Tag Archives: church dogmatics

Book Note: Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies

In the last several decades, theological anthropology has witnessed a Christocentric turn. Whether it was Ray Anderson’s claim that “only the humanity of Christ… discloses the radical form of true humanity” (1982), John Zizioulas’s understanding that “the mystery of man reveals itself fully only in the light of Christ” (1975), or Millard Erickson’s belief that “Jesus reveals what human nature is intended to be” (1998) it seems as though the Christocentric turn in theological anthropology has made for a truly Christological anthropology. But what does it mean to say that one is doing Christological anthropology? Does it simply mean that Jesus sheds some light on our anthropology, maybe on our concept of imago dei or ethics? Or does it mean something more robust?

In Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies, a book which is now almost ten years old, Marc Cortez begins to give shape to the project of constructing a more robust Christological anthropology which moves beyond issues of the imago dei and ethics. A few years later, in 2016 Cortez went on to claim that a robust Christological Anthropology is one in which “Christology warrants ultimate claims about true humanity such that the scope of those claims applies to all anthropological data.” (2016) However, in Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies, Cortez doesn’t yet have that definition fully developed yet. Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies is something like a case study in which the method of doing Christological anthropology begins to get fleshed out.

So how does Cortez go about developing his robust Christological anthropology? He turns to the theology of Karl Barth. Cortez spends the first few chapters of Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies explaining why Barth believed that human nature must be explained in reference to Jesus. Cortez concludes that for Barth, Christ’s significance for anthropology is primarily grounded in (1) the election of Jesus Christ in which other humans are included and (2) the covenantal faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Building on these insights Cortez draws out eight features that he takes to be Barth’s anthropological commitments. At minimum, any Barthian Christological anthropology must include the following eight features:

  1. A strong concept of selfhood emphasizing humans as subjects constituted by particular relationships
  2. An inner life comprised of self-conscious experiences
  3. An understating of continuous personal identity that involves the body and the soul but is ultimately dependent on divine faithfulness
  4. An appreciation of humans as capable of initiating intentional actions
  5. Some view of mentality that allows a causal relationship with extra-mental realities
  6. An awareness of humanity’s determination and freedom
  7. A strong appreciation for the role of the body in every facet of human experience
  8. A recognition that all aspects of human life and nature are contingent realities

With these eight features in place, Cortez turns his attention toward the mind-body debate in contemporary philosophy. Cortez suggests that Barth’s eight Christological criteria for theological anthropology might help to evaluate contemporary proposals about the mind’s relation to the body. In chapter five he evaluates several physicalist options about human constitution. He concludes that for Barth, given his eight criteria, reductive physicalism is off the table. However, non-reductive physicalisms may have some promise if they can account for mental causation, consciousness, and the continuity of personal identity through death and resurrection. In chapter six Cortez turns to several dualist accounts of human constitution. He concludes, that a strong Cartesian dualism is a non-starter for Barth. However, some forms of what Cortez calls Holistic Dualism, might be promising if they can account for mental causation, personal embodiment, and the utter dependence of the soul on God for its existence.

Cortez’s evaluation of recent proposals regarding the mind-body relationship are quite helpful for several reasons. First, chapters five and six provide excellent summaries of various physicalisms and dualisms. These chapters help those not at home in these debates get a grasp on the issues being discussed. Second, and more importantly, Cortez makes a convincing case that given the eight minimalist Christological criteria some forms of physicalism or dualism might be legitimate options for Christians. This is something that people on both sides of the mind-body debate need to hear. In recent years I have encountered numerous theologians who claim that any form of dualism is sub-Christian because it doesn’t take seriously our embodiment. This might be true of some dualisms, but Cortez shows that this is not necessarily true of all dualisms. For example, emergent dualism gives a very robust role to the body; after all the mind “emerges” from a properly organized physical system, i.e. the body. Perhaps these theologians are simply unaware of the variety of dualist options and hastily assume that any talk of “dualism” must mean a form of strong Cartesian dualism.

Besides providing us with the conclusion that Christology can give us minimalist criteria for reflecting upon the relationship between the mind and body, Cortez makes several other important contributions to the field of theological anthropology. First he shows us that Christology’s contribution to theological anthropology need not be limited to ethics or discussions about the imago dei; it can be applied to other aspects of human existence. Second, he shows us that applying Christological insights to our anthropological understanding is no easy task. In all honesty, I wish he would have devoted more attention to the challenge of deriving anthropology from Christology. However, I can’t blame him for not doing this. I understand that this book was something of a first pass at a more robust Christological anthropology. Even still, I hope he addresses these challenges in his forthcoming book on Christological anthropology.

(Note: This was originally posted on Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology Blog.)

LATC 2017: Can I Get a Witness? Analytics, Poetics, and the Mission of Dogmatics – Kevin Vanhoozer

 

Here are some lecture notes from Kevin Vanhoozer’s plenary session at LATC 2017kevinvanhoozer1200x1800

A-Introduction – the discourse of dogmatics: saying what is “in Christ”

  • Who God is and what God is doing – “in Christ”
  • For most of the 20th century Dogmatics is in the doghouse
  • Which comes first in dogmatics? A experience, community, language?

 

B-The issue: experiencing/thinking/speaking-of/living-to God

 

1.The Man Who Saw Infiinity

  • “The Man Who Saw Infinity” – Poetics vs. Analytics in Math
    • A feeling for form – poetic sensibility
  • What about dogmatics?
    • Where should we locate it on the spectrum? Analytic or Poetic?
      • Perfect being theology
      • Apophatic theology
      • Cataphatic theology
    • Dogmatics is a response to a prior divine communicative initiative
      • It exists under the domain of the Word
      • The communicative agency of the Triune God is what makes theological reflection possible. Christ is the human surface who mirrors the Father.

 

2.Dogmatic Discourse: the task

  • Barth: Dogmatics about how well church proclamation lines up with Revelation of the Word. The church must embody and proclaim the truth of the gospel. It was a science of the Word of God whose form and content is JC. It is scientific in the sense that it is the object that determines the practice.
  • Bavinck: Distinguishes symbolics from dogmatics (what it actually confesses and what it should confess). Dogmatic theology dogmatizes.
  • Webster: Focus is still on God’s communicative agency. Identity b/w God’s inner and outer works. Theology was under house arrest of modernity. Webster doesn’t deny the ectypal nature of human knowledge of God, yet this does not necessarily result in the deconstruction of dogmatics. Rather it acknowledges the limitations of human intellect, but places them under the sphere of God’s communicative action.

 

3.Dogmatic Discourse: The Challenge

  • Not all God talk constitutes dogmatic discourse
    • e. Jesus’ encounter w/demons. When demons speak. True, but not dogmatics.
  • Dogmatics not only involves words, but a doxastic attitude
  • The Latinization Thesis
    • Language change was crucial in refashioning the mentality of eurpoean thought process
    • Goal: have a humanist schoolboy speak and think like ciceronian Latins
    • Should we say something similar about dogmatics? i.e. to train to speak, write, and think as if they were in the same speech community as Athanasius and Calvin
  • The Globalization Thesis
  • The modern barrier to the thing-in-itself and God-in-himself

D.Dogmatic Discourse, part 1: Analytics

1.Dogmatic Discourse, Part 1:analytics

  • Language as a tool or language as what makes inter-subjectivity possible in the first place
  • Webster sounds an analytic note
    • Dogmatics is a species of reasoning. It involves viewing reason as created, fallen, redeemed. Caught up in an economy of grace. Dogmatic reasoning yields a conceptual representation to what reason has learned from following the exegetical text.
  • Is Webster an analytic theologian?
    • What is AT?
    • Its clear that Webster makes use of conceptual distinctions: i.e. Creator and Creature.
    • Dogmatics begins with economic works, and traces back to God in himself.
    • Webster insists again and again that theology proper is directed towards things unseen, but not necessarily unheard. It offers conceptual analysis of biblical discourse.

2.Linguistic Phenomenology

  • Webster may be a kind of phenomenlogist of the Triune God. Not the “thing in itself” but God in himself. Attempt to ID the essential components of phenomena. Webster even sounds like Husserl when he speaks of reducing elements to their founding principles. Webster – contemplation requires the mind to move through created things to the Trinitarian things themselves.
  • JL Austin compared his method to a phenomenology of ordinary language. Is dogmatics a sort of phenomenology of biblical language? It sort of resembles this.
  • Is analysis the task of dogmatics?

3.Warnings to reducing dogmatics to analytics

  • Webster’s Warning
  • Vos – Biblical theology considers the form and content, Systematic theology examines these same contexts as the material for a human work of classifying and systematizing according to human principles.
  • Webster: says this suggest two problems
    • Makes Bible raw material, hence the idiom of systematic theology drifts away from Scripture. It operates at a distance from the idiom of scripture.
    • Gives rise to the dangerous idea that dogma is an improvement upon Scripture.
    • Webster prefers a more “light-weight” understaning of the dogmatic task

 

E.Dogmatic Discourse, part 2: Poetics:

1.The Poetics of Dogmatics: a brief historical sampling

  • Not just content, but Form
  • David Tracy describes theology as the triumph of logos over theos.
  • Some examples:
    • Gregory of Nazianzus: Poemata Arcama
    • Schleiermacher: Christmas Eve Celebration: A Dialogue
    • Von Balthasar: Theo-Drama
    • Vanhoozer: Theodramatics

2.The Poetics of Dogmatics, part 2: biblical reasoning revisited

  • Webster’s exhortation to not let dogmatics drift away from the idioms of scripture
  • The imagination is a cognitive capacity: its important then to harken to the different ways Scriptures speaks of Christ. Given recent critiques of the designative function of language, we ought to pay more attention the the shaping of a biblical imagination, which includes also forms and content. Stories are not just delivery systems for delivering propositional content. They do something else too.
  • We needs poets and novelists, how much more do we need biblical narrative, to not only cultivate right opinion but also right affections.
  • What’s the moral for dogmatics? Should dogmatic theology look more like a science textbook or a story?
    • Lets not confuse propositional content and form
      • Some forms i.e. analytic excel at form
      • Some forms i.e. narrative excel at content too
    • Lets not think that dogmatics needs to adopt the styles of biblical discourse in order to think biblically
  • Gunton – Dogmas are summary of gospel material
  • Dogmas provide direction for doing, seeing, tasting, everything that is the drama of relation
  • The dogmatic imaginary is the social imaginary of the church generated and governed by the biblical imaginary

F.The Mission of Dogmatic Statements

  • Dogmatic indicatives: statements on a mission
    • Task: say what is happening in the mission of the F, S, HS
    • Dogmatics bears witness to this
    • Saying of what is in Christ, that it is
      • Many forms of IS (metaphorical, eschatoalogical, poetic, eternal)
    • Dogmatics guides the church in saying what “is” in Christ.
    • Dogmatic theologians are part of the cloud of witnesses
  • Dogmatics at Jerusalem: a mission(s) statement
    • Acts 15 – an example, Luke even uses DOGMATA to describe what happened in Acts 15
      • Judgement about “fittingness” of action to what we know is true about what God is doing in Christ
    • Dogmatic discourse and confessional statements
    • Confession is responsive and not spontaneous

G.Conclusion – the discourse of dogmatics and the gestures of discipleship

  • Why is there dogmatics rather than nothing?
  • Importance of including gestures in dogmatic discourse. Saying what IS in Christ involves action too. Action of what is true in Christ. The evangelical task is not just a finger pointing to Christ, but a whole BODY gesturing towards Christ.
  • Gestures are language too.
  • Dogmatics helps the church make Christly gestures.

Agape and the Long Defeat – George Hunsinger

Saturday’s first plenary was delivered by George Hunsinger. He is the McCord Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his degrees at Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. He is most noted for being a leading expert on Karl Barth. His paper brought together two, (to my knowledge) conversation partners that have never been brought together, namely Tolkien and Barth.

Introduction

  • Tolkien as “author of the century”
  • Like Tolkien, Barth can be considered “century’s greatest theologian”
  • Little work has been done to compare the two
  • 1st – how Barth understands agape, 2nd – meaning of evil, 3- eschatology of agape

barth

Meaning of Agape

  • Not benevolence, beneficence, compassion
  • Agape has these but adds – a desire to give oneself, union w/other, self giving for the sake of koinonia
  • Summary of Agape
    • God’s loving is concerned w/a seeking and creation of fellowship for its own sake by loving us in JC – God take us up into fellowship/communion that God enjoys as Holy Trinity
    • God’s loving us is concerned is w/o reference to aptitude or worthiness of the object of love. God’s agape is not conditioned by any prior reciprocity of love. God doesn’t love us b/c we are lovable, lovable because he loves us.
    • God’s loving is an end in itself. God doesn’t even will his own glory for his own sake, but for the sake of his agape. God loves b/c he loves. His agape is the supreme end which includes all other ends in itself.
    • God’s agape is necessary. It belongs to him primordially and by definition. Its eternal as God is eternal in his triune life.

The Mystery of Evil in Barth and Tolkien

  • Convergences exist in their depiction of evil. See Barth and Nothingness vs. Witch King of Angmar – the Lord of the Nazgul
  • Nothingness – act of cosmic power, destruction, chaos, ruin. Its inexplicable, can’t be explained only described. Origin is obscure, but effects are not. The impossible possibility. Actual yet empty at the same time. God did not create it. God defeats it at great cost to himself. No right to exist, serves no greater good. Not means to some higher end.
    • The answer to the problem of evil is not an argument but a name
  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Nazgul captures something of Barth’s Nothingness.
    • Conflicted and absurd, actual and empty simultaneously,
    • Good symbol of Barth’s impossible possibility
    • Image for the paradox of evil, powerful yet hollow at the same time.

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Eschatology of Agape

  • Tolkien writes w/ idea that evil must be fought w/knowledge that we cannot ultimately defeat evil. “We have fought the long defeat.” No victory is complete, evil rises again, even victory brings loss. But the long defeat is not the last word.
    • There can be no true theology of glory divorced from the theology of the cross.
    • For Paul agape cannot be divorced from longsuffering

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.

Does Karl Barth Hold to a Version of Penal Substitution?

It’s a sort of tricky question. How does Barth understand Penal Substitution? I was once told that Barth definitely saw PSA in Isaiah, but that he believed that it is not taught in the New Testament. The debate sort of rages on – does Barth have some version of Penal Substitution? And if he does how does it differ from typical evangelical versions of PSA? And if he doesn’t – can Barth be a resource for formulating a version of PSA? These are all important questions.

In his recent book Faith, Freedom, and the Sprit, Paul Molnar addresses a passage which I believe hints at some sort of version of PSA in Barth. But I will let you decide for yourself:

Barth always stresses that Jesus acts both divinely and humanly so that we never have simply a human or divine being in Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice for us “is of course, a human action –but in and with the human action it is also a divine action, in which… the true and effective sacrifice is made” (IV/1, p.280)

Up until this point there is nothing that would hint at PSA. All that is being explicated is that atonement happens in both directions – it comes from God and Man. Molnar goes on to say:

In Jesus we see the true meaning of suffering and death. While there was suffering and death in Israel, in Jesus these become “the work of God himself” (IV, p.175)

At this point there is nothing surprising here. Atonement is being explained as the death of death. Sin and guilt and death themselves are put to death on the cross. Nothing (yet) about Jesus being punished. All that we know at this point is that the Son exists in solidarity with the humanity of Israel in its suffering.

Now here stuff gets tricky:

“The Son of God in his unity with man exists in solidarity with the humanity of Israel suffering under the mighty hand of God” (IV/1, p.175)

Molnar says that “As such he suffers Israel’s suffering as “children chastised by their Father”; in him God entered the vicious circle of human suffering allowing the divine sentence to fall on himself… “He, the electing eternal God, willed himself to be rejected and therefore perishing man” (IV/1, p.177).

Molnar seems to think that the suffering of Christ is in solidarity (some form of substitution) with humanity under the hand of God. This constitutes the act of sacrifice. If Molnar is right (which I think he might be), then we have an interesting take on Barth’s PSA.

Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

I have run into several people across the years who have been very adamant about the notion that as Christians we should not pray to the Holy Spirit, sing to the Holy Spirit, or worship the Holy Spirit. They say that all of our worship/prayer ought to be focused on Father, through Jesus. Are they right?

Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

Karl Barth seems to think that they are wrong, we indeed ought to direct prayer and worship to the Holy Spirit. In Church Dogmatics 1.1.12 Barth quotes the Nicene Creed which adamantly affirms that we ought to worship the Spirit as well:

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified…

The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.

The Father is worshiped and glorified, the son is worshiped and glorified, the Spirit is worshiped and glorified. What the creed refers to, according to Barth, is that the One Lord is to be worshiped and glorified as Father and as son and also as Spirit. Thus tritheistic worship is ruled out. All this to say that “the Holy Spirit is denoted as an object of worship and glorification.”  As the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is fully God. As part (such a tricky word) of the Godhead he is one with the divine essence.  This means that when we worship the Holy Spirit, we are fully engaged in worship with the Triune God. This is just as true as when we worship Jesus or when we worship the Father. All Christian worship is directed at the entire Triune Godhead, its not as though one person of the Trinity gets left out when we worship the other persons of the Trinity.

So to answer your question – “Do we worship the Holy Spirit? The answer is an emphatic yes.”

Karl Barth on The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper

In laying out Barth’s position on the Lord’s Supper we cannot properly speak of “Barth’s position” because Barth ended his Church Dogmatics (henceforth CD) before touching upon the Lord’s Supper (henceforth LS) extensively,[1] thus any reconstruction of Barth’s position is just that, a reconstruction and not an exposition. However what we can say with certainty that for Barth, Jesus Christ the Word, is the sacrament. For revelation means the giving of signs, thus “revelation means sacrament, i.e., the self-witness of God… in the form of creaturely objectivity and therefore in a form which is adapted to our creaturely knowledge.”[2] Keeping in mind that Jesus Christ is the true sacrament we shall look at several places in CD in which Barth talks about the LS.

Karl Barth enjoying a cigar.
Karl Barth enjoying a cigar.

In CD IV.4 Barth explains that baptism is not a sacrament, but its meaning is found in its character “as a true and genuine human action which responds to the divine act and word.”[3] In understanding Barth’s stance towards the sacrament of baptism we might come to understand his views about the LS. By examining Zwingli’s exegetical work regarding baptism, Barth points out that Zwingli was basically right, that the meaning of the ceremony is found in human action, in the performance of the ceremony. Thus Barth says that he does not object if someone calls his own views “Neo-Zwinglian.”[4] Barth goes on to explain the LS is also a human decision and an act whose value consists human decision to respond to divine work.[5]

In CD IV.4 Barth also talks about the Holy Spirit feeding the believer with the body and blood of Christ. He says that Christ’s body and blood nourishes the believer.[6] Although he seems to be using LS language it is not clear that this is referring to the LS, for the context of this passage is the ongoing process of sanctification, not any one particular act.

In CD IV.3 also makes several references to the LS. In one section he mentions that Christ calls the elect to himself, conjoining himself to them. Barth says that the Lord’s Supper is “instituted to represent this perfect fellowship between Him and them which He has established.”[7] Thus in the Lord’s Supper the Christian celebrates, adores, and proclaims what Christ has done for them, namely redemption.

Finally, another important passage on the Lord’s Supper is found in CD IV.3. In this section he talks about the Word and the Lord’s Supper. Barth says that human words can acquire a function and capability that they did not have in themselves as elements of general human speech; once they are about the Word, they are received and claimed by the Word of God.[8] God uses human words, even though they are limited due to their creatureliness, for the service of His Word, God gives them power to bear witness to His Word. Barth says that the Lord’s Supper is similar to how God uses human words to bear witness to God’s Word. The elements of the LS do not cease to be what they are, bread and wine, but they now serve the “function and capability” of indicating and confirming the fellowship of the community with its Lord.[9]

According to these passages, especially the previous passage, it seems as though Barth’s position is conditioned by his theology of revelation and the Word. Barth believes that humans cannot know God unless God reveals himself to them. He believes that God reveals himself in his Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word of God, is God himself revealing himself. Thus scripture does not truly reveal God, scripture serves as a witness to the Word, the revelation of God himself. Similarly the LS is not where we encounter God. The LS simply serves as a witness to the Word. The Lord’s Supper serves as a witness to the Jesus by indicating and confirming the reconciliation that Jesus has brought to the elect. So when the elect practice the LS, they bear witness to the Word and confirm to themselves and each other what Jesus has done for them and is doing for them, he has reconciled them to himself and he is sanctifying them.

—————————————

[1] James Buckley, “Christian Community, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper,” In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 196.

[2] Buckley, “Christian Community, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper,” In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, 201-2.

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 30:126.

[4] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 127.

[5] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 128.

[6] Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.4 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 37.

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 28: 169.

[8]Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G.W. Bromiley (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 29: 55.

[9] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: IV.3.2 the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 29: 55.