Thursday, December 15, 2011

Schools on Barth's View of Election and Trinity

Just got my hands on a new book that deals with the Anglo-American scholarship over Barth's view of election and the Trinity. The main players in the book are Bruce McCormack, George Hunsinger and Paul Molnar; also included are a number of other Barth scholars on the rise to deal with this issue.

What is fantastic about this book is that is has brought together the scattered essays about this topic that have surfaced since McCormack's book in the 1990s. I have read a number of these essays before but I like the idea of them all in one place and from there being able to formulate where I think my own position is. This controversy has quickly become a contentious issue over the interpretation rights of Barth. (Personally, I stand very close to McCormack's position [which he is clear is both an interpretation of what Barth said and a build upon Barth's work where he thinks he should have gone with his theology]). Much of the argument follows these questions: who is interpreting the "historical" Barth? Which view is most orthodox? Is there development in Barth's thought? How would Barth react to these views if he were still alive?

The bottom line is the classical argument over the immanent vs the economic Trinity. McCormack claims that Barth's view of election reinterprets Barth's view of the Trinity, in short, that God is revealed as God-for-us or God as being-toward-incarnation. Thus, the economic Trinity is what tells us what the immanent Trinity is all about. The promoters of the classic view deny this because they want the transcendent, immanent God to be free from God's act and creation but also free for it( I would call this a classical Calvinist view).

This issue recalls some of the problems addressed by Zizek/Hegel and a reaction by theologians toward their modern take of the Trinity (the modern paradigm is where I start with even though we can gain value from the premodern but it is time to give up going back past the modern paradigm). I am mostly convinced that Barth moves close to the modern position (especially in CD IV/1 but pulls back); Moltmann is perhaps the most famous figure that takes this idea to the next step. I also think that McCormack is right to base his argument around the historical act of Christ as the determining factor to understand the being of God since this is what is revealed.


  1. So McCormack believes (that Barth thinks) there is truth to both the economic and immanent trinity, but the economic trinity is more accessible? "The economic Trinity is what tells us what the immanent Trinity is all about."
    This is kind of a classically Western view, no? If I understand thinks correctly (which is doubtful, since it fades in and out of my brain), the East tends to say "we experience a piece of God, aspects of the Trinity, but not the whole, real thing." That sounds to me more like (what I think of as) Barth's thinking...?

    I have an awful lot of questions for someone who consistently rejects just reading the books you've suggested I read.

  2. The classic view which postmodern thinkers following Heidegger reject (they call it "onto-theological", is that one must start off with the metaphysical God of being before one can discuss God's acts. In short, God as a detached, Being-in-itself because God must have the freedom and sovereignty to act.

    McCormack wants to say that Barth in his CD I:1-CD II:1 follows the classical line, but that his doctrine of election in CD II:2 makes Barth more modern because there Barth says God's election is known in God's act so in retrospect what we know of God's being is from God's act...This is developed further in CD IV:1...