God’s Eternity and Infinity Thought in Terms of God’s Time in Jesus Christ

I am reading Bruce L. McCormack’s (BLM) new book The Humility of the Eternal Son: Reformed Kenoticism and the Repair of Chalcedon currently. This is the first volume of three forthcoming. BLM has been one of my teachers along the way, in regard to Barth studies in particular, and the constructive theological effort that necessarily follows; BLM, is a premiere voice in constructive theological work After Barth. That said, BLM is not simply a Barth commentator, as this volume portends, he is a constructive theologian in his own right. Indeed, he sort of models the sort of theologian I aspire to be.1 The following will be an excerpt from BLM’s introduction wherein he gives a brief sketch on what it means to think theological proper loci like eternality and infinity from within a center of God’s life for the world in Christ, rather than from the abstract peripheral of the philosopher-theologian-kings. What BLM here treats reflects the sort of narratival biblicist theology that I believe represents a genuine Protestant theology; a theology intensively grounded in the Protestant Scripture Principle, which finds its lifeblood in and from a radically conceived theology of the Logos. McCormack writes:

What that means, among other things, is that terms like “infinity” and “eternity” do not define the being of God; it is rather the being of God in God’s relation to the world in Christ that defines them. To think about the being of God out of a center in God’s lived relation to the world in Christ is to forsake each and every abstractive tendency to treat, for example, the relation of eternity and time as strictly oppositional rather than committing oneself to thinking about God’s eternity as God’s irreducible otherness in God’s relation to time. It is to think of time not as alien to the innermost being of God but as taken up in Jesus Christ into God’s inexhaustible life without detriment to God so that time itself is transformed into the new time of a coming world in which death is no more and the experience of time—and, indeed, of “change”—is no longer controlled by the inevitability of dying. It is to think of eternity not as the negation of time but as both its ground and goal, as its origin and as its redemptive completion.2

BLM, if you know Barth’s Church Dogmatics, is clearly riffing on Barth’s doctrine on ‘new time,’ but in a way that will go beyond Barth (potentially against Barth in certain ways). What BLM writes above is the sort of theological endeavor that I believe leaves so much of the so-called ‘classical’ theology behind (insofar as that is reified by mediaeval categories of synthesis). That is not to say that what BLM is doing here leaves ‘orthodox’ or ‘conciliar’ theology behind, but it is to say that he is having a different [constructive] theological discussion that itself is regulated, even conditioned by a concentrated focus on the Christological categories that ground, what is in my view, a properly conceived theological proper. That is to say, what BLM is presenting, while acknowledging the hard work of the classical theologians, even building on it in particular ways, ends up eliding the ongoing debates in regard to retrieving and receiving say Protestant and/or Catholic scholastic theologies. As the above excerpt reveals, for BLM (and I’d say for me following), to think about God’s eternity or infinity apart from God’s Self-revelation and ‘lived’ life for the world in Jesus Christ is an inconceivable game of theatrics.

Per the material implications of the above quote: when eternity and infinity are thought from ‘a center in God’s lived relation,’ what ends up happening is that the theologian no longer has space to speculate about a ‘God behind the back of Jesus’; that is to say: there is a concreto ground for thinking about God that ironically transcends the philosophers’ efforts to do so abstractly. And as BLM underscores, this ground in God’s life for us, is an eschatological ground that gives time and space its telos from its ultimate reality as that is funded by God’s superabundant life of triune Love.

On the personal side: what this has done for me, that is when I think about God as He has freely chosen for me to do so, from the face of His Son made flesh, is that I no longer get lost in the twists and tangles of speculating about a notion of Godness that I may have artificially conceived of as I peer up at the seemingly limitless heavens. I have a face (prosopon) to look at when I think God; a face that looks like mine, but is distinct from mine, even as the Creator is distinct from the creature. I can look at the veil of God’s hiddenness, in the flesh of the Son’s humanity, and by a Spirit-formed faith, can see the depth reality of the flesh of Christ as that is provided for by His life as the eternal Logos (an/ -enhypostasis). Indeed, I was just recently able to comfort my 21-year-old daughter with this type of thinking as she is struggling with issues surrounding reality and God. God wants us to know Him, He wants us to experience His time, which is grounded in the new time actualized in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

1 That said, he and I are poles apart when it comes to socio-cultural-politico matters.  

2 Bruce Lindley McCormack, The Humility of the Eternal Son: Reformed Kenoticism and the Repair of Chalcedon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 22-3. 

4 thoughts on “God’s Eternity and Infinity Thought in Terms of God’s Time in Jesus Christ

  1. An excellent summary of BLM’s presentation in the main… and a helpful personal testimony of application, Bobby.

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  2. Bobby, if possible, can you take us with you a little as you travel through the book? The title is intriguing but titles can be deceiving also. Nice post.

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  3. Hi Steve,

    I’ll write what I can as I have the energy. But probably not a total travel through. I’m really not a fan of writing reviews; too much work.

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