Last week in our Trinity Seminar George Hunsinger led a discussion about Church Dogmatics 1.1 Sections 8-12. Here are some notes that you might find helpful/interesting:
Reading for the Outline
Barth has a very detailed outline by which he structures Church dogmatics. “Every paragraph is written around a central mainpoint” if you read each mainpoint you can reconstruct his outline. You can go paragraph by paragraph and find out the main point.
Keep track of the antecedent of the pronoun. If you get lost start looking for the pronoun and trace it back to the antecedent.
Many people have come away from Barth with the impression that its modalistic.
How are ones and trinity related? Dialectically! Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity.
He wants oneness and trinity to both be basic, and not privilege one over the other.
Another reason for this dialectical organization is that the reality of God is ineffable for God.
Language – oneness and threeness are not univocal nor equivocal, but we are driven to use these terms. So we always have to have a recognition that we are using these terms in a peculiar way.
The preposition “in” does a lot of work in Barth’s theology. Barth is sort of “mystical” – the three persons are “co-inherent’ in the divine ousia. The divine ousia is co-inherent in the divine hypostasis.
The indivisible divine being is a given – the three are mutually participating in one another…. The Holy Trinity for Barth is a communion. For Barth – Koinonia is ultimate reality. Its not “being” itself but “being” in relation and in communion. The telos is “koinonia.”
Economic/Immanent Relations and Epistemology is Asymmetrical
The unknowability of God is given in and with the knowability of the Holy Trinity. The unknowable part of God is still Trinitarian.
What he is in revelation He is antecedently in Himself. And what he is antecedently in Himself He is in revelation. (466) We don’t know about the immanent trinity directly. As far as knowledge of God is concerned we go from economy to immanent. God is not a different God than the one in all eternity. When we know God in Christ, we are taken up and participating in the truth of God’s self knowledge. This is the danger of Rahner’s rule… the immanent Trinity is a different form of the Economic Trinity. Its an asymmetrical relation.
The Divine Ousia
One thing we find in Barth, and not Moltmann and Jenson is that God’s ousia is invidisible. Barth upholds a strong version of divine simplicity. This has to do with the otherness of God. If you weaken simplicity you weaken your concept of eternity. You are in danger of making eternity someone = temporality and adding a dependent element into the Godhead. The divine ousia is one and indivisible and also living at the same time.
Barth on the Spirit
The Holy Spirit does three distinct things for Barth – 1)HS brings Christ to us and 2)us to Christ, and 3)The Spirit brings everything into unity with Christ. The Spirit does not add anything, he actualizes it. The Spirit “applies.” But Barth avoids the “application” language because it makes stuff impersonal.
Threefold Office of Christ
Prophet – Truth Bringer. It has correspondence to Spirit in Truth.
King – Messiah, Lord. It has correspondence to Spirit in his power of Love. Spirit also brings the Lordship of Christ to us. None can say Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit. Priest – intercession, worship, thanks, praise, brings us into union and communion with Christ. Access, blood, expiation, propitiation. Correspondence in Spirit by his teaching us to praise, bringing us into union with Christ. The person, work, and benefits of Christ are distinct but we cannot keep them apart.
On Rahner’s Rule
Key difference between Rahner’s rule and Barth’s doctrine of antecedence is that there is an asymmetry between the relation of economic/immanent in Barth whereas for Rahner, the economic and immanent is so strictly related that any sort of difference is collapsed. For Barth there is a difference in form but not in essence. Interesting question – is everything that is true of the economic trinity, but not vice versa?
On Functional Subordination
Revealer – Father
Revelation – Son
Revealedness – Spirit
God reveals himself as the Lord. It’s a participatory knowledge. Its God the Spirit moving in us that gets us in this revelation.
Sometimes Barth’s rhetoric does not fully match his substance/content. The rhetoric of revealer-revelation-reavealedness dominates his theology. Part of this is his historical context – which makes us lean to much on revelation as opposed to for example reconciliation.
Rhetorically Barth has modalistic tendencies. In substance he is not modalistic. Nonetheless he uses a modalistic idiom.
Does he derive his doctrine of Trinity from concept of Revelation?
Barth is trying to test whether the doctrine of the Trinity is dispensable or not. So its not a project of deriving it. The Trinity can’t just be taken out and thrown away or else you lose everything else with it. It’s a “testing” exercise rather than a derivation exercise. Three reasons why we have the trinity (other than the Biblical witness): A-Revelation, B- Reconciliation, and C-Worship. Modern theology had abandoned it and Barth is trying to show why we need it. If we take the Trinity out we are losing these three things.
Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is “an up-to-date commentary on all the significant manuscripts and textual variants of the New Testament.” It feels and looks very similar to Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the New Testament. One key difference between these two texts is that Metzger only comments on the variants which appear in the UBS version of the Greek New Testament but Comfort doesn’t limit himself to commenting only on those variants.
What also makes this commentary stand out is that he takes into account the Nomina Sacra in the manuscripts. In many manuscripts scribes present the divine names “with specially calligraphy to disntinguish these names as being sacred.” (8)
In his first introductory chapter he addresses the Nomina Sacra, like “Lord,” “Father,” “Son,” and Spirit. Sometimes these names are written in full. At other times they are contracted with an overbar. He discusses the “why” of the Nomina Sacra, and the variants between manuscripts.
The second introductory chapter is an annotated list of manuscripts of the New Testament. Each entry includes the designation of the manuscript, original publication and current location.
The text itself works provides a passage then various things:
- What comfort takes to be the original wording of the verse
- Variant readings
- Manuscript information
For instance His commentary on Mark 1:11 looks like this:
You are my beloved Son.
“Son” is written as a nomen sacrum (sacred name) in one early MS (Codex Sinaiticus) as well as L. God hereby indicated that Jesus was the divine Son of God, not just a son of God.
His commentary on Acts 5:32 looks like this:
The Holy Spirit whom God has given.
The divine “Spirit” is written as a nomen sacrum (sacred name) in four early MSS (P45, Codex Sinaiticus, A, D) as well as P74 33.
Overall this will be a very helpful book to those engaged in textual criticism (most others won’t find this very useful). However, as someone who is more engaged in systematic theology (exegesis is in fact a part of that!) having comments on the nomen sacra in particular passage is actually very helpful. Also very helpful is that this book looks an awful lot like your Greek NT. I highly recommend it for those who have are engaged in biblical/theological scholarship.
Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an impartial review.
Today George Hunsinger will be presenting at our Trinity Seminar – and I’m assuming he is going to talk quite a bit about Reading Barth With Charity. In this book he lays out what it looks like to read another theologian in a charitable way. Austin Reed at Reformed Forum gives an excellent summary of what this looks like. He also gives a pretty good description of Torrance’s Evangelical Calvinism:
In his new work, Hunsinger sets forth a reading of Barth very different from his revisionist opponents; a Barth that is, well, strikingly less radical. Hunsinger arrives at this reading of Barth by using a “hermeneutic of charity,” a methodological approach to ambiguous texts that seeks alternative interpretive options when faced with apparent contradictions. According to the hermeneutic of charity, the reader should only subject an argument or proposition to criticism after one has sought to resolve the difficulties themselves. If one cannot resolve the apparent contradiction via a favorable interpretation (i.e. one that does not involve prima facie contradiction), then one is permitted to subject the argument or proposition to criticism. The principle of “charity” is more or less a hermeneutical application of the “Golden Rule.” As one could probably guess, Hunsinger argues that the revisionists’ interpretation of Barth fails to read Barth charitably; that is, they’re guilty of pitting Barth against himself and through deductive reasoning setting a theological trajectory for his theology that Barth never intended.
Hunsinger cites T.F. Torrance’s distinction between “evangelical” and “rationalistic” Calvinism as an example of the principle of charity in action. It is a more or less classic “Calvin and the Calvinists” approach. The “evangelical” Calvinism is allegedly closer to the actual textual Calvin than the logical systemizing of the “rational” Calvinists following Beza. “It judged, according to Torrance, that the filial was prior to the legal, that the personal was prior to the propositional, that the inductive took precedence over the deductive, and that spiritual insight placed constraints on logical reasoning.”
The rationalistic Calvinists’ approach to Calvin’s writings lead to the allegedly “extreme” doctrines of Limited atonement, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism and worst of all (for Torrance at least), a “legalistic construal of ‘covenant’ that tended toward synergism.” For Hunsinger the present debate is no more than an incarnation of the “Calvin and the Calvinists” debate, only this time, it is Barth and the revisionist Barthians.
Tomorrow morning George Hunsinger is presenting on Barth’s discussion on the Trinity in CD 1.1 in our Trinity seminar. Its exciting to kick off the seminar with such a distinguished Barth scholar. Over the semester we will have him, Veli Matti Karkkainen, and Fred Sanders presenting as well.
In honor of George Hunsinger here are his “Top 5 Theology Books of the Last 25 Years.” (At least as of 2010):
Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. This book is an exposition of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that draws heavily on patristic sources. If I could recommend only one book that explains the faith that unites the world’s more than 2 billion Christians—Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox—this would be it. Learned and profound, it is perhaps Torrance’s most readable work.
Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist. This deeply spiritual meditation on the sacrament of unity that divides the churches does theology by way of reflection on liturgical practices. Westerners who read it will not only learn more about the treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy, they will also become better Christians.
Sarah Coakley, Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender. This beautifully written collection of essays connects feminist theory with both philosophy and prayer. At once dialogical and tough-minded, it contains cutting-edge reflections on questions of gender that keep their moorings in the Nicene faith.
J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account. Vigorous, audacious and groundbreaking, Carter’s book, published in 2008, sets the agenda for theology and race for at least the next 25 years. The scope of its scholarship is amazing and endlessly provocative. Whoever would have thought of Maximus the Confessor as an anticolonialist intellectual?
Derek S. Jeffreys, Spirituality and the Ethics of Torture. This simply written book explains why torture is never justified. Jeffreys carefully considers contrary views and finds them wanting. A brilliant account of one of the most troubling moral issues of our time, grounded in a compelling reflection on what it means to be human and to act humanely.
(HT: Christian Century)
The latest volume of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society is now out and in it you can find my first published article! (Yay for me!)
Here are the contents:
COUNTING STARS WITH ABRAHAM AND THE PROPHETS: NEW COVENANT ECCLESIOLOGY IN OT PERSPECTIVE . . . Jason S. Derouchie
DAVID V. GOLIATH (1 SAMUEL 17): WHAT IS THE AUTHOR DOING WITH WHAT HE IS SAYING? . . . Abraham Kuruvilla
A MESSIANIC READING OF PSALM 89: A CANONICAL AND INTERTEXTUAL STUDY . . . William C. Pohl IV
THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON IN ISAIAH 46–47 . . . Gary V. Smith
JESUS’ INTERVENTION IN THE TEMPLE: ONCE OR TWICE? . . . Allan Chapple
HAS THE CHURCH PUT ISRAEL ON THE SHELF? THE EVIDENCE FROM ROMANS 11:15 . . . Jim R. Sibley
THE SON IN THE HANDS OF A VIOLENT GOD? ASSESSING VIOLENCE IN JONATHAN EDWARDS’S COVENANT OF REDEMPTION . . . Christopher Woznicki
IS THERE A DEMON IN THIS STRUCTURE? LESSLIE NEWBIGIN AND ALBERT WOLTERS ON CREATION, “POWERS,” AND CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT . . . Christopher J.Pappalardo
INDEX OF BOOK REVIEWS
OFFICERS OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
If you are interested in reading this paper you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or…
Current members and subscribers can access current issues of JETS online.
Individual articles can be purchased, and copies of individual issues can be purchased while supplies last.
The doctrine of justification is itself not the gospel. The gospel is the message concerning what God has done through Christ to deal with the effects of human sin (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4) and to liberate humanity and the whole creation from the effects of sin (cf. [Rom] 8:19-24). Those who believe the gospel and give their allegiance to his son God justifies, that is declares them to be right. They enjoy the status of those for whom God has made a favorable adjudication. (200)
-Colin Kruse (Pillar NT Commentary on Romans)