Monday, April 17, 2006

Dialogue with Barth continued...

My friend, Mark T., posted this comment on the earlier "Catholic Dialogue with Barth" entry:

....I would add that a subordinate soteriological existentialism, in all of its sub-categories, depends entirely upon an utterly gratuitous participation in -- or a "living into"-- the soteriological objectivism found in Christ. Without such an incorporation-- in which we may truly say that the church is salvation in the world, but only because she has been realized or translated into all that is objectively true concerning the last Adam -- we run the risk of making soteriological existentialism man-centered and autonomous. That is why I suggested that the notes of the church -- i.e. her unicity, sanctity, catholicity and apostolicity-- ought somehow to find their origin in Christ. Otherwise the Church would possess these virtues in herself.

I've known Mark for sometime now, and I can honestly say that he connects the dots faster than nearly anyone else I've ever known. The best thing is that he is humble and would never admit this and probably feels a little self-conscious about me extolling him in public.

Yet Mark has answered, or has at least begun to answer, the previous question he raised when the whole Barth thread began, namely (to paraphrase, if not to augment his question) -- "How can a sufficient catholic ecclesiology be built on Barth's observation that no particular church can make good on a claim of institutional ultimacy?"

Accepting Barth's objectivist theology compels us to conceive of the Nicene notes (i.e., unicity, sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity) as already actualized realities in Christ. The irony of Mark's earlier question is that the particular church that would make the claim of institutional ultimacy would essentially be claiming the actualization of these realities in itself, rather than in Christ. Meanwhile the church that made no such claim, and as such admitted to a more sobering view of the current divisions within Christendom (along with its own culpability in contributing to these sad divisions), would actually be "living into" the realities, especially that of unicity, better and more consistently than the first.

It's one of those "already, not yet" tensions, but not conceived of in the "unBarthian" sense that views present reality as a state of imperfection/corruption and future reality as a state of perfection/incorruption (i.e., unacheivable in this lifetime, but pursued by the Church nonetheless as an "impossible possibility"). Incidentally, conceiving of the "already, not yet" tension in this way lies behind the failure of the modern ecumenical movement to achieve any semblance of visible unity. Rather, unity, not disunity, is what is "real" about the Church IN CHRIST, because in Christ unity is ETERNALLY real. What is "unreal" about the Church is disunity, for division and schism are destined to nothingness, and eternally speaking already do not exist . In this life schism, division, and disunity are but mere "possible impossibilities": possible to the degree that, in this life we fail to "live into" the reality of what we already are in Christ as the Body of Christ.

Until next time.


Mark said...

The fact that Anglicanism has not understood itself in terms of ecclesiatical ultimacy( and if it ever did, it's most fervent partisans would gaffaw uncontrollably )is one reason why I wish to remain an Anglican

The optimistic Barthian understanding of the "already, not yet" tension sounds very Pauline ( I'm thinking especially of what he wrote to the church at Ephesus ) The Church's failure to "live into" the objective reality that defines her as a new creation in Christ is anomalous to her existence-considered as a subordinate extension of the incarnation through grace. It is not as though the horrible reality of sin is being defined away in a Mary Baker Eddy sort of way. It is, rather, to see it as an act of pure negation with no ontological truth in the reality of Christ, and, by extension, in the Church which partakes of that reality. ( This is especially true, if we regard the nature of sin as a void. "The substance", however, "belongs to Christ" ).


Since Barth's soteriological objectivism maintains that Christ actualized the salvation of all men in himself, would it be correct to say that sin is something of an anomaly even for those who have not been incorporated into Christ?

Since whatever that is true about redemption is objectively found in Christ, it follows that Christ is THE elect man. But insofar as his death and resurrection actualized the salvation of every particular individual, does it follow that all men are elect? ( I ask this, in full awareness of the tension between soteriological objectivism and soteriological existentialism ).

This is good stuff, Dan. Thanks.


lexorandi2 said...

In answer to your first question, sin is not an anomaly, it is a contradiction. I'll be posting later on this. Meanwhile, enjoy the entry on Barth and election.