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International Journal of Systematic Theology

doi:10.1111/j.1468-2400.2007.00332.x

Volume 10

Number 1

January 2008

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Karl Barth and the Historicization of God’s Being

ADAM EITEL*

Abstract: In the excurses of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics IV/1, Barth invests the resurrection with greater ontological significance than is typically acknowledged in contemporary accounts of his mature theology. In this article, I systematically develop the numerous statements in CD IV/1 in which Barth conceptualizes the resurrection as the historical fulfillment of God’s eternal being. Subsequently, I identify the similitude between Barth’s theology of the resurrection and Hegel’s as presented in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. The article closes by suggesting that the similitude between Barth’s view and Hegel’s may include points of material correspondence.

Even a cursory reading of Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation reveals his careful attention to the resurrection’s ‘concrete ontological reality’. 1 But as we shall see in this article, several passages in these volumes indicate a more intricately developed understanding of the resurrection’s ontological significance than is typically acknowledged in contemporary Barth studies. 2 To be sure, the pattern of thought under consideration sits in the periphery of Barth’s theology of the resurrection. My hope, however, is that the outskirts of Barth’s thought might throw more light on its center.

* Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, NJ 08542-0803, USA.

1 Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1976), pp. x–xi. Here, Torrance recalls some of Barth’s most often remembered ‘final words’:

Wohlverstanden, leibliche Auferstehung – Mark well, bodily resurrection. Cf. Eberhard Jüngel, Karl Barth: A Theological Legacy, trans. Paul E. Garrett (Philadelphia:

Westminster Press, 1986), p. 50.

2 For the most recent, penetrating, and undoubtedly comprehensive treatment of Barth’s doctrine of the resurrection, see R. Dale Dawson, The Resurrection in Karl Barth (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007).

© The author 2008. Journal compilation © Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2008, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street Malden, MA 02148, USA.

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My purpose in this article is twofold: I will argue that (1) the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the historicization of God’s eternal being and that (2) the resources for marshaling my claim are found in the theology of Karl Barth. Therefore, I will allow Barth’s theology to range the discussion with the intention that my latter argument will be implicitly contained in the former. I will begin by outlining several pertinent features of Barth’s doctrines of the resurrection and the Trinity. Next, I will synthesize my observations from both doctrines in order to show in what sense Jesus Christ’s resurrection was the historicization – that is, the historical fulfillment – of God’s eternal being. As we shall see, my thesis occasions at least one significant question to which I will respond, in turn, by employing Barth’s doctrine of election. Finally, I will consider the implications of Barth’s view of the resurrection, especially in respect to Barth’s relationship to the philosophical theology of G.W.F. Hegel. 3

3 It should be noted that statements can be found in CD II/1 (and even occasionally later) which could, in isolation from his theological development, be made to evince Barth’s affirmation of the perfection of the immanent Trinity in very ‘classical’ terms

‘the perfections of God in their multiplicity and variety do not arise from His

(e.g

relations to the world, but are those of His own being as He who loves in freedom’ in Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics vol. II, The Doctrine of God, pt 1, trans. T.H.L. Parker et al. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), p. 332). For one of the best examples of an interpretation that makes ample use of such texts, see George Hunsinger, Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004). Also see Paul D. Molnar, ‘The Trinity, Election and God’s Ontological Freedom: A Response to Kevin W. Hector’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 8 (2006), pp. 294–306; Edwin Chr. van Driel, ‘Karl Barth on the Eternal Existence of Jesus Christ’, Scottish Journal of Theology 60 (2007), pp. 45–61. The following argument, however, presupposes the success of Bruce McCormack’s genetic-historical interpretation of Barth’s theological development. This paradigm holds that a new phase in Barth’s thinking was inaugurated by his revision of the doctrine of election in CD II/2. Therein, Barth creates the material conditions for envisaging Jesus Christ (rather than the eternal Logos) as the subject of election. At the heart of this development lies a certain historicization of the divine being. To be sure, the presence of a historicizing tendency in Barth’s theology was neither immediately obvious nor entirely consistent; it was not until CD IV/1 that Barth could finally envisage his doctrine of God in terms of the ‘actualistic ontology’ that had been made axial to his theology by the material decisions of CD II/2. See Bruce L. McCormack, ‘Divine Impassibility or Simply Divine Constancy? Implications of Karl Barth’s Later Christology for Debates over Impassibility’, in J. Keating and T.J. White, eds., Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering (forthcoming); Bruce L. McCormack, ‘Seek God Where He May Be Found: A Response to Edwin Chr. Van Driel’, Scottish Journal of Theology 60 (2007), pp. 62–79; ‘Barths grundsätzlicher Chalkedonismus?’, Zeitschrift für dialektische Theologie 18 (2002), pp. 138–73; Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology:

Its Genesis and Development, 1909–1936 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). Also, for the most recent and thorough treatment of Barth’s actualistic ontology and its attendant issues, see Paul T. Nimmo, Being in Action: The Theological Shape of Barth’s Ethical Vision (London and New York: T. & T. Clark International, 2007), pp. 4–12.

© The author 2008 Journal compilation © Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2008

38

The resurrection of Jesus Christ

Adam Eitel

All of Jesus’ life was indeed his life. So although Jesus Christ was dead and buried, the resurrection was not an act of divine intervention in which he was uninvolved. As Barth points out, the suggestion that ‘the coming alive of a dead man would be a contradictio in adiecto as a human work’ presupposes that we are ‘speaking in the sphere of human activity’. And as Barth reminds us, ‘the sphere of human activity’ is ‘a long way off from speaking of [Jesus Christ who is] God’. 4 As an actual event in Jesus’ life, the resurrection took place ‘by and in and to Jesus Christ’. 5 This, too, was his act. However, Barth finds at least one significant distinction between Jesus’ resurrection and all other events in his life. In typically dialectical fashion, Barth also maintains that although the resurrection was an actual event in Jesus’ life, it was an event that happened to him. The resurrection was the act of the Father alone: ‘the Subject of the resurrection is not simply qeó ς , according to the regular usage but qeó ς pat η´ r ’. 6 As a participant in this act of God, the Son of God was active only in utter passivity:

The facts themselves tell us decisively that the event of Easter has to be understood primarily as the raising which happens to Jesus Christ, and only secondarily and (actively) on that basis as His resurrection. For in the New Testament it is everywhere described as an act of divine grace which follows the crucifixion but which is quite free. 7

Jesus Christ could not have raised himself from the dead; for, as Barth points out, the resurrection brought forth Jesus Christ from ‘His being in death, that is, His non- being as the One who was crucified, dead, buried and destroyed, as the One who had been and had ceased to be’. 8 As the One who had truly died, Jesus Christ did not and in fact could not take his new life; rather, ‘it was given to Him’. 9 As Barth understands it, the Father’s act of raising Jesus Christ from the dead was not necessary. However, that Barth finds the resurrection unnecessary does not at all mean he thinks it superfluous or unimportant. For Barth, the resurrection was unnecessary in at least two ways. First, the resurrection was not essential to the atonement. On the basis of his exegesis of scripture, Barth concludes that the resurrection was an actual event, distinct from the incarnation and crucifixion; it was

4 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, pt 1, trans. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), p. 301.

5 CD IV/1, p. 298.

6 CD IV/1, p. 303.

7 CD IV/1, p. 303.

8 CD IV/1, p. 305.

9 CD IV/1, p. 303. Barth construes Jesus’ resurrection as an event that ‘happened to Him’ because to do otherwise – to understand Jesus as the primary acting subject in this event – necessarily involves a ‘docetic view of death’.

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a ‘a new act of God which is clearly marked off from the first’. 10 And since the

reconciliation of the world was accomplished by Jesus’ obedient life and death, the resurrection did not, in the strictest sense, carry an ‘objective’ soteriological function. Therefore, Barth writes:

Was this [resurrection] necessary? Certainly not in the sense that at Golgotha everything had not taken place which had to take place for the reconciliation of the world with God, that the representation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in His death were not wholly sufficient

But just because the resurrection was unnecessary for the reconciliation of the world does not mean that it was merely an arbitrary spectacle. The resurrection, like the atonement, was also a sovereign act of God’s free grace: ‘For in the New Testament

it is everywhere described as an act of divine grace which follows the crucifixion but

which is quite free.’ 12

Second, the resurrection was unnecessary in the sense that it was not grounded

in the natural rhythm of world-occurrence. Although the resurrection happened in the

world, it had no antecedent cause. The resurrection took place quite apart from any logical connection to the pragmatic context of human decisions. 13 It was not the result of Jesus’ death. 14 Having no causal ground in the sphere of natural or human activity, the resurrection happened as ‘a sovereign act of God, and only in this way’. 15 For this reason, Barth frequently compares Jesus’ resurrection to God’s creation of the world. Barth sees in Jesus’ resurrection an ‘exact correspondence with what He did as Creator when He separated light from darkness and elected the creature to being’. 16 For:

n ) to the dead, is like the

creative summoning into being of non-being, a matter wholly and exclusively for God alone, quite outside the sphere of any possible co-operating factors (Heb. 11:19; 2 Cor. 1:9; Rom 4:17). 17

11

To raise (

ε , ge ´ι rein) the dead, to give life (zwopoie ι

10 CD IV/1, p. 297. A qualification is in order here. Although Barth presents the resurrection as separate from the atonement, in typical dialectical fashion he later insists that the cross and the resurrection constitute one work. See CD IV/1, pp. 342–57.

11 CD IV/1, p. 307. The soteriological import of the resurrection is ‘subjective’ in so far as it makes possible believers’ appropriation of the reality of the cross. On the importance of this aspect of Barth’s doctrine of resurrection, see Dawson, The Resurrection in Karl Barth, pp. 17, 83–113.

12 CD IV/1, p. 303.

13 CD IV/1, p. 300.

14 CD IV/1, p. 304.

15 CD IV/1, p. 304.

16 CD IV/1, p. 349.

17 CD IV/1, p. 301.

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Adam Eitel

For Barth, God’s originative act as Creator was no brute display of divine potency but an utterly free and gracious act. The same is true of the resurrection: Jesus’ return from the grave was an utterly ‘free act of divine grace’. 18 In sum, Barth understands Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead as the event in which God the Father acted unnecessarily and graciously. Jesus Christ participated in the Father’s act as the Son of God, but only in utter passivity. In

[as] the

the resurrection, the Son of God acted as ‘the One who takes and receives

recipient of a gift’. 19 It is not yet obvious how Jesus Christ’s resurrection was

the historicization of God’s eternal being. To build my case, we must now turn to Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity

When Barth endeavors to specify God’s divine life, he does so under the rejection of all speculative modes of reasoning. Over and against all abstract notions of divinity, Barth insists that only by keeping strictly to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ (who is the God-human in divine–human unity) can one learn who God is in Godself:

No general idea of Godhead developed abstractly from such concepts must

[rather the definition of] Godhead is something

we must always learn from Jesus Christ. He defines those concepts:

they do not define Him. When we start with the fact that He is very God we are forced to keep strictly to Him in relation to what we mean by true ‘Godhead’. 20

For Barth, ‘God is who He is in His works.’ 21 We encounter God’s ‘essence’ –

where God deals with us as Lord and Savior’. 22 We

encounter ‘the sphere of his action and working as it is revealed to us’ in the witness

of scripture. 23 Therefore, to know God as God we need not, and in fact must not, leave this sphere in which we encounter God’s works. In other words, by attending to God’s works as revealed in holy scripture we encounter God’s very being because ‘in Himself He is not another than He is in His works’. 24

be allowed to intrude

which

‘what God is as God

18 CD IV/1, p. 301.

19 CD IV/1, p. 304. Barth offers a more nuanced account of Jesus’ ‘active passivity’ in the parallel subsections, §§54.4 and 59.4. In ‘The Direction of the Son’ (IV/2, §54.4), Barth incorporates the idea of Jesus as the true human’s obedient co-operation into the transitional resurrection history. In ‘The Promise of the Spirit’ (IV/3, §59.4), Barth emphasizes Jesus’ revelatory action as the God-human.

20 CD IV/1, p. 129.

21 CD II/1, p. 260.

22 CD II/1, p. 260.

23 CD II/1, p. 260.

24 CD II/1, p. 260.

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Combining the premise that God reveals Godself in God’s works with an insistence that one encounters God’s works only in holy scripture leads to a second premise, that God is God in three ways of being – Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

The statement that God is One in three ways of being, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, means, therefore, that the one God, i.e. the one Lord, the one personal God, is what He is not just in one mode but – we appeal in support simply to the result of our analysis of the biblical concept of revelation – in the mode of the Father, in the mode of the Son, and in the mode of the Holy Ghost. 25

In God’s self-revelation as witnessed to in holy scripture God reveals Godself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And since God in se is not another than God is in God’s works, God does not just appear to be triune. This is who God is really; God is God in the modes of God’s being Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This suggests that God’s

being is self-related being – that God’s being is relationally structured. 26 To say as much means that God reveals God’s being as an activity. More precisely, God reveals Godself as the One who is always in the act of relating to Godself in God’s threefold repetition of being. Barth maintains that we cannot transcend the language of activity when referring to God’s being. Any attempt to transcend the language of activity in reference to God would amount to destructively speculative theology. 27 Therefore,

the word “event” or “act” is final and cannot

be surpassed and compromised’. 28 By employing the language of activity Barth therefore refers directly to God’s very being. In other words, God’s being is a being-in-act:

The whole being and life of God is an activity, both in eternity and in worldly

time, both in Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in His relation to man

is the eternal activity in which He is both

‘when dealing with the being of God

and all creation

[God’s being]

in Himself and in the history of His acts in the world created by Him. 29

Elsewhere, but with a different emphasis, Barth writes:

To its very deepest depths God’s Godhead consists in the fact that it is an event – not any event, not events in general, but the event of His action, in which we have a share in God’s revelation. 30

25 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. I, The Doctrine of the Word of God, pt 1, trans. G.T. Thomson (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936), p. 359.

26 CD II/1, p. 297. Jüngel uses the phrase ‘relationally structured’ to make a similar point in his book, God’s Being is in Becoming. I am indebted to him for this phrase. Eberhard Jüngel, God’s Being is in Becoming, trans. John Webster (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2001), p. 123.

27 CD II/1, p. 263. Also see George Hunsinger, How To Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 61, 257–71.

28 CD II/1, p. 263.

29 CD IV/1, pp. 7–8.

30 CD II/1, p. 263.

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Adam Eitel

Note especially Barth’s emphasis that when speaking of God’s being-in-act we are not referring to ‘events in general’ but rather to the ‘event of His action’. 31 Here especially Barth hastens to denounce all intrusions of abstraction; by ‘event’ we cannot posit a general notion of event or act to be subsequently ascribed to God’s being. Rather, ‘when we know God as event, act and life, we have to admit that

generally

Barth insists that we understand God’s being as ‘event, act, and life in His own way’. 33 By this, Barth underscores at least two points. First, by insisting that God’s

act of being is his act, Barth means that God’s being is self-determined being; it is ‘His own conscious, willed, and executed decision’. 34 To be sure, God’s self-determination of God’s being is eternal: ‘there is no moment in the ways of God which is over and above this act and decision’. God’s eternality should not be conflated with either intrinsic or extrinsic necessity; God’s being is neither the ‘mechanical outcome’ of a ‘process of rationality’, nor an ‘event occurring through external causes’. 35 What more, however, can be said about how God’s being-in-act is such in God’s own way? We have already seen that the act in which God has God’s whole being and life is in God’s self-relating as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It remains for us now to specify how Barth explains God’s act of self-relating. Barth further defines God’s being-in-act by taking up the so-called doctrine of relations:

act in which God is God there is first a pure origin and then two

different issues, the first of which is to be attributed solely to the origin and the second and different one to both the origin and also the last issue. According to Scripture God is manifest and is God in the very mode or way that He is in those relations to Himself. He brings forth Himself and in two distinctive ways He is brought forth by Himself. He possesses Himself as Father, i.e., pure Giver, as

This is the

we do not know what this is’. 32

In the

Son, i.e., Receiver and Giver, and as Spirit, i.e. pure Receiver unique divine trinity in the unique divine unity. 36

In this formula Barth has simply interpreted the self-related being of the triune God as the Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit which proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The specificity of God’s being-in-act consists in God’s self-relating as the Father who eternally gives to the Son – the One who eternally receives from the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. In summary, God reveals Godself in God’s works as being-in-act. God is being-in-act, not as generic actus purus, but in the particular act of self-relating as

31 CD II/1, p. 263.

32 CD II/1, p. 263.

33 CD II/1, p. 264.

34 CD II/1, p. 271.

35 CD II/1, p. 271.

36 CD I/1, p. 365.

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Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In God’s self-revelation, God shows Godself as the One who is free from necessity; God brings forth God’s being in freedom. In God’s divine freedom, God brings forth Godself as the Father who relates to the Son in the unity of the Spirit.

Resurrection as the historicization of God’s being

In this section, I will recollect and synthesize my preceding observations from Barth’s doctrines of the resurrection and the Trinity. We will first see in what sense Jesus’ entire life generally corresponds to God’s triune being-in-act. Subsequently and within this context, I will focus more narrowly on the correspondence between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and God’s eternal being. Barth finds in the witness of scripture that the determinative characteristic of Jesus Christ’s life was his relationship to the Father (Jn 5:19) in which the Father relates to the Son and vice versa. The Father’s act of relating to the incarnate Son is characterized by love. The Father loves the Son (Mt. 11:27; Jn 3:35; 15:9); in the Father’s love for the Son, he grants him life: ‘For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself’ (Jn 5:26). This life-giving love that characterizes the Father’s relationship to the Son is such that all that the Father has he gives to the Son (Jn 16:15). Therefore, the Father gives glory to the Son (Jn 8:54). He has set his seal upon him (Jn 6:27). Because God in se is not another than God is in God’s works, the Father’s act of relating to Jesus Christ in time must comport with God’s eternal act of being. As we have seen in Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, the Father possesses himself as ‘pure Giver’ who ‘issues’ the Son in the unity of the Spirit. 37 As eternally ‘pure Giver’, God the Father loves and gives all that he has to Jesus Christ the Son of God because the Father is this One in Godself. As the One who eternally ‘issues’ the Son, the Father gives life and glory to the Son in time because he is the One who has always done so in eternity. The Father does all of this precisely because this is the Father’s eternal act of being. 38 For Barth, the entire sweep of Jesus Christ’s earthly existence was grounded in this eternal intra-triune Father–Son relationship. Therefore, all of Jesus’ life was the revelation of God’s eternal act of being. Since all of Jesus Christ’s life was grounded in the eternal intra-triune Father–Son relationship, the resurrection was no less encompassed by the Father’s eternal act of relating to the incarnate Son of God. On this basis, Barth declares that

in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have to do with a movement and action which took place not merely in human history but first and foremost in God

Himself, a movement and action in which Jesus Christ as the Son of God

a pure object and recipient of God [the Father’s]

[is]

free and pure grace which

37 CD I/1, p. 365.

38 CD I/1, p. 275.

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Adam Eitel

as such can only be received, and the historical fulfilment of which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 39

Above, Barth points to a striking correspondence between the resurrection of Jesus

Christ and the eternal act of God’s being: ‘the resurrection

merely in human history but first and foremost in God himself’. 40 This activity in Godself is the eternal ‘relationship of the Father to the Son’ characterized by the Father’s eternal act of giving ‘free and pure grace’ to the Son. Given the continuity between the intra-triune Father–Son relationship and Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, Barth concludes that the former finds its ‘historical fulfilment’ in the latter. In sum, the Father’s eternal intra-triune graciousness towards the Son is

brought to ‘historical fulfilment

To clarify the correspondence between the resurrection and God’s being we may recall our previous observations concerning Barth’s doctrines of the resurrection and the Trinity. The correspondence is threefold. First, their correspondence is grounded

in the fact that just as in God’s eternal triune being the Father freely ‘issues’ the Son, so too in time has the Father freely willed to ‘beget him and to cause him to be born again from the dead’. 42 Second, just as in Godself the eternal Son is the eternally passive recipient of the eternal Father’s free grace, so too was Jesus Christ the entirely passive recipient of the Father’s free and gracious act of raising him from the dead. Therefore, Barth observed that it was not ‘simply as man [in time], but even

is here [in the

resurrection] simply the One who takes and receives, the recipient of a gift’. 43 Third, just as God is free from necessity in determining God’s own being, so too was God’s

act of raising Jesus Christ from the dead a matter of God’s sovereign choice. On the basis of the parallel between God’s act of being and Christ’s resurrection, Barth concludes:

In the work of the reconciliation of the world with God the inward divine relationship between the One who rules [the Father] and the One who obeys in humility [the Son] is identical with the very different relationship between God and one of his creatures, a man [Jesus Christ]. 44

But for Barth, the correspondence between these two events is more than just formal; the symmetry of their contours is no mere point of dogmatic artistry. As Barth sees it, the correspondence between God’s intra-triune Father–Son relationship and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is also efficient and material. It is efficient because in both instances God alone is the subject of the event; material because in both instances God is also the object. Just as God alone is the subject of God’s

not

took place

[in] the resurrection of Jesus Christ’. 41

as the Son of God [in God’s eternal being] that the Son of God

39 CD IV/1, p. 304.

40 CD IV/1, p. 304.

41 CD IV/1, p. 304.

42 CD IV/1, p. 307.

43 CD IV/1, p. 304.

44 CD IV/1, p. 203.

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intra-triune self-determination to be God as the Father who graciously gives life to the Son in the unity of the Spirit, so also God alone determined to give life to the dead and buried Jesus. Similarly, just as God is the object of God’s self-determination to be triune, so also was God the object of God’s decision to raise Jesus Christ (who is the Logos as human) from the grave. If the preceding observations are correct, then 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. In other words, when God gave Godself to history in this way, nothing ‘new’ took place in Godself; in fact, God revealed Godself as the One God has always been. As Barth has it, God

simply activates and reveals Himself ad extra, in the world. He is in and for the world what He is in and for Himself. He is in time what He is in eternity (and what He can be also in time because of His eternal being). 45

The reconciliation of the world did not take place ‘without correspondence to, but as the strangely logical final continuation of, the history in which He is God’. 46 Jesus Christ’s resurrection – his return from the dead – found its condition in and derived from an eternal event in Godself. Put another way, the resurrection was nothing less than the historicization of the intra-triune activity of God’s own being. The resurrection is ontologically significant because it is the unique telos of God’s eternal decision to instantiate God’s triune being-in-act in the space–time nexus. It is on the basis of this conviction that Barth writes:

to reveal and give force and effect to His faithfulness and love

He willed to give to His eternity with Him and

therefore to Himself an earthly form. He willed to give to the inner and secret radiance of His glory an outward radiance in the sphere of creation and its history. He willed to give to His eternal life space and time. And that is what He did when He called Jesus Christ to life from the dead. 47

It pleased God

in this supreme sense

45 CD IV/1, p. 204.

46 CD IV/1, p. 204.

47 CD IV/1, p. 308. Dawson also acknowledges the nascent correspondence in CD IV/1 between the resurrection and the divine being in The Resurrection in Karl Barth, pp. 118–23, 216–19. However, although Dawson notes Barth’s emphasis on the resurrection as trinitarian self-revelation, he misunderstands the significance of Barth’s claim. On Dawson’s reading, Barth conceives the resurrection as the ‘reassertion’ or ‘reaffirmation’ of God’s triune being in the face of death. While Dawson’s valuation of Barth’s suggestive remarks is in some sense correct, it misses the more nuanced trajectory of Barth’s resurrection–trinitarian correspondence. As I have shown, the resurrection is presented, not as the reaffirmation of the intra-divine life – but rather as its telos. The resurrection does not ‘reassert’ God’s eternal being; it is an event always already grounded in the singular and eternal affirmation of God’s eternal being as a being-for space and time.

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Election

Adam Eitel

We have just seen that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God gave God’s eternal being space and time. As such, the resurrection was nothing less than God’s activation of Godself ad extra. According to Barth, it was the logical continuation and historical fulfillment of God the Father’s eternal intra-triune graciousness to the Son in the unity of the Spirit. The question before us now is this: what is the basis upon which God’s eternal being came to historical fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Note well that we have not yet asked Cur resurrectio Dei? Our question is rather, Quo iure resurrectio Dei? In other words, on what basis did God not simply remain identical with the inward eternal history of his own being? What was the basis for God’s historicization of God’s being? We have already hinted an answer by noting that God gave ‘force and effect to His [eternal] faithfulness’ because ‘it pleased God’ to do so. 48 Barth also notes that God gave God’s ‘inner and secret radiance’ an ‘outward radiance in the sphere of creation and history’ because ‘He willed’ all of this. Here, we are evoking reference to Barth’s doctrine of election. Barth’s exposition of the doctrine of election does not emphasize the election of sinful humanity to salvation; certainly this too fell under his treatment of the doctrine, but only as a secondary consideration. On Barth’s terms, God’s eternal election has first and foremost to do with Jesus Christ:

Before all created reality, before all being and becoming in time, before time itself, in the pre-temporal eternity of God, the eternal divine decision as such has as its object and content the existence of this one created being, the man Jesus of Nazareth, and the work of this man in His life and death, His humiliation and

this man is the object of the eternal

exaltation, His obedience and merit divine decision and foreordination. 49

We can deduce from this passage that for Barth, God’s eternal election was the beginning of all the ways and works of God ad extra. We also see that in Barth’s view, the beginning of God’s work ad extra was primarily the divine determination of the existence of Jesus Christ. 50 Such conclusions are far from speculative; here too Barth derives his view from the witness of holy scripture. Barth takes seriously that Jesus Christ was the revelation of God’s ‘mystery hidden for ages’ and that in him God eventuated God’s eternal will (Eph. 3:9–11) – namely, ‘to gather up all things in him [Jesus Christ], things in heaven and things on earth’ (Eph. 1:9–10). In his eternal election to be God in this way, God determined that Jesus Christ ‘might come to have first place in everything’. And in God’s good pleasure, God willed that Jesus Christ would be this One as the ‘firstborn from the dead’ (Col. 1:17–19). Hence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was not a mere

48 CD IV/1, p. 308.

49 CD II/2, p. 116.

50 CD II/2, p. 103.

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appendix to Christ’s atoning death; as one of God’s works ad extra, Jesus’ resurrection was always already grounded in God’s eternal act of election. Therefore, the answer to our question, Quo iure resurrectio Dei? is this: in Christ’s resurrection God activated and revealed Godself ad extra because God

eternally determined to do so. This is in fact our answer, but more can be said. The final component of our problematique now brings us to the question, Cur resurrectio Dei? To find our answer, we must further probe the insight contained in Barth’s doctrine of election.

in the

pre-temporal eternity of God, the eternal divine decision as such has as its object and

content the existence of

statement another of Barth’s crucial insights – namely, Jesus Christ was not only the

primary object but also the subject of God’s election. Jesus Christ the Son of God is both electing God and elected man. As such, God’s eternal act of election was an act of self-determination by which God determined to be God in relationship to the as yet uncreated world. In the words of Bruce McCormack, Barth concludes that

election is the [eternal] event in God’s life in which he assigns to himself the being he will have for all eternity. It is an act of Self-determination by means of which God chooses in Jesus Christ love and mercy for the human race and judgment (reprobation) for himself. 52

In other words, God’s self-determination to be ‘for the human race’ was not just instrumental or functional but first and foremost ontological. As Lord over his own aseity, God elected from eternity to be God ‘for us’. God is not simply Deus pro nobis; God is Deus pro nobis in se. 53 Since God in se is ‘essentially’ towards and for humanity, all that God did in Jesus Christ took place pro nobis. Therefore, in response to our question, Cur resurrectio Dei? we can answer that the resurrection was an event which took place ‘for us’. This insight does not conflict with but emerges from the New Testament itself: on numerous occasions the apostle Paul declares that Jesus Christ’s resurrection took place for us (2 Cor. 5:15; Rom. 4:25; 6:4; 7:4). Perhaps most pertinently, in Romans 8:29 Paul states that God in eternity determined (pr ω risen) to raised Christ from the dead that he might be the prwtó tokon – the ‘first born’ among us who are his ‘many brothers and sisters’. Jesus’ resurrection was an event pro nobis which was grounded in God’s eternal act of election. To conclude, we can add this insight to our understanding of the resurrection as the historicization of God’s eternal being. In the pre-temporal history of God’s own being God determined that God would give to Godself eternal space and time; this was fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ

the man Jesus of Nazareth’. 51 We must now add to this

We have already noted that for Barth, before ‘all created reality

51 CD II/2, p. 116.

52 Bruce L. McCormack, ‘Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology’, in John Webster, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 98.

53 Cf. Jn 3:16; 12:47; Eph. 1:5, 19; 2 Cor. 5:14.

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was nothing less than the eventuation of God’s eternal will to historicize God’s own eternal act of being the Father who is gracious to the Son in the unity of the Spirit.

For this reason, Barth sees the resurrection as the event which, rooted in God’s eternal election, ‘crowns and reveals [in time] the [eternal] obedience rendered by the Son, and the grace and mercy of the Father’. 54 As we have seen, this work of God was not ‘without correspondence to’ but rather the ‘logical final continuation of’ 55 God’s eternal triune being-in-act. But this was no arbitrary event. It did not take place without regard for humanity. On the contrary, it took place pro nobis. From all eternity, God willed to make his eternal ‘home among mortals’; before all created existence God chose that ‘He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God

himself will be with them

and they will see his face’ (Rev. 21:3). That is the work

of God’s eternal will which came to completion in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Barth’s words:

In the event of His resurrection from the dead, His being and action as very God

In

it He expressed Himself from without for us. In it He gave Himself to be seen

and understood and known as the saving, upholding, sustaining center of His circumference, as the salvation of all creation and therefore for us all. 56

and very man emerged from the concealment of His particular existence

The question of ‘Hegeling’

Before proceeding, it must be restated that this essay has not attempted to explain the chief material insights contained in Barth’s theology of the resurrection. 57 For Barth, the resurrection has first and foremost to do with humanity’s reconciliation to God:

In Jesus Christ man is exalted and appointed to the life for which God has set him free in the death of Jesus Christ. God has so to speak abandoned the sphere of His glory and man may now take this place. That is the Easter message, the goal of reconciliation, of man’s redemption. 58

54 CD IV/1, p. 334. Although the phrase ‘in time’ and the word ‘eternal’ do not appear in the text, they do not belie but rather illuminate Barth’s otherwise obscure meaning. I have added them for clarification in service of summarizing my exposition.

55 CD IV/1, p. 204.

56 Karl Barth, Chuch Dogmatics, vol. III, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, pt 1, trans. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961), p. 283.

57 For Barth, the resurrection is certainly more than this – but nothing less. For a more detailed treatment of the central focus of Barth’s doctrine of the resurrection, see Dawson, The Resurrection in Karl Barth, pp. 2, 33–63. According to Dawson, Barth’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, The Resurrection of the Dead, contains the basic insights upon which Barth built the entire sweep of his later, more developed doctrine of the resurrection.

58 Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, trans. G.T. Thompson (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), p. 121.

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This insight, which we have scarcely regarded, should not be eclipsed but rather augmented and vivified by the preceding observations. But however peripheral to the heart of Barth’s theology the above view might be, it must be admitted that it occasions not a few questions about Barth’s theology. Not the least of these is the extent to which Barth took some of his (at least formal) cues from the philosophical theology of G.W.F Hegel. Recent scholarship tends to minimize Barth’s relationship to Hegel. However, the present essay suggests a closer connection between Barth and Hegel, especially in light of Hegel’s treatment of the resurrection in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. 59 Therein, one happens upon an exposition of Christ’s resurrection whose formal contours not only resemble Barth’s; at times, the symmetry of pattern and configuration between Hegel’s argument and Barth’s seems uncanny. Like Barth, Hegel explains the resurrection as the historical fulfillment of God’s eternal being- in-act. Obviously an essay of this length cannot fully explore such a claim, but even a brief exposition of Hegel’s concepts of the Trinity and Jesus Christ’s resurrection sufficiently evinces a noteworthy degree of similitude. Much like Barth, Hegel was thoroughly arrested by God’s triunity. However, Hegel found the language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit childlike (kindlich) and figurative (bildlich) ‘representations’ (Vorstellungen) in need of philosophical translation. 60 As Peter Hodgson points out in his editorial introduction, Hegel believed that the Trinity could be most adequately grasped in ‘purely speculative, logical categories as the dialectic of unity, differentiation, and return’. 61 As such, Hegel used traditional triune language for the sake of convention; Hegel was mostly concerned to preserve (but logically reformulate) the relationships symbolized by the triune ‘persons’. For Hegel, the ‘Father’ is the universal, totalizing Idea. In distinction from the Father, the ‘Son’ is infinite particularity – God in God’s mode of appearance. The ‘Spirit’, as the sublation of the Father–Son distinction, is infinite singularity. In his lectures of 1827 and 1831, Hegel taught that the inner divine life consists in the eternal self-determined act of self-differentiation whereby the ‘Father’ as the ‘universal idea itself’ posits an ‘other’ in an eternal act of ‘primal division’. This ‘other’ is the ‘Son’ as infinite particularity, which ‘stands over against the universal’. This act of self-differentiation, writes Hegel, ‘is God’s entire idea in and for itself, so that these two determinations are also one and the same for each other, an identity, the One’. But, Hegel notes, there is more to God’s eternal act than just self-distinction; there is also ‘return’:

59 Dawson’s volume, The Resurrection in Karl Barth, is thorough but nowhere notes the correspondence between Barth’s doctrine of the resurrection and Hegel’s.

60 Frederick C. Beiser, Hegel (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 149.

61 G.W.F. Hegel, The Christian Religion: Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. 3, ed. Peter C. Hodgson (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press for the American Academy of Religion, 1979), p. 17.

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what posits itself [is] no

distinction at all; hence the one remains present to itself in the other. That this is

so is the Holy Spirit itself, or expressed in the mode of sensibility, it is eternal love: the Holy Spirit is eternal love. 62

In simpler terms, Hegel understands God’s triunity as God’s self-differentiation-in- unity. ‘The Father’ always at once posits the Son as an ‘other’. But the ‘Spirit’ always already sublates this act of self-differentiation in an eternal moment of ‘return’: 63

Eternal being-in-and-for-itself is what discloses itself, determines itself, divides itself, posits itself as what is differentiated from itself, but the difference is at the same time constantly sublated. 64

Hodgson notes that Hegel locates the possibility for God’s relating to the world in God’s eternal triune activity. On Hodgson’s reading, Hegel thinks that the triune activity ad extra reflects the triune activity ad intra. In other words, for Hegel the inner dialectic of the triune life is ‘outwardly reenacted in the “economic” or “worldly” Trinity – God’s relation to the world in creation, incarnation, reconciliation, and spiritual community [the Church]’. 65 In sum, for Hegel there is ‘a correspondence between (not an identity of) the immanent and economic Trinities’. 66 On the basis of Hegel’s Lectures, Hodgson’s reading seems on the mark; here especially Hegel emphasizes the correspondence between God’s eternal triune activity and the Christian representation of reconciliation:

In the other religions, God is still something other than what he reveals himself

God is the inner and the unknown; he is not as he appears to

consciousness. But precisely here [in the Christian religion it is maintained] [sic]: (a) that he appears, he reveals his own definition; (b) [that] [sic] precisely this appearing – implicitly of the universal, not in a fixed, finite determinate form but as subsumed, the transfigured divine world – is an appearing as he is. (God’s being is his action, his revelatory action.) [sic] 67

In an excerpt from one of his final lectures, Hegel more thoroughly explains the ‘history’ of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection:

[Jesus Christ’s] death is the testimony that humanity is in Christ even to the most

the reversal. The death of

God is infinite negation, and God maintains himself in death, so that this process is rather a putting to death of death, a resurrection into life. We are told that

this distinction [is] implicitly sublated

insofar as

to be

extreme point

But then at once there enters

62 Hegel, Lectures, p. 276.

63 Hegel, Lectures, p. 17.

64 Hegel, Lectures, p. 291.

65 Hegel, Lectures, p. 77.

66 Hegel, Lectures, p. 17.

67 Hegel, Lectures, p. 64.

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Christ himself appeared to his disciples again after his death, and that this was followed by his ascension and his sitting at the right hand of God. 68

‘This history’ Hegel concludes, is not a mysterious account of a god who is ‘something other than what he reveals himself to be’. 69 Rather, for Hegel, ‘This history is the same explication of the divine nature itself.’ 70 For this reason, Hegel explains Jesus’ death and resurrection as follows: ‘These are the moments with which we are here concerned and which establish that humanity has become conscious of the eternal history, the eternal movement, which God himself is.’ 71 To better understand his meaning, we may recall Hegel’s understanding of the Trinity. For Hegel, God has God’s eternal being in the Father’s (the universal idea itself) eternal act of simultaneously positing the Son (infinite particularity) as ‘other’ and sublating that distinction in the unity of the Spirit (absolute singularity) so that ‘the one remains present to itself in the other’. 72 In the history of reconciliation, God’s eternal intra-triune act is unchanged. For Hegel this is true for two reasons:

first, just as the ‘otherness’ of the Son is sublated in eternity, so is it sublated in time by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ: ‘ “To sacrifice” means to sublate the natural, to sublate otherness. It is said: “Christ has died for all.” This is not a single act but the eternal divine history: it is a moment in the nature of God himself; it has taken place in God himself.’ 73 Second, just as in God’s eternal being the Son’s ‘otherness’ is ‘at the same time constantly sublated’ 74 in the unity of Spirit, so also in time is Jesus Christ’s death ‘reversed’. For Hegel, Jesus’ resurrection is the historical correlate to an eternal movement in the divine being:

negation itself is

However, the process does not come to a halt at this point, rather,

a reversal takes place: God, that is to say, maintains himself in this process, and the latter is only the death of death. God rises again to life, and thus things are

concludes this history, which, as understood by

In the reconciliation of the world, God has died, God is dead

found in God

reversed. The resurrection

[believing] consciousness, is the explication of the divine nature itself. 75

For Hegel, Jesus’ resurrection is the telos of God’s reconciling the world to Godself. ‘This history’, we are told, explicates the ‘divine nature itself’ – namely, ‘the actus purus of the inner divine life, the process of differentiation and return contained

68 Hegel, Lectures, p. 371.

69 Hegel, Lectures, p. 64.

70 Hegel, Lectures, p. 371.

71 Hegel, Lectures, p. 327.

72 Hegel, Lectures, p. 276.

73 Hegel, Lectures, p. 328.

74 Hegel, Lectures, p. 291.

75 Hegel, Lectures, p. 324. Hegel notes that Jesus’ resurrection, followed by the glorification and ascension of Christ, concludes the history of reconciliation. However, since the resurrection is the sublation of Jesus’ death, Hegel sees it as prime. Jesus’ resurrection is conceived in connection with his ascension and glorification as the inchoative moment within one event.

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within the eternal idea’. 76 For Hegel, the resurrection is nothing less than the historical fulfillment of God’s eternal being. At this point, the symmetry of Barth’s and Hegel’s expositions is hardly worth belaboring. Said briefly, both Barth and Hegel think that the intra-triune relationship

between the Father, Son and Spirit was reiterated and expressed in the history of reconciliation. As the telos of Jesus’ history, the resurrection was for Barth and Hegel

first and

foremost in God Himself’ 77 – the concluding ‘explication of the divine nature itself’. 78

‘the historical fulfillment’ of a ‘movement and action which took place

Conclusion

The foregoing essay demonstrates (1) that Barth is able to conceptualize the resurrection as the historicization of God’s eternal being and (2) that such a view at least formally corresponds to the one taught by Hegel in the final lectures of his life. Naturally, this raises questions about Barth’s relationship to Hegel’s philosophical theology. As noted, current scholarship tends to minimize Barth’s relationship to Hegel’s theological philosophy. For example, in his article, ‘Barth und Hegel: zur Erkenntnis eines methodischen Verfahrens bei Barth’, Michael Welker argues that Barth’s serious interaction with Hegel’s thought was confined to the year 1929. 79 On this basis, Welker concludes that despite the similarity between their respective theologoumena, Barth’s theology must have developed quite independently of Hegel. But given the striking similarity between each respective author’s treatments of the resurrection, one may want to question Welker’s argument. On this note, one is especially reminded of a letter Barth wrote in September 1953:

As Christians we must have the freedom to let the most varied ways of thinking run through our heads. For example, I can entertain elements of Marxism

we are offered existentialism, and it too myself have a certain weakness for Hegel

I

without becoming a Marxist

Today

doubtless has important elements

and am always fond of doing a bit of ‘Hegeling’. 80

With Barth’s self-declared penchant in mind, one question to ask is, ‘Just how fond was Barth of “Hegeling”?’ Also, noting the most often cited source in Barth’s

76 Hegel, Lectures, p. 324.

77 CD IV/1, p. 304.

78 Hegel, Lectures, p. 324.

79 Michael Welker, ‘Barth und Hegel: zur Erkenntnis eines methodischen Verfahrens bei Barth’, Evangelische Theologie 43 (1983), pp. 307–28.

80 Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005), p. 387. Interestingly, this letter was written only a few months after Barth’s completion of CD IV/1. This volume, as seen throughout this essay, is where Barth’s view of the resurrection as the historical fulfillment of God’s being comes particularly to expression.

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chapter on Hegel in his book Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century compounds our curiosity. Judging by frequency of citation, Barth appears most familiar with Hegel’s Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion – the very place where (as we have just seen) Hegel gives his theology of the resurrection its sharpest focus. 81 For George Hunsinger, the relationship between Barth’s thought and Hegel’s is purely formal. Hunsinger has noted that Barth’s understanding of the relationship between nature and grace resembles a ‘Hegelian pattern’ (Aufhebung). However, Hunsinger qualifies this statement: ‘within [Barth’s] theology [the Hegelian pattern] is never used to assert or imply that nature is drawn into a kind of synthesis with grace, as if the end result of the miraculous transformation were a kind of monism’. 82 While Hunsinger is correct to stress the difference between the way Barth and Hegel conceive God’s freedom, the present essay suggests that the similitude of their respective theologoumena may transcend mere formality. Envisaging the resurrection as the historicization of God’s being implies some measure of ontological union between Creator and creation. On Barth’s part, this would not necessarily involve a Hegelian synthesis per se but perhaps a certain divine ontological accretion; the similitude of Barth’s view and Hegel’s is not so much in Barth’s divinization of history but rather in his historicization of the divine. Whatever the extent of Barth’s ‘Hegeling’, the present essay raises significant questions about Barth’s theological trajectory. For example, if the resurrection is the historical fulfillment of God’s eternal triune being-in-act, what is the consequent view of pre-Easter history? Must we not regard it as nothing less than the coming-to-fulfillment of God’s historicization? Also, if the resurrection was the historicization of God’s being, and all of history leading up to Easter was the coming-to-fulfillment of God’s historicization, what is the consequent view of history qua history? If Barth is right to say that Jesus’ resurrection was indeed the ‘the telos of the way which He has gone in the person and work, in the history of Jesus Christ’, 83 then must we not begin with this event? To understand the meaning and purpose of all other history, must we not look to the telos of his history – the history of him who from the foundation of the world was not only the ‘slaughtered Lamb’ (Rev. 13:8) but also the ‘firstborn of the dead’ (Rev. 1:5)? 84

81 See Karl Barth, Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century, trans. John Bowden and Brian Cozens, new edn (London: SCM Press, 2001), pp. 370–407.

82 Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth, p. 98.

83 CD IV/1, p. 345.

84 On the final page of God’s Being is in Becoming, p. 123, Eberhard Jüngel has made a similar suggestion after concluding his treatment of Barth’s doctrines of the Trinity and election. Jüngel concludes that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the victory in which ‘it was established through grace why there is something at all, and not rather nothing’. My thanks go to John Drury and Daniel Migliore for their invaluable comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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