The Imminent Return of Jesus Christ in Barth’s Theology. Where’s Jesus?

Even as a little kid, Baptist Fundamentalist that I was, I believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. I remember one summer day, in the Pacific Northwest, as a seven year old I was laying out in a field of grass hay that had yet to be cut. I was looking up into the sky with its white cumulous clouds made ever so much more vibrant by the bright blue background of the sky with the sun
resurrectionjesusrays ever so ubiquitously breaking through and hitting me on the face. As I lay there I thought to myself “this would be a perfect day for Jesus to come back.” I pondered that reality for awhile that day, and I haven’t quit pondering since.

As I stated, as a kid, I grew up Conservative Baptist, as such the attendant theology with that was of the typical North American variety: I was a Pre-Tribulational, Pre-millennial, Dispensational Christian (some folks only know of this “type” of “theology” through LaHaye’s  and Jenkins’ best selling series Left Behind). A central pillar of that hermeneutic is the belief that Jesus could come again ‘at any moment,’ as such adherents to this perspective read current events and socio-cultural and geopolitical movements through the lens of Jesus’s “any-moment” return; believing that the worse things get, particularly in the Middle-East and Israel, the more likely Christ’s return is upon us.

Without getting further into that stream of thought I will simply say that I have since repudiated the dispensational hermeneutic that gives rise to the pre-mil/pre-trib-rapture theology embedded in it. What I haven’t given up is the biblical and orthodox belief that Jesus is indeed coming again; the belief that his return is imminent and upon us. Karl Barth had this belief, in his own way, informed by his own theory of history and revelation; it is rather apocalyptical and actualist. But even without getting into that too deeply, I simply want to share the way Robert Dale Dawson describes Barth’s ‘imminent return of Christ theology.’ Dawson writes:

The Imminent Return of Christ

With the perspective gained by this insight we are able to see more clearly why the unshakable and persistent hope of the New Testament community was for the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God. If Jesus Christ was the resurrection and the life, if he was the King who is the fullness of the kingdom, how could the kingdom be anything but close at hand? As Eberhard Busch has it: ‘In joyful hope, we may expect in the future the One who has come already. Thus, or waiting upon him – impatient and at the same time patient – is “expectation of what is near”.’ Claims Barth, ‘If this is the One whom we expect, we cannot expect Him the day after tomorrow, but to-morrow.’ We must not grow weary in hope as did some according to 2 Peter. Having forgotten the promise of the yesterday and today of the Lord, they grew suspect of an imminent expectation of tomorrow. We must rather eagerly await the summing up of all things in his return:

Like the apostles and prophets, like Christians themselves, the angels wait for the consummation of the process inaugurated by the resurrection – a consummation which according to I Pet. 4:7 will also be ‘the end of all things.’ The word used to denote the ‘looking into’ of the angels (parakufai) is the same as that which in Jn. 20:5 is used of Peter when he looks into the empty tomb.

Hence Barth’s eschatology takes shape as a further development of his threefold depiction of the perfect time of Jesus Christ. He is really past, present and future, but now in a way more specific to the perspective of the church – He is past in his Easter time, present in the time of his Spirit and future in the time of his consummate parousia.

According to Barth, once we recognize that the event of Easter and that of the parousia are different moments of one and the same act, we will see that the supposition that ‘there was unforeseen delay in the parousia, or that hope in the parousia was repeatedly deferred, or that the primitive Church … [was] disillusioned or mistaken on the subject in consequence of an exaggerated enthusiasm’ is baseless and ‘condemned from the very outset.’ The New Testament has no need for recourse to such a ‘thoroughgoing eschatology.’

But what then shall we say of our present experience of the kingdom of God? According to Barth:

The kingdom of God is real but not operative. It has come, but not come. It has still to be prayed for. It is present in reality, but not in revelation. To the extent that the New Testament contains good news, but not yet Easter news, the prophetic history of the Old Testament is continued in the New.

The Gospels, says Barth, look not only to the past revelation of Jesus but also to his future revelation. According to Barth, the goal of Jesus was not the saving event of his death alone, but also ‘the subsequent revelation of the meaning of His death, and therefore, the putting into effect of the salvation won in Him for men, for the community, for the whole world.’ We must not see the death of Jesus as an end in itself, but rather as the securing of his kingdom which is yet to be made visible in glory. Busch aptly explains that for Barth the ‘Kingdom of God’ might be called the ‘revolution of God’ for it introduces something entirely new vis-à-vis the given world, ‘something that inaugurates its total renewal.’ For Barth, the New Testament community of believers exists in the movement from commencement to conclusion. That is, ‘it has the completion of inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus as a driving force behind it and the consummation in His parousia as a drawing force before it.’[1]

What we see in Barth, according to Dawson, is a theology of the Return of Christ shot through with the ‘now/not-yet’ conception of the Kingdom of God in Christ. What we get though in particular with Barth is an emphasis upon the continuity of the coming and resurrection of Christ; such that Easter resurrection is corollary and one-for-one in actuality with what will happen when Jesus comes again. In other words, it is the same primal event—Incarnation, Easter, and Parousia—but with different aspects and thus realized consequences for those living within the event of God’s life in Jesus Christ.

A Personal Turn

Because I like to read theology for spiritual and discipleship reasons, primarily, let me opine a minute on the way this theology of the imminent return of Christ impacts me; particularly in the way that Barth understands it. The same point, although much more raw when I first started contemplating it, that Barth holds to in regard to the continuity between Christ’s “comings” and “resurrections” is a conclusion that was impressed upon me back twenty-one years ago or so. I went through a horrific season (over a span of years) of anxiety, depression, doubt, and spiritual warfare; of the type that I can only now describe as “apocalyptic.” I would have such deep doubt about God’s existence that reality itself seemed to be slipping from me; this would, of course, throw me into deep anxiety and depression—unbearably so. But over and over again, as I walked through this season of dark nights, Jesus always showed up, he always broke through the dower-ness of my heavy and besmirched soul and brought times of refreshment; he would give me a peace that was indescribable. What I came to realize was that this same resurrected Jesus who was breaking into my life personally was the same Jesus who resurrected from the grave, and the same Jesus who would someday break into this world and bring times of refreshment unending.

I see this type of correlation between Easter hope and Second Advent reality in Barth’s theology. I think Dawson has done a good job describing something that sounds technical, but in all reality is very personally oriented in regard to the implications of what Barth is rightly developing in his theology. Maranatha.

[1] Robert Dale Dawson, The Resurrection in Karl Barth (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007), 80-1.

Saving Faith in Protestant Understanding, and Reflection Upon Its Informing Theology both Definitionally and Historically

The actus fidei in Protestant Reformed theology was an attempt to detail the component parts of what makes up ‘saving faith’ as it were for the recipients of salvation in Christ. What we will cover in this post follows along the lines we touched upon in the last post when we took a look at an ontology of grace. What should stand out to you as you read this is the elevation that intellect and will attain in this schema and explication of ‘faith’. It comes back to an issue of anthropology, of a Thomist intellectualist type (but we will have to cover that more later).

whitemonkRichard Muller provides definition for actus fidei this way:

actus fidei: the act, actualization, perfecting operation, or actualizing operation of faith; in addition to their objective, doctrinal definitions of fides (q.v.), the Protestant orthodox also consider faith as it occurs or is actualized in the human, believing subject. In the subject, faith can be considered either as the disposition or capacity of the subject to have faith (habitus fidei, q.v.), which in case of saving faith (fides salvifica) is a gracious gift of God, or as the actus fidei, the act or actualizing operation of faith, in which the intellect and will appropriate the object of faith (obiectum fidei, q.v.). The actus fidei, then, can be described by the Lutheran and Reformed scholastics as an actus intellectus and an actus voluntatis, an operation of intellect and of will. Both notitia (knowledge) and assensus (assent to knowledge) belong to intellect, while the apprehensio fiducialis, or faithful apprehension, of that knowledge is an act of will. Saving faith in Christ comprises, therefore, the actus credenda in intellectu, the actualization of believing in the operation of the intellect, and the actus fiduciae (q.v.), or actus fiducialis voluntatis, the actualization of faithfulness in the operation of the will. The soul may be considered as the subiectum quo (q.v.), or “subject by which,” of faith, since soul may be distinguished into the faculties of intellect and will.

The scholastic language of faith as actus must not be construed as a description of faith as an activity that accomplishes, for the mind and the will, a saving knowledge of and trust in Christ. Such a view would constitute a denial of the doctrine of justification by grace alone (see iustificatio). Instead, the language of habitus fidei and actus fidei, of the disposition or capacity for faith and the actuality or perfecting operation of faith, needs to be understood in the context of the scholastic language of potency (potentia) and act, or actuality (actus). The disposition, or habitus, is a potency for faith that can be actualized as faith. The act or actus of faith, although it may be defined as an operation, is not an activity in the sense of a deed or a work, but an operation in the sense of an actualization in which faith comes to be faith or, in other words, moves from potency to actuality.

The Reformed orthodox further distinguish the actus fidei into several parts. The first distinction is twofold: an actus directus and an actus reflexus. The actus directus fidei, or direct operation of faith, is faith receiving or, more precisely, having its object. By the actus directus fidei an individual believes the promises of the gospel. The actus reflexus fidei, the reflex or reflective operation of faith, is the inward appropriation of the object according to which the individual knows that he believes. These two acts can be further distinguished since, in particular, both notitia and assensus can be considered as actus directus. The actus directus can be distinguished into (1) an actus notitiae, or actualization of knowledge, and (2) a twofold actus assensus, or actualization of assent (assensus theoreticus and assensus practicus), consisting in an actus refugii, or actualization of refuge, and an actus receptionis et unionis, an actualization of reception and union. By way of explanation, each of these components of the actus fidei is direct insofar as it refers to the object of faith as appropriated. This is clear in the case of the actus notitiae according to which the obiectum fidei, the supernaturally revealed Word of God, belongs to the intellect, and also in the case of theoretical assent according to which the intellect agrees  to the certainty of the truth of its knowledge. The assensus practicus et fiducialis, or practical and faithful assent, still belongs to the intellect, which here recognizes as certain and as the obiectum fidei, not only scriptural revelation, but that revelation of grace and sufficient salvation in Christ which God has promised to believers. The actualization of refuge follows immediately as the realization that Christ himself and union with him provide faith with the means of salvation. This actus is primarily of the will but still direct. Finally, on the ground of all that has preceded, but also now as a result of the actus voluntatis, or actualization of will toward Christ, there is an actus receptionis sive adhaesionis et unionis Christi, an operation of the reception of, adhesion to, and union with Christ. The next operation of faith is the actus reflexus in which the soul reflects upon itself and knows that it believes what it believes and that Christ died for it. Whereas the actus reflexus is primarily an actus intellectus, the final actus fidei belongs to the will. The actus consolationis et confidentiae, or actuality of consolation and confidence, is an acquiescence of the will to Christ and the knowledge of salvation in Christ. The scholastic analysis of the actus fidei is, in short, an attempt to isolate and define the elements of faith which must all be actualized in the believer if the graciously given disposition toward faith, the habitus fidei, is to bear fruit in a full realization of fides.[1]

Stephen Strehle in his 1996 book was right to entitle it The Catholic Roots of the Protestant Gospel: Encounter Between the Middle Ages and the Reformation, because as Muller’s definition of saving faith within Protestant Reformed orthodox theology illustrates how that is so. What we have is a Protestant reification of medieval and Catholic (Thomist, largely) Aristotelian language when it comes to describing faith and salvation. Even within Muller’s definition we see how he qualifies a shift that took place among the Protestant deployment of the ‘Catholic’ language and indeed the Protestant usage of it; particularly when we see the language of habitus and actus pop up regularly.

Habitus and actus are both fundamental parts of Aristotle’s philosophy and anthropology of virtue and Thomas Aquinas’ theological appropriation of that grammar within his medieval context. What is also present, and highly Aristotelian, about this definition of actus fidei is its constant appeal to a faculty psychology i.e. tripartite faculty psychology wherein mind, will, and affections are understood to be the constitutive parts of what it means to be human. Of course in the scholastic schema what we are going to get an emphasis upon, just as we do in Thomas Aquinas’ Roman Catholic theology is an emphasis upon the intellect/will; since both the Protestant Reformed orthodox and Roman Catholics, by and large, hold to what is called a Thomist intellectualist anthropology wherein the intellect/will are understood to be the defining components of what it means to be human. This is significant, particularly when we start thinking about a ‘biblical’ and genuinely Christian spirituality juxtaposed, indeed, with the Bible’s emphases—which focuses much more on the heart rather than the intellect (if we even want to appeal to a tripartite faculty psychology in the first place).

On a more negative note: it is hard for me to understand, after engaging with Protestant Reformed orthodox theology how those who adhere to it in repristinating form can maintain that what they offer just is “biblical,” and then hear them critique someone like Karl Barth or Thomas Torrance as if their theologizing is outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. It is absolutely ad hoc and petitio principii to make such accusations; all Christians, of whatever stripe, do theological exegesis and maneuvering in their attempt to lay bare what is there in the text of Holy Scripture and its attestation to its reality in the life of God in Jesus Christ.

I would simply ask adherents to what is ostensibly the orthodox faith of Reformed Christians, to at least be humble enough to admit that their positions are just as “theological” and less stridently or prima facie “biblical” as those they believe are outside the bounds. The standard is Holy Scripture and its regulative reality in Jesus Christ; intramural critiques done either way ought to stay at the level of material theological engagement, and labels bandied around such as “heretic” or even “heterodox” ought to be done away with (unless of course we actually do encounter heresy or heterodoxy).

[1] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theology Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985), 21-23.

Ontology of Grace and Substance Metaphysics

Some have said that talk of ‘substance’ metaphysics is erroneous, I’ll do a post on who in the days to come. Until then I think the following is instructive towards understanding, theologically, what substance metaphysics is referring to when the locus is grace. It is unfortunate when grace is depersonalized, because insofar as God in his being in becoming is grace, if this ontology of grace is aquinas2applied to God we end up with a monad and not a personal God who is Triune.

As of late I’ve been talking with a few folks about Grace, and what Thomas Aquinas thought of it, and how he defined it using Aristotle’s categories of substance and qualities. Below I’m going to give a definition from a Latin theological dictionary on created grace or habitual grace.

habitus gratiae: habit or disposition of grace; a divine gift infused into the soul in such a way as to become a part of human nature. The habitus gratiae can therefore also be called gratia creata, created grace, as distinct from the uncreated power of God that brings it into existence, gratia increata. In addition, according to its function, the habitus gratiae can be called justifying grace (gratia iustificans) or sanctifying grace (gratia sanctificans). This concept, together with a related concept of an infused righteousness (iustitia infusa, q.v.), was rejected by the Reformers in so far as it cannot be correlated with the doctrine of a forensic justification (iustificatio,q.v.) on the ground of the alien righteousness (iustitia aliena) of Christ imputed to believers by grace alone through faith. The habitus gratiae implies an intrinsic righteousness to the believer, whereas the Reformer’s concept of imputed righteousness is extrinsic. Righteousness is viewed by the reformers and the Orthodox as inherent, or intrinsic …, in relation to the work of the Spirit in sanctification (sanctificatio,q.v.), but the concept, here, is expressed in terms of cleansing (renavatio, q.v.) rather than in terms of an infused disposition or habit. [Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, 134]

In other words, created grace, for the Protestant, is incommensurate with the concept of grace as foreign and external mediated by the righteousness of Christ;and applied by the Holy Spirit. For Roman Catholics, historically as noted above, grace becomes part of the person, in the accidents, which is intrinsic to the person. The implication is that grace is something that can be manipulated by the person, depending on their particular disposition — this typically has been known as semi Pelagianism.

Picking at Calvin’s Wax Nose: Union with Christ or Forensic Salvation? An Impasse

Often here at The Evangelical Calvinist I refer to the language of union with Christ, and Calvin’s “mystical union” (unio mystica). This is the stuff that makes ‘EC’ go round; that is pressing this Pauline idea of ‘in Christ’ theology as the key of our soteriological framework. In line with Thomas Torrance, and through his development of Scottish Theology, in his book “Scottish Theology;” I often pick up on the way this was developed, contra the Westminster development of Calvin that takes hold of Calvin’s theology of the Law, and its relation to understanding salvation. J. Todd Billings says that either one of these streams misses Calvin’s theology as a whole, and thus distorts Calvin if we try to emphasize either his relational over and against his juridical (legal), or vice versa. Billings writes:

[T]here is an ‘Anti-Legal School’ in Calvin scholarship that tends to emphasize Calvin’s distance from scholasticism, his fluidity in the use of image and metaphor, and his rich Trinitarian theology. Language about forensic transaction is generally treated with suspicion, in preference for the more organic images of transformation. In reaction to this school, the ‘legal’ aspects of Calvin’s thought tend to be emphasized by others, particularly his distinctively Reformed concerns for the doctrines of justification and imputation. Accounts of one school of thought tend to either ignore or deny the other side. . . . I will argue that the place of the human is illuminated in Calvin’s theology of participation by seeing a Trinitarian account of the duplex gratia as the framework for participation. For Calvin, participation in Christ must emphasize the legal and the transformative language in the ‘double grace’ of justification and sanctification. In prayer, believers act in ascetic struggle to pray rightly, yet the foundation for their active struggle is a recognition of God’s free pardon. Likewise, in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, believers act in response to God’s justifying act in a way that incorporates them into a Trinitarian soteriology: the Father is revealed as gracious and generous through his free pardon of believers in their union with Christ; this union also involves the activation of believers by the Spirit—toward a life of piety and love, requiring ascetic effort and activity. Believers are made active in the ecclesial and social community. A participatory, Trinitarian account of the duplex gratia plays an important role in Calvin’s theological account of the sacraments. ‘Participation’ in baptism is so real that it is almost biological. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper involves participating in Christ’s ascension to heaven to feed on his life giving flsh and blood. Calvin’s theology of prayer and the sacraments is a theology that is theocentric, but also participatory, activating believers in love of God and neighbour as the body of Christ. [J. Todd Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 105-06]

This serves instructive for noting a certain reality; one that Billings is not intending to address here, but one that I believe is constructively available through the present thesis that Billings will proceed to develop throughout the rest of his chapter. What I want to highlight is the fact that both lines of thought—union with Christ/relational and forensic—are present in Calvin. Consequently, all things being equal, both strands can be found developed and emphasized within the tradition that bears Calvin’s name. This is precisely what we seek to elucidate and alert folks to with our forthcoming book on Evangelical Calvinism, and what I, personally, have been doing here with my blog (at points). Calvin’s nose is very “waxy,” and thus it should be expected that given the various predispositions of people in general; that aspects of Calvin’s corpus will be developed over and against other aspects—and this shaped by various socio-cultural constraints present throughout Calvinism’s history and development.

Billings’ point is that to negate one aspect of Calvin from his other side is to misread and misunderstand Calvin’s full bodied theological thrust. Nevertheless, the reality is, is that Calvin has been read through various foci and lenses; the history bears this out. This takes us back to Richard Muller’s thesis that Calvin should not be seen as the touchstone of what it means to be a Calvinist. In some ways this is true, there is a difference between being Calvinian (which is what Billings is developing in his book—Calvin’s theology) and Calvinist; I would suggest though that a theologian could only ever be a Calvinist (Evangelical, Westminster, Spiritual Brethren, et al) if in fact she has a shred of Calvinian in her first. My point, Calvin’s nose is wax; and I would say that this is a good thing, precisely because we are as Reformed Christians, people who interpret and re-interpret Calvin and any teacher through Scripture. Those who appreciate Calvin, and try to appropriate him constructively through Scripture; will almost necessarily end up being a Calvinist (vs. Calvinian), and, of course, I would propose that the best of us will end up an Evangelical Calvinist! 😉

*repost (an old one)

Why Karl Barth is not Simply a “Gateway” Drug

Michael Allen just wrote what I can only take as a rejoinder post to the one I wrote in response to Allen’s “theological twin” on Twitter; the post where Swain says to “get” and then “get over” Barth. In Allen’s post he references the “controversy” that was spawned by Swain’s tweet, but as I look around the only person I see who really pushed back at Swain’s tweet, either on Twitter or allensbarthvia blog, was me. For the rest of my post here (which is really just a quick registering of the fact that I’ve read Allen’s post) it will be premised upon what Allen wrote in his post (so you’ll need to read it first, it is pretty short). Here is what I quickly wrote in response to Allen on my Facebook page:

This is interesting. Since I’m pretty much the only one I know of who pushed back at Swain’s Tweet on Barth, both on Twitter (although there were a couple more who questioned Swain on Twitter), and via a blog post; I can’t help but think this post from Allen, while not directly directed at me, is directed to me (this post). What’s interesting about Allen’s post, and Swain’s Tweet (and his explanation on Twitter) is that what Allen essentially writes here (while much more charitable in tone) is basically what Richard Muller writes of Barth in an essay he wrote in the late 80s, one that Scott Clark recently shared (this one which I responded to here). Basically, Allen and Swain are agreeing with Muller, that Barth relatively speaking, in his context, provides for something positive in his own way and time; but it wasn’t sufficient. The thesis Allen is offering is basically the one Muller offers in his essay: i.e. the idea that the thing that Barth really offered that was good was to point people past Barth back to the post reformed orthodox theologians and others in the history of the church—e.g. Allen’s “gateway” premise.

The reason this has provided frustration (controversy) for me is because I see what Swain and now Allen has written as a passive-aggressive continuation of the Carl Henry/Cornelius Van Til legacy. Yes Allen’s tone is even softer than Muller’s, but at base he is basically suggesting the same thing that Muller more aggressively was arguing for in his essay. There’s a hat-tip and then a moving on to the orthodox things (things which Barth fundamentally reformulated).

I have benefited some from Allen’s reader on Barth’s CD, primarily because he offers some choice and select readings of the CD therein. But what he writes in his article here sounds to me like a softer gentler Richard Muller.

And the reason I’m so vociferous about this is not because I’m a fully fledged “Barthian,” it’s because I don’t see Barth as someone who can materially or formally be engaged with (in a gateway fashion). In other words he offers a totally different paradigm than those who Swain, Allen, Muller et al believe are orthodox; and I know they all know this. So to say that Barth is a gateway means exactly what Muller says in his article. The reason I take a stand here is because I think the lines are being blurred, and de facto Barth’s theology is still left where it was for Muller et al in Allen, Swain, et al. I.e. Barth is a marginal theologian who did the best he could in the time and circumstance he lived in, but his best offering was to point us back to the post reformed orthodox and “classical” tradition. This is what Allen is saying. But that’s not really a meaningful way to engage with Barth, it’s a hat-tip and a moving on. I don’t think Barth is a figure who is simple someone you hat-tip, I said as much in a response to Phillip Cary’s article on First Things (First Things published my response to Cary on their site).

Okay, so that is what I wrote in my Facebook response. The way I see folks like Swain, Allen, et al. “gatewaying” Barth is to simply locate Barth in his place as a modern theologian in the German context. It is disingenuous, in my view, to act like someone is actually engaging with Barth, when that engagement is really a “gateway” or a portal to deeper and purer waters; the waters that Muller speaks of in his mini-essay. In other words, when Allen writes, “While the Word always confronts us from outside, the theologian is not to be a savant but fundamentally a student who listens ever deeper, ever wider. It is a shame when Barth, who sought to tune our ears to that wider chorus of saints, is left playing solo.” If you read Cary’s article, actually, and then couple that with the harder tone of Muller’s essay, what you’ll get in a softer gentler voice is something like Allen’s post. Barth’s theology is too revolutionary, paradigmatical, to simply be engaged with as a gateway. I know that Allen and Swain know this, I just wish they’d be as forthright as Muller was in his essay.

 

Sanctorum Communio, The Communion of the Saints and being catholic Thinkers

A week ago today I was in a funky mood, and wrote a blog post called Doubting the Theologians and Biblical Interpretation. I was lamenting what I see as undue license being given to theologians or biblical exegetes in our reading of the text of Holy Scripture; I still have this concern (the whole reader response hermeneutic). Someone I’ve known through blogging and Facebook over the communionsaintsyears, David Guretzki, professor of theology at Briercrest College in Canada, and Barth scholar, made a comment. He wrote:

Bobby, what if you instead thought of these authors as part (even if not the only) communion of the saints? We do not read scripture as individuals, but as the Church–of which these doctors of the Church are a gift (charism). The Protestant evangelical way of reading Scripture assumes perspecuity (clarity) available to all–that is its strength. But its weakness is that it too often has degenerated into a non-ecclesial way of reading scripture. It is precisely other voices that keeps us from hearing only the echoes of our own thoughts and subjectivities imposed upon scripture. The problem, of course, is that we are too often too selective of the voices we listen to. The danger is not that we read Barth or Aquinas or Augustine, but that we are too apt ONLY to read Barth, Aquinas, or Augustine (or Calvin or Luther, etc. etc.) and thus keep reconfirming too often our own subjectivities and biases.

At the moment I wrote that post I, frankly, wasn’t in the mood to hear much, I was just in a total venting mode. But what David wrote is something I whole-heartedly agree with and have pushed myself here at this blog and other blogs of mine over the last many years. What David wrote points up something that I think everyone needs to be cognizant of; we need to avail ourselves, as the body of Christ, to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the sanctorum communio, or what Guretzki called the communion of the saints (the English). If we don’t avail ourselves of these various voices we will fall into the trap that Guretzki rightly alerts us to; we might only hear “echoes of our own thoughts and subjectivities” and impose that “upon scripture.”

This actually dovetails with my last post. If we close the circle too tightly, we might only gather teachers around us who always and only reinforce our own subjectivities. The principle of what Gurtezki is getting at is that we need to be open to the whole tradition of the church, and remove ourselves from self-imposed echo-chambers. We need to read Holy Scripture with the communion of the saints. Clearly we are finite time and space bound creatures, and so that in and of itself is going to delimit how many voices we can open ourselves up to. And of course we don’t want to be so open that our brains fall out; we want to be open critically. But we do want to do catholic theology, and be participants in the whole tradition of the church.

We all have our favorite teachers, even teachers who are strewn throughout the history of the church; that’s natural, we are going to be drawn to certain teachers and theologians for one reason or the other. Obviously, I am drawn to Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth, and John Calvin; but I have also learned from so many in the history of interpretation. We just want to be open enough that, indeed, we are actually participating in the communion of the saints that Christ himself has gifted us with in his body.

What I think this entails, though, and this gets back to my last post, is that as Christians we want to identify the reality that Christ has given teachers to his church in every century and period of his church; and he continues to (Ephesians 4). Truly, we need to be critical and discerning, but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the idea that there are “holy centuries” in the communion of the saints, in the church. We should understand that God in Christ can, has and does break into every century of his church; we should understand that God can speak through modern metaphysics as clearly and perspicaciously as he can through medieval metaphysics. The reality is that all metaphysics used to help supply a grammar for theological discourse must be evangelized and reified in and by the concrete ground of God’s Triune life in Jesus Christ.

A Riposte to Scott Swain: “Get Over Karl Barth.”

Scott Swain, professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida recently wrote the following on Twitter in regard to Karl Barth:

scottswainbarth

For the life of me I have no idea why there is so much spite towards, Barth; particularly among the class of people that Swain is in. When I say ‘class’ I mean young up and coming Protestant Reformed evangelical theologians who have ardently decided that the periods of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the development of Post Reformation Reformed theology therein, represents the absolute high-water mark of all ‘orthodox’ evangelical theology. Ecclesiologically, relative to a theory of authority, it is very hard to see how this approach is disparate from Roman allegiance to the Pontificate and magisterium in Vatican City. In other words, it is hard to see—aside from the assertion from certain types of Reformed thinkers that the distinction is that they are a ‘Word’ (Bible) based approach versus a ‘Ecclesio’ centered approach as we have in Rome—how the ‘tradition’ itself has not so co-opted Bible interpretation that it isn’t just like having a Roman orthodoxy telling everyone else what the Bible must mean within certain confessional confines.

This, I contend, is exactly what is happening. It is because Karl Barth has reformulated, from the ground up, many of the doctrines that the Post Reformed orthodox have claimed are indeed the orthodox teaching of the Bible. But this is an artificial standard. These classically Reformed always make the claim that the confessions and all theology is subordinate to Scripture, but de facto this claim simply does not hold water. Swain’s gripe against Barth illustrates this; because we would have to suppose that Swain is telling people they ought to reject or get over Barth based upon a certain canon, or orthodoxy. Swain is measuring Barth by a Procrustean bed, or asserted ‘orthodoxy’ that Swain believes “just is” as it providentially developed, in a linear fashion, within the tradition making of the Post Reformed orthodox theologians and churches in the 16th and 17th centuries. But I fail to see how this logic, about the development of “orthodox” doctrine, within the confines of an ad hoc expression of the church of Jesus Christ, is any different than arguing that the same happened in either Rome or Constantinople in the Western and Eastern expressions of the church. Swain’s exhortation about Barth isn’t really based upon the Bible, it is based upon an expression and tradition and development in the Protestant church, in a certain period, that Swain, among others has absolutized as solely representative of Protestant orthodoxy. But this is ad hoc, and it is a slippery slope, along the lines I just mentioned.

If Protestant Christians are really ‘Word-based’ Christians, if the Bible is really our authority, then the Protestant Reformed principle of semper reformanda ‘always reforming’ ought to be adhered to for real. But as my friend, Jason Goroncy notes, even at a very early stage this type of absolutizing of the ‘tradition’ or confessions in the Reformed churches began to take over, and the Bible as the determinative authority was left behind; so was semper reformanda. Goroncy writes of an aspect of this early Reformed history:

The spirit of the semper in the reformanda aphorisms was not always met with welcome, however, even among the Reformed. For instance, the Synod of Privas (1612)—called amid bitter political struggles, division among nobles and among churches, and the rise to power within the church of bureaucratic hardliners such as Daniel Chamier—witnessed the practical end to a commitment to confessional development on the basis that such would in fact promote further destabilization and challenge to those who found themselves empowered on the winning side of debates. Unlike, for example, the Scots Confession (1560) which made plain that any church confession was strictly subordinate to Holy Scripture—that “interpretation or opinion of any theologian, BCirk, or council” which is found to be “contrary to the plain Word of God” is to be corrected by such and that such was expected to be a continual process undertaken by a listening church whose fidelity was never to be directed to the Confession itself—the Confession which was the fruit of the Synod of Privas, and which all pastors—Huguenot and other—were required to sign, “effectively closed off the possibility of any further substantial change to the confession; hence, for all intents and purposes, it brought to an end the previous commitment to the concept of semper reformanda….”[1]

This, I contend, is exactly what Swain and so many others have done; they have “effectively closed off the possibility of any further substantial change to the confession; hence, for all intents and purposes, it brought to an end the previous commitment to the concept of semper reformanda.”

This explains why Swain says what he does; Barth if anyone, while working within and from the Reformed tradition himself, reformulates many of the sacrosanct developments of doctrine codified in the Reformed confessions (especially Westminster) and catechisms that it appears Swain et al. is lock-step committed to. Even if Swain wants to constructively work within his tradition, he will always have to measure what he says by the confessional norms of what he considers Protestant orthodoxy. But let’s be clear, at precisely that point, Swain et al. is not being driven by the authority of the Bible, per se, but instead by what the Reformed confessions, read in a certain and absolute way, say Scripture is saying. It is upon this basis that Swain et al. say to ‘get over’ Barth; not on the basis of the Bible and its capacity to inculcate semper reformanda as we grow as the church catholic in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, but instead upon the basis of a tradition in a development in the Protestant church that Swain et al. believes is the only ‘orthodox’ way for theologically understanding and interpreting Scripture.

So, as a Protestant, I am not sure why I should get over Barth, or any other thinkers (like Thomas Torrance et al) who work within the mode of semper reformanda and the Reformed faith. This admonition, from Swain, is not based upon the Bible, but upon an ad hoc assertion that Protestant orthodoxy can only be read from one direction and from one or two periods of theological development in Western Europe.

 

 

[1] Semper Reformanda as a Confession of Crisis’, Pages 43–73 in Always Being Reformed: Challenges and Prospects for the Future of Reformed Theology. Edited by David H. Jensen. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016.

The ‘evangelical’ in the Calvinism: No God or Decree Behind the Back of Jesus in Predestination

Thomas F. Torrance, the patron saint of evangelical Calvinists articulates his Reformed view and reformulated articulation of predestination better than anyone else could; so here he is in his own voice from a lecture from him I’d never read before.

slenderjesusPredestination means the anchoring of all God’s ways and works in his own eternal being and will. While the term “predestination” refers everything back to the eternal purpose of God’s love for humankind, the cognate term “election” refers more to the fulfillment of that purpose in space and time, patiently worked out by God in the history of Israel and brought to its consummation in Jesus Christ. Thus predestination is not to be understood in terms of some timeless decree in God, but as the electing activity of God providentially and savingly at work in what Calvin called the “history of redemption.” Behind it all is to be discerned the unvarying faithfulness or dynamic constancy of God, for in choosing humankind for fellowship with himself the electing God thereby wills to set aside everything contrary to this eternal purpose. In his faithfulness, God never says “yes” and “no” to us, but only “yes.” That is the way in which Calvin understood the couplet “predestination” and “reprobation. ” If predestination is to be traced back not just to faith as its “manifest cause” but to the “yes” of God’s grace as its “hidden cause,” so reprobation is to be traced back not just to unbelief as its “manifest cause” but to the “yes” of God’s grace as its “hidden cause” as well, and not to some alleged “no” in God. There are not two wills in God, but only the one eternal will of God’s electing love. It is by the constancy of that love that all who reject God are judged.

The gospel tells us that it is only in Jesus Christ that election takes place. Christ embodies the electing love of God in his own divine-human person. That is why, to refer to Calvin again, he insisted that we must think of Christ as the “cause” of election in all four traditional senses of “cause”: the efficient and the material, the formal and the final. Christ is at once the agent and the content of election, its beginning and its end. Hence it is only in Christ that we may discern the ground and purpose of election in God’s unchanging being, and also how election operates in God’s creative, providential, and redemptive activity. In Christ the whole electing and covenanting of love of God is gathered up to a head and launched into history. Before Christ, apart from him, or without him God does not will or do anything, for there is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ.

This identity of eternal election and divine providence in Jesus Christ generated in the Reformed tradition its well-known conjunction of repose in God and active obedience to God in the service of Christ’s kingdom. However, if that repose in God is referred, as has happened only too often in the history of Reformed churches, to an inertial ground in the eternal being of God, then there opens up a split in people’s understanding between predestination and the saving activity of Christ in space and time, e.g., in the notion of election as “antecedent to grace.” That would seem to be the source of a tendency toward a Nestorian view of Christ that keeps cropping up in Calvinist theology. This is very evident in misguided attempts to construe the “pre” in “predestination” in a logical, causal, or temporal way, and then to project it back into an absolute decree behind the back of Jesus and thus to introduce a division into the very person of Christ. It is one of Karl Barth’s prime contributions to Reformed theology that he has decisively exposed and rejected such a damaging way of thought.[1]

Without further elaboration, this is what puts the ‘evangelical’ in the Calvinism we articulate; i.e. that there is no God or decree behind the back of Jesus.

[1] Thomas F. Torrance, “The Distinctive Character of the Reformed Tradition” (The Donnell Lecture delivered at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, October 6, 1988).

What is Theology? With Reference to Charles Ryrie, Millard Erickson, and Special Reference to John Webster

Theology is used frequently, and very often, generically. I use it in a certain way, personally, with a certain understanding when I use it. But what has become apparent to me, particularly because of a recent post on FaceBook, is that what theology and theologian actually entail, definitionally, is not as apparent as I had thought. In this post I will try to offer some definition of what I mean when I refer to theology and theologian.

When I first graduated high school in 1992 I attended what at that time was called Southwestern College in Phoenix, Arizona. For my first semester Systematic Theology class we used Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology.[1] Here is my first real exposure to a definition of what Systematic Theology, or simply theology entails:

The word “theology,” from theos meaning God and logos meaning rational expression, means the rational interpretation of religious faith. Christian theology thus means the rational interpretation of the Christian faith.

At least three elements are included in that general concept of theology. (1) Theology is intelligible. It can be comprehended by the human mind in an orderly, rational manner. (2) Theology requires explanation. This, in turn, involves exegesis and systematization. (3) The Christian faith finds its source in the Bible, so Christian theology will be a Bible-based study. Theology, then, is the discovery, systematizing, and presentation of the truths about God.[2]

This a pretty straight-forward vanilla understanding of what theology is. There are components hidden within Ryrie’s definition that I think need some interrogating, and we will do some of that as this post proceeds.

After my first exposure to Ryrie’s theology I left Southwestern (after a semester), and just went home and starting working. After awhile though the Lord, through some circumstances, began to tug on my heart which eventuated in me enrolling and attending Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon. The primary, school-wide, go-to Systematic Theology text used at Multnomah was Millard Erickson’s Introducing Christian Doctrine (this text was used at both the under-grad and grad levels). This became the occasion for my next exposure to a definition of what theology entails. Erickson writes:

To some readers, the word doctrine may prove somewhat frightening. It conjures up visions of very technical, difficult, abstract beliefs, perhaps grounded dogmatically. Doctrine is not that, however. Christian doctrine is simply statements of the most fundamental beliefs that the Christian has, beliefs about the nature of God, about his action, about us who are his creatures, and about what he has done to bring us into relationship with himself. Far from being dry or abstract, these are the most important types of truths. They are statements on the fundamental issues of life: namely, who am I, what is the ultimate meaning of the universe, where am I going? Christian doctrine is, then, the answers that the Christian gives to those questions that all human beings ask.

Doctrine deals with general or timeless truths about God and the rest of reality. It is not simply the study of specific historical events, such as what God has done, but of the very nature of the God who acts in history. The study of doctrine is known as theology. Literally, theology is the study of God. It is the careful, systematic study, analysis, and statement of Christian doctrine. Certain of its characteristics will help us understand the nature of the theological enterprise:

1.Theology is biblical….2.Theology is systematic….3.Theology is done in the context of human culture. 4. Theology is contemporary….5. Theology is practical….[3]

These were my first exposures to what theology entails. At a certain level they are pretty benign and descriptive: i.e. theology is the study of God. But on further analysis what these definitions, respectively, provide for, despite Erickson’s protest that theology is not dry and abstract, is a rather intellective-centered, abstractive process of reducing Scripture and God to propositions. And in Erickson’s case, he sees theology quite philosophically, even “world-viewish,” as if a primary task of Christian doctrine is to provide answers to profane philosophical questions about the meaning of life and so forth.

This was not satisfying for me, but until I hit seminary these were the types of definitions of theology I “labored” under. When I finally hit seminary in 2002 things changed. Dr. Ron Frost, my historical theology and ethics professor in seminary, introduced me to historical theology. At this point I realized that theology had a history, and that there was whole lineage underlying the ideas and doctrine I understood to be Christian Systematic Theology. At this point my horizons broadened and the world opened up; I began to read Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Sibbes, Perkins, Gunton, Barth, et al. and the world of theology took on a whole new shape and hopefulness for me.

One thing led to another over the years, and I am where I am currently. Once Frost (and Paul Metzger) opened these doors for me, and as I went through them and kept reading and studying I of course bumped up against Thomas F. Torrance and Karl Barth, and then John Webster (and others). For the rest of this post I will engage with, in particular, Webster’s thoughts on what theology entails.

I am going to share from Webster at extenso (at some length!), as you read what Webster has to say—and it will require some sustained attention on your part to follow the various lines he is tracing—you might think “hmm, this sounds a lot like what was shared from Ryrie and Erickson.” Superficially that could be the case, but if you pay attention closely you will see that Webster is actually critiquing the approach that Ryrie and Erickson describe; Webster highlights the ontology of theology as couched within soteriology and theology proper, as if theology as a human endeavor has an ordered place relative to God and the idea that God has spoken (Deus dixit). Here is Webster:

The presentation of the genus and tasks of systematic theology has to begin quite far back. Understanding what systematic theology (or any other division of theological study) is about depends upon grasping the nature and ends of rational creatures; and such an account rests finally upon an understanding of God and the works of God. Systematic theology is an exercise of reason in the domain of God’s saving and revelatory goodness to creatures. Undertaking it well requires that practitioners orient the work of the mind within that domain, in order to receive instruction and assistance in their task. This is why a primary requirement of the pursuit of the task – neglect of which is so easy and so disastrous – is the confidentia divini auxillii of which Aquinas spoke in the prologue to the Summa theologiae.

To unfold the matter a little more full: (1) Determining the possibility, nature and responsibilities of theology requires appeal to material theological doctrine. Indeed, prolegomena to systematic theology is an extension and application of the content of Christian dogmatics (Trinity, creation, fall, reconciliation, regeneration and the rest), not a ‘pre-dogmatic’ inquiry into its possibility. ‘[D]ogmatics does not wait for an introduction.’ The fact that in its prolegomena systematic theology invokes doctrine means that this preliminary stage of the argument does not bear responsibility for establishing the possibility of true human speech about God, or for demonstrating how infinite divine truth can take finite form in human knowing. Prolegomena is, rather, the contemplative exercise of tracing what is the case, and explicating how and why it is so. (2) More closely: specifying a theological sense of scientia is a derivative task, one to be undertaken only after clarification of the economy of salvation and revelation within which theological reason fulfils its calling. Recall the order of the very first two articles of the Summa theologiae: Aquinas only asks whether Christian theology is a science (1a. 1.2) after asking whether another teaching is required apart from philosophical studies (Ia. 1. 1) and, crucially, the answer which he gives to the first question is, in essence, an appeal to the saving and revelatory works of God as that by which the human good is secured and made known. ‘It should be urged that human well being [salus] called for schooling in what God has revealed, in addition to the philosophical researches pursued by human reasoning.’ The setting of theology is thus not simply the immanent sphere of human inquiry, but the transcendent vocation of rational creatures. Schooling in divine revelation is necessary ‘because God destines us for an end beyond the grasp of reason … Now we have to recognise an end before we can stretch out and exert for it. Hence the necessity for our welfare [salus] that divine truths surpassing reason should be signified to us through divine revelation’. (3) A definition of theology and its various tasks thus rests upon teaching about God and the human good; and the deepest disagreements about the nature of theology commonly arise, not simply from divergent conceptions of scientia, but from differing understandings of God and the creatures of God.

Adopting this starting point in the context of mainstream Anglo-American scholarly study of systematic theology presumes what Lewis Ayres has called ‘a wider critique of the culture of systematic theology’. Much might be said by way of analysis of that culture (or cultures: at least on the surface there is not much consensus). One feature, commonly encountered but not often remarked upon, is that of granting a certain priority to an understanding of systematic theology as a mode of public engagement over systematic theology as an act of contemplative intelligence. Positioning systematic theology in this way affects not only conceptions of the ends of theology (as, essentially, a practical science of Christian history and action), but also conceptions of its sources, its modes of argument, the virtues required of its practitioners and – and most of all – its material content, for in systematic theologies of this type, rather little tends to be said of God in se. This may go along with disinclination for, even suspicion of, systematic theology as dogmatics, and preferences for conceptions of the systematic task as open, free and cumulative learning.[4]

As usual with Webster he is careful to sketch out a theological taxis or order or ontology even for defining what theology is in the first place. As Webster does with his doctrine of Scripture, here in his defining of theology, he acknowledges, as he must, that theological endeavor is a creaturely and intellective endeavor, but he places that activity within the realm of God’s Triune life and Self-revelation; more particularly he places theological activity within the prior reality of salvation. It is here where genuine doxological reflection about God can take place. It at this point that theology has the capacity and resource to press deeply into the interior reality of God, and where theology is not just an exercise in answering philosophical world-view questions (Erickson) or a process of rational abstraction (Ryrie and Erickson). Instead, theology is a dialogical exercise where Christians engage with the living God and make Him known as they participate in His effervescent life.

Theology for the Christian, as Webster hits upon, can take on different cues and diverse shape; depending upon the conception of God the theologian starts out with to begin with. Theology in its most base form is simply study of God, but after that things pick up and we get into the complexities of how that task takes shape; and under what type of pressure. I would contend with Webster that the best pressure is the pressure provided for by God’s life revealed in Jesus Christ; this should be the context the theologian operates within, a context where doxology and the living Triune God are at its center.

I would like to say much more, and unfortunately this post ended up taking a bit of a different shape than I’d hoped for in the beginning; but hopefully there has been something interesting communicated.

 

 

 

[1] Which might clue you in on what type of school it was. It was a Conservative Baptist Bible College, with all the doctrinal distinctives and culture that typically attends a Conservative Baptist Bible College.

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (USA/Canada/England: Victor Books, 1986), 13.

[3] Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, ed. L. Arnold Hustad (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), 15-16.

[4] John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London/New York: T&T Clark International A Continuum Imprint, 2012), 133-35.

The Doctrine of Re-creation or Resurrection in Christ as the Foundation for Everything in the Theologies of Barth and Torrance

I thought I would quickly share this from Dawson as well; on Barth’s doctrine of resurrection. For some reason I love this concept, it’s probably because it is so distinct from the usual ways I have thought of resurrection. As an evangelical resurrection has always been a touchstone related to apologetics and/or historiography in the field of higher critical Jesus Studies. It is more than refreshing to come across a theologian like Barth who simply approaches resurrection as a non-analogous novum; something for which all else in the created order hinges. It is refreshing to come jesuscreatoracross resurrection as a doctrine of re-creation, as if we must, as Christians, start all of our thinking about God and created reality (including ourselves) from there. This has to be one of the most ground breaking earth shattering things Barth has bequeathed to Christian theology; i.e. his doctrine of re-creation, or resurrection.

Robert Dale Dawson comments on this monumentally shaped doctrine of Barth this way:

A large number of analyses come up short by dwelling upon the historical question, often falsely construing Barth’s inversion of the order of the historical enterprise and the resurrection of Jesus as an aspect of his historical skepticism. For Barth the resurrection of Jesus is not a datum of the sort to be analyzed and understood, by other data, by means of historical critical science. While a real event within the nexus of space and time the resurrection is also the event of the creation of new time and space. Such an event can only be described as an act of God; that is an otherwise impossible event. The event of the resurrection of Jesus is that of the creation of the conditions of the possibility for all other events, and as such it cannot be accounted for in terms considered appropriate for all other events. This is not the expression of an historical skeptic, but of one who is convinced of the primordiality of the resurrection as the singular history-making, yet history-delimiting, act of God.[1]

If you think you might be seeing some corollary with the classical patristic doctrine of creatio ex nihilo here I think you’d be right to see that; the idea that all of reality is contingent upon God’s Word.

TF Torrance has this line of thought in his thinking as well, and in this particular quote he comes at this in a bit of a different key from Barth:

All this means that any christological approach that starts from the man Jesus, from the historical Jesus, and tries to pass over to God, and so to link human nature to God, is utterly impossible. In fact it is essentially a wrong act: for it runs directly counter to God’s act of grace which has joined God to humanity in Christ. All Attempts to understand Jesus Christ by starting off with the historical Jesus utterly fail; they are unable to pass over from man to God and moreover to pass man to God in such a way as not to leave man behind all together, and in so doing they deny the humanity of Jesus. Thus though Ebionite christologies all seek to go from the historical Jesus to God, they can make that movement only by denying the humanity of Jesus, that is by cutting off their starting point, and so they reveal themselves as illusion, and the possibility of going from man to God is revealed as likewise illusory.

No, it is quite clear that unless we are to falsify the facts from the very start, we must face with utter and candid honesty the New Testament presentation of Christ to us, not as a purely historical figure, nor as a purely transcendental theophany, but as God and man. Only if we start from that duality in which God himself has already joined God and man, can we think God and humanity together, can we pass from man to God and from God to man, and all the time be strictly scientific in allowing ourselves to be determined by the nature of the object.[2]

The moral of the story between both Barth and Torrance is that God’s Self revelation in Jesus Christ is brand new ground; it is foundational ground for how all else might be conceived vis-à-vis  God. In this frame there is grace (God’s life) preceding the original creation, and grace funding the second re-creation in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In other words, there is no“natural” way (or purum naturum) to think the Christian God from[3]; there is only what God has graciously given of himself in Jesus Christ. This is why the only analogy we will find in Barth’s and Torrance’s theologies respectively is either the analogy of faith or for Barth the analogy of relation; either way, the center for thinking God is only found in the faith of Christ—who is the telos and condition for all of creation and now re-creation. As David Fergusson says “the world was made so that Christ might be born.”

 

 

[1] Robert Dale Dawson, The Resurrection in Karl Barth (UK/USA: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007), 13.

[2] Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation, edited by Robert Walker, 10.

[3] Which means that philosophers have no access to God through philosophical categories ostensibly discoverable or latent in “nature.”