Friday, January 15, 2016

What Am I Reading? John Drury on “The Resurrected God”

John Drury is a friend of mine from Princeton Seminary who now teaches in the Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. You can surf over to check out his biography, CV, and even a clip of him lecturing. If my memory serves me, his was the last dissertation defense that I attended while at Princeton (besides my own, that is). John is also a friend of the blog. He participated in the 2009 KBBC, and he has an essay on Barth and Wesley in Karl Barth in Conversation

In any case, his dissertation has now transformed itself into a book and been published in Fortress Press’s Emerging Scholars series. Here is the full citation:

John L. Drury, The Resurrected God: Karl Barth’s Trinitarian Theology of Easter (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014).

I’ve been slowly working my way through Drury’s book in my spare time for the past few months, and when I finished it recently I wanted to make sure that I took a moment to share some of it with you all, gentle readers. This book is a careful close-reading of Barth’s account(s) of the resurrection in Church Dogmatics as organized around a twofold thesis: “my twofold thesis is that Barth (1) explicates the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection in terms of a unique Trinitarian grammar, and (2) grounds the event of Christ’s resurrection in the eternal triune being of God” (p. 10). The heart of the book, chapters three through five, explicate the resurrection’s trinitarian grammar and ground respectively in each of the part volumes of Church Dogmatics 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3.

Drury hews closely to his task of supplying a close reading, and so he does not use the body of his text to engage in debates with other secondary sources. Those are saved for relatively brief footnotes, but those footnotes where he does engage other readers are often valuable. One of the unique strengths of this volume, in my humble opinion, is the attention that Drury pays to the practical payoff of Barth’s doctrine of the resurrection. So to give you a taste of the book, I leave you with the following from pp. 117–19.
Barth’s Trinitarian theology of Christ’s arising accounts for the confidence with which Christians follow the risen Jesus in the power of his Spirit. Barth identifies this practical significance throughout §64.4. Three of these references are of special interest, because they appear at key turning points in Barth’s argument.

First, at the conclusion of his development of the Trinitarian grammar of Christ’s arising, Barth explains why it is necessary for him to press on to the ground of this event in God himself. It is necessary because otherwise we will likely treat this event as a myth rather than as the very pragmatics of God. . . . Barth indicates that the seriousness of our practice as disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit depends on understanding that the triune God is at work in this transitional event. Therefore, Barth’s Trinitarian theology of Christ’s arising is intended not solely as a theoretical explanation of the ontological basis of our practice, but as a witness to God’s practice. . . . This precedence of the divine praxis means that we may practically participate in it with confidence.

Second, at the conclusion of his discussion of the eternal mediation of the Spirit, Barth draws the practical conclusion that, since the triune God is in himself history-in-partnership, our history-in-partnership with the risen Christ in the power of the Spirit is our participation in Godself. . . . Because our partnership with him is our participation in him, we can walk with confidence. . . .

Third, at the conclusion of his discussion of the eternal majesty of the Son, Barth highlights the assurance that follows from the deity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work among us is trustworthy and true because he bears witness to the truth of God himself. . . . We may follow the Spirit’s direction confidently because the Spirit of the man Jesus is the very Spirit of God. Barth’s Trinitarian theology of Christ’s arising supports this confidence.
At the conclusion of his exposition of Barth’s doctrine of the resurrection, Drury returns to this issue of practical payoff and—in so doing—provides this nice sound bite: “The practical significance of Barth’s Trinitarian theology of Christ’s parousia, and in fact of his entire Trinitarian theology of Christ’s resurrection, is that the living Jesus Christ is with us. He is present and active, calling free human subjects to fellowship with him in the service of witness” (p. 172).

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