Thursday, May 17, 2012

Offered With Introduction And Without Comment

Eberhard Jungel was a student of Karl Barth, an accomplished theologian in his own right, and took the opportunity to provide as concise a summary of the verbose Swiss's thought as any can find. The following passage, which I stole from here, says everything anyone needs to know about how I understand God and Jesus and the passion and how we can and do come to understand God and Jesus and the passion. Without forgetting Bonhoeffer's criticism of Barth's "positivism of revelation", Barth's single-minded insistence that revelation is not a thing we consider, but a person whose life and death and resurrection sets the boundaries and categories for our working out of our encounter with this person and the event his life presents to us clears away so much of the muddle from so many seemingly contested arenas as Biblical interpretation, ethics, even Church polity. Enough from me. Here is Herr Jungel:
[God's being] is a being in a becoming threatened by perishing. For humanity in opposition to God is condemned to perish. And in the existence of Jesus Christ God suffers this very condemnation. 'The more seriously we take this, the stronger the temptation to approximate to the view of a contradiction and conflict in God Himself.' Barth takes the passion of God very seriously. 'The Almighty exists and acts and speaks here in the form of One who is weak and impotent, the eternal as One who is temporal and perishing ... The One who lives for ever has fallen a prey to death. The Creator is subjected to and overcome by the onslaught of that which is not.' But he categorically rejects that we must draw from this the consequence of a contradiction through which God would come into conflict with himself. For Barth this consequence is blasphemy. However, his rejection of this consequence does not lead to any toning down of his discussion of God's suffering, but conversely, to a critique of the traditional metaphysical concept of God, according to which God cannot suffer without falling into conflict with his being. In this critique, Barth's opposition to every kind of natural theology received its most pointed statement. No concept of God arrived at independent of the reality of Jesus Christ may decide what is possible and impossible for God. Rather, we are to say from what God as man in Jesus Christ is, does and suffers: 'God can do this.' For 'who God is and what it is to be divine is something we have to learn where God has revealed Himself and His nature, the essence of the divine. ... It is not for us to speak of a contradiction and rift in the being of God, to reconstitute them in light of the fact that He does this. We may believe that God can and only be absolute in contrast to all that is relative, exalted in contrast to all that is lowly, active in contrast to all suffering, inviolable in contrast to all temptation, transcendent in contrast to all immanence, and therefore divine in contrast to everything human, in short that He can and must be only the "Wholly Other". But such beliefs are shown to be quite untenable, and corrupt and pagan, by the fact that God does in fact be and do this in Jesus Christ.
Eberhard J√ľngel, God's Being is in Becoming, 99-100

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