Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Badcock on Barth and Hegel and the Event

Below is a quote from Gary Badcock's essay "Hegel, Lutheranism and Contemporary Theology" where he makes the point that for both Barth and Hegel God is known as Event.

One of Barth's key ideas, and one that has direct relevance to his rejection of Hegel's speculative logic, is that of God as "event," a concept developed in the most fascinating manner in what is without question the logical centre of Barth's theology, the Doctrine of God of the Church Dogmatics volume II. Barth's theology has been nowhere more influential than at this point. For Barth, the living God of the Bible must be understood in dynamic terms as having movement, life, and even decision in himself. There is nothing static, nothing metaphysically unchanging in God beyond God's own freedom, on the basis of which Barth can claim: "To its very deepest depths God's Godhood consists in the fact that it is an event...."

Barth's doctrine of God, however, rests upon a further qualification of this event, for the event in question has a very specific character, and indeed, it could be said that it even has a specific name: Jesus Christ. For Barth, God is in himself the event in which he chooses to be open to fellowship with humanity in Christ. Or, to put the same thing another way, God is the event of election in which he chooses from all eternity not to be who he is without humankind.

It is significant that in his essay on Hegel in Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century, Barth also characterises Hegel's philosophy as centred in the idea of God as event. According to Barth, in Hegel's philosophy:

... the key to everything ... [is] that reason, truth, concept, mind, God himself are understood as an event, and, moreover, only as an event. They cease to be what they are as soon as the event, in which they are what they are, is thought of as interrupted, as soon as a state is thought of in its place. Essentially reason and all its synonyms are life, movement, process. God is God only in his divine action, revelation, creation, reconciliation, redemption; as an absolute act, as actus purus. (398-399, PT)

Barth argues here that theology needs to learn from Hegel that God can only be known in truth as the living God, going so far as to argue on this basis that a Hegel renaissance might even be a good thing for theology (416-417, PT).

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