Archive for Trinity

Webster on Theological Method

Posted in Theology with tags , , on October 26, 2010 by stephengardner

John Webster’s Holiness is, amongst other things, a defence of the trinitarian nature and ecclesial context of dogmatics. Theology as a practice belongs within the Church because it is an effect of the saving presence of God. He writes; ‘Revelation is the self-giving presence of the holy God which overthrows opposition to God, and, in reconciling, brings us into the light of the knowledge of God’ (Holiness, 14). This, being-brought-to-the-knowledge-of-God makes theology not only possible but an exercise in ‘holy reason.’ The effect of this saving knowledge of God is that human reason, along with the entire self, is renewed and redeemed in the gospel.

To speak in this way is to fly in the face of some deep intellectual and spiritual conventions of modern culture. Modernity has characteristically regarded reason as a ‘natural’ faculty — a standard, unvarying and foundational feature of humankind, a basic human capacity or skill. As a natural faculty, reason is, crucially, not involved in the drama of God’s saving work; it is not fallen, and so requires neither to be judged nor to be reconciled nor to be sanctified. Reason simply is;  it is humankind in its intellectual nature. Consequently, ‘natural’ reason has been regarded as ‘transcendent’ reason. (Holiness, 10)

This conception of reason as transcendent, extracts reason ‘from the economy of God’s dealings with his creatures (11). Rather, ‘Holy reason is eschatological reason, reason submitting to the process of the renewal of all things as sin and falsehood are set aside, idolatry is reproved, and the new creation is confessed with repentance and delight. And if what Paul calls the renewal of the mind (Rom. 12.2) is to be visible anywhere, it has to be in Christian theology, in which holy reason is summoned to address the great matter of God and of all things in God’ (12).

A stroll through Dogmatics: I.1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 18, 2010 by stephengardner

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.