Some Quotes and Comments on the Natures and Wills of Christ in Barth

This post had its origin as a Facebook comment, in the context of a discussion on the divine/human natures and wills in Christ (written very hastily, so I’ll be editing/supplementing this one for a little while):

The first point that should be noted is that Barth did *not* explicitly affirm monothelitism. In fact, he expressly condemned it, on page 158 of I.2 of his Church Dogmatics. Thus Paul Daffyd Jones:

‘…Barth criticizes monothelitism (MO from here on out) and offers a ringing endorsement of dyothelitism (DY). Though proponents of both MO and DY christologies could in principle appeal to the Definition of Chalcedon, Barth notes that ‘one can see the justification of those who, in the so-called MO controversy of the seventh century, defended and finally led to victory the claim that, with the true human nature of the God-human, there must not also be denied his true human will, different from the will of God, though never independent of it’ (I/2, p. 158). Barth’s measured rhetoric at this point ought not to distract: these words form a historical postscript to a section in which Barth thinks about Christ’s human volition in a way that eschews talk about the will as a ‘faculty’

and prefers a more radical affirmation of the ‘unity of act and being’ that characterizes Christ’s divine-human person.

Barth articulates this expansive DY during a discussion of Christ’s humanity as ‘flesh’. Having affirmed the coessentiality of Christ’s huamnity with ours, and having blocked adoptionism with remarks about Christ’s humanity as an individual ‘possibility’ that God actualizes, he launches a line of reflection that continues throughout the entire Dogmatics:

‘God Himself is actively present in the flesh. God Himself in person is the Subject of a real human being and acting. And just because God is the subject, so – and not otherwise – are this being and acting real. It is a real and true human being and acting…(I/2, p. 151)

Barth here adverts the understanding of the concurrence of divine and human action that pervades the Church Dogmatics II, III and IV…Divine action does not displace human action. Divine action grounds and enables human action, making that action coterminous with it, though still ontologically distinctive.’ (‘The Humanity of Christ’, p. 42-43)

And thus George Hunsinger:

‘Barth’s rejection of MO should not be neglected here. In line with the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Barth upheld the abiding distinction in Jesus Christ between his human and divine will. ‘The early Church knew what it was doing’, he wrote, ‘in the MO controversy when it distinguished and juxtaposed the divine and human wills in Jesus Christ’ (II/2, 605)

The assertion that Barth explicitly affirmed MO is without warrant.The divine and human wills in Christ concur, without the former displacing the latter.

This Barth grounds in the election of Jesus by the Eternal Son – in which the Word, unincarnated, elects Jesus. For Barth, the eternal Son elects Himself, in unity with the Father as an active subject of eternal predestination, and by doing so elects the man Jesus of Nazareth, and in doing so ‘has united himself with the man Jesus of Nazareth’ (Barth). This is the prolepsis of the Son – Hunsinger again:

‘The election of Jesus of Nazareth in and with the self-election of the eternal Son is what makes the whole God-Man Jesus Christ present as such (proleptically) at the eternal beginning of all things.

The word prolepsis means ‘anticipatory realization’ as opposed to simple ‘real anticipation’. Through the coinherence of simultaneity aand sequence in eternity, Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, is present at the beginning of all things. He is conceived as present by virtue of God’s eternal foreknowledge, in which something is true and real because it is divinely foreknown (not the reverse.)

Note especially that the idea here in Barth is prolepsis, not incarnadus. The claim at this point is not merely that the eternal Son ordained to become the incarnate one. The claim is rather the more radical one that in the mind of God the earthly Jesus is already present as such to the eternal Son and assumed into hypostatic union with him in pretemporal eternity.’ (Reading Barth With Charity’, p. 62-62)

Thus by virtue of the eternality of the hypostatic union, the obedience of the eternal Son is the obedience of Jesus of Nazareth:

‘What is materially decisive here is not the distinction of the operations of the two natures but rather their concurrence. Barth’s concern, after all, is not with the metaphysics of natures and energies but the common activity of the God-human seen in the new testament.

‘When the Son obeys the Father, he is executing the one divine will. And yet Barth insists that this obedience is a genuinely human decision, rendered by the one who in humility does what Adam did not. In his exegesis of the story of Gethsemane, Barth is in fact utterly disinterested in the competitive influence of a divine will in Jesus’ prayer (‘not my will, but yours done’, Luke 22:42). Instead he is concerned to show how this prayer shows that Jesus’ obedience is a ‘genuinely human decision’ and a ‘decision of obedience. He chooses, but he chooses that apart from which, being who He is, He could not choose anything else’ (C/D IV/1 p. 166) The obedience of the Son is therefore also a human obedience; his activity is commonly actualized.’ (Darren Sumner, ‘Obedience and Subordination in Trinitarian Theology’, in ‘Advancing Trinitarian Theology’, p. 142-143)

Thus, the divine and human wills are commonly actualized via the eterntality of the hypostatic union. The obedience of the Son is *also* a human obedience. With regard to the peccability – for Barth, it was sinful, after-the-fall flesh that the sinless Son assumed, not an abstract humanity but concrete, damned and lost flesh.

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