Monday, 13 October 2008

Resurrection as God's self-determination: a note on Adam Eitel, Bruce McCormack and Rowan Williams

Earlier this year, Adam Eitel published an important IJST article on “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Karl Barth and the Historicization of God’s Being”, which argued for a more Hegelian reading of the relation between Trinity and resurrection in Barth’s thought.

According to Eitel: “God’s eternal triune act of being and Christ’s resurrection from the dead are not peculiar or separate acts. Rather, Christ’s resurrection was the historical continuation of God’s eternal being-in-act…. Put another way, the resurrection was nothing less than the historicization of the intra-triune activity of God’s own being.”

To paraphrase Eitel’s argument, God’s being can thus be described as a kind of being-towards-resurrection; the resurrection of Jesus is the goal of God’s eternal self-determining action. In this historical (or better, this history-creating) event, God becomes what God eternally is – and this is just because God eternally is what he becomes in this event.

I think this is a brilliant and compelling way of interpreting the relation between resurrection and the doctrine of God, and of extending Bruce McCormack’s important thesis on triunity and divine self-determination. Interestingly, this analysis of the resurrection had already been anticipated by Rowan Williams in his stunning 1982 book, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (2nd ed.; Pilgrim Press, 2002). Here’s what Williams has to say:

“Jesus’ life is historical, describable…. But there is a sense in which the raising of Jesus … does not and cannot belong to history: it is not an event, with a before and after, occupying a bit of time between Friday and Sunday. God’s act in uniting Jesus’ life with his eludes us: we can speak of it only as the necessary condition for our living as we live. And as a divine act it cannot be tied to place and time in any simple way. It is, indeed, an ‘eternal’ act: it is an aspect of the eternal will by which God determines how he shall be, his will to be the Father of the Son…. The event of resurrection, then, cannot but be hidden in God’s eternal act, his eternal ‘being himself’; however early we run to the tomb, God has been there ahead of us” (pp. 89-90).

The resurrection is an eternal act in which God determines the kind of God he will be. It is an act in which the trinitarian persons are differentiated: Father, Son and Spirit relate to one another in this event. The resurrection is God’s determination to be the triune God – so that God’s decision about his own being is fulfilled not in the abyss of eternity, but in this unique occurrence within human history.


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