Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Church Dogmatics I/1

Summary: God reveals himself as the Lord: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Quote: “Scientific dogmatics must devote itself to the criticism and correction of Church proclamation and not just to a repetitive exposition of it” (p. 281).

Notable section: §9,2—Barth’s argument for the trinitarian term “modes of being” instead of “persons.”

6 Comments:

Scott said...

Sounds like modalism. Rejection of "persons" with "modes" is risky move. Does his rejection of "persons" translate to rejecting "hypostases"?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Scott -- no, it's not modalism. Rather, Barth's concern is precisely to understand the ancient term "hypostases". He points out that, since the Enlightenment, the word "person" has come to mean something like "individual centre of consciousness" (which it never meant in patristic theology). So he suggests that we should stop talking about the trinitarian "persons", and should instead use the term "modes or ways of being" (which Barth very carefully defines on the basis of the ancient term "hypostases" -- and Barth's whole trinitarian theology opposes modalism).

Not all theologians have agreed with Barth that the term "person" should be dropped; but it's widely agreed that "person" now means something very different from what it meant to the ancient church: the creeds certainly aren't saying that God is three individual centres of consciousness!

Anyway, I hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, Love the one sentence summary concept. But don't you need two sentences so you can say the exact opposite? ;-)

Following from what Scott says - it kind of is modalism but (big but) with the temporality removed. From my reading of CD IV Barth thinks F,S,H are all one person but *simultaneously* instead of successively as per sabellianism.

Of course whether this single consciousness (in three modes) is any more in line with the NT or fathers is highly questionable!

Dan said...

OK, I came across your Barth in a Week post a while back when I was waiting to receive my copies of Church Dogmatics. I read through your summaries but couldn't quite figure out what to do with them... now I'm coming to the end of I.1 and your summary takes on a whole new meaning.

Can't wait to get into I.2 so I can return to get the helpful summary you offer.

Ben Myers said...

Thanks, Dan -- I'm very glad you've found it helpful. Good luck with the volumes ahead! (In my opinion, the CD gets better and better after Vol. I.)

David said...

Ben, sorry to reopen the discussion so late in the day, but I was wondering if you could shed some light on your seeming rejection of social trinitarianism - there are not 'three individual centres of consciousness' in God, as you say - with your general disdain for the logos asarkos and rereading of 'eternal' in the creeds? i.e. given that, along with other so-called revisionist readings of Barth, you are prepared to identify Jesus Christ with the Second Person of the trinity in some absolute way which denies the Word any (even theoretical) independent existence - well, if Jesus Christ simply is the Word without remainder, then surely you're positing that there's at least two (if not three!) centres of consciousness in God's eternal life, for the man Jesus was clearly one such consciousness.

Any help? :)

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