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

Questions about Jüngel

If you have a question concerning Jüngel's theology, whether a general question or some particular problem, please post it here. I will do my best to address them, though I hope others more knowledgeable than I will offer their input.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Series on Gottes Sein ist im Werden

Thanks to a suggestion by Kevin Hector, I plan on taking the readers of this blog through Eberhard Jüngel's best theological work, God's Being Is in Becoming. I say "best" because this is his most well-written, compact, and profound piece of dogmatic theology. God as the Mystery of the World is a work of genius and full of deep insights, but it is also long and disjointed at times. God's Being Is in Becoming also elaborates upon the central features of Barth's theology in a way that remains perennially important for theology to (re-)consider--perhaps now more than ever. His central thesis is that God's being "in-and-for-himself" is God "for us." To begin this series, I will quote from his 1964 foreward to the first edition.

Forward to the First Edition

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.

The rather unusual title may at least claim to have the advantage that it does not try to grasp God’s being from what is familiar. At the same time it draws attention to the fact that much that is familiar should be grasped in a new way – above all, what is meant by 'becoming'. Naturally – or better: in the understanding of faith – the becoming in which God’s being is cannot mean either an augmentation or a diminution of God’s being. Evaluative categories like augmentation and diminution are in any case best to be kept away from the concept of being, if we are not once again to be required to think of God as the summum ens and thus as supreme value. But the God whose being is in becoming can die as a human being! ‘Becoming’ thus indicates the manner in which God’s being exists, and in this respect can be understood as the ontological place of the being of God. …

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)

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I am astonished

I believe, therefore I am astonished. And how! Believing, one experiences God as the inexhaustible mystery of oneself and of all things; as the one who is absolutely surprising, who nevertheless is or should be self-evident; as an absolutely singular event that nevertheless is of unsurpassable generality; as eternal being and yet full of becoming; as the most concrete, who as such is the most concrete universal; as the Father in heaven who reveals himself on earth in the brother of humanity. Believing, one experiences the God who came to the world as a human being, was crucified, and was raised from the dead as the being rich in relations, who differentiates himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and as the one who is inter-related as a community of reciprocal otherness. In believing, the human person experiences the mystery of the triune God who takes the relationlessness of death upon himself, in order to be the being rich in relations, the being of love in the unity of life and death to the benefit of life. It is the mystery of even greater selflessness in the midst of such great trinitarian self-relatedness. In faith in the triune God, the depths of the word of the cross are opened up. I believe, therefore I am astonished at the trinitarian mystery as the sum of the gospel: God from eternity and thus in and of himself is God for us.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 7-8

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Eberhard Jüngel: A Dialogical Ontology

The following is a selection from my recent paper on Eberhard Jüngel, entitled "Humanity in Correspondence to God: Divine-Human Dialogue in Eberhard Jüngel's Theological Ontology." I quote this now--with future quotations on the way--for the purpose of starting a dialogue about two things: (1) Jüngel's conception of analogy as analogia adventus, or "analogy of advent"; and (2) dialogical ontology, or a linguistic I-Thou ontology. Both are central to Jüngel, so consider this the first installment towards comprehending this aspect of his theology more fully. I've placed the important footnote info in parenthetical references.

The being of humanity is constituted and organized by the word. We are ourselves as hearers. Only because we can hear are we able to speak, think, act, be human. As hearers we centre ourselves upon God’s relation to us, in order to correspond to our God. (Theological Essays I, 145)
Jüngel’s theology is a dialogical theology of the word. It is a dialogue initiated and maintained by God alone as the one who communicates out of the depths of divine being into the depths of created being. As a result, Jüngel’s theology is simply incomprehensible without robust doctrines of the Trinity and revelation—the former grounding the latter. In this section, we are concerned specifically with the divine-human dialogue as initiated by God. This word-event begins, for Jüngel, in God’s self-correspondence, which takes two forms: as internal dialogue (ad intra) in triunity and as external dialogue (ad extra) in revelation. God’s effective correspondence to humanity results in humanity’s correspondence to God, in noetic and ontological terms—in the knowledge of God and the new being of humanity, respectively. All of this is grounded in Jüngel’s christocentrism, which radicalizes Barth’s starting point that “the Son makes the hidden Father audible, visible, and knowable” (Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection, 183) by subjecting all theological categories to this ratio cognoscendi: God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the Crucified One. According to Jüngel, Jesus reveals how to think about God (e.g., passible, relational), how to speak about God, and most importantly for our purposes, how to be in correspondence with God. Jüngel connects these three aspects together in his term, analogia adventus or “analogy of advent.”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why Jüngel Is Worth Reading: Five Theses

1. Jüngel offers a profoundly christocentric post-metaphysical theology.
Jüngel takes what Barth discovered -- that theology can only think and speak out of the Christ event -- and radicalizes it, faithfully. I say faithfully because, unlike Jürgen Moltmann, he remains faithful to the central aspects of Barth's theology -- particularly Barth's conception of the Trinity -- while still pursuing a post-metaphysical understanding of God and humanity. What Jüngel is able to say of God is predicated upon the fact that God is revealed (fully, truly) in Jesus Christ. Nothing is assumed before this self-revelation of God, e.g., that divinity is impassible, entirely opposed to created reality, the first cause, etc. Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end of theological thought. This is really the only reason one needs to read Jüngel; everything else is a bonus.

2. Jüngel bridges Luther and Barth in a way that does justice to both in a way that speaks to current debates in Lutheran theology.
Jüngel represents both Barth and Luther better than just about any other theologian. He is a better Barthian than most -- though John Webster, Bruce McCormack, and George Hunsinger are upcoming successors to Jüngel -- and he is a better Lutheran than most -- much better than the Finnish school, better than Jenson and Pannenberg, and more well-rounded and philosophically sophistocated than Bayer. This claim is no doubt controversial, but at the very least it must be accepted that Jüngel is profound in the way he has learned what must be learned from Barth while remaining firm within his own theological tradition. He has taken the best of both worlds and offered his own creative and constructive system.

3. Jüngel bridges theology and philosophy with his own philosophical theology in a way that has rarely been done since Thomas.
Jüngel is one of the few theologians that really knows modern philosophy. In God as the Mystery of the World, he demonstrates a solid grasp of Descartes, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche, and the whole book attests to his understanding of Heidegger, whose work he studied in university. Jüngel is fearless in taking on Thomas and Aristotle, but he also demonstrates a deep appreciation of their philosophy. Jüngel is a sympathetic, if critical, reader, and he integrates his philosophical knowledge into a philosophical theology that is rich -- though it often makes for difficult reading.

4. Jüngel is a theologian of justification par excellence.
Some may not view this as a good thing, but let me qualify my statement with the following: Jüngel is a trinitarian theologian of revelation whose doctrine of the Trinity leads him to center his explication of the Christian faith around the doctrine of justification, as the gospel-oriented truth about the triune God who graciously reveals Godself to be pro nobis in Jesus Christ.

5. Jüngel mediates between Barth and Bultmann.
This may well be the most impressive aspect, and it is truly original to Jüngel who had both theological giants as teachers. To summarize, Bultmann has a subjective existentialism (anthropology) while Barth has an objective christocentrism (christology). Both come together in Jüngel, and he makes this explicit in God's Being Is in Becoming. Throughout his work, though, one can see how he continually brings together talk of God with talk of the human person. These come together in his dialogical ontology. More on this later.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

God is Love

If God comes closer to humanity and in it to me than the human ego, individually and generically, is able to come close to itself, if God in this sense is "more inward to me than my most inward part," then he is not "higher than my highest" in such a way that my perishability would not touch him and his highness would not touch me. What is evidenced hermeneutically with regard to talk about God as the still greater similarity in such a great dissimilarity must also be expressible and be formulated ontologically with regard to the being of God. What should one call that being which in such great dissimilarity is concerned for the greater similarity, in such great distance is concerned for the still greater nearness, in such great majesty is concerned for the greater condescension, in such great differentness is concerned for the still more intensive relationship? To ask it in a Pauline way (in all of this we are dealing with God's relationship to 'sinful man'): How is that being to be named who counters growing sin with still greater grace (Rom 5:20)?

The answer does not have to be sought. It is both anthropologically and theologically evident and is called Love.

[E. Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World, 298.]

Bibliography of Works Published in English

Bibliography of Eberhard Jüngel's works in English arranged chronologically:

Jüngel, Eberhard. "God - as a Word of Our Language" in F. Herzog, ed., Theology of the Liberating Word (Nashville: Abingdon, English Translation 1971), pp. 24-45.

—. Death: The Riddle and the Mystery
, trans. Iain and Ute Nicol (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, ET 1974).

—. "The Relationship between 'Economic' and 'Immanent' Trinity" in Theology Digest 24 (1976), pp. 179-184.

—. "The Truth of Life: Observations on Truth as the Interruption of the Continuity of Life" in R.W.A. Mackinney, ed., Creation, Christ, and Culture: Studies in Honour of T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976), pp. 231-236.

—. 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).

—. Karl Barth: A Theological Legacy, trans. Garrett E. Paul (Philadelphia: Westminster, ET 1986).

—. "The Christian Understanding of Suffering" in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 65 (1988), pp. 3-13.

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

—. Theological Essays I, trans. J. B. Webster (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1989).

—. "Response to Josef Blank" in H. Kung and D. Tracy, eds., Paradigm Change in Theology: A Symposium for the Future (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1989), pp. 297-304.

—. "What does it mean to say, 'God is love'?" in T. Hart and D. Thimell, eds., Christ in our Place: The Humanity of God in Christ for the Reconciliation of the World. Essays Presented to Prof. James Torrance (Exeter: Paternoster, ET 1989), pp. 294-312.

—. "The Last Judgment as an Act of Grace" in Louvain Studies 14 (1990), pp. 389-405.

—. "Life after Death? A Response to Theology's Silence about Eternal Life" in Word and World 11 (1991), pp. 5-8.

—. "Toward the Heart of the Matter" in Christian Century 108:7 (1991), pp. 228-233.

—. Christ, Justice and Peace: Toward a Theology of the State in Dialogue with the Barmen Declaration, trans. D. B. Hamill and Alan J. Torrance (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1992).

—. "The Gospel and the Protestant Churches of Europe: Christian Responsibility for Europe from a Protestant Perspective," in Religion, State and Society 21:2 (1993), pp. 137-149.

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

—. "Trinitarian Prayers for Christian Worship," in Word and World 18 (Summer 1998), pp. 244-253.

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

—. "To tell the world about God: The task for the mission of the church on the threshold of the third millennium" in International Review of Mission (April 30, 2000).

—. "Theses on the Relation of the Existence, Essence and Attributes of God" in Toronto Journal of Theology 17 (2001), pp. 55-74.

—. God's Being Is in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth - A Paraphrase, trans. J. B. Webster (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 2001); previously translated as The Doctrine of the Trinity, trans. H. Harris (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, ET 1976).

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

—. "The Cross After Postmodernity" in One Incarnate Truth: Christianity's Answer to Spiritual Chaos, ed. by Uwe Siemon-Netto (Concordia Publishing, 2002).

—. "Sermon on Matthew 25:1-12" in Toronto Journal of Theology 18:1 (Spring 2002), pp. 13-19.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Welcome to the Eberhard Jüngel Blog!

This new blog will venture to fill a gap in the theological blogosphere: critical discussion about the theology of Eberhard Jüngel, its major themes, original ideas, ecclesial traditions, influences, ramifications, etc. I hope people will join in the task of making this very difficult but even more profound theologian more accessible to the church today. Thanks for visiting!