Jungel – God as the Mystery of the World (Part I)

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I’m going to offer some reflections on Jungel’s brilliant God as the Mystery of the World Sections 1-10.

1) The nonnecessity of God – Jungel’s work is an attempt to respond to questions Bonhoeffer raises in Letters and Papers. God is no longer a necessary working hypothesis. Furthermore, Jungel claims that arguments that attempt to prove God are the “midwife of modern atheism” (19). A God of necessity is always construed to be Lord and believed to be a God defined by power. This necessary omnipotent God always has to make room for His love, which is secondary to power. To move beyond this necessary God, Jungel wants to argue for a God who “is more than necessary” (25). God’s desire to come “to himself with out man” (38) is more than necessary. Following Barth, Jungel argues that God comes from God and we only know God through God’s self-revelation. From this perspective of revelation, God is groundless, unconditioned, and more the necessary. Finally, as a good Lutheran, Jungel declares that we “can speak of no other God than the ‘incarnate God’ and the ‘human God’” (37). This christological perspective has not informed God-talk in modernity because theology has been under “the dictatorship of metaphysics” (39).

2) Methodology –  Jungel charges Pannenberg for  beginning his theology with “the “claim to intellectual veracity” is better dealt with by assuming from the anthropological relevance of talk about God is first demonstrated ‘apart from God’” (17). For Jungel, this concedes too much and sets the ground for atheism. This probably explains why Pannenberg opens up his systematics by beginning a study of the history of religion and makes history such an important aspect of his theory of revelation.

3) Death of God – Jungel self-consciously takes a non-apologetic approach when discussing the death of God. He is not trying to rescue theology from such challenges, rather he states “[t]heology is either interesting on its own, or not at all” (45). Historically, Jungel recognizes that the question “Where is God?” is implicitly a question of theodicy. In my opinion, this is precisely what radical theology tried to address when Altizer et al. raised the question about the death of God. Is it still possible to speak about the goodness of God after shoah?

4) Bonhoeffer – Jungel gives credit to Bonhoeffer who opened up the path to begin engaging the question of the death of God, perhaps best exemplified by his provocative statement to live in the world “even if there were no God” (59). What is key for Jungel is that Bonhoeffer grounds this discussion christologically. The God on the cross of Christ is revealed to be a weak and suffering God. God does allow Godself to be pushed out of the world on the cross.

5) Hegel – The first philosopher to integrate the death of God into his metaphysical system was the Lutheran Hegel. Although Hegel discusses a speculative good Friday, this is never detached from its christological basis. For Hegel, the idea that “God himself is dead” is based on the understanding that God finitized Godself, as the self-negation of God. This God “does not desire to be “in and for himself” and does not desire to forsake the world in its finitude” (74). Against the docetic tendencies of the church fathers, Hegel boldly claims that “it was not the man who dies, but the divine; that is how he became man” (77). In Hegel’s theology, the incarnation is “immediately related to the death of Jesus Christ” (77). Ultimately, Jungel wants us to recognize that Hegel’s understanding of the death of God is christologically driven and is strongly related to the atheism of modernity.

In the next sections Jungel engages the question of atheism and God in modernity by evaluating the philosophy and theology of Descartes, Fichte, Kant Feuerbach, and Nietzsche. However, I don’t have time to analyze Jungel’s discussion of these great philosophers.

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3 Responses to “Jungel – God as the Mystery of the World (Part I)”

  1. tripp fuller Says:

    Good you picked out the fight he has with Pannenberg. Eric and I have been keeping it going!

  2. Jeremy Says:

    We’re gearing up for a complete reading of Pannenberg’s ST (I-III) this summer. Stay tuned for all that goodness.

  3. Rod of Alexandria Says:

    I love this series so far. Good introduction for someone (like me) who is unfamiliar with Jungel and Pannenberg.

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