Friday, June 09, 2006

Truth as Encounter: Part 3


This is the last installment from Hunsinger's work on Karl Barth that I intend to post before beginning the "Justification and Catholicity in the Third Millennium" thread, and it contains the most important seed for our discussion. Readers take note that (according to Hunsinger) Barth grounds justification/sanctification in the objective moment of salvation and sees vocation as the primary locus under which to explicate a theology of the Christian life and experience.

'The existential moment of salvation (as established through the event of encounter) is, it is important to see, understood primarily in terms of vocation rather than justification or sanctification. Justification and sactification are primarily conceived, in Barth's theology, as the objective aspects of salvation to which vocation is the corresponding existential aspect. Thus as Barth moves into part 3 of volume 4 of Church Dogmatics, where vocation is discussed, a much more recurrent and prominent use of "in us" can be found than in parts 1 and 2, where justification and sanctification as they occur "in Christ" are the respective topics of discussion. Much earlier it was suggested that objectivism is understood as the external basis of personalism, and personalism as the internal basis or telos of objectivism. To this it may now be added that justification and sanctification, as Barth presents them, can be interpreted as the external basis of vocation, and vocation as the internal basis or telos of justification and sanctification. As the internal basis of the objective moment of salvation, vocation is thus understood as follows. The event of vocation takes place through an encounter established and effected by God. In this event the integrity of both the divine and the human partners is so carried through that the encounter is self-involving for each. The goal of vocation is conceived as fellowship (IV/3, 520-54), and its essence is conceived as witness (IV/3, 575). As the existential moment of salvation, vocation is thus a matter of encounter, integrity, mutual self-involvement, fellowship, and witness.'

--George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth, pp. 154-5.

7 comments:

John C. said...

So does Barth consider baptism to be an encounter, existentially speaking?

lexorandi2 said...

Yes, a self-involving one at that. It is well known that Barth towards the end of his career argued in favor of believers baptism.

Steve Blakemore said...

Again, Barth's brand of synergism leaves me confused. If vocation is the issue and the calling is universal to all (as Barth surely believed, didn't he) and reality is grounded in Christ's work ontologically, then how does he explain the nature of vocation. And how would he explain the capacity of some to refuse the vocation (I think he granted that was a possibility)?

Does the response come out of me and my resources? If so, does BArth hold together the doctrines of creation and redemption clearly enough to suggest to us how this can be so, without being some kind of Pleagianism (semi or quasi). Or does he not worry about such things? Or am I completely missing the point? Hep me (as we say in Mississippi) somebody.

lexorandi2 said...

Hi Steve,

Let me try to answer your first question.

Barth would ground vocation in the encounter with the word proclaimed, which encounter includes within itself (by virtue of Christ the Word) the very possibility of (but alas not the inevitibility of) an affirming response.

I'm not quite sure what you're asking in the second paragraph. Perhaps you can elaborate before I attempt an answer.

Take care,
Dan

Steve Blakemore said...

Here's what I am trying to ask. If one holds the orthodox position (at least from a Latin Christian perspective) that we are dead to God and the imago is so marred (at least) that we are incapable of response to God, how would Barth's theology explain the capacity of a person who is addressed in the proclamation to respond to God? Does he: 1.) conceive of falleness in different terms; 2.) hold that hearing the Gospel itself provides a capacity to respond; 3.) feel that sin could not efface the imago in us, since it is a gracious gift of God; 4.) countenance that the Incarnation itself is a healing that precedes any conversion and thus makes us capable of responding (this would be a Christocentric doctrine that would try to hold together the twin doctrines of creation in God's image and redemption of that image even before the new birth.

That may not be any clearer, but I am trying to understand the foundation of his claim that we can respond vocationally. Which I still don't like (maybe), since it places everything in terms of God's commanding us to come (maybe).

lexorandi2 said...

Hi Steve,

The short answer to your question is that the capacity for free human response completely depends on and is contained within the event of grace. For Barth it is both a miracle and a mystery.

That being said, there is something to be said on Barthian terms, I believe, for your #'s 2 and 4.

Take care,
Dan

John C. said...

I have read two of Barth's books, one an abridged version of Church Dogmatics, and it is news to me that he adopted believer's baptism.

"Calvin is a cataract . . . . I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin." -K. Barth