Responses to Jüngel

The comment box for this post is a chance for those of you who received articles by Jüngel to express your reactions and thoughts in a dialogue format. What did you find new and/or surprising in Jüngel's work? How was your experience of reading him: too difficult, not difficult enough, provocative, not provocative enough? What did you find helpful for the Christian faith -- whether for yourself or others? What do you think is missing from his work, or what would you like to see him or others write more about? Was there an area or issue that was not as fully developed as you would have liked? (Perhaps I or someone else who has read more might be able to fill in some of those gaps.) In the end, what did you take away from Jüngel? Would you like to read more?


MarkC said…
Interesting that in your list of suggested questions to use in responding to Jungel's writings, you neglected this one: "Areas where you think Jungel is wrong." Those comments can, I think, be productive, too.

Personally, I don't have many. Jungel, at least in the article I read, doesn't stray far from the core principles of Protestant faith, and I find very little in it to disagree with. I expect that Doug, my Protestant-turned-Catholic friend who asked to read all the articles, will have many responses along that line, considering that Jungel was adamantly anti-Catholic on a number of points in the article I read.

I figure if Jungel is allowed to vehemently point out the errors of peoples' beliefs, we should probably feel free to point out the errors in his, as well. :)

Oh... and I just finished the article today, so it'll be a few days before I can formulate a useful response to what I've read... but I will. Thanks, David, for sharing these very useful and valuable writings.

You'll notice I also didn't ask, "Where do you think Jungel is right?" I asked where he is helpful, but that's something very different. It's interesting to me that you did not notice that. I intentionally avoid language of right and wrong, because that, I believe, moves us as the reader into a position of critic over against the author and his or her work. Instead, my questions are intended to place us in the position of dialogue partner with a telos of examining how these works might impact our own lives, thinking, and ministry.

The fact that you noticed right away the absence of a question about what's "wrong" indicates to me that you are more interested in the reader as critic than anything else. I suspect this insight will prove useful in our private conversation.
MarkC said…

Don't read too much into it. I was just thinking, as I read the article, how aggressively anti-Catholic Jungel was, and how Doug would be responding to it. I just figure that if Jungel feels free to be that aggressive in pointing out the errors in others (like us), we should probably feel free to speak in our defense. He certainly doesn't avoid language of right and wrong, so it seems foolish to me for us to do so when we interact with his writings.

But, if you want to extrapolate from my comments some underlying philosophical difference between us, I guess I can't stop you. :)

Douglas said…
I'm somewhat surprised you are asking for responses so quickly. I haven't had much of a chance to read more than abstracts. I was struck by one sentence in the abstract on justification. Jungal states: "Justification is to be understood through the four Reformation exclusive particles: Christ alone, grace alone, word alone and faith alone."

Is he saying that the Catholic and Orthodox don't believe in "grace alone"? If so, I think that is a major historical gaffe... unless he is defining grace in his own particular way. Grace alone is the essence of the Catholic/Orthodox view of justification, as opposed to faith alone.

I wasn't going to bring this up until I had read the entire article, but in light of the earlier conversations, I thought I'd mention it.

Mark, I don't intend to read more into what you said than I feel is warranted. But with your explanation, I won't go any further. However, I do stand by my position that it does little good for us to say that Jüngel is either right or wrong; that doesn't seem to be too fruitful in the long run. That said, I do agree that critique of Jüngel is necessary. No single theologian ever states everything we need to hear, much less stating everything appropriately. That's another way of saying each person has a particular agenda or intention behind the writing.

For historical context, it bears pointing out that Jüngel's article on justification was prompted by the German conference between the Catholic and Lutheran churches, which resulted in the Joint Declaration on Justification about six years ago. Jüngel wrote the article because he feels the Lutheran church compromised in some very negative ways. So his occasionally anti-Catholic rhetoric (although he is not by any means anti-Catholic) has a specific historical setting which needs to be accounted for.

Doug, when he writes about the "Reformation particles," he is simply referring to the fact that it was only in the Reformation that those four particles were placed at the heart of the faith. His argument would be that while the Catholic church is not by any means against grace, Catholic theology adds extra aspects to grace which clouds a proper understanding of sola gratia.

If it isn't immediately clear, Jüngel is a Lutheran theology through and through. So everything he writes arises out of that intellectual context. But not just that. If anyone wants to know more about what shaped his thinking, I recommend the article "Towards the Heart of the Matter" (which I have available).

Secondary sources are few, but the good ones are very good. First and foremost is John Webster's excellent book, Eberhard Jüngel: An Introduction. This was the first book-length examination of his theology in any language. Another good one, but more difficult to find, is a collection of essays entitled, The Possibilities of Theology. There are some others to be sure, but Webster is the place to start, if interested.

Finally, Doug, the reason for this early post is simply to provide a place right away for responses. I will keep a look at the comments to see if anything new has come up. Perhaps down the road I might offer a more specific question about the essays to see what your (plural) reactions might be.

I'd love to hear more of your thoughts, those of you who received the articles. If anyone else is interested in reading work by Jüngel, by all means, let me know.
MarkC said…

I didn't mean to state that Jungel used "anti-Catholic rhetoric". In the article I read, at least, I detected none. He was strongly antagonistic not to Catholics as people, but to Catholic belief. His condemnation of certain Catholic positions could hardly be stated in stronger words.

The treatment of Mary as being part of our salvation, a Mediatrix, he says is "strongly to be repudiated", even when attempts are made to soften the language.

His primary frustration about the accord between the Lutherans and the Catholics was that it did not deal with the priesthood. To Jungel, any thing such as "an ideology of episcopal office or an ideology of apostolic succession that cheats the faithful of their priesthood" calls "justification itself" into question. His next paragraph mentions a contemporary "instruction" from Rome "which fundamentally disavowed the Protestant understanding of the priesthood of all believers". He describes this as "nothing short of grotesque".

Strong words.

I'm also glad that you think that critique of Jungel's writings is necessary. You seem to have thought that I felt that critique was the only useful way to interact with his works. To specifically correct your earlier misunderstanding, I am not "more interested in the reader as critic than anything else"... I am simply interested in the reader as critic along with everything else.

I think it does as much good for us to discuss areas where Jungel is right and wrong as it does for us to discuss ways in which his writings are thought-provoking, ways that they lead to new questions, and ways that they give new ways of looking at old truths. All are useful ways to respond to his writings.

Douglas said…

I am unaware of the "extra aspects" that Catholics "add to grace which clouds a proper understanding of sola gratia." Please, enlighten me.

MarkC said…

The section that I referenced from Jungel about Mary was from his discussion of "Christ alone". The section about the priesthood of believers came in the context of "faith alone".

His section on "grace alone" (section XV of On the Doctrine of Justification) makes no direct references to Catholic theology. The closest it gets is this statement:

But joy sovereignly excludes any kind of calculation and reckoning up. Joy excludes any idea that grace could somehow be calculated -- an extraordinariliy important point for a correct understanding of penance.

He leaves it at that, but it makes me want to learn more of his thoughts about penance. Since penance is a far more crucial concept to Catholics than it is to Lutherans, that may be an area where Jungel believes Catholics cloud the understanding of "grace alone". I expect David can give us more information on that point.

Doug, I apologize for the confusion. I was using "sola gratia" as shorthand for the four Reformation particles together, since Jüngel never conceives of any one of the "solas" in isolation from the others. You asked if Jüngel thinks the Catholic and Orthodox do not also believe in "grace alone." Jüngel, I think, would not say those traditions are not based in grace, but that they do not recognize all four particles together as necessary and central, although actually I am unaware of his views on the Orthodox church. So, to restate what I meant before, Jüngel would probably argue that the current state of Catholic theology (in Germany, I might add, since Jüngel is notoriously self-limited in his scope; he rarely interacts with streams of thought outside of German, Latin, and Greek) still fails to recognize the theological significance of the Reformation emphasis upon those four exclusive particles. He would never dispute that the fact that Catholic theology is one of grace.

It is also worth mentioning for the clarity of our discussion that Jüngel's article on justification is actually a summary of his book-length treatment of the issue, released as Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith. The book was written for pastors and lay theologians as a way of bringing the heart of Reformation theology into contemporary focus for the purpose of strengthening the church. If there are areas which seem puzzling or overly brief, I direct you to this book. The introduction by Webster is superb, and he does not refrain from pointing out Jüngel's weaknesses in the book. The strong language concerning Catholic theology is pointed out as being quite contentious. In another post, I will quote some passages from this introduction, since they help to illuminate Jüngel's writings.

Mark, I do not wish to let this issue dominate the conversation, but I must add that I do not think that a model of "reader as critic" is at all necessary for intelligently dialoging with any written work. At least not for the kind of dialogue I envision here. My reasoning is that I am very worried that this dialogue will spin off into a "I agree with this, I disagree with that" kind of discussion. I am much more interested in, "What is helpful? What is not helpful? What is fresh or original? What is lacking or obscure?"
MarkC said…

I don't want this to dominate either, by any means. I just thought it might be helpful to clarify the framework of the discussion before we got into it.

I'm confused by the juxtaposition of these two statements:

I do agree that critique of Jüngel is necessary.

I do not think that a model of "reader as critic" is at all necessary for intelligently dialoging with any written work.

I cannot comprehend those two statements together in the same conversation. Can you clarify?

If your desire to avoid discussion of ways in which Jungel is right or wrong here is, as you intimated, based on fear that we your friends will go overboard with it... then the issue is no longer one of a difference of philosophy, but a lack of confidence or trust from you toward us (or me?). I can live with that. Who knows... maybe it's justified. I'd just like to have things clear up-front, so I know what I'm dealing with.


Douglas said…

Taking the "four particles" as a whole being distinctive to Protestantism makes sense.

It's also good to know that Jungel tends to limit himself to critiquing the local Catholics in Germany. Heck, even the current Pope has done plenty of that in his down to earth interview as a cardinal "Salt of the Earth."

Two side comments.
1) If Jungel doesn't like the Catholic idea of justification, he surely won't like the Orthodox view. They are pretty much the same. The distinctions are subtle and not really substantial in my mind. More like a different way of looking at the same thing; different emphases but the same object.

2) Regarding the discussions on this blog, I'm not really sure what the difference is between, "I agree with this, I disagree with that" and "What is helpful? What is not helpful?" If something is wrong, isn't it unhelpful.

I personally also don't see the point of looking at things and asking "What is fresh or original?" Doctrine shouldn't change and in a real sense it shouldn't be fresh or original unless Christians have been believing in heresy for 2000 year. There of course is a sense in which doctrine can develop and mature in an organic sense while not abandoning the historic Christian beliefs. Of course, you may mean a fresh and original way of expressing a timeless truth in a language that modern people understand better and not a reformulation of doctrine. That would make sense, but it is unclear to me.

MarkC said…
It seems to me that Jungel, in the article I read, makes it very clear that in his mind any concept of a priesthood or of apostolic succession of authority down to the present day undermines the doctrine of justification, because it undermines the priesthood of each believer. In making this argument, it seems to me that he is calling out not only the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but the Anglican as well, asserting that they all undermine (maybe "cloud", in David's words?) the truth of our justification.

I wonder... is it helpful or beneficial for Jungel to have such exclusivist views? Or is it, as David pointed out that Webster said in his introduction to Jungel's book, a "weakness" because it is "contentious"? That's a tricky question, that I don't have an easy answer to. Is contentiousness ever beneficial in discussions of theology? I think so. In contentiousness always beneficial in discussions of theology? Certainly not.

So, maybe it would be beneficial for us to discuss the relative helpfulness of Jungel's strongly-worded statements about the connection between apostolic succession, the priesthood of all believers, and the doctrine of justification... and the way he draws a stark line between what he sees as correct and incorrect doctrine in that area. Is it healthy for Jungel to make those types of statements? Is it contentious and a sign of weakness?

I'd be interested to discuss that point...

Douglas said…

I personally think Jungel is way off base on that point. There was a heirarchical priesthood before every NT book was written, let alone before the NT was established. That doesn't mean that there isn't a priesthood of all believers, but that apostolic succession and a heirarchical priesthood were simply not ideas that the apostles or their immediate followers fought over (unless one considers gnostics and other heretics as Christians).

MarkC said…

Whether Jungel is right or wrong (and you will certainly think him wrong in many areas, considering that he is a Lutheran and you are a Catholic)... do you think it is helpful for him to state his exclusivist views strongly and clearly? Or would his theology be better if he worked to make his words less "contentious" and more... ecumenical, or something like that?

Is his attitude helpful, or harmful, to our discussions of theology?

Douglas said…

It is always good to be respectful. I would think that articles would be better discussion starters if the attitudes expressed weren't condescending or disrespectful of others beliefs. One needn't softpeddle strongly held points of view to do that, though. As long as a level of respect and acknowledgement of certain attitudes is maintained among those discussing Jungel, I'm not sure Jungel's own attitude matters as much. What I find most offensive is condescension based on ignorance and misrepresentation of what others believe. That would leave little to even start a discussion with.

I might change my mind after I read the entire article, though. :-) You seem a bit put off by his attitude. I would probably be much more so.

MarkC said…

I am not "put off by his attitude". Sorry if I gave that impression... I certainly didn't intend to. I think that he stated his views very strongly. As I said to David, I didn't detect any personal attack or condescension in his words... only a strong and fixed theological belief that is itself controversial.

Did he express his belief clearly? I think so. Was it beneficial for him to express it at all? Is it beneficial for him to state such a strongly-held belief, in such unequivocal terms? I'm not sure.

If you haven't made it to that point in the justification article yet, though, you won't be able to dialog about this yet. Maybe David can chime in with his thoughts?

David, I'm particularly interested in the reference you made to the intro to Jungel's book-length treatment of the issue, where you said that Webster pointed out a "weakness" in Jungel's writing in that his comments about Catholic theology were "contentious". Is contentiousness always a weakness? Is Jungel's contentiousness (in the form that we see it in the shorter article, which is all I have yet read) a weakness... that is, is it unhelpful or even harmful for Christian community? Or, alternately, is it helpful for him to state his views clearly and publicly without equivocation, to allow for the most fruitful discussion in the community as a whole? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. I'm still undecided on the issue, and you have read much more of Jungel than I have. Thanks!

I'm both fascinated and frustrated by the course of this dialogue thus far. First, let me address questions posed to me earlier. Mark: I will answer your question about the "reader as critic" in a personal email. Doug: The difference between agree/disagree and helpful/not helpful is that the latter has a "telos," which means that such questions focus upon the future benefit of critically appropriating the material. Does that make sense? If you still don't see the difference, then nevermind; it isn't that important.

Mark: The concern about polemical language is well noted, but off track. In other words, that's like wondering why Jungel almost only refers to other German writers; that's something worth noticing, but it makes very little difference to the relative worth of his theology. I do not mean to suggest that more sympathetic language would not be preferable, but that such questions are of least importance. We do not understand the specific context in which Jungel is writing. There are, no doubt, a number of Catholic statements and/or articles that Jungel is implicitly responding to, in addition to the ones he mentions explicitly (most of those, by the way, are in the book, not the article).

Concerning apostolic succession -- I am a little sad that this was the first subject brought up about the essay. Second to his choice of words, this is the least important point to make. To be sure, Jungel is not in support of the doctrine of "apostolic succession," for the reason already mentioned concerning justification. However, there are plenty of writers/theologians who also disagree with this notion, so please, let us not make Jungel bear the weight of that debate. He is not the one to carry it out, nor does he wish to. Jungel's comment on apostolic succession is a very minor one, compared to the great number of other statements he makes of far more importance.

Doug: To speak personally about apostolic succession, I might point out that most church historians do not believe there is sufficient evidence to make the case. What we do know, from an historical perspective, is that the catholic theologians in the early church applied the concept of apostolic succession in order to self-justify who was orthodox, and who was not. It was never self-evident which group was "heretical" in the very early years of the church. It was only over the course of many decades, and even centuries, that some of those early theological views came to be viewed as "heretical." And we know from the letters of these theologians that they had no qualms about slandering those with whom they disagreed. A quick glance through the letters of Cyril of Alexandria or Alexander of Alexandria is sufficient to make that point.

In other words, the entire concept of "apostolic succession" has a rather dubious history, especially when we consider the extent to which many early theologians were willing to demonize their opponents. The seemingly innocuous term "apostolic succession" is hardly free from personal vendettas. That said, I am by no means arguing that the Catholic faith is invalid. (I would have to include Protestants as well if I were to make such an argument.)

I do wish to point out an interesting irony in all this. In the midst of a discussion about Jungel's lack of linguistic tact, I read lines like the following which are just as slanted and polemical -- stated, moreover, prior to having actually read the essays:

"What I find most offensive is condescension based on ignorance and misrepresentation of what others believe."

Let's try to put this dialogue back on the right track. I should have done this from the start. Here are the focal issues in Jungel's writings:

(1) The doctrine of justification permeates almost every one of his writings. Is this justified (pun intended)? Is it clear why he elevates this doctrine so highly?

(2) What do you make of Jungel's relational ontology? That is, what do you make of Jungel's understanding of the human person as fundamentally relational in nature? Jungel is placing himself in a recent tradition of theology which is arguing against a Scholastic substance theology. Is relational ontology convincing?

Let's start with those two questions first.
Mark, I most certainly do not think contentiousness is in itself a problem. Here I quote from John Webster's introduction to the book:

"[The] book is a polemical work. Good theological polemic is not intemperate intellectual aggression, but the attempt to draw on a rich store of lovingly apprehended common tradition to dispute and challenge the present directions of church and theology. The hostile reception with which some greeted the work on first publication usually failed to see that point, overlooking how Jungel's polemic is nearly always undertaken by positive biblical and dogmatic exposition. Nevertheless, many readers will still find strange Jungel's sense that Christian faith is inherently contentious. He speaks of the dispute between Paul and Peter, 'apostle against apostle, simply for the sake of the truth' as 'after a fashion, the birth of Protestant theology'; on his account, orderly Christian theology 'makes no compromises'. This feature of Jungel's work cannot simply be explained (away) as a matter of personal intellectual style. Rather, it is generated by an understanding of theology as - at least in some of its genres - a call to intellectual self-examination and repentance. Jungel's book is neither leisurely nor conversational, and does not think that building consensus means suspension of strong conviction. Rather, its rhetoric and conception of its subject-matter urges its readers to attend to distinctions and make decisions in the face of the critical truth of 'the gospel of the justification of sinners' which 'has caused offence from the beginning'."

Webster goes on to say:

"[This] is a genuinely ecumenical work by a genuinely ecumenical theologian who has been involved in work for the reconciliation of separated Christian traditions from his early days in the former East Germany and has co-published and enjoyed cordial relations with leading Roman Catholic theologians such as Rahner and Kasper. But it is a book which is critical of what have become some ecumenical conventions, both methodological and substantive. On the methodological side, Jungel refuses to accede to the notions that ecumenical advance involves the relativization of confessional traditions, or that confessional divisions can be overcome by offering historical and contextual (rather than dogmatic) explanations of the disputes of the past."

And a little later:

"Jungel's book invites and expects counter-argument. Not all will be sympathetic to his reading of the Roman Catholic tradition as a singular and consistent whole" ...

"Like all his work, it is both an exercise of and a call to theological responsibility, answerability to the gospel."
Doug, you might be interested from a Roman Catholic perspective in the following from the essay by Jungel, "God - as a Word of Our Language":

"The sole danger [of assertions about God which claim to be true] is that they are only too true and that they can thus easily be misunderstood to the point of not permitting of being proved false under any circumstances. In reply to such misunderstanding it should be stated that only such theological sentences can reasonably claim to be true as really expose themselves to the conflict between true and false and therefore do not in principle exclude the possibility of being falsified."

Now Jungel probably does not specifically have Catholic theology in mind, based on what he goes on to say -- which might be useful. I can always send you the article if you're interested. I should apologize, though, for placing Jungel's relation to Roman Catholic theology back on the proverbial table, but I simply want to get the edgier parts of Jungel out of the way, so that the meat of what he writes -- the heart of the matter -- can come through more clearly. FYI, the matter of non-falsifiability (if that's not a word, it is now) concerning Catholic dogma was the reason given by Lewis for why he did not join the Catholic church. Okay, now that the Catholic-Protestant stuff is out in the open, I am going to request that no one post on that topic here. I will create a new post for that discussion.
MarkC said…

I suspect that at least in my case, the difference between "right/wrong" and "helpful/unhelpful" is semantical. I expect that when I speak of "right/wrong", I mean exactly and precisely what you mean by "helpful/unhelpful". I'll try to use those words in the future, to avoid confusion.

I didn't have a "concern" about polemical language. I was raising a question, not stating a problem. I was attempting to start a discussion, about something that I found interesting and thought-provoking. I seem to have been misunderstood by both you and Doug, so I'll happily move on to the discussion points that you suggested. :)

(1) The doctrine of justification permeates almost every one of his writings. Is this justified (pun intended)? Is it clear why he elevates this doctrine so highly?

Sure seems obvious to me. How could any other theological topic be more important to humanity in our current state than the doctrine of our justification? Justification is the answer to the most crucial questions: "What is our state in relation to our creator God?" and "How can we be reconciled to our creator God?" Putting that at the center of any theology seems... well, self-evident to me. It might compete with questions about the nature of God, but once you establish the basics like "God as creator", God's nature and his work of justification are very much intertwined.

(2) What do you make of Jungel's relational ontology? That is, what do you make of Jungel's understanding of the human person as fundamentally relational in nature? Jungel is placing himself in a recent tradition of theology which is arguing against a Scholastic substance theology. Is relational ontology convincing?

I found Jungel's definition of righteousness thought-provoking. He describes righteousness as intrinsically social... that is, not "obeying the rules", but "acting toward those I am in community in the most beneficial way". I thought that was very insightful.

Jungel does not build that relational ontology for its own sake, however, at least in the Justification article. He builds it for the purpose of drawing some conclusions from it. I am less certain of the validity of all of those conclusions. I guess I'm not yet convinced that Jungel's relational ontology can bear the weight that he desires to put on it. But, I'm not sure that those thoughts are fair game for this discussion, so I'll hold off on them for now.

MarkC said…
By the way, David... I was excited to see the origin (I presume) of your "eccentric truth" concept... and glad to know how to spell it correctly. :)

Yes, indeed! Actually, I received it from my theology professor at Wheaton before I discovered it through Jungel. And my professor got it from Webster -- his doctoral adviser -- who himself got it from Jungel. So in a way, I did receive it from Jungel, but now twice-over.

When I first learned of the term, I was taught to spell it "ex-centric," which emphasizes the uniqueness of the term, rather than the confusing association with "being eccentric." Jungel italicizes the first two letters, thankfully, but that might also be Webster's translation. Who knows.
MarkC said…
Has this thread died off already? I'd sure love to hear somebody else's thoughts regarding David's two discussion points. I'm feeling lonely here. :)

Shane said…

i just sent you an email before i read the blog about a great book on Thomas by Fergus Kerr, a domican monastic and a prof at blackfriars college, oxford.

in short, in my opinion, based on reading Kerr, Gilson, and others, the protestant understanding of the catholic understanding of grace is off-base. Barth gets thomas wrong, seriously seriously wrong. in the end, barth will actually end up affirming that great thomist axiom, "grace perfects nature, because grace presupposes nature". (if you want i'll try to track down the reference to CD, III/1 maybe?).

in some ways, the lutheran reading of justification, seems extremely flawed because it has as its point the destruction of nature (Kerr explores Bob Jenson and George Hunsinger explicitly and mentions Juengel). Again, in my opinion, protestant theology is deeply manichean--they see nature as so hopelessly corrupted and destroyed by sin that no person has any natural capacity for recieving God's grace.

thomas, by contrast, understand the entire existence of the cosmos as a sustained by God's grace. human sin cannot destroy God's grace. in his gift of freedom God allows us to mar it, but not to destroy it. how could finite creatures destroy the work of an infinite God. furthermore, how could sin destroy our nature. if this were the case then sinful human beings are not human beings at all (a consequence that Mark Husbands and I have fought about).

finally, i'll say about relational ontology what Ebbinghaus said about Freud, "What's true in these theories isn't new, what's new in these theories isn't true." Thomas is a relational ontologian, if you want, but he also has something that it doesn't seem to me that many protestants have, namely, a doctrine of creation. i think, with a little bit more research, i could also attack Jungel's debts to heidegger. perhaps i'm overreacting to my previous barthian and heideggerian zealotry, but i think Thomas is a better theologian than the former and a better philosopher than the latter.

Shane, thanks for the comment. Obviously, my abbreviated response must be read in light of my comments to you in our email correspondence on these issues. But I do have some thoughts which should be relevant to the questions at hand.

First, as I have told you before, I believe you are reading Barth (and Jungel, unfortunately) through the eyes of the early Barth -- aka, the Barth of The Epistle to the Romans, 2nd ed.. (This means, for those who are unfamiliar with Barth's theology, that the early Barth's emphasis on God as the Wholly Other has created a strict Manichaean dichotomy which Shane finds untenable.) While I might even question your view of the early Barth as actually Manichaean, I certainly would want to question such a view being applied to the later Barth and to Jungel.

I think actually the Thomistic view of nature is under the burden of proof, not the Lutheran doctrine of justification. Luther's formulation of justification is anti-nature only to the extent that Pauline theology is -- i.e., that we are buried with Christ and that through Christ we are raised anew by the Holy Spirit. The old has gone and the new has come. This "new creation" is just that, the ontologically new. And the old is simply that, what is distinguished as the "old" by Christ's resurrection. The Thomistic understanding of nature and being ("ousia") is what seems extrabiblical and, hence, much more questionable.

Now I can certainly understand why you think Barth and Jungel lack a theology of creation in comparison to Thomas. However, it's not a theology of creation that they lack, but a metaphysical theology of creation. In other words, Barth and Jungel do not deny that creation is God's "very good" gift -- that the world is indeed sustained by God's grace. However -- and this is where we find the attack against substance ontology -- God's grace is not possessed by creation, or by human creatures, for that matter. I cannot stress this enough, in light of Jungel, Barth, Webster, Gunton, and the whole gang.

Human beings do not intrinsically possess grace. We are not the possessors of some naturally infused divine grace. (In the same way, the sacrament of body and blood does not actually possess the grace of God -- it is only God's relation to us and the elements which makes the bread and wine effective, because it is a divine action.) Relational ontology prevents any human urge to possess God. Substance ontology is not invented by the Scholastics, but in the hands of the Scholastics, it becomes the foundational tool for a theological system that intends to rationally show how someone like Aristotle could use human logic to reach divine truths. If our human nature possesses an element of the divine -- the misunderstood imago dei -- then we have a built-in channel for our minds to "think God" clearly and logically.

Barth does not want to destroy nature or a theology of creation. He, and his followers, simply want to keep what is divine in the hands of God - to speak anthropomorphically. What is divine should remain divine. What is human should be fully human.

It may help immensely in understanding Jungel's position to read his excellent essay, my favority, "On Becoming Truly Human" in Theological Essays II. Since it will be very difficult for you to get a hold of it, I will send it by email. I plan to make another batch of essays available to people publically on this blog in a couple of days.

To hit on another point you make, I would indeed say that sinful human beings are not truly human -- and this is Jungel's most repeated affirmation. Justification by faith is not only salvific; it is ontological. In other words, it makes us "truly human persons," rather than merely "human persons." The "truly" indicates the new creation out of the old. As such, the doctrine of justification defines not only the Christian person, but in fact defines the human person in general. Humanity lives out of the doctrine of justification. Jungel explicitly makes this part of his doctrine of creation by stating that God makes the truly human person ex nihilo in an act of divine grace. God's re-creation of the human is an act only possible by and through God. We are passive in relation to this creative act.

Finally, you cannot place Thomas' theology above Barth's by only looking at Barth's discussion of the analogia entis and his view of grace. And you cannot place Thomas' philosophy above Jungel without reading Jungel's essays, "Metaphorical Theology" and "The World as Possibility and Actuality," both of which you have, and God as the Mystery of the World. Not that these make Jungel instantly better; Thomas may still be better in the long run. But at least you will be better prepared to make a fuller evaluation after that point.

Thanks for the comment, once again. You know I respect your views very highly. Of course, I am partial to Jungel, and my desire to defend his views in distinction from Barth, Heidegger, and Bultmann is just as worthy an effort as yours to defend Thomas from being unfairly criticized as the bastion of all bad Scholastic theology (which itself is a gross stereotype among modern theologians). Let's keep this up.

I'm sad to see that your "Theologian I Hate" is increasingly becoming Barth. While I certainly quibbile with him frequently, I do still believe that there is much to learn from him. Anyway, now to what you wrote...

"Again, in my opinion, protestant theology is deeply manichean--they see nature as so hopelessly corrupted and destroyed by sin that no person has any natural capacity for recieving God's grace."

The charge of manicheanism is hopelessly hyperbolic, as you of course know. To be properly manichean, one needs to posit a cosmic dualism such that there is a cosmic good and a cosmic evil eternally locked in combat. This is not protestantism in the least, and certainly not Barth. Following Augustine, Barth continues to see evil as a privation of the good. It has no independant reality, save that temporary reality given to it by God's act of judgment upon it. Further, it is not that "matter" or some equivalent entity is evil. It was created good, but has now become temporarily perverted. So, keep throwing "manicheanism" around if you want to, but the charge doesn't stick. ;-)

"thomas, by contrast, understand the entire existence of the cosmos as a sustained by God's grace. human sin cannot destroy God's grace. in his gift of freedom God allows us to mar it, but not to destroy it. how could finite creatures destroy the work of an infinite God. "

Neither Barth nor Reformed theology actually thinks that the goodness of human nature has been destroyed. Rather, it has been hopelessly "marred," impermeated if you will with sin. Here are a couple of metaphors...

(1) You open your fridge to find a moldy chunck of cheese. You figure, "Hey, I'll scrape off the mold and grab myself some crackers!" After removing all the visable mold, you bit into the cheese only to discover that the mold has done its work and penetrated to the depths of the cheese, even though not in a visable fashion.

(2) You have a glass of water. You put a drop of poison into that water. The true water is still there, but it has been so hopelessly contaminated, that you cannot get at what is the pure water.

Now, here is where some mathamatics may help us. As I understand it (and you can correct me on this), the standard Roman Catholic understanding of creation, the fall, etc. is as follows: We were created in grace, and we fell thus giving up that grace, and when we come into communion with the church we have that grace once again. Pre-fall = (N)+, post-fall = N, communion = (N)+. In this scheme, nature is never touched - grace is simply absent.

Barth is working with a different idea: pre-fall = N, fall = -(N), post-resurrection / "salvation" = -[-(N)]. Thus, we were created, we fell and thus out nature stood under a radical condemnation, Christ came and died to restore us thus showing us God's radical negation of our negation of ourselves. Its an incarnation / crucifixion / resurrection pattern.

Anyway, I need to get breakfast and get to class. I'm glad all is well over there on the continent. ;-)
Shane, yesterday I finished an essay by Jungel which definitely touches on the issues you have raised. The essay, which you also have, is "Extra Christum Nulla Salus" in Theological Essays I. Jungel is speaking in conversation with contemporary natural theology, specifically the theology proposed by Karl Rahner (who is probably the second greatest Catholic theologian of the 20th century after H.U. von Balthasar).

Jungel's language about the identity of the human person and of God is, I think, helpful in response to the view that Protestant theology's emphasis on justification is anti-nature. Jungel counters this in numerous writings by speaking of the comparative: the justified person is "more human," God is "more than necessary," etc. I will let Jungel speak for himself. In the following passages, Jungel also provides a very brief look at what he does in fuller detail in God as the Mystery of the World.

From "Extra Christum Nulla Salus--A Principle of Natural Theology?" in Theological Essays I, pp. 173-188.

[We] are defined in our humanity by that which is over against us, which presents itself in freedom, whose presence we may in no way compel. We are dependent upon the freedom of another, without which we would not be human--as little as we would be if we could deduce that others were necessary for us. Intrinsic to our humanity is freedom to encounter as an encounter with freedom. God is neither superfluous nor a necessary function of humanity. God is more than necessary for us. [...]

That humanity cannot really be human without God is the somewhat fatal maxim by which the enterprise of natural theology stands or falls. This thesis is to be rejected, since it does not respect what we have already said about humanity's dependence upon the freedom of another. Nevertheless, there is a grain of truth in the thesis which we need to bring out. This is the insight that God is one who concerns our humanity in such an unconditional way that the revelation of God makes us thematic in our humanity. This happens in such a way, however, that for our part we are revealed as those whose humanity consists in becoming ever more human. Over against our humanity which, certainly, already establishes itself in the midst of and despite our inhumanity, the incarnation of God and the justification of humanity which it accomplishes show that our humanity is able to be increased. And so the theological conception of humanity implies the comparative 'ever more human'.

This comparative [...] is an eschatological comparative, bringing that which has been held to be human into a new light in which it is displayed either as all too human or as not human at all or as having been opened up by that comparative and therefore remaining human. In view of this third possibility, it cannot be stressed too strongly that the justification of the sinner which takes place at the cross of Christ has ontological significance for our humanity; it has the power to give a future to that which has been, by qualifying it anew. Although it might be objected that such an eschatological comparative devalues what has gone before, it ought to be pointed out that not every increase means a devaluation of that which is surpassed. That which is better than the good does not make the good worse, but lets it remain good. [...] At any rate, the eschatological 'better' returns to the good, taking the good with it.
Travis, in response to your post, while I agree with most everything you wrote, I do think your final Barthian equation could use some refinement. The problem I see is that it leaves Barth's view of justification without any positive contribution to make to the new human person. I think instead of leaving it as -[-N], you should probably state it this way: -[-N]+X, in which the X is the plus of faith, the surplus given as a gift by God to increase our humanity. It is what Jungel calls the "eschatological surplus," the "gain" that is enclosed in the name of Jesus Christ. Without emphasizing this surplus, Barth's theology becomes destructive rather than constructive in nature, in my estimation. Of course, I understand that from a mathematical point of view, a negative of a negative is a positive -- but as I see it, it's not positive enough.
D.W. - In the final analysis, the radical negation of God IS the most radical positive. But, because we are so radically sinful, this positive of God can only take a negative form. Now, where the positive comes in relation to us, is that on the cross Christ bore the full brunt of this radical negation of sin by God.
Shane said…
david and travis,

i don't think barth is becoming the theologian i hate (Luther is). I still hold barth in great respect as a excellent dogmatician (?) and a bold critic of the disaster of protestant liberalism. also, in barth's defense, the sort of thomism that he was likely to have encountered in germany at the turn of the century is not necessarily the same sort that i am defending here. in fact, i suspect i would join many with some of barth's criticisms of the thomists of the early 20th century. (they were big apologetics guys and tried to make thomas an anti-cartesian anti-modernism hobby horse.)

moreover, as i said in the private email to david, i'm perfectly willing to admit that my knowledge of barth, particularly later barth (i.e. volumes III and IV of CD) is quite limited. from what I gather though, Barth actually ends up coming a bit closer to thomas on a few issues than some barth folks think, at least that's kerr's read. if people want quotes, i'd be happy to go digging for some.

one example is grace. thomas's oft-quoted maxim is 'grace perfects nature'. to the early barth, and apparently both of you, this is anathema because . . . then human beings can reason their way up to God without God's prior initiative?

it seems to me that barth and luther and maybe calvin operate with an understanding that nature is destroyed by sin and therefore has to be completely recreated by grace. this is the source of your anxiety about natural theology, isn't it?

Here is the alternative account of grace and nature that i'd like you to consider. nature itself already is grace. to be a being means to be a created being, to have your being as a gift from God. Even the direst sinner is a being held in existence by God's sheer mercy. Moreover, God, who is himself rational, created the world to be rational and it reflects his glory. Even without the light of divine revelation, there are some traces of his handiwork visible to the trained eye.

Aristotle, the pagan, nevertheless observed the world closely enough to realize that it must have a maker. because he was a pagan, he posited the demiurge and a host of gods to explain, but we, philosophizing now after God's self-revelation, know that God is the creator and we are able to use revelation to correct aristotle's philosophy. Grace perfects nature.

Furthermore, there are truths about God which are not accessible to 'natural' reason, such as the doctrine of the trinity. revelation was necessary to teach us how to think about God as we ought to and to correct our errors and misperceptions about those truths that we could have, theoretically, come to know apart from revelation.

But where does sin come into all of this? well, i think travis's analogies actually are more thomist than he might realize. a drop of poison in a glass of water doesn't make the water cease to be water. it makes it bad water, but it remains water nonetheless. likewise sinful creation is still creation, it isn't nothingness. sinful human beings are flawed human beings, because they are not ordered towards their proper end (the beatific vision), but this doesn't mean that they are no longer people. this is why i am (hyperbolicly) calling barth and the protestant tradition 'manichean,' because it posits an dualism between saved/unsaved. there has to be something human there to be saved, to be ontological transformed. in fact, kerr has a quote where the later barth mentions this maxim from Thomas (grace perfects nature, because grace presupposes nature) and agrees with it, but adds the disclaimer that it has been put to such serious misuse that it was obviously malicious in its origin.

I think another crux of this debate will be what relationship we think exists between sin and the freedom of the will. sin perverts us, warps us, inclines us towards further evil, but, contra Luther (de servo arbitrio) and Juengel, it does not destroy the freedom of our will because that would cease to make us human--more on that in a second. it is not pelagianism to say that human beings must choose to accept God's forgiveness. nor would it be correct to say that we could come to accept that forgiveness without God's initiative (prevenient grace, which must be distinguished from the sort of common grace active in ordinary being).

God's grace and our creaturely freedom are always in correspondence for Thomas, because what it means to be a person (a rational animal) is to be capable of thought and choice. This is a rich understanding of rationality.

Protestants like Barth and Juengel have to look for language that allows them to talk about Divine and Creaturely Freedom, but my fear is that creaturely freedom seems so much less important that it vanishes in the horizon, precisely because they don't want to use language that would make it look like humans or other created beings have a sort of autonomy.

david, unfortunately all of my books are being shipped to me and are probably unavailable for the next few weeks. would you be so kind as to email me whatever essays you think i really ought to read.

i'm enjoying this conversation thoroughly. and just to make it clear, i like both of you very much.

Shane, have you had a chance to read my selections from Jungel's essay that I posted recently? They seem to get at the heart of your concerns about the Lutheran view of nature and the human person. To put Jungel in my own words, God's ex nihilo work of recreation of the human person is not a destruction of the prior person's nature, but a taking up and alongside of that nature into the eschatologically new. God's creation is indeed "very good," but what the new creation affirms is that the "very good" can become better. In that sense, Jungel might also say, "Grace perfects nature." Would you agree, having read those portions of Jungel?

I'm glad that you like me very much. ;-P
As to the "grace perfects nature" bit, I think that even the later Barth would want to quibble over what "perfect" means. As I argued previously, the poison has so impermeated the water that the pure water is not accessible. The whole glass of water must be thrown out and then refilled with pure water, maybe even vitamin enhanced water.
I think that you hit the nail on the head when bringing the issue around to the notion of free will. Thomas has a doctrine of concursus that helps him to say a lot of things that the Reformers would not, but I don't think that the pie is ultimately sliced any differently. God must initiate salvation (as you mentioned Shane). But, I think we get into trouble when we forget that for all these theologians God is personal and concerned with individuals. Thus, God initiates salvation to every individual that will be saved. It is not a universal initiation. The cross-hairs established a "hard" understanding of God's omniscience, omnipotence, and immutability mitigate against any other option. Now, if you want to re-imagine any of those categories (as I think we should), then you can build a case. But, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and I think even Thomas were all working within them.


Tangentially, Shane, I appreciated you comment about early 20th C Thomastic studies. I think it is likely to be the vase that people are only now able to talk about Barth misreading Thomas because Thomastic studies were sent back to the text's in light of Barth's critique, and discovered there a very different Thomas.
Shane said…
to respond briefly to travis and david,

i like the piece from juengel you posted david and I'm thinking more about it. it does get away from the destruction of nature language a bit, or at least redefines it in a helpful way.

to travis, is this some double predestinarian reformed theology coming out? you know that makes me a bit nervous. i'll have to read some more of thomas's understanding of election and get back to you. (incidentally, I still love barth's understanding of election.)

speaking of rethinking immutability, etc. I hear that tom weinandy has a good book defending the traditional undestanding of immutability.

Explain Barth’s doctrine of election to me, especially the bit where he gets around to talking about the individual and how election gets to that level. I am currently under the opinion that he hopelessly muddles that section, but I am open to being proven wrong.
If there is anything Jungel is pushing for, it is the reunderstanding (and perhaps abandonment) of the traditional incommunicable attributes of God. He challenges impassibility in virtually all of his writings and hence also immutability. He leaves omniscience and omnipotence alone, but might have discussions on them in some German writings not available in English. Omnibenevolence he fully accepts, from what I can tell.

For those interested in this topic of reenvisioning God, I direct you to Colin Gunton's fine essay, "The Being and Attributes of God: Eberhard Jungel's Dispute with the Classical Philosophical Tradition." I also direct you to Alan Lewis's excellent book, Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday, which is unsurpassed in its reunderstanding of God in light of the Easter narrative and the theologies of Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, and Eberhard Jungel (the latter of which he elevates as the most nuanced and well-rounded view).

And, of couse, I recommend Jungel's great work (possibly his magnum opus), God's Being is in Becoming, which is the locus of all his reimaging of God's attributes.

Regarding this book, Shane, I would like to comment on something that you mentioned in passing. You stated that Thomas is a "relational ontologian," but Jungel clarifies that it is not enough to speak relationally in order to have a relational ontology. He argues near the end (and I can quote the page number and text if you'd like) that only a relational ontology which identifies God's being as essentially relation in itself can properly be called relational. In other words, a true relational ontology must begin with God's own relationality ad intra, which provides the basis for a relational God ad extra. I'm not convinced that Thomas has such a view of God, and I suspect that is due to the lack of such an ontology for the divine in Aristotle and Greek metaphysics.

Your response? Any others want to chime in on this point? If nothing else, let me implore everyone to read God's Being is in Becoming, which, though difficult, is extraordinarily rewarding. And it's only about 120 pages.
Travis, I don't mean to answer for Shane, but I wonder if it is appropriate to think of election on an individual level at all. Clearly there are verses like, "For those he foreknew, he also predestined ..." etc. But I question whether we have the right as interpreters to understand such statements in terms of the individual person. The same can be said for the discussion of "God's individual will for one's life," which is just as inappropriate (actually, far more so).
Romans 9 is one text that makes it difficult to get away from individual election.

The real question is concerning whether or not human persons are able to place themselves within the sphere of salvation. If so, you are a Pelagian. If not, you need individual predestination in some form, if only in the providence operative in the progress of history. The only way out of this cenundrum is taken by Barth, i.e. that of universalism.

And Shane, I don't think that you will be able to convince me that Barth is not a universalist. I was reading the section in II.2 on the election of the individual last night and Barth actually says that the threat of final rejection of any human person is, in his words, an "impotent threat." So, at this point, one would have to convince me that the Bible teaches universalism to get me to go with Barth on the individual level (But McCormack hasn't gotten to that yet in our election lectures, and I'm hoping for a miracle). So, for now I am an annihilationist infralapsarian who holds out hope that God's grace will finally reach all despite the fact that the Bible as a whole certainly does not teach this (McCormack has yet to deal with the biblical material as well, and as you may suspect, I'm hoping for a miracle).
I, for one, certainly have no problem with universalism. I will pass along to any who are interested Jungel's article, "The Last Judgement as an Act of Grace."

Travis, how exactly is the "providence operative in the progress of history" actually individualistic, except for the fact that history includes human individuals? If that is all you mean by individual predestination, then I am all for it. But quite frankly, it seems like attaching the word individual for something that is actually cosmic in nature and focus. Which is fine, but it's like rejecting X while still using X's terminology.
Shane said…
my objection to universalism is that it seems to negate the possibility of the freedom of the individual. it seems unlikely that someone would finally choose to reject grace, but i don't think you can reject that possibility.

i'm becoming more amenable to the idea of purgatory too.

Shane said…
oh, it's also important to me that the church tradition denounced the universalism of origen.

Hey, I would LOVE to be a universalist. But between the condemnation of Origen (as Shane said), a lot of other counciliar decisions that took the impossibility of universalism to be a matter of course, AND the biblical material, I don't think that we can ever argue that it will be the case. As I like to say, "I don't believe that it will happen, but I'm not going to be suprised when it does."

As far as election / predestination pertaining to the individual, even Barth would be on my side here. Read the first couple of pages in the third section of II.2 on the election of the individual and you'll see what I mean. For Barth, because Jesus Christ is an individual, salvation is necessarily individual, because an individual relates to individuals. The same point can be made more generally from the basis of our God being a "personal" God, but of course, if this is to be done well it will have to be rooted in Christ anyway.

David - the part you missed in my argument was the "providence" part. If history is being directed by God, then the individuals that are encompassed within the realm of salvation history are so encompassed because of the act of God. BTW, this is basically Pannenberg in a nutshell. Anyway, while I am as adamantly against modernity's individualistic / autonomistic idiocy, I don't think we can get away from saying that salvation must be operative in the individual person, and thus so must election / predestination.
Jungel's form of universalism, if that is indeed what one should call it, does not rule out the possibility of one refusing God's gracious justification -- although his argument is quite a bit more nuanced than that. He has a condensed version of his thoughts in his latest work, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith. I think I will start a new post on this topic. It's been brought up in the past, but I think it warrants a fuller treatment.

Travis, concerning "providence" and individual election, I just don't see the necessary logical connection between salvation being "operative in the individual" and election referring to specific individuals. Maybe in your mind the two are virtually synonymous, but they aren't in mine. Election, to me, signifies a divine choice - God's eternal decision. While I recognize the psychological -- and perhaps theological -- good it has done for evangelicals to speak of a God who is concerned for the welfare of each person, I am not convinced that we have the adequate foundation to speak of a God who thinks in individual terms regarding salvation. To put it more clearly and adequately, God does indeed elect individuals, because he first elects humanity for God's self and thus affirms humanity as that which can and will be justified by the work of Christ.

And if I am reading you correctly, it seems like all of this is well and good. So where exactly do you think Barth muddles the issue? Is it simply because he does not speak enough of the individual aspect of election -- even though I think it goes without saying that election of humanity includes individuals (providence as you called it). Or is it because you think Barth's apparent universalism cannot square with individual salvation? That last point I suspect is a problem for most evangelicals who hold to a strict view of the "personal God" and the "personal decision for Christ." I, however, do not think it needs to be a problem.

This is what it comes down to as far as I can tell: Barth is a universalist. Other than that, I like how he sets things up (although, putting the community ahead of the individual was foreshadowed by Turretin). My best reading of the biblical material prohibits me from being able to accept overt universalism. While there are some universalist strands in the biblical material, the other is so explicit that I cannot simply set them aside. So, until I see good exegesis in support of over universalism, I can only accept it as a hope. Therefore, I cannot argue overtly for it. Barth does nothing but argue overtly for it, and then back off and say that this isn't what he is doing. If I submit Barth to a generous reading, he is hopelessly muddled in this respect. If I submit him to a hard reading, he is a universalist in this respect and I cannot accept that position.

Furthermore, unlike many evangelicals, I care not one whit about some "personal choice for salvation." The catholic tradition rules out any positive choice made by an individual except it be one that arises from the prior work of the Spirit in that individual person, and in this case, that choice is simple a means that God has ordained for salvation and not a cause.

As you can see from the above, my beef with Barth has nothing to do with individual salvation / predestination. As I argued before, he actually considers the individual level to be important. But, I do not mean that when speaking of individual election / predestination we should bypass the other two levels (Christ & Community), but simply that election / predestination truely does pass through these two higher levels to reach the individual.

I'm going to try to attempt something of a summary of my position:

God elects Christ. God elects that there should be a community of faith through Christ's election. God elects that certain individuals will be brought into this community of faith and thus to salvation, through Christ's election. Human persons are not able to initiate a proper relationship with God. God must initiate this relationship. God does initiate this relationship in those he has predestined.

Anyway, I'm working on a document that contains all my "theses" on the doctrine of election. I may post it if you are all interested. Sorry for the somewhat muddled nature of my post - it is reading week and my head isn't quite working properly.
I hope to write a post on universalism soon, and I hope this conversation will continue there.

Shane, I still haven't heard a response about whether Thomas truly has a relational ontology rooted in God. Perhaps you don't have enough understanding of Thomas yet, which is fine. If you come across information on this point, I'd like to hear it.

In the meantime, Shane, here's an extended quote from Jungel's latest book, Justification concerning Thomas's view that "grace perfects nature."

From Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, pp. 90-91.

Salvation, as it is understood by Christians, means not only 'more than existence', not only surpassing earthly existence. If we were to be satisfied with seeeing salvation as surpassing earthly existence, even 'eschatologically' surpassing it, we would only have touched the surface of what should be called salvation in the strict theological sense. Thomas Aquinas' famous assertion that 'Grace (does not cancel, but) perfects nature' is right, but with qualifications. But if we are speaking of grace and salvation in the strict sense of the words, then we should not only think of the relationship between grace and nature, and not only of the relationship between salvation (Heil) and its opposite (Unheil). We should also -- at the same time -- be thinking about the relationship between grace and what is against nature (Unnatur), about the relationship between salvation and its opposite and about the relationship between salvation and the corruption of existence. For to be saved is to be rescued. We are talking about the rescue of human nature from its perverted tendency towards what is against nature, the rescue of existence from its corruption, the rescue of existence from the threat of non-existence. Thus when we think of salvation we always need to think of the dramatic movement that frees us from a disastrous situation (Unheil) and moves us into a different realm of existence. ....

[Salvation] is an event of the utmost dramatic significance which is accomplished by God: it is the rescue of our existence in the face of non-existence and catastrophe (Unheil). For that reason we cannot speak too highly of salvation, for in the idea of salvation are included the depths of that disaster that has been overcome.


Obviously, this is only a segment of Jungel's larger discussion of sin and salvation. But I think his point is well-taken and an important evaluation of Thomas' axiom. Any responses?
Shane said…
sorry for the delay, i didn't realize this thread was still live.

um, i'm interest that he thinks that thomas is right, but only with certain qualifications. if the qualification is that the word 'perfect' means something that nature is made into something supernatural, then i'm perfectly fine with that. in fact, that seems to me to be the sense that thomas is working with. after all, it is supernatural grace that is at work and then end of man, (contra aristotle) is in the transformative, miraculous beatific vision of God.

i don't know how to understand his point about grace rescuing us from the threat of non-existence however. this sounds dangerously close to nonsense or the pernicious quasi-manicheanism i've been accusing barth of. at one time I didn't believe in Jesus. at that time i was not in grace, presumably. therefore, according to juengel, I didn't actually exist then. but, of course, i did. i had to exist then, in order for Jesus to die to save me. I had to exist then in order for there to be some nature for his grace to perfect. i had to exist, simply by the logic of juengel's saying that my being was corrupt. i think i see juengel's point--that we only recognize our true nature in grace, but Thomas seems to have a much simpler, more direct way of making that same observation.

juengel needs to (i'm sure he does somewhere) distinguish between different kinds of grace. by natural or common grace God gave me the gift of Being. without that gift, i would, of course, fall into non-existence, but in fact he did give me that gift and didn't take it back, even when i sinned and rebelled against him and corrupted and perverted my own nature.

but perhaps i'm reading juengel wrong, i'll defer to your judgment and patiently await further tutelage. in the meantime, i'm going to make one of my characteristically inflammatory statements (please don't take offense) that I want us to examine together over the next few months: "Juengel's theology is more captive to the dominant philosophical orthodoxy of his day (Heidegger) than Thomas's theology is captive to the dominant philosophical orthodoxy of his day (Aristotle)." If I can convince you of this thesis at the end of the academic year, you will owe me dinner when we meet again next. If you can convince me of the opposite thesis, then I'll owe you dinner. what do you think? *smiles and laughes, but refuses to use emoticon to show it*.

Shane said…
oh and regarding the theological ontology bit, i'll wait and let you read kerr on that, because he says it so much better than i would, with more citations and so forth.

the one big difference that i've discovered so far, is that the modern relational ontology people have a real hostility towards the concept of an immanent trinity. most of them want to say that God simply is the economic trinity, that all that God is is his being-for-us. Thomas wouldn't agree with this statement, nor would the majority of the Fathers, either. and it seems to me that such a view is potentially very dangerous, but i haven't thought it all through yet.