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)


Ben Myers said...

What a superb summary, David. And the three-part structure works really well. I can't wait to see more of these!

joshua said...

thanks for this summary. i just ordered the book and hope to read along with your work.