone. We must still investigate, in light of Jüngel’s theology, what this word is and how it affects human beings existentially in our ontological identity coram Deo. I will do so in the form of numbered theses.

1. The word is both divine judgment and divine creation; the word judges as it creates, and creates as it judges. Justification is a judicial or forensic event, but such judgments must be understood as part of the divine drama of salvation in which the Yes of God connects God’s being and our being in an ontological relation of new creation. This is what distinguishes divine judgment from human judgment: human judges make judgments based on what is already true—a person is innocent or guilty—whereas God’s judgments establish truth—God makes the guilty innocent and the ungodly righteous. What God determines in divine judgment is the truth of life, and what was true prior to God’s judgment is nullified by God. God determines who we are coram Deo, which means that our actions do not decide our identity. God’s creative judgment on Jesus raises him from the dead to a new existence, and God’s judgment on us re-creates us now as new creations that await the consummation of this judgment in the eschaton, when mortality will put on immortality and we too will participate in the resurrection of all things.
If sinners are pronounced righteous by God’s judging Word – which is also pre-eminently creative in its judging power – and thus recognized by God as being righteous, then they not only count as righteous, they are righteous. Here we must again remind ourselves that the Word alone can in this way do both things at once: a judgement and a creative Word – a pardon and a Word which sets us free. (211)
2. The word addresses human beings as God’s dialogue partners in the covenant of grace. The essence of the Logos is self-communication, in which God’s self-disclosure and self-revelation not only find concrete expression in the incarnate Word, but also become words of address that communicate righteousness to the otherwise unrighteous. The Logos is an effective word which not only speaks to us, but also imparts or imputes righteousness to us. In other words, the word of God is both declarative and ontological; the word reveals and transforms, proclaims and renews, judges and reconciles. Human beings are linguistic creatures who are shaped by language. In the event of justification, the word reshapes us so that we are reoriented to the divine Word, and thus our identity is located in the Logos and no longer in ourselves. We are declared righteous, and thus we are righteous. We who once were incurvatus in se—curved in upon ourselves—are now externally reoriented and relate to God, others, and ourselves as those who are interrupted and displaced. We speak a new language. We are part of a new dialogue.

3. The creative word creates us anew by placing us extra nos [outside ourselves]. The Logos of God speaks to us and interrupts us by displacing us from ourselves. We “find ourselves” only outside of ourselves, contrary to all contemporary spiritualities that tell us to seek the source of our identity within ourselves. The one who is justified does not possess righteousness, just as no person possesses the imago Dei. Identity, the image of God, righteousness, and salvation are all located in God alone—solus Deus—who brings us into right relations with others and ourselves by bringing us to God through the divine word. Sin is the opposite of such right relations as the individual descent into relationlessness, which is death. By allowing God to place us extra nos, we allow God to interrupt our endless spiral toward nothingness and give us new life which is found in the abundant riches of God’s grace alone. When we are outside of ourselves, we are with God, affirmed by God, made new by God.
I am always accepted by someone else. I always have to gain my acceptance before a group. So recognition can never be ‘had’ as a possession by the one who is accepted or recognized. Those who are justified must resort to a tribunal outside themselves (extra se). There is nothing about them or in them – not even justifying grace poured into them – which can make sinners righteous. In the reality of the state of the justified there are no concessions to be made. They are righteous purely and simply because they are pronounced righteous. And they are only pronounced righteous because God’s righteousness, which is extraneous to them, is attributed, imputed to them. So in the strictest sense, God’s righteousness comes to them from outside, it is outward. Sinners are righteous externally to themselves: extrinsece Iustificantur semper. Sinners are righteous externally to themselves in the same sense that the Word is an external One, coming from the outside into our innermost being and responding and relating to what has happened outside us (extra nos) in Christ. (206)

… the justifying Word of God speaks to us creatively. Such a Word can never remain ‘external’ to those addressed. Together with the righteousness of God that brings it to us, it touches us so greatly that it touches us more closely than we can touch ourselves. It becomes to us something more inward than our inmost being: interior intimo meo. However, now we need to emphasize again that the justifying Word that so addresses and touches sinners does not let us remain in ourselves; it calls and places our inner being outside ourselves. If our inner being were to stay put, it would not be justified. This is what creatively defines those who are in concord with God: they come out of themselves in order to come to themselves – outside themselves, among other persons, and above all with the person of the wholly other God. And this is our human sin: that we want to come to ourselves by ourselves – instead of outside ourselves. So, leaving the relational riches of our being, we press forward into relationlessness. The Word of justifying grace essentially interrupts sinners in this urge towards relationlessness as it speaks creatively to us. It calls us out of ourselves as it comes so close to us, as it speaks and relates to what is outside ourselves, to what has been definitively moved by God's righteousness. It speaks and relates to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ as they are outside us. The justifying Word from the cross addresses our inner being in this exterior aspect of our existence so that there we may come to ourselves and thus really, effectively be renewed. ‘Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17). (212-13)
4. The word finds concrete expression as both word and sacrament, as proclamation and Eucharist. With the justifying word that addresses sinners, we have no dichotomy between spirit and senses, between reason and experience, between invisible and visible. The word that proclaims to us the truth of life—the justifying judgment, the Yes to grace and life and the No to sin and death—is a word that also demands concrete expression in our worship as the communio sanctorum, the communion of saints gathered at the cross and marked out for the path of discipleship. We must proclaim and embody the gospel; we must hear, but also take and eat.

5. ‘Solo verbo’ means both ‘solus Christus’ and ‘solo evangelio’—Christ alone, by the gospel alone. The divine word is both the incarnate Word of God in Jesus Christ, and the proclaimed Word of God in the gospel kerygma which declares to us the truth of life: that the ungodly have been declared righteous in Christ alone. The gospel of Jesus Christ “so unites with Jesus Christ human beings who have been named as sinners that they are able conscientiously to have no conscience” (232). In sum, solo verbo, solus Christus, and solo evangelio all state the same reality: freedom.

Friday, August 18, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part III: Sola Gratia

Part III: Sola gratia
If the exclusive Christological formula excludes our having any other mediator but Jesus Christ (or any other mediatrix), then the exclusive formula of sola gratia guarantees that everything God has done for humanity in, through and for the sake of Jesus Christ is an unconditional divine gift. (Jüngel, Justification 173)
The phrase “by grace alone” conditions the statement “Christ alone” by asserting that God’s love and mercy is not conditioned by anything external to God. The triune God alone is the unconditioned, self-determining God of all grace. Nothing humanity does or fails to do has any impact upon what God accomplishes. The formula sola gratia “clearly excludes human beings from taking an active role in their justification” (175). Any active participation on the part of human beings is excluded by God’s free and sovereign grace. The outworking of God’s love remains free from any creaturely conditions, and thus is not deterred by human sinfulness. God’s love must be understood out of itself, out of divine self-revelation, and not out of any comparison with human love. God’s love does something sui generis; it is utterly incomprehensible and yet revealed to us in the person of Jesus. The love of God is grace, and as grace it is creative and replete with possibilities. The gracious love of God accomplishes what humankind cannot accomplish: it brings the dead to new life.
God’s love for us thus flies the banner ‘by grace alone’. A fellowship of love is by definition a fellowship of choice, except that there is an important distinction between a fellowship of love from human being to human being and one of God to human beings. Human love, amor hominis, chooses what is attractive and present. [. . .] The amor crucis, on the other hand, God’s love revealed in the cross of Jesus, discovers nothing attractive, only sin, so that God’s love first creates what is attractive by the act of love: ‘The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it’ (Luther). The love of God, the amor Dei, is directed to the unlovable and the ugly and by the act of creative love makes them lovable and beautiful. That is the difference between human fellowships of love and the loving fellowship of God and human beings which is founded on compassion. God has mercy on those who are totally unlovable. (174)
Jüngel writes at length about the nature of God’s love in God as the Mystery of the World, in which the transformative, creative aspect of divine grace is emphasized. Love, according to Jüngel, is that which overcomes opposition not by force, but by transformation from within:
Love wants to radiate. As love, it presses to move beyond the lovers themselves. … It wants to radiate out into the realm of lovelessness. … And so it does not fear lovelessness but rather drives out fear (1 John 4:18). … For love does not assert itself in any other way than through love. And that is both its strength and its weakness. Since love asserts itself only lovingly, it is highly vulnerable from the outside, but inwardly it is profoundly indestructible. It remains with its element, and it radiates in order to draw into itself. It cannot destroy what opposes it, but can only transform it. (GMW 325)

God has himself only in that he gives himself away. But, in giving himself away, he has himself. That is how he is. … God is the one and living God in that he as the loving Father gives up his beloved Son and thus turns to those others, those people who are marked by death, and draws the death of these people into his eternal life. (GMW 328)
Jüngel is thus able to extrapolate from the Johannine definition of God as love the further definition of God as the one who “unites life and death in favor of life” (GMW 326). As the self-giving God of love and grace, the triune God who created all life became vulnerable and weak in the person of Jesus Christ, taking on the likeness of sinful flesh, in order to overcome death in the death of the Son for the sake of new life for all people. As the Latin epigram goes, “Mors mortis morti mortem nisi morte tu lisset, aeternae vitae janua clausa foret,” which, when translated, states, “Had not death by death borne to death the death of Death, the gate of eternal life would have been closed.” The point is that God’s loving grace is such that it indeed overcomes opposition, including the opposition of death itself, but it is not omnipotent in the sense of absolute power. Rather, the love and grace of God is the one place where we find power and weakness existing together in a dialectical unity. Only as divine love can God’s cruciform weakness have the power to transform lovelessness. Only because God is the “union of death and life for the sake of life” (GMW 299) can God make what is ugly and unlovable truly lovable and beautiful. Only because God is Love can the expression of love in the cross lead to the victory of love in the resurrection.

Because God is the triune God of all grace, however, we as sinful human beings are excluded from having any “active participation” in our justification. If justification occurs solely by God’s grace, then “sinners simply can do nothing for their own justification” (179). As Jüngel states clearly, “We ourselves can contribute nothing towards our fellowship with God, absolutely nothing. We can only receive. We are in fact involved in our justification in a merely passive way” (181). We are brought into an ontological participation with God, but it is one in which we are taken outside ourselves (extra nos) and made to conform to the image of God embodied in Jesus Christ (conformitas Christi). We have no role to play in making ourselves beautiful; we cannot make ourselves more lovable before God. We must all find ourselves by going out of ourselves, by finding our identity in the person of Jesus, first at the foot of the cross and only then at the empty tomb.

Once we recognize and affirm that justification is by grace alone, that we can do nothing to alter the reality of sin and nothingness that encompasses our lives, only then will we recognize that God has determined to be our God and for us to be the people of God. In other words, when we are extra nos, faith then recognizes Deus pro nobis (God for us) as well as Deus in nobis (God in us). “God is only near to us in that he distances us from ourselves. … When we, in listening to his word, are outside of ourselves, then God is already there for us” (GMW 183). Those who were once marked by death are by the grace of God now drawn into eternal life. The mystery of the gospel is that the mors mortis—the death of death—has already occurred. The reign of sin and death has already been defeated. What we must proclaim now is not that our good works cannot save us, but that all of our attempts to justify ourselves have already been nullified by the glorious grace of God who came to this world to draw those “who are marked by death” into new life with God. We are all excluded for the sake of being included. God’s No of judgment is simultaneously God’s Yes of grace; our negation is also our justification.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part II: Solus Christus

Part II: Solus Christus

The affirmation that Christ alone is our justification begins by identifying the Second Person of the Trinity with the man Jesus, apart from which we can have no guarantee of our salvation. The central text is John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (cf. Acts 4:12, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20). By affirming the uniqueness and exclusiveness of Jesus Christ, we state that in him alone we find new life for the world. No one else can serve as a savior alongside the Son of God; only Jesus is capable of fulfilling this role. By confessing that Jesus alone is Lord and Savior, we confess that we play no role in accomplishing our salvation. We confess that God finished this work in the life, death, and resurrection of the one mediator between God and humanity.
Faith in Jesus Christ implies that only he can stand and has stood in the place of all people. Only he and he alone! But this one alone takes the place of all others and so represents all others. That is the inclusiveness, which is the goal of Jesus’ exclusiveness. Both are fundamentally linked to each other in the concept of substitution. This concept links the element of Jesus’ exclusiveness to that of inclusiveness. It says that this one single person died for all (2 Cor. 5:14f). Therefore in him all are made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Thus the aim of confessing the exclusiveness of Christ is to decide the status of all people. In him alone all people are included. His exclusiveness consists in the universal inclusion of all people. (Jüngel, Justification 150-51)
The statement “Christ alone” takes us back to “God alone,” apart from which we might be misled into thinking that Jesus’ life and death is simply a moral example and not a salvific, substitutionary, sacrificial death on behalf of the world. Jesus Christ—as true God and true human, as the Creator who enters the creation—is alone capable of atoning for the sins of the world, because in him alone both the God who judges and the people who are judged are present. The statement “Christ alone” states “that in Jesus Christ alone, none other than God himself has come into the world and that therefore in this one person the salvation of all people is determined” (153).

The death of Jesus is God’s offering of Godself for the world in order to bring shalom to a broken creation. The cross is the eschatological event that establishes the covenantal foundation for the new heavens and new earth. God’s self-offering brings life and freedom to those who once existed in bondage to sin and death: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10; cf 1 Jn. 5:20). Just as the sins of Israel were transferred to the animals sacrificed to God in order to restore relations between God and the covenant community, so too our sins—in fact, our very persons—are assumed by Jesus so that his death is our death and his new life brings new life to all people. In both situations, Israelite offerings and God’s self-offering in Jesus Christ, it is never human beings who effect the atoning work. God alone acts to reconcile sinful human beings with the Holy One of Israel. And nowhere is this more pronounced than in the “word of the cross,” in which we hear the astounding news that God became the sacrifice. In Jesus, God took on the very being of sinful humanity in order to atone for sin and establish new relations between Creator and creation.
It is not God who is conciliated [in the sacrificial offering of an animal], but God who reconciles the world. Sinful human beings do not atone for themselves; the Holy God removes the sin from sinful human beings. (159)

Since the eternal God has identified himself with this human being, since Jesus Christ the human being is the Son of God, for that reason the whole of humanity is integrated in his humanness. Thus we are all present in the One, so that it is true to say: ‘One has died for all; therefore all have died’ (2 Cor. 5:14; cf. Rom. 5:12-21). […] Not only was God shown as reconciling the world in him, but this reconciliation was accomplished in him. This did not come about by a replacement, but, if we may use this term, by the ontologically appropriate substitution. Therefore he is the epitome of the perfect sacrifice, sacrificed once and for all. There is no meaningful sacrifice that can follow. (161-62)
“Christ alone,” as “God alone,” means that Jesus Christ does not simply show us how much God loves us but actually accomplishes God’s purposes for the world. Our justification is not only revealed in Christ, but it is realized in him. He takes upon himself our very being in order to judge and kill our sinful natures and establish in himself a new humanity for all people. In Christ alone, “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

Monday, August 14, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part I: Introduction

Part I: Introduction to the doctrine of justification in the theology of Eberhard Jüngel

Over the next week, I will post my expositions on Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification, which were originally published as part of a series on universalism at my blog. These posts follow the trajectory of Jüngel's thought in his most recent major publication, Das Evangelium von der Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen als Zentrum des christlichen Glaubens, translated into English by Jeffrey Cayzer as Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith. Along the way, I also quote from God as the Mystery of the World, where most of his best work is on display. This first post is an introduction to the series and to the contours of Jüngel's thought on the subject.

The doctrine of justification, made prominent in the theology of Martin Luther, is in many respects the “heart of the Christian faith.” Justification is the hermeneutical category through which we grasp the significance of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the Christian gospel. Jesus apart from justification can be interpreted in any number of ways. There is a lot of textual support from the sayings of Jesus in the gospel accounts for a version of Christianity as a purely moral religion—i.e., how we live our lives, whether for good or evil, determines whether we are accepted by God or not. A strong case could be made, divorced of course from the rest of the New Testament, that Jesus brings to the world a message of how to live one’s life in a holy and righteous way. We see this, for example, in the Mormon church. Any interpretation of Jesus along these lines is an interpretation devoid of justification, because justification asserts that Jesus, the Christ of God, came to make righteous those who were otherwise unrighteous and would remain so regardless of how well they lived their lives before God. Justification is the negation of our human efforts at pleasing God for the sake of a greater affirmation brought about by the Son of God incarnate, who lived, died, and rose again for our justification.

Eberhard Jüngel qualifies the doctrine of justification with the four Reformation particles: Christ alone (solus Christus), by grace alone (sola gratia), by the word alone (solo verbo), and by faith alone (sola fide). As Jüngel points out, the sum effect of these four phrases is the single assertion: solus deus—God alone. “Humans are indeed excluded with the aim of properly including them in their justification” (Jüngel 148). What I will do next is provide an overview of Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification according to each of the particles. I will close with some reflections on Jüngel's significance for contemporary theology.

NB: All cititations are from Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, unless otherwise noted.

Monday, August 07, 2006

GBB: God's Being Revealed, pp. 13-17

God’s Being Is in Becoming: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 13-17

Key Concept: The doctrine of the Trinity is the methodological and material starting-point for theology, because this doctrine thinks about God solely in light of God’s self-revelation.

Summary of Section: In these opening pages of the first chapter, Eberhard Jüngel argues that Barth’s Church Dogmatics is significant in that it attempts to think through God’s self-revelation in light of the doctrine of the Trinity. Barth thinks-after the movement of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, Christology is the heart of Barth’s project, but Christology brings us back to the doctrine of election, which brings us back to the doctrine of God. When we examine the economic activity of God in human history, we are thrust back to the nature and being of God as the one who determined to be this God in Jesus. Consequently, Barth places the doctrine of God’s being as triune at the start of his dogmatics as a hermeneutical decision. Karl Barth’s entire dogmatic enterprise originates in his conviction that the doctrine of the Trinity is the hermeneutical center out of which we may think Christianly about the being and work of God. We are thus given a theological lens through which we may properly understand election, incarnation, reconciliation, and redemption as the acts of a triune God who is free and sovereign as the God who is self-moved and self-determining.

By placing the doctrine of the Trinity at the start of the Church Dogmatics, Barth replaces the usual prolegomena with a material dogma. In doing so, he rejects the usual method which decides upon a method first before discussing the material. Instead, Barth places the doctrine of God at the start in order to allow the being of God to condition both our hermeneutics and dogmatics. (We can see from the start that Jüngel views the doctrine of the Trinity as the answer to the debate between dogmatics and hermeneutics, between Gollwitzer and Braun.) The triune being of God is not the end but the beginning of the theological journey. According to Jüngel, “the whole Church Dogmatics finds its hermeneutical foundation here [in the doctrine of the Trinity], and, on the other hand, with this decision hermeneutics itself finds its own starting-point” (17). But we reach the doctrine of the Trinity only because we start from God’s self-revelation. The rest of this chapter will address the relationship between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of revelation.

Key Quote:
God preceded the far country into which he went, in that he decided to go there. This precedence of God in his primal decision shows that God’s being not only ‘proceeds’ on the way into the far country but that God’s being is in movement from eternity. God’s being is moved being: ‘God is who He is in the act of revelation.’ Equally, however, God’s primal decision teaches us to understand God’s being concretely. God’s primal decision to go into the far country is certainly not a decision forced upon him from the far country, not something foreign to him, but his free decision. Moreover, as God’s decision to go into the far country in which he suffers what is foreign to him for the benefit of humanity threatened in the strange land, this decision is an act of love. Thus God’s primal decision, realised in our history, allows us to perceive ‘the being of God as the one who loves in freedom.’ … Thus God’s moved being will certainly have to be handled—most especially in the doctrine of the Trinity—as a being moved by God. (14-15)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Jüngel and baptism

Kurt Anders Richardson’s book, Reading Karl Barth, includes a very substantial engagement with Eberhard Jüngel’s work on baptism. Richardson argues for the validity of Jüngel’s assertion that “whoever wishes to baptise infants should not proclaim his closeness to Barth’s doctrine of predestination.” I’ve discussed this in a review of the book over at Faith and Theology.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Further GBB posts

I plan on continuing the series through God's Being Is in Becoming starting this next week. After looking at the two introductions, the posts will now follow a set pattern to keep them at a reasonable length. They will have the following format:

Key Concept

Summary of Section

Key Quote

Further Reading

The first chapter is "God's Being Revealed," and the first section is on the vestigium trinitatis.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I differentiate

I believe, therefore I differentiate. Faith is an act of original differentiation. Through an act of original differentiation, God created other, creaturely being, and within this created reality he created wholesome distinctions between heaven and earth, day and night, water and land, man and woman, etc. Similarly, faith which trusts in God knows itself bound to original differentiation. It differentiates first and foremost between God and world, between creator and creature, in order to bring out their proper relation of an unsurpassable nearness. ...

Those who believe have found in God and in God alone the origin and goal of their being, the supporting foundation of their existence. They know themselves to be eternally secure in his creative love, and in it alone. They know themselves to be justified by God’s grace, and by it alone. They know Jesus Christ as the way and the truth and the life, and he alone. When it is a matter of the truth of their idea of God and of their salvation, they listen to the Holy Scriptures, and to them alone. The believer knows faith and faith alone as that creative passivity, in which being able to take is more blessed than being able to give. But to say alone and only is already to be involved in differentiating in a fundamental way that which may in no way be mixed. Sin is known as the presumptuousness of wanting to be like God, and its destructive compulsion as the need to want to be like God. The believer knows that God became human to differentiate savingly and definitively between God and humanity. ‘We should be human and not God. That is the summa.’ The believer exists in distinction. In this way he or she safeguards life’s wealth of relations. Whoever differentiates has more from life.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 12-13

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jüngel's sermons

Part of the original vision for this blog was formulated as follows:

‘I hope people will join in the task of making this very difficult but even more profound theologian more accessible to the church today’.

It is for that reason that I shall, now and then, post selections from Jüngel’s sermons, with perhaps light discussion as to his method. I am a NT exegete, and how Jüngel handles scripture is a major question within my own horizon.

In his introduction to his multi-volume collection of sermons, Jüngel writes:

‘Sermons are attempts, with the help of biblical texts, to make discoveries with God. Whoever discovers God doesn’t remain the old person, the one who he, until now, was aware of, and of whom he must truly be aware of again and again. For whoever discovers God, learns also to know himself entirely anew, making, to a certain extent, surprising discoveries about himself and his world. And so he begins to become astounded’ (Predigten, Vol 1., p. 7)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The freedom of theology: seven theses

1. The freedom of theology is the exercise of theology’s right to be exclusively theology.

2. The freedom of theology is the freedom of Christian existence perceived in the responsibility of thinking.

3. The freedom of theology has its possibility in the position of theology [i.e., its position over against the Word of God].

4. The freedom of theology has its reality in the word of theology.

5. The freedom of theology has its necessity in the necessity of theology.

6. The freedom of theology is carried out in the controversy over the freedom of theology.

7. The freedom of theology becomes concrete in the demands of freedom.

[Jüngel goes on to develop each of these theses with a series of sub-theses, resulting in a total of 166 theses on the freedom of theology!]

—Eberhard Jüngel, “Die Freiheit der Theologie,” in Entsprechungen: Gott, Wahrheit, Mensch (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1986), p. 29.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

GBB. Introduction II: Responsible Speech about the Being of God According to Karl Barth

Barth thinks as a theologian. [. . .] This means, however, that the being of God which is the subject of theological questioning is prevenient. (9)
Jüngel presents in this second introduction to God's Being Is in Becoming a concept taken from Barth’s dogmatics that he unpacks in much greater detail in his great work, God as the Mystery of the World. The concept is Nachdenken, to think after, which characterizes Barth’s method of theology. Theology, according to Barth and Jüngel, is a thinking-after (Nachdenkens) God’s self-revelation. God’s being precedes all human thought, and thus God is the subject rather than the object of theology who gives Godself to humanity as an object for thought. To think “as a theologian” means allowing God to determine how one can and should think of God. God precedes, and humanity follows. All human presuppositions are laid aside. Jüngel writes:
God’s being goes before the theological question about God’s being; it is not in some way presupposed by this inquiry. [. . .] As object of theological questioning, the being of God cannot be such a presupposition. It is much more a matter that the being of God goes before all theological questioning in such a way that in its movement it paves the way for questioning. (9)
What is the significance of this for Jüngel? Two things are worth noting. (1) Human beings do not set the parameters for God’s being; only God determines who God is. From the start, then, Jüngel rules out metaphysical theism as the inappropriate task of defining concepts without thinking-after God’s being, i.e., without following the movement of God’s self-revelation. Classical metaphysics makes God the object rather than the proceeding subject of theology. Theology that thinks-after God means “thinking consistently and exclusively as a theologian,” and not allowing any other discipline to determine how one should think of God.

(2) Jüngel is here setting the stage for his mediation between the positions of Barth and Bultmann—between the question of God’s being and the question of what it means to speak of God. Jüngel brings together dogmatics and hermeneutics by locating them both in the event of Jesus Christ as the focal point for the doctrine of God. Who God is and how to speak rightly of God are both revealed in the person of Jesus. Because this book is an explication of the doctrine of the Trinity, we can use trinitarian terms to express this more accurately. If the immanent Trinity is the being of God ad intra, then the economic Trinity is the being of God ad extra, which Jüngel describes as the being of God that proceeds and thus precedes all human thought. The event of Jesus Christ is the center of God’s economic activity, an activity which corresponds with God’s very being. Consequently, God’s being is revealed as a being-in-becoming in the person of Christ, so that who God is and how we speak of God correspond when we think-after God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. But this is getting ahead of ourselves. For now, it is sufficient to note that, according to Jüngel,
The being of God is the hermeneutical problem of theology. Or, more precisely: the fact that the being of God proceeds is precisely the hermeneutical problem. For only because the being of God proceeds is there an encounter between God and humanity. And the hermeneutical problem is grounded in precisely this encounter between God and humanity which has its origin in the movement of God’s being. The encounter between God and humanity which has its origin in the movement of God’s being is, according to Barth, first and above all the encounter between the electing God and elected humanity, which is an event in Jesus Christ. Thus the existence of the man Jesus confronts us with the hermeneutical problem, both with regard to our understanding of God and with regard to our understanding of the self and the world. (10-11)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I think

I believe, therefore I think. Faith gives itself to be thought. One cannot believe in God without thinking about him. Faith is passionately concerned to understand itself and thereby understand God. Faith is essentially fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. The extent to which faith is threatened by superstition, and the ease with which God is confused with an idol, are shown by the fact that God is talked about thoughtlessly, and, indeed, by the fact that human reason’s ideas of God, when reason does not let itself be led on to the path of thought by the God who comes to the world, pass God by. ...

The faith which gives itself to be thought attains its idea of God from the harshness of the death of Jesus Christ. It therefore demands that God be thought as the one whose creative omnipotence and freedom are something other than what is prompted by the axiom of divine absoluteness, and as the one whose eternity and activity is something other than what is demanded by the axioms of the timelessness and impassibility of the eternal. If God is love, then truly love is omnipotent, and love is the very core of all true power. And the truth-criterion of power is that it is able to have compassion, and in this way to overcome suffering. God’s being must then be thought as an existence which exposes itself to nothingness, whose richness of being realizes itself as a se in nihilum existere, existing out of itself into nothingness. And God’s creation must then be thought as an act of primordial beginning which implies an act of primordial self-limitation (which Jewish mystics called zimzum). The creator who affirms and calls his creation into being limits himself through the being of his creatures. Accordingly, the idea of God’s omnipresence will need to be re-thought as the concept of the coming of the creator which reaches all creatures and ‘lets be’. In the same sense, all traditional divine attributes will need to be examined critically and, if necessary, re-thought. One can no longer think of God as worldly necessity, or of contingency as inessential. God is more than necessary—as is all true freedom that is the opposite of arbitrariness. God is to be thought out of the event of his advent: as a being who is in coming, and who in himself is the eternal story of God’s richness of relation, God’s coming-to-himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theological thought follows the coming of God; it is the discipleship of thinking which springs from faith.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 9, 10-11

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Request for Help

Some have asked me recently about the possibility of turning this into a group blog. Unfortunately, I do not know how best to go about this. I would like to have a sign-in on the main page like the Gunton Research Discussion Group. Do I just add these people to the blog as team members? Sorry for this rather mundane post, but I would like to allow others to join in the experience of reading and discussing this fine theologian. Thanks to all who help me in this.

Monday, June 12, 2006

GBB. Introduction I: The Situation

God’s being is discussed. (1)
This is the first line of the book, and it properly sets the stage for what to expect. God’s Being Is in Becoming is an exercise in theological ontology. Jüngel intends to elaborate upon Karl Barth’s doctrine of God in order to emphasize one overarching thesis: God in-and-for-Godself is God for us. To use the Latin, Deus pro se est Deus pro nobis.

Jüngel sees himself entering into a dispute—presently embodied in the dispute between Bruce McCormack and Paul Molnar—between the New Testament scholar Herbert Braun and the dogmatic theologian Helmut Gollwitzer. In brief, Braun focuses on how one speaks of God, while Gollwitzer focuses on the being of God. Braun argues for the non-objectifiable character of God, and thus our language conveys only our subjective perspective of God. In other words, for Braun, God is not “out there” as an object, but rather “in here” as the God for humanity. Gollwitzer reacted to these thoughts by strongly asserting that before we can ever speak of God pro nobis, we must speak of God pro se.

While Jüngel clearly agrees with Gollwitzer’s intentions, he raises two objections in this first introduction. First, Jüngel sees the “for us-vs.-for Godself” dialectic mirrored in a dialectic regarding “is” statements: (1) the necessity of such statements in relation to God and (2) the difficulty or “unserviceableness” of such statements in relation to God. Such statements are necessary because the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ makes talk of God’s being possible as well as actual. Such statements, however, are “unserviceable” because, according to Gollwitzer, the idea of being means one thing for God and something very different for created things. If we ascribe being to God, then created things have non-being; if we ascribe being to created things, then God has non-being. If God “is,” then the world “is-not.” If the world “is,” then God “is-not.” This is the dialectical conundrum which Gollwitzer posits regarding the question of ontology.

The second and more serious problem is Gollwitzer’s separation between God’s essence and God’s will. I will quote Jüngel:
Gollwitzer stresses that the mode of being of revelation [. . .] has its ground ‘not in the essence of God but in his will’, so that it is ‘not possible per analogiam to argue back from it to the essence of God in the sense of how God is constituted, but only to the essence of his will, i.e., from his will as made known in history to his eternal will as the will of his free love.’ [. . .] Does not this very distinction which Gollwitzer draws between the essence and the will of God (in distinguishing between the ‘essence of God in the sense of how God is constituted’ from the ‘essence of his will’) leave a gap in a metaphysical background to the being of God which is indifferent to God’s historical acts of revelation? Clearly Gollwitzer does not want to say this. But can this consequence be avoided if the ‘essence of his will’ which is understood as God’s free love is not at the same time understood as the will of his essence? Is not God’s essence determined precisely in his will? Is not precisely God’s ‘eternal will as the will of his free love’ directed towards his revelation by virtue of his free decision as Lord which in such love determines his being and essence? Does not the being of God which becomes manifest in and as history compel us to think of God’s being, in its power which makes revelation possible, as already historical being? And can we think historically of God’s being in its potency which makes possible historical revelation in any other way than as trinitarian being? (5-6)
Jüngel’s concern is wholly justified. Once God’s essence and will are separated, there is no guarantee that what God reveals of Godself in history has anything to do with who God actually is in-and-for-Godself. In other words, Jesus Christ is potentially no longer revelatory of who God really is. This is a return to classical modalism, in which God wears different historical masks—e.g., as Jesus then, as the Holy Spirit now—that are external to the eternal being of God, which remains hidden from creation.

As Webster makes clear in his introduction to the book, Jüngel rightly sees the debate between Gollwitzer and Braun as a continuation of the argument between Barth and Bultmann—Barth is the dogmatician and Bultmann is the New Testament scholar. Barth is concerned with dogmatics, and Bultmann with hermeneutics. Jüngel:
The distinction between the theological starting-points of Bultmann and Barth may thus be formulated in these very rough terms: for Bultmann, speech about God is the proper topic for investigation, whereas for Barth, the question concerns God’s being. In this way, for both theologians speech about God as Christian speech is bound to the Word of God. (2)
And earlier in the introduction he writes:
[Barth] does not ask what it means to speak of God, but, rather, in what sense God must be spoken of in order that our speaking is about God. (1)
Jüngel, as I stated in my earlier post, mediates between Barth and Bultmann, having been schooled both in the hermeneutical school of Bultmann, Fuchs, and Ebeling, as well as in the dogmatic school of Barth. Jüngel allows this situation to set the context for what follows. In his theological interpretation of Barth’s theology, Jüngel shows how Barth provides a way beyond the impasse of objective-subjective, God pro se and God pro nobis. Jüngel does not merely repeat what Barth writes, but he teases out the implications of Barth’s theology in a way that does justice both to Barth’s own thinking and to Jüngel’s personal interests as one feels compelled to offer a way beyond the impasse.

The following is a kind of typology which shows the two sides in the dispute. Placing the different people and concepts into this two-column format obscures much of the complexity, but it nevertheless helps to emphasize the differences. The placement of Barth on the side of Gollwitzer is clearly problematic considering what Jüngel attempts to demonstrate through Barth’s theology, but Barth still falls on that side of the debate.

Barth -------------- Bultmann
Gollwitzer -------- Braun
dogmatics -------- hermeneutics
ontology ---------- anthropology
pro se ------------- pro nobis
immanent -------- economic

The rest of this series will show how Jüngel resolves this debate in a post-metaphysical, trinitarian theology rooted in the identity of the immanent and economic Trinity, and thus the indivisible nature of ontology and anthropology (cf. the later Barth’s theanthropology), dogmatics and hermeneutics, God pro se and God pro nobis.

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I listen

I believe, therefore I listen. Faith comes from the word in which God comes to speech (Rom 10.17). It is a word which is to the benefit of humanity and the human world, a word in which God attests and promises himself: the gospel. The believer knows God as the one who attests and promises himself in the gospel; the meaning of the word ‘God’ is distorted or missed altogether when it is not defined by the gospel. Even as a word of law, the meaning of the word ‘God’ is only legitimate when it is defined by the gospel. But in the gospel God comes to speech as the one who has come to the world in the person of the man Jesus, in order to define his true divinity in unity with this Jew who, after a short but unforgettable public career, lost his life on the gallows. In the gospel, God comes to speech as the one who he is from everlasting to everlasting.

One should note: God himself comes to speech He himself ‘takes the floor’. Indeed, to his eternal being there belongs language that addresses. No human being can speak from him or herself. But God is the one who does speak from himself. His word is the original expression of his being and the original form of address and, in the unity of both, the word that creates out of nothing. Faith hears this word. It knows itself to be created by this word. It owes itself to the word. Hearing, it comes into existence. And it always returns again to the word which created it. I believe, therefore I listen to the God who speaks out of himself.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 6

Sunday, June 11, 2006

God's Being Is in Becoming: Preliminary Remarks

I am starting a series on Jüngel's great work, God's Being Is in Becoming, which will take readers through the entire work, section-by-section. I will label each post with a title that begins "GBB: ..." after the English translation, since that is the version I will be using. I welcome any questions or comments along the way. Please refer to the selection I posted earlier from Jüngel's "Foreword to the First Edition," which is the start of this series. I will quote a couple portions from this foreword again:

The title of this book may be off-putting. However, I ask you to read it carefully. It is not a matter of the ‘God who becomes’. God's being is not identified with God’s becoming; rather, God’s being is ontologically located. [. . .]

Theologically, what we call ‘becoming’ should be understood in its fundamental ontology as a trinitarian category. According to this, God does not leave his present behind him as a past in order to proceed towards a future which is strange to him; rather, in his trinitarian livingness he is ‘undividedly the beginning, succession and end, all at once in His own essence’. And so the title of this book tries to indicate what might be called the axiom of the Christian doctrine of God. (xxv-xxvi)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I speak

I believe, therefore I speak. Not of me and of my faith - or at any rate of me and my faith only in so far as it is pertinent. I believe, therefore I speak of the God in whom I believe and of his liberating truth. I believe, therefore I speak of the God who has come to the world as a human being and who has for our salvation revealed himself as God in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe, therefore I speak of Jesus Christ as the truth of God that liberates. ...

Accordingly, faith cannot be satisfied with any truth that does not liberate. It certainly knows that there are 'truths' which stand in the way of freedom; it also knows that there are 'freedoms' that do violence to truth. But faith is fundamentally distinguished from truths of knowledge and freedoms of action, even when the truth of knowledge and freedom of action walk hand in hand, or at least seek one another and in seeking, approach one another. For faith does not seek. It finds. Faith lives from a discovered love whose liberating truth it then naturally seeks to understand and continually to understand even better. As a lucky finder is made lucky by the find which he or she makes, so faith becomes faith by the love which God is himself. Part of the essence of the love which God himself is is that it allows itself to be found. Love is itself the primary subject of its discovery, as the flames of the love of God leap across to a human subject as flames of the Spirit of God, evoking faith as the discovery of God. God comes to people in the Holy Spirit in such a way that they come to believe. In finding God, faith then also finds itself. In discovering God, one discovers oneself as a believer. In believing the human person has an incomparably new experience, one which fundamentally ruptures the series of worldly experiences, yet which is related to them, an experience of God which as such is an experience with experience, and which under no circumstances wants to be concealed. I believe therefore I speak.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 4-5