Monday, June 12, 2006

'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


Jason said...

"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."

I assume this is a quote from Jungel, but I wonder if it's worthwhile to talk about God revealing Godself in a person dead on the gallows. The resurrected life of Jesus is the only reason the crucifixion of Jesus has any revelatory merit for us. Without it, Jesus is just another criminal on the cross. "The cross without the resurrection is meaningless. The resurrection without the cross is pointless."

D.W. Congdon said...

Thanks for the comment, Jason.

This is probably the area where I would criticize Jüngel first. He does seem, in some respects, to take Bultmann's side on the subject of the resurrection. I don't view Bultmann's position as some absolutely unorthodox position; the issue of metaphor and narrative is important and it may be that Bultmann is more right than wrong. While I side with Barth, I simply wish to propose that Bultmann should not be viewed as discarding with the resurrection. It could be that re-interpretation is necessary.

Now Jüngel is decidedly more ambiguous than Bultmann, and that is because he mediates between Bultmann and Barth. If one compares God as the Mystery of the World with Justification, one gets two rather different portrayals of the resurrection. In GMW, Jüngel seems to define the resurrection as God's identification with the Crucified One, whereas he speaks in far more traditional terms in his later work. It is noticeable to those who have read books from the whole spectrum of Jüngel's career that he began with a more Heideggarian-Bultmannian position and progressed towards a more traditional Lutheran-Barthian position. However, it could just be that he is attempting to be more ecumenical, and so taking the traditional language helps to build bridges among the different communions. This is all up for debate.

What I can assure everyone is that Jüngel is quite profoundly a theologian of resurrection, though first and foremost a theologian of the cross. Jüngel may speak about resurrection in slightly different terms, but he aims for the same, if not far more profound, content.