Barth, Millinerd, and the Analogia Entis

I wrote this as a comment for a friend's blog where this topic is under discussion. But, when I went to post the comment there, the system would only allow me 5000 characters. So, I'll throw it up here...

Coincidently, I'm not allowing comments on this post. Surf to the link above to discuss.


OK, Matt – here is something of a fuller accounting. I’m going to attempt to address each of your theses – although not all individually and not in your ordering – as well as one or two other things.

(1) You really ought to read Keith Johnson’s new book on this topic. It is excellent, and will undoubtedly become the standard treatment of this issue in Barth, and remain so for a long time. That said, I’m not recapitulating his arguments (per se) in what follows.

(2) Mention of the Nazi’s occurs in this context because it was the Nazis who were on Barth’s mind when he was doing much of his rejecting of natural theology. Thus, their mention does not fall under Godwin’s law; it is, rather, the conveyance of useful historical information. It is always good to be reminded of what effect ideas had in the past when thinking through them again in the present. As a historian, you know this.

(3) In response to your thesis #8, Mark 8.36.

(4) In response to your thesis #9, who needs a bridge? I’m perfectly happy to spoil the Egyptians, and I don’t see why I have to convince them to let me.

(5) In response to your theses #5-6, I couldn’t care less. This has to do with your comment about Barth in a Kantian world as well. Yes, Barth thought within a broadly Kantian framework, but as TFT Torrance has shown, Barth’s positive modes of thinking are profitable within the world of post-Einsteinian philosophy of science as well. In fine, the “Barthian” position does not depend on any particular philosophical framework, even if it has been attached to that framework in any given instance.

(6) In response to your these #10, neither is rejection of natural theology about a particular theological genius, unless you want to count either Jesus or Paul!

(7) In response to theses #1-4, as well as the comments about “proportion.”

(a) You say that the analogy of being does not include God within a larger framework, etc. However, I am at a loss as to how to conceive of proportion in that case, since proportion suggests (requires?) some sort of necessary (ontological?) relation between two things and – especially if we look to proportion in the world of music – an overarching framework within which it is actualized. Language of “infinitely greater” with reference to this proportion language suggests such a framework, since it is a comparative construction. In other words, the infinity under appeal here seems to be a quantitative one, rather than a qualitative one. You will recall that Barth spoke of an infinite difference between God and creation, but also that he called it an “infinite qualitative difference.”

(b) Your language about setting the stage for revelation plays right into this sort of thinking, because it implies that there is a greater framework. More specifically, the doctrine of creation is supposed to supply this broader context. To this end, you cite Colossians 1.16. However, to paraphrase one of my favorite movies of all time, “I’m not quite sure it means what you think it means.” When we look at this verse in context, we realize (and I know you know this) that the “him” by whom all things were created is none other than Jesus Christ. This passage, then, suggests not that creation serves as a framework in which to see Christ, but that Christ serves as a framework in which to see creation. Following upon this…

(8) …and in response to your thesis 7, the whole thing depends upon one’s acceptance or rejection of supralapsarianism. This is certainly a minority report in the tradition, but it is present (or at least foreshadowed), and it certainly builds on some significant pieces of the tradition (i.e., Augustine). But, even if you were to say that none of this counts, it wouldn’t bother me. I have no problem with the notion that a theological truth not previously seen can be revealed by the Holy Spirit on the basis of careful and humble engagement with Scripture, considered in light of its true scope. This is the real battleground. Consequently, and to return to thesis #8, I would contend that your analogy of being cannot be Christological in any meaningful way without accepting this doctrine. Furthermore, John 1, Ephesians 1, and Colossians 1 all make better sense on this reading, and those are just the self-evident passages.

Any sort of analogy that one sets up given such a doctrine would be a christological analogy (not an ontological one, in the first instance), and can therefore only be called an analogy of faith.

So, there you have it. Take the punch of my writing as my being brief and to the point, not argumentative!


- T

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