A stroll through Dogmatics: I.1

A few of us from MTC have begun a Dogmatics reading group. The idea came from Andrew Errington and its a cracking one! The approach of the group is not to read every single word of the entire dogmatics, but to read key sections.

To help keep me on track I thought I would post what I’ve found to be the most stimulating section, fortnightly, until the group finishes (or I get finished!).

This week we read I.1 The Doctrine of the Word of God.

In all three modes of being God is the one God both in Himself and in relation to the world and man. But this one God is God three times in different ways, so different that it is only in this threefold difference that He is God, so different that this difference, this being in these three modes of being, is absolutely essential to Him, so different, then, that this difference is irremovable. Nor can there be any possibility that one of the modes of being might just as well be the other, e.g., that the Father might just as well be the Son or the Son the Spirit, nor that two of them or all three might coalesce and dissolve into one. In this case the modes of being would not be essential to the divine being. Because the threeness is grounded in the one essence of the revealed God; because in denying the threeness in the unity of God we should be referring at once to another God than the God revealed in Holy Scripture–for this very reason this threeness must be regarded as irremovable and the distinctiveness of the three modes of being must be regarded as ineffaceable.                          (Church Dogmatics I.1 360-361)

This comes at the end of an interesting section where Barth suggests the term ‘modes of being’ as a better category for understanding the distinctiveness within the trinity, rather than the traditional, ‘personhood’ language. Some have thought this sounds too much like modalism, but that is quite obviously not the case, as this section shows. But strikingly, Barth suggests, that the three modes of being in God are essential for Him to be God.

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2 Responses to “A stroll through Dogmatics: I.1”

  1. Thanks a good quote mate. I reckon that ‘modes of being’ is actually really helpful in distinguishing the Person as ‘subject’ rather than a psychological understanding of Personhood. Jesus Christ is one Person (read: subject or mode of being) with two natures. Especially interesting considering things like the fact that Christ has 2 wills. Anyway, a slight tangent – but nice quote!

    • stephengardner Says:

      Yeah, it’s interesting hey? I have to say my first vibe was that it sounded too much like Modalism, but I think it is helpful. Tell me more about your thoughts on the limits of Personhood language…

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