Why I Am A Universalist, § 2: The Doctrine of God, Part I: Introduction

In some ways, this paragraph is simply an extension of the prolegomena. Nevertheless, these comments are offered as a transition toward discussing the doctrine of God. I will allow Barth to speak for himself in the next paragraph, since he captures the relation between the doctrine of God and reconciliation with beauty and profundity.

The doctrine of atonement rests on the doctrine of God, and, as part of this, on christology. In this section, I will touch in the doctrine of God just briefly. One of the major revolutions in modern theology was the realization that God is what God does, or, God’s being is a being-in-act. The point of this theological revolution is that we know who God is by what God does in the history of God’s dealings with men and women. To put this in trinitarian terms, the economic Trinity—the acts of God ad extra—is identical with the immanent Trinity—the life of God ad intra. There is no other God apart from the God revealed to us in the act of self-revelation in Jesus Christ. The point is this: we cannot come to God with any preconceived notions about what divinity means or entails. God is self-determinative of what the word “God” signifies. When we speak of “God,” we can only speak-after the reality of what God has done for us and for our salvation. The kind of God we worship is defined by God alone. We know who God is in-and-for-Godself based on what God has done. Metaphysics, as the acceptance of presupposed concepts of divinity and humanity, is rejected outright from the beginning. If any metaphysical concepts are retained, it is because revelation itself confirms them.

It should be immediately obvious that this theological starting-point is rooted in christology, and for the moment I need to tease out what follows from this point of origin in terms of a christological hermeneutics. Scripture presents a gloriously rich picture of who God is and what God does in history. This is something to revel in, not to simplify or distort or ignore. God is at once infinitely complex and infinitely simple—that is, God is rich and full of complex depth in ways that extend infinitely beyond what we perceive as richness here in the world of creation, but God is simultaneously simple and uniform in that God is one God who does not contradict Godself. The locus of our knowledge of God’s complexity and simplicity is the person of Jesus Christ. God’s being-in-act takes concrete form in the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. The rich picture narrated by Scripture is a witness to God’s being-in-act, but this witness is subordinate to the concrete reality of God’s being in Jesus Christ. The reality of Christ’s history is the hermeneutical category through which we read the rest of the biblical text—not in the allegorical way of reading Christ into every passage, but in the christological way of allowing God’s self-revelation to determine our interpretation of the biblical text. Knowledge of God can indeed come through “natural” or “human” sources—science, philosophy, art—but no such knowledge can be affirmed as true knowledge of God unless it is in conformity with what God has revealed of Godself in Jesus Christ, according to the witness of Holy Scripture.


Shane said…
I do very much want to see how you develop this christological hermeneutic.