Freedom to obey : the obedience of Christ as the reflection of the obedience of the Son in Karl Barth's 'Church dogmatics'
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This thesis argues that Barth’s asymmetrical structuring of the Trinity in I/1, his doctrine of election in volume II, his concept of the humanity of Christ as the imago Dei in III/2 and his account of the obedience of the Son being reflected in his incarnate life, as detailed in IV/1 and IV/2, are not just coherent but mutually reinforcing. The thesis demonstrates that Barth uses a nexus of crucial terms, including ‘correspondence’ [Entsprechung], ‘reflection’ [reflex/Abbildung] and ‘overflowing’ [Ueberstroemen], to express that God’s actions and relationships ad extra reveal who God is. The concept of ‘correspondence’, tentatively present in the first two volumes, gathers pace through III/2 and achieves full force in volume IV, where the obedience of Christ in IV/2 ‘reflects’ or ‘mirrors’ the obedience of the Son in IV/1. Crucially, the fact that the economic Trinity ‘reflects’ the immanent Trinity, or (differently stated) that the immanent Trinity ‘overflows’ into the economy, establishes a direction, an asymmetry, to the relationship of ‘correspondence’. In ch. II of the thesis we argue that the asymmetry developed in the doctrine of the Trinity in I/1 is the basis for this asymmetric correspondence. Barth describes the triune life as one of giving and receiving existence, suggesting a divine order with an irreversible direction, an asymmetric order. This is shown to be particularly evident in Barth’s defence of the filioque clause which enables him to claim that the Spirit is the one in whom the ruling Father and obedient Son are united ad intra. On this basis we argue, in ch. III, that, when Barth revises his doctrine of election, he comes to see it as the event of triune reflection: the Father, Son and Spirit electing to reflect who they are with a direction of determination, an asymmetry, which is irreversible. In this respect we argue against Bruce McCormack, who sees election as the event in which God elects triunity. In ch. IV we read Barth’s III/2 account of the humanity of Christ as the imago Die, as an attempt to demonstrate that God’s economy of salvation corresponds to who he is. This theme comes into full focus in the first two part-volumes of volume IV, explored here in ch. V. The obedience of Christ reflects, corresponds to, the obedience of the Son. There is obedience in God. This concept, which so mystifies Paul Molnar and Rowan Williams, is shown to be theologically consistent with a doctrine articulated by Barth some thirty years previously: his asymmetrically structured doctrine of the Trinity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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