George Hunsinger’s Lecture on Barth & the Trinity

What’s George Doing on CSPAN!?!?!

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.

Pronoun Problem

Keep track of the antecedent of the pronoun. If you get lost start looking for the pronoun and trace it back to the antecedent.

Barth’s Modalism

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.

Trinitarian Language

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.

Koinonia

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.

Modalism Again

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.

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