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?


Bob MacDonald said...

Any thoughts? he asks! Of course - many - but are they helpful?

"There is no creaturely co-agency in either the creation of the world or the raising of Jesus."

This is a nice point. Surely it clarifies that Jesus is not God. Even Thomas's confession can be seen as recognizing God in Jesus - not as attributing to the anointed human an impossible. Even - in him the fullness of God dwelt bodily or a similar formulation - does not imply that there are aspects of fullness that cannot be contained. What is fullness and perfection? Are they subject to us and our definition?

If Jesus belongs to the created order then the claim 'I take it up again' is God speaking through him as '_' - I would like to fill in the blank with the word 'arbiter' to link this to mochiah in Job.

You can tell I am struggling - particularly with the tendency to exclude that is in Christendom when it ascribes the fullness of anointing exclusively to Christ Jesus. Ascription must be both complete and incomplete - so that the 'servant to the circumcision' can include in himself, who is the vine, the old and the new; so that we can 'make up what is lacking' - so that the Father remains greater than the Son; and I expect there are other ways of approaching this joy. Also so that we can avoid the will to power that is in an exclusive understanding of Trinity.

JohnLDrury said...

Bob - Yes, its tricky to speak with clarity about God the Father raising Jesus Christ the Son. I see you are looking for a way to do this joyfully and faithfully. I'm looking for a way of speaking with clarity about the Son's receptivity of the Father's activity in Easter that includes in its own way an affirmation of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. I think I can do this with help from Barth. We'll see if I can pull it off. All the best to you as you seeking understanding in faith.

Anonymous said...

Two questions come immediately to mind: (a) what do you do with the traditional view that the opera ad extra are always undivided? and (b) where are you with respect to the whole McCormack vs. Hunsinger/Molnar/pretty much everybody else debate?

Hope all is well with you and yours!

All the best,
Tom McCall

JohnLDrury said...


Thanks for asking. I believe in opera trinitatis ad extra indivisua sunt, as does Barth, and will incorporate that point soon. Just as the Father's subjectivity in creation doesn't rule out the action of Word and Spirit, so also the Father's subjectivity in the Resurrection includes rather than excludes JC and the Spirit. In fact, that is one of my major points: that we need to speak of the triune God as the subject of Christ's resurrection, though we must do so carefully. It is important to start by emphasizing God the Father's raising of Jesus Christ (as the New Testament does), then move to the participation of the Son and the Spirit within God's self-differentiating, self-determining single subjectivity. If we don't start there, I suggest, the Father's raising will be either superfluous or out of place. So the Father's subjectivity in Easter is not meant to rule out the Son's entirely, just to set the terms for how we think of his participation -- namely, that in the first instance he is the object and recipient of the Father's gracious action, in a way that repeats in time the eternal generation of the Son (in which the Son is also -- and basically -- the object of the Father's exclusive act). This grounds grace in God's own triune life. That's a schematic way of putting my first chapter, for what it's worth.

As for the debate sparked in the Anglo-American world by McCormacks' "Grace and Being" essay, I'm trying to reframe the debate by connecting it with resurrection (rather than crucifixion, which is where is usually ends up). But as to where I would locate myself, I'd say that I share many of McCormack's concerns and instincts but remain unconvinced that the best way to carry forward those concerns in particular and Barth's legacy in general is by placing election as logical prior to triunity. I would say that your "everybody else" line implies that McCormack is alone in his position, which is not exactly fair, given that there is a long prehistory to his proposal (stretching back to Jungel in the 60's) and there are many both within and without Barth studies that have taken a keen interest in his proposal. Perhaps "everybody else" in your circles is against him. I can't the say the same for mine, where the debate is genuinely a "live" one.

Thanks for your questions. It is helping me clarify some things. You are so sharp!!!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, John. It was not even fair of me to ask the Hunsinger vs BLM question... but my curiosity got the better of me (btw, my "everyone else" should have been "pretty much everyone else"... even though, as you say, that isn't quite right either).

I know a *lot* of people who think that this is a fascinating debate, and we have a few bright students who are attracted to BLM's view. Overall, though, in TEDS circles (and that extends to a considerable number of our PhD students in the UK), I think that the tide is clearly against his account. BLM is coming to TEDS to deliver our Kantzer Lectures in defense of his position, but that is a year or two away.

Something that has always puzzled me about Barth's own account is reflected in your comments. You (and B) speak of a "single subjectivity," yet you also refer to the Father's subjectivity as distinct from that of the Son. I've never understood just how to take Barth on this, and sometimes I worry that his view isn't salveagable at this point. Of course I'd love to hear your view, but understand entirely that this isn't exactly the best forum for that!

Occasionally I think of John and Amanda Drury, and always with more hope for the Wesleyan church.

All the best,

JohnLDrury said...


Thanks for your response, especially your survey of opinions at TEDS and it circles. That is helpful.

As for singular subjectivity, yes that's a tricky one. Here's an attempt to present Barth's position schematically:

God is numerically one subject. Barth does not take hypostasis to mean self-conscious subject in the modern sense. That sense would be attributable to the one triune God rather than to each hypostasis. But God in his single subjectivity is self-differentiated in three personal ways of being his one self. One of these ways of being (the Son) is by election from and to all eternity united fully to a human subject, Jesus of Nazareth. And so we can speak of the one subject God acting in communion with another human subject, Jesus of Nazareth, who is hypostatically united with the Son of God. So Barth works in a single subject idiom while at the same time speaks of two subjects in communion when speaking of the fellowship between God and Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Because he has so thoroughly mapped trinity doctrine onto christology, Barth thinks that this works. I am inclined towards it too, though its not easy. I'm trying in my dissertation to stay with it thoroughly with reference to Christ's resurrection, and see how far the rabbit hole goes. If after my dissertation I am unsatisfied, so be it. But for now I am trying it on for size. So I appreciate your probing as it helps me clarify.


Anonymous said...

Sometime it will be fun to talk further about Barth's Trinity doctrine (and about its relation to Leftow's view of the Trinity). Will you be at WTS this year?

Back to the BLM issue: do you know of published accounts (in the current debate) that side with him? Most of what I see (vanDriel, and even Kevin Hector) is going the other way, but I'm not a specialist in Barth studies.


Boyd said...

I haven't fully digested your post, or the comments, but recognizing the concern with creation and resurrection, I point to my own blog, where I've got some articles on the subject:

Boyd Murrah