Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Featured at Wesley Seminary Blog

Good news: I got a job! Next school year I will be teaching theology and ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University's new Seminary. The Dean's blog just posted a feature on me, so check it out. I'm excited about the Seminary's fresh approach to theological education and foresee it as a good place for me to serve.

As regular readers know, drulogion has been relatively inactive this year, mostly on account of my increased focus on dissertation writing. Well, the inactivity trend will most likely continue as I will be doubling my efforts to finish this school year. But I will still post occasionally, and intend to get back on a weekly posting schedule next Fall.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Connection between Creation and Resurrection in Trinitarian Perspective (Part One)

Here's a partial draft a small section of my dissertation I am working on today. Any thoughts?

II, B, 1, iii. The Connection between Creation and Resurrection

In addition to the exclusivity and newness of God's act of raising Jesus, there is a third reason why Barth appropriates the raising of Jesus to the Father: the connection between creation and resurrection. Just as the work of creation is appropriated to God the Father (cf. CD III/1, p. 49), so the work of resurrection is appropriated to God the Father. There are three aspects to this connection, which correspond to Barth's first three points in VF. The first is the analogy between creation and resurrection as exclusively divine acts. The second is God's justification of himself as Creator in the resurrection. The third is the God's creation of a new time between the times that is oriented toward the coming new creation. In all three aspects, Barth appropriates both creation and resurrection to God the Father.

Creation/Resurrection Analogy

Barth makes explicit reference to the analogy between creation and resurrection under his first point: "Like creation, it [the happening on the third day] takes place as a sovereign act of God, and only in this way" (300). The point of similarity between the two is the absolute sovereignty with which God executes them. There is no creaturely co-agency in either the creation of the world or the raising of Jesus. Creaturely participation enters the picture in the history that commences with these acts. But in their inception they are exclusive acts of God. This exclusivity is witnessed to by the appropriation of these acts to God the Father. Creation and resurrection are both analogous to the Father's generation of the Son, and so it is fitting that we speak of creation and resurrection as acts of God the Father, though, following the logic of Barth's reception of the appropriation doctrine, not to the exclusion of God the Son or God the Spirit (cite III/1, p. 51ishff).

The analogy between creation and resurrection has been noted in Barth before. [cf Tanner article] The usual reason for pointing out the analogy is to highlight the unique sense in which both "historical." Creation and resurrection are both historical in the sense of being temporal events. Yet they are not historical in the sense of being the results of creaturely processes. They are free acts of God without creaturely cooperation. So it fitting that both God's work of creation and God's act of raising Jesus are born witness to by means of the genre of saga, which can set forth the temporality of these unique events without treating them as consequences of historical causality (CD III/1, p. 78).

This aspect of the analogy is certainly important. But this formal similarity in terms of genre is grounded in the material similarity in terms of subject. The point of Barth's generic observation is not merely to solve the problem of faith and history, but more basically to bear witness to the irreducible subjectivity of God. In these crucial moments in the history of God with us, God acts alone. Creation and resurrection are thus both acts of God's free grace. That's Barth's point. And my point is that in both cases Barth analyzes the trinitarian grammar of the event in order to make his point: in the first instance, we must speak of these events as acts of God the Father.

Now as with any analogy, the element of dissimilarity is as important as the element of similarity. The language here is explicitly analogical: "like creation" (300, emphasis added). Creation and resurrection are distinct works of God. For all their interconnection, they are not strictly identical. In CD III/1, Barth warns against collapsing creation and covenant, even though they belong to each other (p. 42-48). In the case of the analogy between creation and resurrection, the crucial element of dissimilarity is that ex nihilo applies to the former but not to the latter. Barth never speaks of the raising of Jesus as an act of creation out of nothing. Although it is an exclusive act of God (the Father) with no component of human action, it nevertheless happens to a creature with a prior history of human action. Jesus' prior history does not produce his resurrection--this delimitation is the point of Barth's emphasis on the Father's act of raising. But God the Father's act of raising does happen to the subject of this human history. So the event of resurrection, unlike the event of creation, is an event with a past [QUESTION: doesn't creation have a "past" in election", and if so, in what sense???]. This element of disimillarity is important to note, especially in the face of current attempts to apply the ex nihilo clause to resurrection.[FN]

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Barth Blog Conference: Hitchcock and Drury

The Barth Blog conference continues over at Derevth today with a post by Nathan Hitchcock on the Resurrection in Romans 1:3-4, and includes a response from yours truly. Check it out!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Karl Barth Blog Conference 2009 begins Sunday at derevth

Karl Barth Blog Conference 2009 begins Sunday at Der Evangelische Theologe. The theme is the knowledge of God in Romans 1. A number of young theologians will be posting papers and responses, including yours truly. Check it out!

Here's the schedule:
  • Day 1: Introduction (Travis McMaken)

  • Day 2: Calvin and Barth on the Exegesis of Romans 1.18-20 (Travis McMaken; response by Jason Ingalls)

  • Day 3: Exegeting Romans 1: A Critical Appraisal (title tentative: Shane Wilkins)

  • Day 4: Barth’s Exegesis of Romans 1 in his 2nd Edition of Romans (title tentative: David Congdon; response by Halden Doerge)

  • Day 5: Resurrection in Barth’s Rejection of Natural Theology: Romans 1.4 in Barth’s 2nd Edition of Romans (title tentative: Nathan Hitchcock, University of Edinburgh; Response by John Drury)

  • Day 6: Barth’s Exegesis in the Shorter Commentary on Romans (title tentative: Shannon Smythe, Princeton Theological Seminary)
Also, check out this older piece of mine concerning this same theme.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who is the Subject of Resurrection? (Part I)

Since it is one of the central questions of my current research, I am revisiting the question Who is the subject of Christ's resurrection? this week. In other words, who raised Jesus from the dead?

Well, the obvious short answer is "God." But as things go for Christian faith seeking understanding, the short answer "God" inevitably requires further reflection. Because Christians don't talk about God without soon talking about Jesus Christ,which means making recourse to some variation of the doctrine of the trinity.

Here's two main ways of thinking about the question: (1) the Son raised himself, and (2) the Father raised the Son. I'm going to sketch the first way this week. I intend to follow-up soon with a sketch of the second option, followed eventually by an approach that attempts to critical appropriate the best insights of each.

So, on to the first option.

(1) The Son raised himself.

This is the "classical" approach, inasmuch as it can be found in a number of major figures in the history of Christian theology. It is where you would tend to end up taking your cue from traditional trinitarian theology. If God raised Jesus from the dead, and Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human, then Jesus Christ raised himself from the dead. Actually, to be more precise, we'd need to say that Jesus Christ as God raised himself as human from the dead. But even with these specifications in place, one cannot avoid the reflexive pronouns entirely. The bottom line is the the Son raised himself.

Now this can be expanded in two directions. The first direction expands this through the lens of the incarnation: the divine nature hypostatically united to the human nature empowers (by deification) the human Jesus to overcome death. Death can't hold this man in the grave, because he is not just a man but God incarnate. In this line of thought, the divine nature is like a bomb that goes off in the grave and so frees the human nature from death. You find this sort of line developed by Alexandrian characters such as Athanasius and Cyril -- with more sophistication, of course.

The other direction (which does not contradict but in fact complements the first) expands this through the lens of the trinity: the triune God raised the human Jesus. This line of thinking retains the reflexive sense of the Son's self-raising by following through on the rule that the works of the trinity outside itself are indivisible. Because each triune persons fully indwells the other, no one persons acts without the participation of the other two. But this line of thinking also accounts for the sense in which the resurrection is attributed to God the Father. The triune God acts upon creation indivisibly, yet on the basis of Scriptural warrant we may attribute (or, in the classical lingo, "appropriate") certain acts to certain triune persons. For example, we attribute creation to the Father, while acknowledging that the Son and Spirit also participate in that work; we attribute redemption to the Son, while acknowledging that the Father and Spirit also participate in that work; we attribute sanctification to the Spirit, while acknowledging that the Father and Son also participate in that work; etc. So, concerning Christ's resurrection, in light of Scriptural warrant we may attribute Christ's resurrection to the Father while also acknowledging that the Son himself as well as the Spirit participate in the raising of the dead human Jesus. (Note: you can find this sort of thinking in a number of medieval scholastics, most beautifully and compactly in St. Thomas Aquinas ST III, q. 53, a. 4).

Now despite the conceptual precision of this whole approach and the care with which it upholds seemingly contradictory but necessary affirmations, a big question looms large over the whole enterprise: Do the dead raise themselves? If Jesus Christ raised himself from the dead, then was Jesus Christ really dead? Isn't one of the main elements of the condition of death the loss of agency or subjectivity? Can one who raises himself from the dead really be said to have been dead? The clarifications and specifications outlined above cannot rid this whole approach of the looming suspicion that either Jesus didn't really die or God the Son didn't unite himself to the human Jesus in his death. In either case, we're in a pickle. What can be done about this?

It is in respond to these questions that an alternative view emerges, which I intend to sketch in a subsequent post. But for now:

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Holy Spirit "resurrects" faith in us

Below is a passage in Barth that I have been busy interpreting today. What caught my eye is the pun on "awakening," that connects the resurrection of Christ and the Spirit's awakening of our faith in him, all against the implicit background of the Awakening as a technical term for German community movement (i.e., pietism). [Note: as some drulogion readers have already noticed, I'm in dissertation la la land right now and so most of what you'll get from me is Barth quotes for the next little while].

Okay here goes:
It is not he [the believer] that is strong when he believes, but rather the One in whom he believes shows himself to be strong over him when he believes: strong as the one who is raised again from the dead to awaken him first from the death of unbelief to the life of faith. Faith means to be awake on the basis of this awakening : to be awake to the strong One who awakens him and who along can awaken him; to be awake to the necessity with which he does this, a necessity which excludes all pseudo-freedoms; to be awake to the implicitness of the arising which, on the part of man, will directly follow his awakening. (KD IV/1, p. 836; ET: CD IV/1, p. 748)
And here's the my nerdy version with the relevant German words inserted:
It is not he [the believer] that is strong when he believes, but rather the One in whom he believes shows himself to be strong over him when he believes: strong as the one who is raised again (auferstanden) from the dead to awaken (erwecken) him first from the death of unbelief to the life of faith. Faith means to be awake (wach sein) on the basis of this awakening (Erweckens): to be awake (Wachsein) to the strong One who awakens (erweckt) him and who along can awaken (erwecken kann) him; to be awake (Wachsein) to the necessity with which he does this, a necessity which excludes all pseudo-freedoms; to be awake (Wachsein) to the implicitness of the arising (Aufstehens) which, on the part of man, will directly follow his awakening (Erwecken). (KD IV/1, p. 836; ET: CD IV/1, p. 748)
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's At Stake in Christ's Resurrection? (revisited)

I've asked before on this blog, "What at stake in Christ's resurrection?" Here's another swing at it, but this time simply by quoting a series of questions Barth asks, and then quoting in brief the beginning of his answer. He pretty much puts the stakes this way: How could we come to know and so follow Jesus as Lord if he were not living one who reveals himself in the power of the Holy Spirit? But putting it so briefly doesn't do justice to how high the stake really are. So here goes:
"And it is only right that we should think of this first when we ask why the existence of Jesus Christ is so inaccessible to us. Is this the fulfilment of the covenant? Is this the Reconciler and Mediator between God and us men, the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world? Is this His revelation? What place is there in this lowliness for the true Son of God, and the true Son of Man? Was He not there only for a moment, and then no longer there; shown to us, but now--with all the appearance of finality--withdrawn; a short and beautiful dream on which we can only look back with deep disillusionment in our long and bitter waking moments? And what became, and becomes, of us if it is true that that exalted One was humiliated and shamed and put to death in our place, that the Son of God and Man asked finally in our name why God had forsaken Him? Is it that the incarnation of the Word, and therefore the existence of the Son of God as one of us, only makes clear what apart from Him we cannot do more than suspect--that we are all rejected and lost? Does it merely seal the impossibility of the human situation? And if it does mean anything more, if in His lowliness He is still the exalted One, the Lord and Deliverer, if His name still encloses the salvation of the world and our salvation, how can this be true for us when His death on the cross was His final work and Word? How can we know Him as the true Son of God and Man? How can we know His being for us in this concealment ? How can we cleave to Him or even believe that He is this, when this was His
end, and the door was slammed behind Him and bolted from within?

"The Christian community and the individual Christian believe that He was and is the Son of God and as such for us, and cling to this fact. If we assume that it is given to us to be Christians, we can and must say that we know Him even in this concealment He is our Lord and Hero, the Shepherd of the whole world and our Deliverer, even in this lowliness He has acted as the true Son of God even in His suffering of death on the cross And we are made alive and justified and sanctified and exalted to the status of the children of God and made heirs of eternal life in His execution. For it was in His humiliation that there took place the fulfilment of the covenant, the reconciliation of the world with God. It is in Him that we have our peace, and from Him our confidence and hope for ourselves and all men. Let us assume that we can believe this in our hearts and confess it with our lips. Where the Holy Spirit intervenes and is at work between Him and us as the Spirit of Jesus Christ, as the self-activation and self-revelation of the living Jesus Christ, we can believe and confess it in face of that hard antithesis Christ the Crucified is a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (I Cor. 1:23f), but to those who are called He is the power of God and the wisdom of God."

- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2, pp. 349-50.

This comes from a section I am currently ruminating on while dissertating, so ...
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Holy Spirit is not a magical third...

“The Holy Spirit is not a magical third between Jesus and us. God himself acts in his own most proper cause when in the Holy Spirit he mediates between the man Jesus and other humans. For God is not the great immovable and immutable one and all ... [but] the living God, and as such, our God, who really turns to us ... because in the first instance distance and confrontation, encounter and partnership, are to be found in himself”
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2, p. 343

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Search of the Living God

I've been thinking about God's Life: the God who lives, the Life of God, God as Life, God's Livingness, the living God, the God of the living, etc. Here's some quotes from Barth on God's life in the context of his doctrine of God (II/1). Interestingly, "life" is not a stand alone attribute or perfection, but it emerges at two crucial points. First, as a correlate of the basal description of God's being as act (§28.1). Second, as the last word on the identify of divine eternity (§31.3). Since Barth's actualist interpretation of divine being and his unique approach to eternity are significant contributions of his theology, I think the placement of the concept of "life" within these contexts is important. Okay, here's the quotes:
The definition that we must use as a starting-point is that God's being is life. Only the Living is God. Only the voice of the Living is God's voice. Only the work of the Living is God's work; only the worship and fellowship of the Living is God's worship and fellowship. So, too, only the knowledge of the Living is knowledge of God... We recall in this connexion the emphatic Old and New Testament description of God as "the living God." This is no metaphor. Nor is it a mere description of God's relation to the world and to ourselves. But while it is that, it also describes God himself as the one he is. (II/1, §28.1, p. 262)

This is the last thing which we have to emphasise in connexion with the concept of eternity. Like every divine perfection it is the living God Himself. It is not only a quality which He possesses. It is not only a space in which He dwells. It is not only a form of being in which He shares, so that it could belong, if need be, to other realities as well, or exist apart from Him in itself* We cannot for one moment think of eternity without thinking of God, nor can we think of it otherwise than by thinking of God, by knowing Him and believing in Him and obeying Him-for there is no knowledge of God without this by loving Him in return when He has first loved us. Eternity is the living God Himself. This radically distinguishes the Christian knowledge of eternity from all religious and philosophical reflection on time and what might exist before and after time. It distinguishes it from all speculations about different aeons, all the mythologies of past, present and future worlds, their essence and their relations to one another. The Christian knowledge of eternity has to do directly and exclusively with God Himself, with Him as the beginning before all time, the turning point in time, and the end and goal after all time. This makes it a complete mystery, yet also completely simple. In the last resort when we think of eternity we do not have to think in terms of either the point or the line, the surface or space. We have simply to think of God Himself, recognising and adoring and loving the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is only in this way that we know eternity. For eternity is His essence. He, the living God, is eternity. And it is as well at this point, in relation to the threefold form of eternity, to emphasise the fact that He is the living God. (II/1, §31.3, p. 638-9).
This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more... Especially concerning how the livingness of God relates to Christ's resurrection from the dead!

Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who is the Subject of Resurrection? Who is the Subject of Vocation?

Who is the acting subject of Christ's resurrection? Short answer: God. But to be faithful to scripture's witness to the risen Jesus, we must be more precise. Such precision requires recourse to some sort of "trinitarian" logic. We must speak of Jesus being raised by God the Father. We must speak of the rising of the Christ himself, the Son. We must speak of the Spirit by whom Jesus Christ was raised and now lives. And these three are one: the living triune God.

I have said all this before, and have shown how Karl Barth has taught me these moves. And I've tried to show some of the significance of this connection between resurrection and trinity. Let me indicate a further point of significance I just stumbled on this week. In his discussion of the event of vocation (CD IV/3, §71.2), Barth asks, who is the acting subject of vocation? Who calls humans to the service of witness? In the course of his answer, Barth draws on the trinitarian grammar of Easter:
If, in those passages which speak more generally of calling, God as well as Jesus Christ is described as the One who calls, this is not, of course, an indication that the New Testament knows two kinds of vocation, the one effected by God the Father, the other by Jesus Christ, and possibly a third by the Holy Spirit. It rather corresponds to, and is even interconnected with, the fact that in the New Testament there are also two ways of speak of the Easter event: on the one side, it is Christ's raising up by God the Father, and on the other it is his own resurrection, and a third possibility may perhaps be seen in Rom. 1:4 with its reference to the power of the Holy Spirit operative in this event. In both cases the statements are complementary. To the question of the concrete form in which God calls, the only answer is obviously that it is Jesus who does it in all the concreteness of his humanity. And to the question of how he does it, the only answer is obviously that in what this man does God is at work in his eternal mercy and omnipotence. The New Testament does not see two or three things here, but only one thing. (CD IV/3, p. 503, rev.; KD IV/3, p. 579)
So Barth argues for the living activity of Jesus Christ in the calling of humanity by reference to the triunity of God in the Easter event. Just as God in Christ is the subject of resurrection, so God in Christ is the subject of vocation. This point becomes crucial for Barth in securing the content of the doctrine of vocation Christologically: namely, that the the goal of vocation is sonship, fellowship, and union with Christ (§72.3), and that the concrete form of vocation is the service of witness to him for the sake of the world (§72.4).

Any thoughts?