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316 - Barth, The Trinity, and Human Freedom
By Colin Gunton "Barth establishes human freedom in the freedom and transcendence of the triune God ... it is a real, though given and determined freedom ... criticisms of Barth, though mistaken if they simply repeat Enlightenment and Pelagian conceptions of human freedom, do have justification in a lack of attention paid by him to the distinctness of the triune persons and in particular to pneumatological dimensions of incarnation and salvation." "HE who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision." So does the writer of the second psalm depict the attitude of God to the nations. This independence of God, the unique and untrammelled freedom of the Almighty, is the theme of other psalms, too. In face of any suggestion that God may in some way need human devotion, Psalm 50 reproduces the scoffing tones we have already met: "If I were, hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine." Not only is God free from such concerns; this is also a positive liberty. "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases" (Psalm 115:3). I Part of our concern at this symposium is with the vitality of the biblical tradition, and in these psalms we are presented with expressions that sit rather uncomfortably with some of today's currents of thought, which do not like such forthright assertions of the divine supremacy. But Karl Barth knew better, as the following characteristically lyrical passage makes clear. In it, he is speaking of the divine preserving of the creature:
And so "man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor unto the evening" (Ps. 104:23); to which it belongs that he can use his senses and understanding to perceive that two and two make four, and to write poetry and to think, and to make music, and to eat and drink, and to be filled with joy and often with sorrow, and to love and sometimes to hate, and to be young and to grow old, and all within his own experience and activity, affirming it not as half a man but as a whole man, with head uplifted and the heart free and the conscience at rest: "O Lord, how manifold are thy works" (Ps. 104:24). It is only the
Colin Gunton is Professor of Christian Doctrine, King's College, University of London. He is the author of several recent books, including Becoming and Being:- The Doctrine of God in Charles Hartshorne and Karl Barth (1978) and Enlightenment and Alienation: An Essay Towards a Trinitarian Theology (1985). 317 - Barth, The Trinity, and Human Freedom
heathen gods who envy man. The true God, who is unconditionally the Lord, allows him to be the thing for which He created him. He is far too highly exalted to take it amiss or to prevent it.... There can be no doubt that with an autonomous reality God does give to man and to all His creatures the freedom of individual action (CD III/3, p. 87).
There are two foci to that passage. The first is found in the contrast between the heathen gods and the unconditioned sovereignty of God; the second is the human autonomy it is said to guarantee. Let us look at them one at a time. Both the psalmists and Barth assert in forthright terms what is sometimes called the transcendence of God. It is a word that should be used carefully both because of its inherent ambiguity and because it is used as a label for Barth's theology by those who wish to understand it without the burden of thought. But it has its uses, for it denotes in Barth, without prejudice to God's immanence and indeed as an implication of it, that God is conceived to be other than the world, as creator and as one who
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is necessarily made clear to us in His essence [Wesen-perhaps better translated as "being"] as the triune God" (p.. For the moment. 615). it is understood in terms of what has traditionally been called the immanent Trinity. The Pelagian conception of human freedom. Hill.Theology Today . Among Barth's achievements are the restoration of the link between history and the Trinity and the insertion into the Augustinian tradition of elements from the Cappadocian Fathers. a kind of living space in which God is freely God. Such a concept performs two functions. and Holy Spirit at the distance posited by the distinction that exists in the one essence of God" (p. Much more has been made of the parallel treatment in Barth of the divine temporality.C.. it also preserves an important feature of the innertrinitarian being of God: "the togetherness of Father.. there is a continuing tension in his work. in the West since Augustine. "God possesses space. but apophatically.. however. we shall concentrate on what he has to contribute positively to our topic. 318 . of direct relevance to our theme. But. divorced from the history of salvation. however. just because of this spatiality. 468f. despite the apparent absurdity of the claim. The Trinity. A clue to their nature is to be found in Barth's treatment of the triune eternity: "there is order and succession" (ibid.Barth. There is a distance within the innertrinitarian relations. by analogy. This otherness.: Catholic University of America Press. to the conception of divine freedom.). 468). 3 . in negative terms. God's freedom is 2 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . As is well known. second. it serves to maintain the ontological distinction between God and the world-"togetherness [Zusammensein] 1 W. said Benjamin B.J. and not in its matter. there was no place for character. http://theologytoday. Son. after the manner of much Western theism. D. There is a kind of temporality in God. in any case. "scarcely allows for the existence of a 'man'-only a willing machine is left. It is a question of the kind and quality of the relations there are and can be. This means that from the relations between God and the world Barth has argued to an analogous pattern of relations within the Godhead. 468).. Th. of the capacity of God to be present in and to the world. As we shall discover. J. and from it flow many of the difficulties of interpretation which have always been a feature of scholarly debates. and Human Freedom at a distance" (p. In such a conception. There can be little doubt that discussions of the immanent Trinity have.. and .. notably by W. What is the point of this talk of divine spatiality and temporality? It is more than a matter of simply preserving ontological relatedness and distinction. Why do they matter? An answer can be sought with the help of some arguments developed in connection with the Pelagian and later Arminian controversies.htm acts with sovereign freedom both within and toward it. a kind of spatiality understood on the basis of becoming spatial in Christ. but the eternity of the triune life: "the fact that God has and is Himself time. His own space.1 have appeared to take on a speculative life of their own.. Warfield. he is able to be triune" (II/1. arguments which are.. The Three-Personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation (Washington. there must be in God. 1982). 470).ARTICLE . and the extent to which this is so. To say that God's transcendence should be understood as the absence of space and time from the being of God would be a denial of revelation. p. No. Therefore. Although the concept has its basis in the presence of God to space. God's eternity is not non-temporality. God possesses space "as the being who is completely present in the spatiality that belongs to Him" (p. Barth insists that it is a mistake to conceive God. despite recent attempts to defend the tradition. Hill.ptsem. It is at this point that both the strengths and weaknesses of Barth's treatment of God and human freedom are to be found.Barth.).October 1986 . The being of God is an ordered freedom which is the ordered freedom of God.2 but it is enough for our purposes to realize that the point is similar. worn an abstract air. which preserves both the ontological distinction of God from the world and the real relation God has with it.Vol 43. more even than being true to revelation."3 The argument can be applied. But it is analogous. Here lies the essential error of their doctrine of free will: they looked upon freedom in its form only. is not negative as the denial of relations. and..edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1.
" p.ARTICLE . "Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy. The Trinity. and Spirit. Th. matter. and R. to be freedom. Saint Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings (Grand Rapids: Wm. 3 Benjamin B. God is none other than the One who in His Son or Word elects Himself. R. the pure waters of human freedom are muddied for Barth by the slavery that is the lot of those who would unaccountably (or. http://theologytoday. including a preparedness to take a part in defending the independence of Switzerland from foreign domination. Jenson. There is freedom. B.Barth. but such an accusation fails to discern the consistent inner dynamic of the trinitarian life. and it is the freedom of the personal reality of God. Son. ed. is not shapeless and arbitrary.Vol 43. and Human Freedom 3 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM .Theology Today . The triune God is defined as one whose reality takes shape in election: "in the primal and basic decision in which He wills to be and actually is God. elects His people" (II/2. Seen in the Work of Karl Barth (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill. S. Therefore. Sykes (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 88-146. we find a conception in which freedom is given. the characteristically Barthian terms of love and freedom have a central place. 177). the outcome of both the love and the freedom in which "God is what He is." Karl Barth: Studies of his Theological Method. No. 1979). W. with the second part of Volume II. the freedom of individual action. H." Introductory Essay in American ed. and Spirit. and living in expectation of redemption. Son. Although Barth's treatment of the Trinity is past by the time the doctrine of election is reached.htm not that of an arbitrary willing machine. Vol. p. Freedom.. 3). for example. must have a shape. But what does that enable Barth to say about the freedom of the creatures that are so utterly other than God and so utterly dependent for their being? II We now come to the second of the foci of the passage cited from Church Dogmatics III/3: "with an autonomous reality . lost.. "Barth's Doctrine of Time: Its Nature and implications. as he would say. the life in relation of Father.).. If God is to be free. We begin. and in and with Himself.October 1986 . Election is good news ("the sum of the gospel. It is an 320 . it is to a particular end. the conception takes here new form and definition. 1971).. Eerdmans. but that of the triune God. 1969). V. man can and actually does elect God" (p. within his triune being." But election. in the mystery of what takes place from and to all eternity within Himself.ptsem. and restored in Christ. a form. God After God: The God of the Past and the God of the Future.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. "impossibly") try to live outside the covenant. That is the function performed by Barth's conceptions of the trinitarian space and time. 319 . liberty was of immense importance to him. and not only in some technical theological sense. and takes shape in the mysterious life of Father. pp. and free not only in relation with the world but free to set the creature free to be itself. One feature of his life that will strike readers of the Busch biography is that Barth's writing and teaching life had a context of active concern for political freedoms of many kinds. Yet. The Trinity. Roberts. 3 . God's 2 See. reconciled. of Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.Barth. But whereas the doctrine of the freedom of God is a relatively straightforward. if utterly mysterious. accordingly. In the explication of this election. but of the creature who is elect. Warfield. W." Barth is widely thought to be weaker here and even to deny human freedom. This human election which responds to the divine is described as autonomy: "a simple but comprehensive autonomy of the creature which is constituted originally by the act of eternal divine election and which has in this act its ultimate reality" (ibid. xiii-lxxi. The freedom is the freedom of the creature. pp.Barth. like freedom. There is a counterpart to God's self-election and election of human beings. Barth is sometimes accused of an arbitrary actualism in his understanding of the reality of God. and it consists in the fact "that for his part. and Human Freedom freedom must be conceived to take a form appropriate to its matter. 76).
too.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. decision .. The measure of Barth's originality over against his own tradition is that election has for him a much more this-worldly orientation and is completed by a corresponding conception of ethics. and called. It is one thing to obey power exerted absolutely and impersonally. Barth shows that his treatment of autonomy is not confined to a teaching of the human choice of God.. we shall see that Barth in fact asserts the opposite.. It is here that is to be found the answer to the charge of Kantianizing. and expressing himself as an answer to it. Quoting that slogan he asserts that "as a description of grace it is not merely a 'shocking simplification' but complete nonsense" (IV/1. but one that is freely chosen. and Human Freedom "The basis of the 'must' which corresponds to the command of God is .. and is human. we are under the power of a demon. Here there is a distinction in kind drawn between obedience to God and obedience to all other commands. "Man is. just as for Kant our sole possible freedom consists in absolute obedience to the categorical imperative. the emphasis is on the freedom deriving from reconciliation: the freedom not only of the elect. but a person."4 Whether or not that be so. p. as he performs this act of responsibility. but it is a given one. and conducting.)..Vol 43. but to something. "human obedience. God would not be God). M. Notice again the stress on a kind of autonomy. and is man. 89). because it is gospel. We are called to obey not the impersonal dictates of reason but one who comes alongside us as one of us. And there is more to be said. which are "power and dominions and authorities which restrict the freedom of man" (ibid. For the Augustinian tradition. the deepest and most radical 'may' of the man who sees that God is not against him.ARTICLE . 321 . shaping. obedience . so for Barth our sole possible freedom is "the freedom of obedience." If. of course.. All other obedience is servile (pp. 510). it tended to be to a particular destiny in heaven or hell. to which we have now moved.htm autonomy. must have a shape. 587). by H. The outcome is that. Just as human freedom 4 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . "Church Dogmatics IV/4. but of those who are justified. human constancy and virtue. 175). Human freedom. p. No. and that is why the conception of responsiblity. 91). one must be determined in order to be free. 511).. It has been said of Barth's concern for obedience in ethics that it is "Kantianizing" because. but it is not the determination of "a mere thing. not the truth. is a determination that liberates for true self-determination. It is a self-determination. "The command of this Commander is a permission. is central. There is. man nothing. the rock of the new being given him as his own" (p." Karl Barth in Review: Posthumous Works Reviewed and Assessed. shaped and-if we use the word carefully-determined by God. 43-53. Election is to a particular kind of life. albeit one which takes the form of "responsibility . because in Jesus Christ you have been born anew in the image of God" (p. according to Barth. ed.). Rather. in which Barth includes the concept of response. action" (p. 4 Charles Dickinson.Barth. In Volume 4. As election is ultimately the determination of man. indeed.. The slogan is often repeated that for Barth "God is everything. because the work of the personal God. But unless it is God who determines.. 1981). In the latter section of this same part-volume. like God's.Theology Today . offering himself as the response to the Word of God. but for him" (p. it is. it is by no means Barth's intention. but it consists in "the granting of a very definite freedom" (II/2. Rumscheidt (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press. "Do this. p.Barth. http://theologytoday.). "What is the purpose of the electing God for the man whom He has elected?" (p. He is.October 1986 . quite another to obey the kind of personal authority with which we have to do in the gospel. sanctified. useful human knowledge. 585). 597). as he does this" (III/2. the question arises as to the human self-determination which corresponds to this determination" (ibid.ptsem. and in this it is fundamentally and finally differentiated from all other commands" (ibid. This determination. a claim of God over us (without it. a neuter.. The Trinity. a determination. Th.). 595f. we examine the christological matrix in which the conception of freedom takes shape. all these are only a standing and walking on the rock which bears him up.. however. 3 ... human faith and love and hope. This command and this alone is liberating. Election is not empty. pp.
.ARTICLE . human freedom is not the freedom of Hercules at the crossroads. and are overwhelmed by the logic of other things that he says? Or is it that the critics are simply operating with different preconceptions? The answer is. operates with a conception of determined freedom: "I worked harder than any .Vol 43. Conversely.. 374). that a Will can choose evil. This movement." the freedom to be what we truly are (p. 305). Similarly.. We begin in the next section with a study of some of the charges. or would want to do. God becoming nothing so that we might be everything.... III 5 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . The Spirit grants "a quite definite freedom. contains a similar conception of a direct relation between human action and divine enabling: "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. It is at once the self-giving of God and the elevation of Jesus as true man: almost. "whose service is perfect freedom. despite his strong assertions of the autonomy that flows from grace.. The link between Christ's royal humanity and free human action is established by Barth by means of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. and Human Freedom support.Barth. there is freedom" (II Cor. Paul says that sin consists in human action that is attempted outside the relationship to God that is mediated through Christ: "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom. The Spirit is the Spirit of Son and Father who at once "unmasks and rejects man's lack of freedom. a bit of both. For Barth's conception of human freedom is clearly not without biblical 322 . of Hercules at the cross-roads: to choose some roads is to choose slavery. It is sufficient to say. there are few aspects of Barth's theology which have come in for greater criticism. similar negative and positive points are made: first. like Barth but in a different way. The fact that freedom is a divine gift is also prominent: "the Lord is the Spirit. The matter was put with great clarity by Samuel Taylor Coleridge who.October 1986 ." . 311). we might say. you will be free indeed" (John 8:34. will end as the first began. p. 14:23). with a reference to the biblical tradition.Barth. that "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin". The Trinity.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. and where the Spirit of the Lord is. In the Fourth Gospel. Whether it does. 177). "That God as God is able and willing to condescend. espoused a modified form of Calvinist theology: Freedom expresses that highest perfection of a finite Will. for Barth. for example. Th. In more negative terms. too.5 However.36). which is the outcome of the "power which does not merely hold out or describe or commend or command . which it attains by its perfect self-determined Subordination to Reason. though his use of the term "autonomy" betrays also an awareness of characteristically modern preoccupations. his advice to the Philippians.htm is based on election. to humble Himself in this way is the mystery of the 'deity of Christ'" (p. 15: 10).ptsem. however. Jesus is free "to be in His humiliation as the Son of God the truly exalted and royal Son of Man" (IV/2. 3:17). the mystery of the humanity of Christ is that here we have "royal man. so its renewal is seen to derive from the movement of God into human history in Christ.Theology Today .. This second section. self-enslaved. but making a similar point. 3 . As Barth frequently remarks. but in the moment of such choice ceases to be a free will. I think. 363). 2:12f." slothful humanity renewed for genuine human activity. in which it makes no matter whether we turn to the right or the left. but the grace of God which is with me" (I Cor.). and second that "if the Son makes you free. Paul. but itself makes us free" (p. A will cannot be free to choose evil-for in the very act it forfeits its freedom. justice to all aspects of modern concepts of freedom is a question that will be at the center of the next section. http://theologytoday. His is a restatement of the classical Pauline-Augustinian tradition. though it was not I. so often quoted only in part. but it also discloses and magnifies his freedom" (p. has two levels. the freedom of indifference. This is clear evidence against the idea of freedom as independent self-determination. No. for God is at work in you" (Phil. and so becomes a corrupt Nature. Why are his words asserting the reality of freedom in the Spirit so widely disbelieved? Is it because they are empty rhetoric.
Th. The Trinity. everything has been fixed and determined by God.ptsem.7 its substance continues to recur. C. has not human action been fixed "in advance" and so deprived of genuine freedom?9 There can be little doubt that many of these criticisms derive from a one-sided reading of Barth. R. 1971). 1956). p. Mass. Coleridge and Christian Doctrine (Cambridge. "The god of all synergistic systems is always the absolute. The only difference in logic from the old Calvinist double decree is that all rather than some are destined for salvation: the decretum is still absolutum. The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. C. We do not have to do here with "things" that interact as part of some automatic cosmic machinery. too. and Human Freedom 6 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM .Barth. Although the form of Berkouwer's criticism has been disputed.8 A similar point is made in studies of Barth's ethics.. and that he was therefore inconsistent when he denied the apokatastasis.6 If all are saved. Boer (London: Paternoster Press. 323 . p. 139). the freedom.htm As we have seen. Bettis. Thirty-years ago. It is not-and here Barth turns the criticism on those who charge him with the denial of freedom-the proponent of trinitarian lordship who takes away autonomy. p. 15 (1967)..October 1986 . Berkouwer.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. The Trinity. of course.. it does not prejudice the autonomy.. the general. p. and it is here. for example. The One who rules by His Word and Spirit recognizes the creature which he rules as a true other" (p. eager for an autonomy of independence. espouses some kind of synergism. T. 1969). See. 324 . and Human Freedom would appear to depend on a premundane divine decision rather than on the actual human decisions we ourselves make.. D. But we have only to turn to the treatment of divine providence to discover that careful attention is paid also to the concept of the divine accompanying: the presence of God to the creature in the here and now. the fate of all 5 Samuel Taylor Coleridge. David Ford. 6 G. but "if the supremacy of this work is the supremacy of the Word and Spirit.. Bettis. as Barth appears to say. in this case the conceptions of concursus and primary and secondary causality in "the older dogmatics. the weight of Barth's conception of freedom. Berkouwer argued that Barth's doctrine of election entailed the eventual salvation of all. 423-36. He does not play the part of a tyrant towards it" (III/3.Barth. the concept" (p. it is not necessarily a self-contradiction to hold God to be the cause of free human actions. http://theologytoday. by H. The god who is abstractly single is the enemy of human freedom.Vol 43. G. God "affirms and approves and recognizes the autonomous actuality and therefore the autonomous activity of the creature as such. by election. 144). by J. 1981). 620). No. both human and divine. As happens frequently in the Church Dogmatics.Barth. for he is not the triune God who because he is 7 8 J. but confirms and indeed establishes them. precede the creature as creator and reconciler. 9 Robert E. 199. God does. 3 . 110. Barth. 92). cited by J. rests upon the doctrine of election. Barth and God's Story: Biblical Narrative and the Theological Method of Karl Barth in the Church Dogmatics (Frankfurt and Bern: Peter Lang." As Barth realizes.Theology Today . of the creature .: Harvard University Press. "Is Karl Barth a Universalist?" Scottish Journal of Theology. on stressing his conception of the pretemporality of God at the expense of what he calls God's supratemporality and post-temporality (II/1. the distinctiveness of Barth's treatment of a topic is made evident in his discussion of his predecessors' approach to the subject. God is indeed supreme. The Ethics of Karl Barth (Leiden: Brill. If. D. the digit 1. willy nilly. Notebook 26. E. that the critics have concentrated their fire. The problem lies in the fact that the concept of cause has not been adequately christianized. but with a gracious and personal divine accompanying of the creature. in my view successfully. R. but the one who. irresistible even.ARTICLE . the responsibility . Willis.
8. nowhere more. to see our autonomy. The Trinity. In modern existentialism and analytic philosophy. and therefore bears a 10 11 Barth's discussion of existentialist anthropologies in III/2. "Immense care is taken to picture the will as isolated. are not so much criticisms of Barth as root and branch rejections of his view that human autonomy is given by God and remains only so long as God continues to be its support. and reconciliation is the work of the omnipotence of the cross within that authentically worldly space. pp.Barth. but all conceptions. 325 .ARTICLE . 'I identify myself with my will.16. then. 12:43-5). she says. they are supposing an impersonal bond. deist. the critics are supposing that the only autonomy worthy of the name is to be found in some kind of independent self-realization by the creature. No. His God is in the present and future. solitary. Those who reject the notion of the divine concursus. Barth is not. as Samuel Taylor Coleridge saw.Theology Today . It is surely significant that the burden of Iris Murdoch's complaint against post-Enlightenment conceptions of moral action and reflection is almost identical with B.Vol 43. that there is all the difference between determination by the triune God. Such positions. therefore. But it finds plentiful support in the tradition. perhaps.ptsem.October 1986 . from feeling. http://theologytoday.Barth. Here. Iri Murdoch. the law of our being. but not. It is simply to oppose one view of human autonomy to another. grounded in ourselves rather than in the grace of God. 1970). will'"11 Here we reach the root of the problem. from reason. One thing that can be said against Barth's analysis here is that it is philosophically unsophisticated. do so because their presuppositions are deist or Pelagian. depends upon a conception of the autonomous will that tears it away from its basis in formed character. and in what way. It is isolated from belief. not simply in the past. not for long (Matt. substanceless. To will means to choose. Human character and action is the product of a process of formation.10 That is the reason why the classical discussions of Pelagianism and Arminianism are of direct relevance to our theme. but how and by what influences. as Coleridge saw so clearly. and to choose necessarily involves at least a measure of determination by that which we choose. and by an abstract. which turn the universe into a network of impersonal cause and effect. The Sovereignty of Good (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. but by whom or what it is determined. pp. preprogrammed from eternity. In reconciliation. 117-132 is particularly relevant to this aspect of the discussion. The creaturely person is not violated by the action of God as Son and Spirit. committed to a view that everything is decided in advance. as we have seen. and yet is the essential center of the self. as Peter Brunner showed long 7 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . 3 .htm differentiated in himself is the ground of true differentiation in the creature. There is no will that is a room. by denying a trinitarian conception of the link between creator and creature. who has space and can therefore give creatures space to live in. swept clear and uninhabited-at least. impersonal control. Edwards attacks the supposition that there are acts which are totally free from any cause or determination. however. The effort that Barth put in throughout the Dogmatics to avoid static patterns of thought about the relation of God to the world should make us beware of the simpler versions of the criticism. Th. whether that control be a unitary God or a mechanical universe (and. In the latter case.. "What I am "subjectively" is a foot-loose. B. creation is a giving of space for autonomous human reality. they are essentially the same). and Human Freedom rather abstract character.. In the former case. than in the work of Jonathan Edwards. Warfield's characterization of the Pelagian view. According to Barth. Pelagianism. he makes it quite clear that he is aware that the issue at stake is not whether human action is determined. unitarian. and pantheist alike. we are determined to be children of God. This returns us to the central point. Moreover. or none at all. and that includes many of those who believe that Barth's theology entails the abolition of human freedom. The opening sections of his treatise on the freedom of the the will are a series of arguments to the absurdity of Arminian notions that freedom is the same as complete indeterminacy. In his polemics against Arminian theories of free action. the crucial question is not whether it is formed.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. it is not a trinitarian conception of God which entails a denial of human liberty.
Barth allows the weight of emphasis to remain on the unity of God. The outcome is 12 13 Peter Brunner.htm ago in one of the first responses to Barth on this topic. also. I have suggested already that Barth's lack of philosophical subtlety prevented him from doing adequate justice to his conception of the free human being whose freedom consists in being determined personally by the triune God. As Pannenberg has written. 5 (1959). and that is not autonomy. The historical root of the problem. 14 II/2.. then. it is not that Barth does not affirm the humanity of Christ as strongly as his divinity. are more characteristic of the heirs of Western than of Eastern patterns of theological thought.). for it opens the door to every kind of caprice and tyranny and therefore to the profoundest disobedience to God" (ibid. 553.18 For example. Hegel. with ill consequences for human freedom.. 238-57. rather than being one only in what the three persons give to one another. that the form of Barth's appropriation of the tradition prevented him from achieving as complete a recasting of the doctrine as he intended. because we do something that is foreign to what we are. in his adoption of the expression mode of being from the Greek. Instead of theologically reclaiming the concept of the person from the individualism that has impoverished it. but heteronomy: the heteronomy of the demonic. F.Barth. 326 . in which greater attention is paid to the being of God as consisting in threeness. pp. p. and it seems to me no accident that deism and unitarianism. Let us 8 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . IV Hegel held that certain forms of theology led to the phenomenon of the "unhappy consciousness" in which the human being is crushed to insignificance beneath the almighty power of God.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. The sinner can set at nought the work of the Holy Spirit.Theology Today . 359). http://theologytoday."14 We are now. The Trinity.. in which the unity of God is so stressed at the expense of a revealed threeness that the latter is reduced to epiphenomenal or secondary status. compelled. p. But the outcome is that Augustine's weakness in this very area is simply repeated. of course. but that the lack of attention which Barth gives to the details of creaturely being and freedom derives from a fundamental flaw in his doctrine of God..13 In a characteristic sideswipe at Schleiermacher. the weakness of Barth's theology of the Trinity is that God's unity is seen as the ground of threeness. 3 .October 1986 . G.15 There is clear influence on Barth (as on Calvin before him)16 from the Cappadocian tradition of trinitarian theology. No. it is rather that because he is weaker in handling the details of that humanity.17 It may be held. rather than the result." Kerygma und Dogma. Barth's major achievement in this area lies in his inauguration of a decisive shift toward a more truly relational conception of the Trinity. 242ff. and Human Freedom the tendency to swallow up the reality of the creature in that of God.12 But to do that is no longer to be free. his theology can take a docetic air. They derive in large measure from a tendency to modalism.19 The outcome is that when Barth comes to the subject with which we are concerned.ARTICLE . not absolutely. Baillie (London: Allen and Unwin. as well as atheism. by J.ptsem. with the view that certain traditional ways of conceiving God are alienating. By using that term Barth's stated intention was "to express . the problem is to be found. it can be argued. for example. W. it is being increasingly shown that it is more than a matter of a lack of sophistication in the handling of certain tools. Barth made it clear that he shared Hegel's view: the notion that the Christian faith is a special determination of the feeling of absolute dependence "is an outrage to the essence of man. "Die Freiheit des Menschen in Gottes Heiisgeschichte. if not over-familiar. familiar. B.Vol 43. 1949). E. is to be found in Augustine's one-sided emphasis on the unity of God. But there. T. the problems come fully into the open. Phenomenology of Mind.Barth. "It has necessarily to be repelled. but relatively better and more simply and clearly the same thing as is meant by 'person'" (I/1. It is as one that God is personal. In a number of studies of Barth. Th.
No. To relate God too closely to the patterns of worldly causality. 17 Wolfhart Pannenberg. T. 1980). Gottes Sein ist im Werden (Tübingen: J. W. To see where the problem lies. Some of the evidence is reviewed in my lecture. where it is suggested that Barth tends to be weak on "middle axioms. See also R. pp. it will be argued. would apply to Pannenberg's conception of God as the all-determining reality). 1967). Williams. The converse of such a contention would be that certain forms of divine immanence result in the denial of human freedom. cit." 19 C. cit. an adequate reason for a criticism of Barth. 327 . D.. pp. to too nearly identify the operations of the world with the operations of God.. Jüngel. and a consequent loss of ability adequately to find room for the particular. pp. it has been suggested that 20 F.Its Basic Alexandrian Character (New York: Mouton..Barth. is to deprive the creature of its independent reality.ptsem. 96-III. "Barth on the Triune God. "Die Freiheit der Ensprechung zu Gott: Bemerkungen zum theozentrischen Ansatz der Anthropologie Karl Barths. Mohr. In fact. Karl Barth's Christology. 15 16 See E. Moltmann. 1983).. It is often said that talk of the Holy Spirit is also a way of conceiving the immanence of God. however. 147-193. so it can be for us. 18 See.). pp. But the detail of Graf's argument is more convincing. in itself. The One. Rendtorff (Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn.October 1986 . Th. is characteristic of modalist conceptions of God. Before proceeding any further. and Human Freedom Friedrich Wilhelm Graf's paper provides an analysis of the way in which Barth conceives human freedom in terms of its correspondence to God's own self-correspondence. Gesammelte Aufsatze 2 (Göttingen. Jenson. The Trinity and the Kingdom of God: The Doctrine of God (London: SCM Press. This is a fairly straightforward matter to understand in the case of outright forms of pantheism like Spinozism. op.Barth. it explains also Barth's opposition to Schleiermacher's absolute dependence (and. the actual logic of the theology leads to a denial of human autonomy (p. 172ff. the Three and the Many (King's College. 139ff. He holds that the christological determination of Barth's dogmatics leads to an abstractness in the concept of God. As already noted. What Graf's paper suggests is that the christological determination of Barth's theology is in some way related to its trinitarian inadequacy. op. C. On the face of it." Grundfragen Systematischer Theologie. Waldrop. http://theologytoday.. the suggestion that christology is the problem seems rather odd. The humanity of God.Theology Today . and J. 88). London. Karl Barth's Theology of Culture: The Freedom of Culturefor the Praise of God (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Publications. ed. 3 ." in S. pp. But it could be that there are other forms of immanence which also run the risk of endangering creaturely liberty." Die Realisierung der Freiheit. W. J. This. p. we might add. and it must always be asked of criticisms of this kind whether they are simply repeating Enlightenment criticisms of any theologically grounded freedom. He believes that one cause of this is Barth's conception of freedom as correspondence to God's "unconditioned Lordship" (p. "Die SubjectivitAt Gottes und die Trinitätslehre: Ein Beitrag zur Beziehen zwischen Karl Barth und der Philosophie Hegels. that is not. The outcome is that all particularity is rolled up to force it into line with the abstract subjectivity of God (pp. Sykes ed. let us return to the theme of the first section of this essay that the true ground of human freedom and of the autonomy of the created order is to be found in the transcendence of God. Barth's especially. Graf. 104f. As Jesus is the one free creature simply because of his relation to God. is one place where we can safely ground a conception of human freedom.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. 1981). W. The Trinity. 1985). 9 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . the otherness that enables God to be free of envy of the autonomy of the creature. B. Palma. for it is in Christ that Christian theology.20 We have seen that for Barth the freedom of the creature to be itself is grounded in the freedom of God to be God. we must pause to draw a distinction. for example. 1984).Vol 43. R. finds the center of its conception of God's immanence in the world.ARTICLE . Graf holds that despite Barth's own averrals. T. 78. 1975). and R. as we have seen. Here we reach the question of christology. 76-118.htm look briefly at the points made by one recent critic. 108).
The essential distinction is this: in Jesus. is given that all has been decided from eternity. 1981).Barth. rooted. the weight of election rests upon the eternal decision of God to elect Jesus Christ and with him all people into fellowship with God. p. For him. The Spirit. God is identified with a part of the world. in eternity. J. As we have also seen. this action has been attributed to God the Son. The Trinity. the Spirit is God bringing the world to its eschatological destiny. Irving approached the matter from a similar context. too. however. But whereas Barth tends to make both reconciliation and election universal for christological reasons. with the consequent loss to the doctrine of Christ's humanity that we have noted. and so the means by which the benefits' of his life are made available to us. and. Th. with a surer instinct. lies the way to the unfreedom that is the outcome of all unitarianism. limits the universality to redemption. The Spirit is God present to the world at particular times and places. the offense of that teaching lies in part in the fact that it prevents us from seeing that Jesus is the gift of the Spirit as much as he is the giver. It is this side of christology which is underweighted in Barth. Rosato. as a great Calvinist theologian who was deeply indebted to Eastern ways of seeing the Trinity affirmed. like Barth's doctrine of 21 22 Geoffrey Lampe. in the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. with the mysterious activity of the Spirit." He belonged to that group. the significance of redemption was universal. the dispute within Calvinism about the "double decree. The significance of this for our purposes is as follows.23 The strength of Irving's pneumatological emphasis is that it enables him. giving to it the liberty to move into the future prepared for it.Barth. for election is universal.Theology Today . 154). Those who deny it have missed a real part of his theology.ptsem.htm 328 . A conception of the relation of God to the world which ties it too closely to God's (christologically conceived) immanence is in danger of making the world too much a function of God's presence to it. The Spirit as Lord: The Pneumatology of Karl Barth (Edinburgh: T. the impression. there is insufficient weight given to the distinctions between the three divine persons 10 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . We speak of the Spirit as being present in our heartsimmanent in that sense-but not as them. indeed.Barth. As Spirit. Clark. to balance the teaching of the pretemporal decision of God to redeem humanity with an equally emphatic concentration on the centrality of the historical and particular. of course. 3 . as we have seen. and Human Freedom election. from whom in other ways Barth was willing to learn (see I/2.. first. The Spirit is identified with no part of the world. 329 . but in seeing that the work of the Spirit is not given adequate weight in Barth's christology. For Barth. God becomes worldly. among whom also was MacLeod Campbell. communicating the benefits of redemption to particular people at particular times.Vol 43. is the source of Jesus' authentic humanity. P. & T. Election has to do. Let me attempt to bring out the point of this weakness by a comparison of the treatment of the doctrine of election in Barth with the function the same doctrine plays in Edward Irving. Where Philip Rosato is right in his critique of Barth is not in his attempt to replace a Word with a Spirit christology. 198 3). Barth's weakness is a weakness of balance. Here Barth has failed to carry through his critique of the tradition. confining ourselves to God as Spirit. too little its own autonomous reality.October 1986 .edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. and it is ironical that one scholar has tried to save Barth from himself by this very means.22 But it is a mistake to conceive the Spirit in terms of immanence. 173ff. second. God is present to the world as other. Though mediating to us God's immanence as Word. contrary to Barth's intention and words. to pay full and detailed attention to the humanity of Christ. as transcendent. Traditionally.ARTICLE . as his espousal of the filioque makes clear.21 There. For Orthodox theologians. God as Spirit (London: SCM Press. The Trinity. according to him. pp. and. That is Barth's teaching. not because he wished to uphold the "double decree" but for pneumatological reasons. who wished to deny the doctrine that Christ died only for the elect. No. Irving. http://theologytoday. and Human Freedom pneumatology is so attractive an alternative to christology for this purpose that we can dispense with traditional trinitarian ways of speaking of God..
Theology Today . but that is a different matter from limiting the Spirit's operation to official functionaries or institutions. The tradition since Augustine had tended to make the Spirit immanent-within the institution. Although it is wrong to see the Reformation as an assertion of the rights of the individual religious judgment against the oppression of the totalitarian ecclesiastical machine. and so too little on the particularities of history. the biblical Spirit is the transcendent. Spirit. In Robert Jenson's splendid dictum. After the Enlightenment. there is freedom. of the way in which weight is placed in different areas of dogmatic importance. 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom. that criticisms of Barth. The difference is in large part. liberating precisely because transcendent.). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is. the old difference between Pelagianism and Augustinianism. and Human Freedom no doubt that it did place liberty at the center of its concerns. We shall understand both his achievement and its limitations if we see them against the background of both ancient and more recent theological debate. G. 330 . Against this background. We can illustrate this by comparing the different lessons which are learned from the Reformation. The Trinity. Barth's achievement is immense.. liberating Spirit. gave it a prominent place in theology. The first thing to say is that Barth's emphatic concern for the autonomy of human being and action marks him as one who takes seriously the Enlightenment charge that belief in God is alienating.Barth. do have justification in a lack of attention paid by him to the distinctness of the triune persons and in particular to pneumatological dimensions of incarnation and salvation.October 1986 . Carlyle (London: Alexander Strahan. It is a corrective both to the Calvinist absolute decree and to the unhappy consciousness by a return to elements of the biblical tradition that had been 11 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . http://theologytoday. But it is a weakness of balance. too. That is why Kierkegaard saw Hegel's near identification of the Spirit with the human mind as a return to paganism..ARTICLE . ed. too much on to the immanent and eternal. The Enlightenment can in this way be seen as a movement which attempted to liberate the divine Spirit entirely from the trammels of ecclesiastical control. with the result that too much is thrown on to christology.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1.Barth. the creator of the "unhappy consciousness. that it is a real. The Enlightenment and much nineteenth century theology. can in this way be seen as a return to a kind of pantheism." Western Christendom had tended to restrict the operation of the Spirit to the channel of the official ecclesiastical institution. despite his concern for the same thing. the Reformation was an attempt to set the Spirit free to operate in less restricted ways. as we have seen.htm and in particular to the reality and distinctive functions of the Spirit. but that is quite a fault. to human thought and action. pneumatology takes us to the heart of the matter. "When we cry. V We have seen that Barth establishes human freedom in the freedom and transcendence of the triune God. But it is also a difference in the way that the West has developed its inheritance from the past. he understands both freedom and its source very differently. became secularized in human culture. no longer the transcendent and eschatological Spirit. 3 . the immanence was transferred. The Collected Writings of Edward Irving in Five Volumes. so to speak. Vol. In that respect. V. No. and the route to slavery rather than liberation. There are those who hold that the Reformation was in large part about the doctrine of the Spirit and its relation to the church. Not only Luther but Calvin. 1864).Vol 43. though given and determined freedom. there is 23 Edward Irving. "Hegel's only real fault was that he confused himself with the last judge." The second is that. It is not wrong to see the Spirit in close relation to the church. Th. Here again.ptsem. and so had denied features of the gospel. 8:15f. an identification of the human and divine. the identification of God with the world."24 To repeat. with its tendency to locate God in the human spirit. though mistaken if they simply repeat Enlightenment and Pelagian conceptions of human freedom.
it has inevitably created imbalances of its own. But because it is only half way out of the modalism that is at the root of all the problems. No. but that in its attempt to correct imbalances. Enlightenment and nineteenth century. there is more to be done. we are aware that it belongs both in the Western.October 1986 .Vol 43. 233.Theology Today ..ptsem. The Knowledge of Things Hoped For: The Sense of Theological Discourse (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1969). As we see it against the background of Augustine and Calvin. http://theologytoday. 12 of 12 2/17/2010 4:14 PM . tradition. Jenson.edu/oct1986/v43-3-article1. but they do not deserve the harshness of some of the critiques. p. 24 R.ARTICLE . The theology we have been bequeathed is a great and liberating testimony to the grace and goodness of the God of the Bible. Th. These are real weaknesses. W.htm lost or overlaid. 3 . and particularly the Calvinist.. I am sure that is the way Barth himself would wish it.Barth. They rather provide places where the next generation must begin if we are truly to build on the foundations others have laid.
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