‘Justification by Christ alone calls in question all systems and orders, and calls them in question because Jesus Christ alone is central and supreme in the one Church of God. In any true theological system, Justification is by reference to Christ alone, for conformity to Christ as the Truth of God for us is the one ultimate principle of unity.’ (Thomas Torrance)
In his gloss on the Scottish Confession of Faith, T.F. Torrance spends a good deal of time on the doctrine of justification. This is interesting, because as Karl Barth notes, ‘the doctrine of justification is never discussed in the Scots Confession,’ (The Theology of the Reformed Confessions, p. 130). What Torrance picks up on is the expression of the nature and consequences of the doctrine. We now will turn to the nature of the doctrine.
Evangelical, Catholic and Reformed: Doctrinal Essays on Barth and Related Themes by George Hunsinger, Eerdmans, 331 pp. $34.00
Evangelical, Catholic and Reformed has fast become one of my favourite collections of theological essays, for a couple of reasons. First, as you may have guessed from the title, the focus is on broad, ecumenical themes in a Barth-ian key, meaning that Barth is at the center of most of the various discussions. Hunsingers exposition of Barth in relation to these topics is masterful, and shows just how Barth can contribute to matters of ecumenical and catholic theology today, and this is no easy task. Second, the essays very rigorous (but quite readable). Hunsinger has a real familiarity and mastery of his sources and conversation partners, and reads them in a charitable but critical manner. Since there are a large number of essays, I won’t review each one, but focus on those that stood out to me. Continue reading
I want to sketch here how subordination within the Godhead might be thought of along the lines of kenosis; specifically, Karl Barth’s concept of kenosis. If this is sketch is correct, then to affirm subordination within the Godhead is simply a corollary of affirming kenosis. The questions will then remain if this concept of kenotic-subordination can be accepted on theological grounds, as well as whether or not there is reason to accept it over the older formulations.
One of the things I’ve picked up on in reading Barth and Torrance is that some of the most interesting aspects of their work lies in the areas where they parted ways. Perhaps the place where this departure is sharpest is on the issue of the subordination of the Son to the Father, and the implications this has for a doctrine of God as a whole (I’ve discussed the human aspect of Christ’s eternal obedience before here, and this has bearing on the topic at hand). What I find most striking, however, is the force with which both present their arguments and reasons – there are good and solid theological reasons for following either Barth or Torrance on this.
If you ask the average man on the street what a law of nature is, chances are you’re going to get a reply that’s not too dissimilar from what Nancy Cartwright calls the ‘facticity’ view – ‘the view that laws of nature describe facts about reality.’ (Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?) Cartwright describes this view as so deeply ingrained into the (presumably human) psyche that it doesn’t even have a name. It is simply The View. Comparing the laws of physics with biological laws, Cartwright notes: Continue reading
There is a common song that is sung in modern theology, a song with two main themes: (1) that Christ assumed a fallen human nature, and (2) Karl Barth is in large part to blame (or thank) for this. This song has become something of an orthodoxy in contemporary theology and has largely gone unquestioned. Torrance picked up this theme and ran with it, citing Gregory’s famous ‘the unassumed is the unhealed’ maxim every chance he got. I want to suggest in this post, however, that Barth did not, in fact argue that Christ assumed a fallen human nature (FHN), and that this fact placed on more coherent (as well as orthodox) grounds than Torrance as far as christology goes. Continue reading
‘Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development 1920-1953‘, by Shao Kai Tseng, IVP Academic, 319 pp. $31.20
One may be forgiven for a quizzical look upon reading the title of the volume under review, considering that no less a theologian than Karl Barth declared his theology to be of a supralapsarian type. Tseng is out to prove pretty much everyone, Barth included, wrong here, and his attempt is a valiant, scholarly and exceedingly well-documented one. Does he succeed? Well, to give a suitably Barthian answer: yes, and no.