Barth and the Analogy of Being
Keith L. Johnson, Karl Barth and the Analogia entis, T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (London; T&T Clark, 2010).
Among the many outstanding qualities of this book, I want to highlight at the outset that I know of no more in-depth consideration of Przywara’s position by a Barth scholar – that alone makes the volume invaluable. What I would like to do now is give you an introduction to Johnson’s introduction, lifting up key themes, questions, and arguments that he will make. Further posts will dip in with more focus to various of these (as they catch my attention while reading the published version for the first time).
Johnson begins by sketching the scholarly literature around Barth’s alleged change of mind concerning the analogy of being. It is commonly held that Barth’s rabid rejection of the analogy of being softened as he aged and got deeper into his own constructive enterprise. One of the reasons that this view is held so widely, points out Johnson, is that “if accepted as an accurate portrayal of Barth’s views, it frees theologians to talk about the analogia entis without engaging Barth’s arguments against it or his alternative to it” (p. 8). Little seems to get people as excited as a Barth-sanctioned reason for marginalizing Barth!
For his own part, Johnson identifies two key questions: “(1) Did Barth’s rejection of the analogia entis result from a mistaken understanding of it? and (2) Did Barth, either in response to the realization that he had made a mistake or due to changes in his theology, withdraw his critique of the analogia entis and accept some form of it into his own theology” (p. 9)? In response to these questions, Johnson registers a resounding Nein! He makes two counter-claims (pp. 9-11):
First, I will argue that Barth’s rejection of Przywara’s analogia entis is not the result of a mistaken interpretation. That is to say, Barth understood the analogia entis accurately and he rejected it on grounds that are theologically coherent and justified.
[S]econd…while Barth never changed his mind about his rejection of Przywara’s analogia entis, he did change his response to the analogia entis in three ways. First, he drops his polemic against the analogia entis because he becomes convinced that the Roman Catholic description of it has changed…in part, [because of] insights that he had given them. Second, Barth acknowledges that his analogia fidei necessarily implies a participation in ‘being’…However, because his account of this ‘participation in being’ stands in line with the same distinctions that he used to justify his initial rejection of the analogia entis, it does not mark a change of mind about that rejection. Third, Barth’s view develops because, in his mature theology, he finally accepts that there is a relationship of ongoing continuity between God and humanity. His account of this divine-human continuity does not correspond to Roman Catholic accounts, however…[His account] does not mean that he has adopted a version of the analogy he initially rejected, but rather, it stands as the strongest possible rejection of such an analogy, because nothing at all like that analogy is conceivable on Barth’s terms. In short, Barth’s mature theology fulfils his early rejection of Przywara’s analogia entis rather than retreats from itThere you have it – some provocative claims, indeed! As I said, I will be posting more as I continue working through the book (in the little spare time I have while writing my dissertation…). I encourage you to go take a look at this volume yourself in the meantime.
P.S. Bold is mine; italics are Johnson.
P.P.S. For a quick, down-and-dirty glimpse of (some of) what you will encounter in this volume, I am happy to direct you to Johnson’s recent article in Modern Theology, “Reconsidering Barth’s Rejection of Przywara’s Analogia Entis” (26.4, 2010; 632-50).