Archive for the ‘Carter’ Category

Reflections on CD IV/1 (Part I)

11/08/2010

I wanted to offer some commentary on some provocative quotes from CD IV/1. I’ll post Part II later on this week.

In $59, The Obedience of the Son of God Barth writes:

“It is not taken seriously or seriously enough. Yet from this one thing everything else, and particularly what we have just stressed, acquires its contour and colour, its definiteness and necessity. The Word did not become simply any “flesh,” any man humbled and suffering. It became Jewish flesh. The Church’s whole doctrine of the incarnation and atonement becomes abstract and valueless and meaninglessness to the extent that it comes to be regarded as something accidental and incidental. The New Testament witness to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, stands on the soil of the Old Testament and cannot be separated from it. The pronouncements of New Testament Christology may have been shaped by a very non-Jewish environment. But they relate always to a man who is seen to be not a man in general, a neutral man, but the conclusion and sum of the history of God with the people of Israel, the One who fulfils the covenant made by God with this people” (CD IV/1, 166).

I think this is clearly one of the strongest parts of Barth’s theology. The way he is able to weave the doctrine of election (CD II) in the context of creation and covenant (CD III), which culminate in the doctrine of reconciliation (CD IV). I was also struck by this passage with the way he emphasizes the significance of Jesus’ Jewish flesh. The specific focus on the Jewishness of Jesus and his relation YHWH’s covenant with Israel was also a major stress of Carter’s Race. As Carter tells the story, Christianity’s own anxiety about its Jewish roots aids and abets modern Western racial thinking, which is suggestive of the profoundest theological distortion.

“That God as God is able and willing and ready to condescend, to humble Himself in this way is the mystery of the “deity of Christ” – although frequently it is not recognized in its concreteness. This deity is not the deity of a divine being furnished with all kinds of supreme attributes. The understanding of this decisive christological statement has been made unnecessarily difficulty (or easy), and the statement itself ineffective, by overlooking its concrete definition, by omitting to fill out the New Testament concept “deity” in definite connexion with the Old Testament, i.e., in relation to Jesus Christ Himself. The meaning of His deity – the only true deity in the New Testament sense – cannot be gathered from any notion of supreme, absolute, non-worldly being. It can be learned only from what took place in Christ. Otherwise its mystery would be an arbitrary mystery of our imagining, a false mystery. It would not be the mystery given by the Word and revelation of God in its biblical attestation, the mystery which is alone relevant in Church Dogmatics. Who the one true God is, and what He is, i.e., what is His being as God, and therefore His deity, His “divine nature,” which is also the divine nature of Jesus Christ if He is very God – all this we have to discover from the fact that as such He is very man and a partaker of human nature, from His becoming man, from His incarnation and from what He has done and suffered in the flesh. For – to put it more pointedly, the mirror in which it can be known (and is known) that He is God, and of the divine nature, is His becoming flesh and His existence in the flesh” (CD IV/1, 177).

This is perhaps one of the clearest summations of Barth’s entire theological project. His stress on the Christological foundations for our knowledge of God is of the utmost importance. I’m reminded of a debate I had with a girl three years or so ago back in college. We were discussing Christ, and she shared her idea that she believed Christ could see the synapses firing in our brain because, since he was God, he was omniscient. Hence, she would even go so far to say that Christ was even aware of scientific theories that had yet to be developed. Of course, this view has to be rejected for its obvious docetic heretical underpinnings. More precisely, the problem is that this kind of thinking is still predicated by what I would diagnose as a refusal to take seriously the incarnation, the fact that He was made man. We still have anxiety about what the incarnation means for our doctrine of God, and we strive hopelessly to retain our beliefs in an abstract God derived from classical metaphysics. But as Bonhoeffer would remind us, the story of God is told from the cradle to the cross. I’d suggest reading CD IV/I in tandem with Bonhoeffer’s Christ the Center.

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J. Kameron Carter Sermon and Lecture

10/07/2010

Here’s a good talk by J. Kameron Carter on John 6 I listened to here. He’s one hell of a speaker. I’ve gotta read his book Race. Hopefully, I’ll get to it at the beginning of the New Year. Also, head over to here to read some interesting lecture notes Carter delivered at Notre Dame on Barth and DuBois.

More Thoughts on Theodicy

06/07/2010

Process theology (grounded in Whitehead’s metaphysics) or open theology (a more conservative variant) in many ways seems to be a response to age-old theological conundrum of suffering. Both theologies challenge the idea of a sovereign God preferring to think of a God who remains open to the future and does not pull the strings controlling nature, history, etc. I have many objections to these theologies, but one of my chief complains is that both seem to be intent on making apologies for God. They make the necessary moves so people can no longer protest to God in the midst of their suffering. It’s not that God willed things to be this way, but rather he is caught up in the process and unfolding of history. I’ve been thinking about the historical contexts in which these theologies have emerged and have become convinced that their development is contingent on a world that has become increasingly technologized and explained scientifically. In the past a tribal, omnipotent God who took sides in war made sense when man did not have the technological capacity to fight wars the way we do now. Also, in the past man was utterly dependent on mother nature for rain, but now we’ve grown smart enough to manufacture food year round. We no longer need a God to occupy such a position of power so he’s been displaced in these theologies as a friendly, relational Being who has revoked that place in the cosmos. God as an explanatory hypothesis is no longer needed so these theologies have re-thought the Godhead to make space for him in our scientific world.

I’m still working through thinking theodicy, but I thought I’d included an excellent quote from J Kameron Carter on theodicy and Haiti (I’ve borrowed the quote from Halden’s blog here)

By coming at the issue of God and suffering, which this Haiti crisis compels us to do, from the vantage point of the God not above our pain but the God known in and who is identified from our pain, the classical theodicy question comes to an end. We step beyond theodicy and into a “Christ-odicy.” That is to say, we address suffering from Jesus Christ. And to approach suffering from him is to approach those who suffer, not as those merely needing our charity (which positions us above them), nor as those who trigger our intellectual and aesthetic capacities to glean the beautiful from the tragic (which also positions us as masters, above the fray), but as those who witness God to us, the God who is the Neighbor—the one and only Neighbor—who has come to us (cf. Luke 10:25–37). They are neighbors in whom God is known and is present to us. And thus, Haiti is the witness to our redemption. The script is Christologically flipped: they are the missionaries to us. To neglect them, to position ourselves above the fray and thus above them, to not work to change the social conditions that make natural disaster worse—these are all signs of the refusal of salvation.

Finally Bonhoeffer writes

“So our coming of age leads us to a true recognition of our situation before God. God would have us know that we must live as men who manage our lives without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15.34). The God who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis of God is the God before whom we stand continually. Before God and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 360-361).