Barth and the analogia relationis

In Church Dogmatics III/2, Karl Barth presents what he calls the analogia relationis in two places within §45. The two are worth examining in detail. Here I will post the two quotes and offer a few thoughts in reflection. The first passage:

[T]here is disparity between the relationship of God and man and the prior relationship of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father, of God to Himself. But for all the disparity . . . there is a correspondence and similarity between the two relationships. This is not a correspondence and similarity of being, an analogia entis. The being of God cannot be compared with that of man. But it is not a question of this twofold being. It is a question of the relationship within the being of God on the one side and between the being of God and that of man on the other. Between these two relationships as such—and it is in this sense that the second is the image of the first—there is correspondence and similarity. There is an analogia relationis. The correspondence and similarity of the two relationships consists in the fact that the freedom in which God posits Himself as the Father, is posited by Himself as the Son and confirms Himself as the Holy Ghost, is the same freedom as that in which He is the Creator of man, in which man may be His creature, and in which the Creator-creature relationship is established by the Creator. (220)

The second passage is rather different and comes exceedingly close to affirming the analogia entis:

It must be pointed out in conclusion that if the being of man in encounter is a being in correspondence to his determination as the covenant-partner of God, the statement is unavoidable that it is a being in correspondence to God Himself, to the being of His Creator. The Initiator, Lord and Sustainer of the covenant between God and man is God Himself, and He alone. If man is ordained to be God’s partner in this covenant, and if his nature is a likeness corresponding to this ordination, necessarily it corresponds in this respect to the nature of God Himself. God has created him in this correspondence, as a reflection of Himself. Man is the image of God. . . . As man generally is modelled on the man Jesus and His being for others, and as the man Jesus is modelled on God, it has to be said of man generally that he is created in the image of God. . . . God created him in His own image in the fact that He did not create him alone but in this connexion and fellowship. . . . God exists in relationship and fellowship. As the Father of the Son and the Son of the Father He is Himself I and Thou, confronting Himself and yet always one and the same in the Holy Ghost. God created man in His own image, in correspondence with His own being and essence. He created Him in the image which emerges even in His work as the Creator and Lord of the covenant. Because He is not solitary in Himself, and therefore does not will to be so ad extra, it is not good for man to be alone, and God created him in His own image, as male and female. . . . Quite obviously we do not have here more than an analogy, i.e., similarity in dissimilarity. We merely repeat that there can be no question of an analogy of being, but of relationship. God is in relationship, and so too is the man created by Him. This is his divine likeness. (323-24)

A few things become clear when we place these two passages in juxtaposition. First, Barth defines the analogy of relation, the analogia relationis, in two different ways within this one paragraph. The first analogia relationis posits an analogy between God ad intra and God ad extra; that is, the internal relation between the Father and the Son is analogous to the external relation between God and the human person. In this analogy, the similarity is in the active, initiating subject (the triune God) and the dissimilarity is in the passive recipient of this divine action (God the Son, humanity). As Barth puts it, “the eternal love” between the Father and the Son “is also the love which is addressed by God to man” (III/2, 220).

The second passage is much more complex. Barth offers what any reader unaware of the debate would call an analogy of being—an analogy between the relational being of God and the relational being of humanity. In that God exists in relationship to what is external to Godself, so too God creates human persons who naturally relate to what is external to themselves. Barth explicitly states that human nature “corresponds . . . to the nature of God Himself” (323). Perhaps the most striking sentence is when he writes: “God created man in His own image, in correspondence (Entsprechung; analogy) with His own being and essence.”

Whereas the first passage presents a correspondence between Deus ad intra and Deus ad extra, the second passage presents a correspondence between God’s essential nature and humanity’s essential nature. Barth insists that this is no analogy of being, but in saying this he reveals that the analogy of being means something very specific: not the correspondence between divine and human being, but a correspondence that exists apart from the exclusive mediation of Jesus Christ. In other words, the danger of the analogia entis (as Barth understands it) is that it posits a relation apart from the covenant of grace.

Both forms of the analogia relationis are centered in Jesus Christ: in the first, Deus ad extra is Jesus Christ, and in the second, divine and human nature are defined by God’s self-revelation in Christ alone. By emphasizing the centrality of divine self-revelation, we are able to hold together both forms of the analogy of relation without falling into error. Even apart from the covenant of grace, however, Barth wishes to affirm that humanity is a being-in-encounter whose very identity is teleologically ordained for covenant with God. Thus, there is an analogy of being, but it is only known from within the context of the covenant of grace—i.e., within the purview of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. If we do affirm an ontological correspondence between God and humanity, we do so only within the constraints of God’s self-communicative presence: both in the Word incarnate who establishes the covenant of grace toward which all human being is teleologically oriented and in the revelation of Christ through the sanctified witness of Holy Scripture, which alone makes known the basis of this correspondence in the gracious activity of God ad extra.