Friday, October 10, 2014

New publications on Bultmann, Barth, and Jüngel

In the past few months I have had three journal articles and a book chapter published. The topics include: Bultmann's hermeneutics in relation to the church, the origins of Barth's dialectical theology, the question of Barth's universalism, and Eberhard Jüngel's pneumatocentrism. Hopefully there is a little bit for everyone—at least everyone interested in modern German theology. 

Rather than summarize the arguments of each essay, I am just going to post a teaser from each. Those interested in learning more about them can contact me or track down the publication.

1. “Kerygma and Community: A Response to R. W. L. Moberly’s Revisiting of Bultmann.” Journal of Theological Interpretation 8, no. 1 (2014): 1–21.
It is not so much the church that is included within the event of Jesus Christ, but rather Christ himself who is present within the event of the church. This is, in fact, the very point Bultmann goes on to make in his 1960 address on the historical Jesus. “Faith in the church as the bearer of the kerygma” means that “Jesus Christ is present in the kerygma.” This statement “presupposes that the kerygma is itself an eschatological occurrence; and it means that Jesus is actually present in the kerygma, that it is his word which meets the hearer in the kerygma.” . . . It is for this reason that, in 1929, Bultmann says that the communication of the church “belongs itself to what is communicated,” since it is not a “mere conveying” of facts but rather a word that addresses each person. While it may come as a surprise to some, Bultmann affirms that the church’s teaching “has the character of tradition, which belongs to the history that it narrates. The tradition belongs to the event itself.” The fact that ecclesial tradition is internal to the kerygmatic event of Christ’s proclamation explains why the church can seem absent from Bultmann’s theology. His theology is thoroughly kerygmatic and christological, but precisely because it is so focused on Christ it is also at the same time focused on the ecclesial community as the bearer of God’s word and the medium through which Christ speaks to us today.

2. “Dialectical Theology as Theology of Mission: Investigating the Origins of Karl Barth’s Break with Liberalism.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 16, no. 4 (2014): 390–413.
Barth perceived the capitulation of liberal theologians to German war fever, along with the confusion of God’s will with the culture’s will for colonialist power, as a missionary problem. To be sure, it was not only a missionary problem, but mission was indeed at the heart of the issue. Dialectical theology, as a response to this problem, can be understood as a way of addressing the dispute between the pseudomission of Germany (or any other nation) and the genuine mission of God. . . . Though a full interpretation of his theology as a theology of mission is beyond the scope of the present article, we will simply suggest here that Barth’s career can and should be understood as the consistent attempt (a) to critically oppose the church’s capitulation to a culturally-captive Christianity and (b) to construct a positive alternative account of knowing and following God that is not liable to such captivity and is, for that reason, a theology of mission. Put another way, a theology is genuinely missionary if it makes the crosscultural movement of the gospel internal to its message and logic – that is, if it funds the freedom of the gospel for new situations. Seen from that perspective, Barth is a profound theologian of mission from the beginning.

3. “Apokatastasis and Apostolicity: A Response to Oliver Crisp on the Question of Barth’s Universalism.” Scottish Journal of Theology 67, no. 4 (2014): 464–480.
Oliver Crisp raises a number of important questions in his discussion of universalism in Barth’s theology. As an analytic theologian, he correctly discerns the universalistic logic of Barth’s soteriological claims. However, it is this same analytic rigor that leads him to miss Barth’s understanding of the existential and missionary nature of theological speech. The result is that Crisp can only see incoherence where Barth sees a necessary respect for the concrete historical location of faithful human witness. Barth affirms vocational, pastoral, and doxological aims more basic than analytic philosophy’s prioritization of logical consistency and propositional clarity. That is not to say there are not times when Barth simply contradicts himself. But it also means that not every appearance of incoherence is an actual instance. In the case of universalism, he insists that we cannot speak in advance and in the abstract about the historicity of each person’s subjective participation in the election of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to say that Jesus is victor if we do not also say that the event of his victory is one in which we are called to participate as a faithful witness.

4. “The Spirit of Freedom: Eberhard Jüngel’s Theology of the Third Article,” in Indicative of Grace – Imperative of Freedom: Essays in Honour of Eberhard Jüngel in his 80th Year, edited by R. David Nelson, 13–27. London: T & T Clark, 2014.
Toward the end of his career, Barth reflected on the possibility of a “theology of the third article,” that is, a theology of the Holy Spirit. He first proposed this idea in a 1952 letter to Bultmann as the condition under which he could understand his old friend and adversary. He returned to the notion repeatedly in the years following. In 1957 he applied the notion to nineteenth-century theology in general, in October 1962 he discussed the idea with the editors of Evangelische Theologie, and in 1968 he suggested it as a way to interpret Schleiermacher. Despite these suggestions, we find the following remark in his Table Talk: “I personally think that a theology of the Spirit might be all right after A.D. 2000, but now we are still too close to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is still too difficult to distinguish between God’s Spirit and man’s spirit!” Jüngel did not wait until 2000 to supply a theology of the third article. Over the last thirty years, he has published three sets of theses on the Spirit that reinterpret soteriology from the perspective of pneumatology.