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.


Cynthia Nielsen said...

Dear D.W.,

Thank you for introducing me to your blog! You've definitely peaked my interste in Juengel and I will be adding his books to my wish list!

Warm regards,

Jordan said...

Great post! This is great foundational knowledge for studying and becoming more familiar with Jungel. Thanks!

Scott said...

So, as one who has never read Jungel, where should I beging?