Friday, December 16, 2011
Another Barth Trinity book-Why Ben Myers ROCKS or Why the History of Christ Matters to God
Another book (better named than the one in the previous post) about Barth's theology of the Trinity (and election) is Trinitarian Theology After Barth. Let me restate from the previous post that I more sympathetic with McCormack's reading of Barth's view of the Trinity and election than with Molnar's; these two views are highlighted in this book and many of the commentators work with this debate in the background.
One of the best essays in the book is the one by Ben Myers (the Faith & Theology blog). The essay is called "Election, Trinity, and the History of Jesus: Reading Barth with Rowan Williams." What Myers does is basically take the McCormack position and show that Williams noticed some of the same things about Barth's theology before McCormack's work. The point is to say that the Barth of CD IV/1 (Williams' Second Trinity) is the one to follow than the one of CD I/I (Williams' First Trinity) because the Christ revealed in history is the God we know and who reveals Godself. In short, there is no abstract God apart from the God we know from Christ. Myers declares that "this history is the form which God's freedom takes" (134); the way of Christ is the way of God.
Myers notes a helpful distinction in that there are really 3 positions one can take in understanding the relationship between the human Jesus and the eternal God (see pg 135):
1) Moltmann's view (internally divided Trinity): God is a mutable divine being who undergoes change as a result of what happens in Jesus (the source of this view I think is Hegel and even more radical train of thought that follows this can be found in Zizek)
2) Molnar's view (sublimely free immanent Trinity): God is an indeterminate and unknowable divine being who lies behind the election of Jesus (I would call this classic Calvinism as well)
3) McCormack's view: God is a divine being who is both knowable and immutable, since it is already determined towards the history of Jesus (also Williams' Second Trinity and the one Myers identifies with)
Why I have warmed to McCormack's view is that it manages to take a middle course between a view of the detached God (solitary electing God of eternity, while also not falling into the modern theories that compromise God's freedom [it is one thing to say that God is free to act toward humanity and quite another thing to say this is necessary]). Election is God's free act to determine Godself to be toward humanity in Christ, so this act determines God's essence. Another thing I like about this view is that it takes seriously the revealed life/acts of Jesus in history to such an extent that to talk of God apart from God's revealed acts toward humanity toward Israel, Christ and the church is to move into speculation.