Friday, April 29, 2011

Barth I.1 §12.1-2

In this, the last section of I.1, Barth discusses the third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.  He approaches this section much like the previous sections, with two subsections: God the Redeemer, and the Eternal Holy Spirit. 

I found myself slogging through this section, getting bogged down again in the philosophical speculation about what must be true about God based (very loosely and derivatively) on the biblical witness. 

Important points: God the Creator has created the World.  God the Redeemer has come in the person of the Son.  Yet, how do we humans come to know this.  How do we come to faith in Jesus Christ as the redeemer.  Enter the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a third mode of being of God and the person through whom humans can come to faith.  Barth refers to the Holy Spirit as a special element in revelation.  He writes:
"This special element in revelation is undoubtedly identical with what the New Testament calls the Holy Spirit as the subjective side in the event of revelation." (CD I.1 §12.1 p. 449).  
Or more specifically:
"when Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as an element in revelation we are dealing with an ability or capability which is given to man as the addressee of revelation and which makes him a real recipient of revelation." (CD I.1 §12.1 p.456).
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the mode of God's being which instills in humans the capacity to receive the revelation of the Father and the Son.

In the second subsection, Barth discussed the eternality of the Holy Spirit.  Namely, God does not take on the character of the Holy Spirit only in revelation, but the Holy Spirit is God "antecedently in himself."  To discuss this, Barth makes the distinction between the immanent trinity (God in himself) and the economic trinity (God in his revelation).  For Barth, there cannot be a tension between these two.  God cannot be different "antecedently in himself" than he is "for us" in revelation.  What God is for us, God is "antecedently in himself." Thus, "antecedently in himself" the Holy Spirit is the mode of being in God as the love that flows between the the Father and the Son.

Here Barth weighs in on the filioque controversy.  Filioque, "and the Son," the type of controversy that just makes my eyes glaze over.  Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son, or just from the Father.  The Western Church went with the Father and the Son, whereas the Eastern Church preferred just the Father.  For Barth, the Eastern formulation, with the Holy Spirit proceeding just from the Father, is a matter of a tension between the immanent and economic trinities.  In the economic trinity the Holy Spirit clearly proceeds from the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit must be "antecedently in himself" what he is "for us" in revelation, so only the Western formulation is proper.

So, the Trinity: what to say?  The New Testament in its totality, I beleive, speaks of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, yet not three God's but one God, the God of Israel, none other than Yahweh.  So, three persons, one God.  Yet, the NT does not explain how this is possible, it does not speak about three persons in one essence (homoousios).  It does not speak about perichoresis or the mutual interpenetration of all three persons of the trinity such that all three persons of the trinity must participate fully in the actions of the others.  These are products of later philosophical speculation on what it means to speak of one God in three modes of being.  Are these speculations, and the conclusions which the orthodox church came to based on these speculations, necessary?  Are they the only way to work out the doctrine of God?  And if so, why so little concern with these questions in the text of the NT itself?  Just curious. 

Well, I.1 is finished.  On to I.2, which is significantly longer than I.1.  I am still enjoying Barth, although he frustrates me at times, as I am sure you can tell if you have been reading my posts.

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