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The Actuality of God1 Karl Barth in Conversation with Open Theism Bruce L.

McCormack Both classical and open theism have something important to say. Each has values that need to be preserved. Problem is: both sides occupy a shared ground on which no resolution of the debate is thinkable. This common ground would have to be abandoned if the values now contained in each model were to be brought into a single, unified conception. Barth represents this unified conception. I shall begin with a brief typology of understandings of the being of God in relation to the world. This will help make clear why it is that open theism is far too indebted to classical theism to offer effective resistance to it. Ill then show why Barths doctrine of God cannot be found within this spectrum but rather constitutes a break with it and is thus able to take up the theological values resident in both models into a coherent whole. BRIEF TYPOLOGY OF TREATMENTS OF THE BEING OF GOD IN RELATION TO THE WORLD Open theism can be located on a spectrum of beliefs about God and the world which range from classical theism on the one side to process theism on the other. Because these appear on opposite ends of the spectrum one might think the classical and process theisms could scarcely be more different. This impression misleads, for the two positions in fact belong to one and the same spectrum of thought. Classical theism: Gods being is understood as complete within itself, wholly other and characterized by static or unchanging perfection. All that God is, he is changelessly. Nothing happens that can affect God on the level of his being. Process theism by contrast understands the being of God and the being of the world to stand in a relationship of continuity. The being of God grows, develops, changes, and evolves through the history of his interactions with the world. God and world are necessarily related. Gods will is not thought of as fully formed before the creation of the world. In spite of these differences, what classical and process theism have in common is far more important: namely, the belief that the order of knowing runs in the opposite direction to the order of being. That is to say, though the being of God is above and prior to the being of all else that exists, our knowledge of God proceeds from a priori knowledge of some aspect of aspects of creaturely reality (and therefore the knowledge of God follows knowledge of the self or the world in the order of knowing). The consequence of this methodological decision is that the way taken to knowledge of God controls and determines the kind of God-concept one is able to generate; thus, epistemology controls and determines the divine ontology. It follows that both conceptions are the result of an exercise in metaphysical thinking in the strict sense of the term. Whether one seeks to liken God to some aspect of creaturely existence (process theism) or to deny to God any similarity to created reality (classical theism) does not matter at the end of the day. Both are exercises in metaphysics because both take up a starting point from below in some creaturely reality. This means, third, that both claim to know what God is before a consideration of Christology. At the point at which Christology is finally introduced, its central terms (deity, the divine nature, or person) have already been filled with content. Fourth and finally, both conceptions rely heavily on an independent doctrine of creation. Classical theism buttressed by creation ex nihilo and process theism by a return to the ancient idea found in the pagans of divine emanation. Open theism belongs to this spectrum of opinions but is far closer to classical theism than to process. Barths doctrine of God on the other hand is not to be found anywhere on this spectrum for the simple reason
The original article, Ch. 10 in Engaging the Doctrine of God (Baker: 2008) is a full 58 pages long. This 13 page summary is condensed strictly for convenience sake as an aid online discussion. Footnotes are not included. For the most part the original wording/phrases are maintained. The outline headings are the original. Furthermore, the original paragraph ordering and indentation is observed while each paragraph is summarized by simply restating the key thought(s) or sentence(s) from each paragraph. So for every paragraph in the original, you have a paragraph here summarizing its key thought.
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that he rejects the metaphysics embodied in all of the approaches belonging to it. His is a strictly Christological approach, which means that it constitutes a radical departure from all other existing options. OPEN THEISM Introduction Paragraph summarizing the origins of the debate over open theism. Underneath it all, open theism is a rather narrowly defined project. What open theist theologians are interested in is two things: the will of God as it relates to free rational creatures and the question of what God knows and when he knows it. So open theism has to do above all with the doctrines of providence and divine foreknowledge. It is to a large degree parasitic upon classical theism in that it draws its life from the negations it registers over against aspects of the latter. The basic intuition is that the future is open not only to us but also for Godopen because God has chosen not to control the decisions made by free rational creatures. Open theists hold that an exhaustive divine foreknowledge is logically incompatible with human freedom, and so they conclude that Gods foreknowledge is limited. What is most basic to open theism is not its position with regard to divine foreknowledge but rather its take on the divine concursus. The doctrine of consursus, or cooperation, is that aspect of the doctrine of providence which addresses itself to the question of how God interacts with rational creatures in order to ensure that his will is done. The result is a view of Gods providence which is quite similar to that found among process theists; Gods will is a work-in-progress. Other implications include the rejection of divine timelessness and impassibility. But this is sufficient introduction. What we need to do now is examine how open theists seek to support these conclusions with arguments drawn from the spheres of biblical studies, systematic theology, and philosophy. The Biblical Case for Open Theism Hermeneutical Considerations To the extent that the NT comes into play for open theists, above all the Johannine affirmation that God is love is made decisive. The incarnation does not have a constitutive role to play in defining God. Virtually the whole of open theism is drawn from the OT before the incarnation comes into view. Of all controlling metaphors open theists depend upon methodologically, the most important is love. Richard Rice takes it as self-evident that the definition of the word love which he believes appropriate for describing human-human relations must apply with equal validity to the God-human relation. This move is made without any sense that an illegitimate anthropopathizing of God might be taking place. Is it really true that the reciprocal relations proper to the human experience of love may be taken to be characteristic of the divine love as well? I think open theists are altogether wrong to make this assumption. The Johannine axiom provides open theists with (1) a criterion of selectivity for identifying passages in the OT which are supportive of their claims and (2) a hermeneutical key for ordering these passages to other problematic passages. The Old Testament Passages which set forth a strong view of immutability are treated as a problem to be solved while the fixed pole (that which is thought to lay closest to divine reality) are those passages which speak of God changing his mind or repenting of a decision already made. Passages which describe God as changing his mind, etc. are not few either and are treated by classical theists as the problem to be solved, regarding the immutability passages as the fixed pole. Some degree of harmonization is possible starting from either pole of this debate. But there is a real question here of whether it is really necessary to seek any final harmonization between these sets of OT passages. The choice of either is predicated finally upon a presupposed metaphysical construct (in the one case, the metaphysics of pure being and, in the other case, the metaphysics of love). Perhaps it would be better to allow such passages to simply stand in an unresolved tensionin the realization that perceptions of Gods intentions would quite naturally undergo a certain amount of growth and 2

development until the definitive had come in the form of Gods Son. Such an understanding of growth and development in the reception of revelation will threaten only those who presuppose and understanding of biblical inspiration which would require that all biblical statements ultimately find their source in a single Author. The problem is that both sides (classical and open theists) function hermeneutically and exegetically in a way that would truly be necessary only on the supposition that the Bible ultimately has but a single Author. If both sides would cease treating either set of passages as a fixed pole, the passages could stand in a tension and our attention would shift to Gods self-revelation in Jesus Christ, wherein alone his ultimate intentions are made known. Where open theists are concerned, failure to make such a decision must inevitably mean that it is not Christology which grounds their understanding of the divine reality but a metaphysics of love. This is why it is that open theists generally treat the incarnation as an afterthought. The New Testament Open theists are not at all willing to concede that the NT differs from the OT in offering no support for their dynamic portrait of God. The concept of the incarnation is passed over rather quickly by Rice. He ends in a single thought: Jesus is the definitive revelation of God. True, but this invites the question of how this is true. Nothing is said by Rice that moves beyond the realm of divine experiences of dispositional states (i.e., the psychological realm) and faculties (i.e., volition). The Subject of these dispositional states remains hidden in the background so that its impossible to guess what ontological significance these experiences might have. One might have thought that Rices treatment of the death of Jesus would bring us closer to an understanding of God. God was in Christ enduring the agony that Christ underwent. But how? By being grieved? By being an empathetic presence to the human Jesus in his suffering? Or by being himself the Subject of those human sufferings? This is what finally happens with Rice. His exegesis is controlled by a hermeneutic which finds its ground in the metaphysics of love which he seeks to validate by reference to 1Jo 4.8. Theological Considerations In their effort to limit divine foreknowledge, open theists assault two elements central to classical theism: impassibility and timelessness. One might have thought that a well-ordered Christology and a doctrine of the Trinity commensurate with it would be necessary for achieving these ends. Christology plays little to no role in open theisms programmatic volume, The Openness of God. When they do treat Christology in subsequent volumes, the model adopted is a popularized version of the kenotic Christologies of mid-19th century German. I want to begin with the subject of Christology (and Trinity) because it seems to me that what is said about Christology and the Trinity by open theists reveals commitments which threaten to unravel the open theistic project, commitments which show they have not really broken free of classical theism at all. CHRISTOLOGY Pinnock (OOG) suggests that in becoming flesh the logos underwent change. What kind of change? Surprisingly, after following Pinnock through his critique of classical theism, he was still committed to a fairly classical understanding of immutability and even of impassibility (cf. references to Pinnock on these). The effect of such statements (by Pinnock) would appear to be a restriction of divine suffering to an experience without significant for the divine being. What God is is something that is complete in itself, above and prior to any experience by God of suffering or pain. Some lightnot muchis shed on the question of Christology by Pinnock in Flame of Love, but at best we have an incomplete Christology. But it seems he is committed to some version of a kenotic Christology. Here Pinnock finds himself in a dilemma. On the one hand, his logic against classical theism presses him to affirm divine mutability in the strong sense of changeability on the level of his being. On the other hand, he needs to uphold the full divinity of Jesus. Boyd and Eddy offer an evangelical kenoticism (in Spectrum) in which Jesus only gave up the use of those attributes that would have conflicted with his human nature. 3

The truth is that kenotic Christology (ala Pinnock and Boyd and Eddy) leaves completely untouched the essentialism that made classical theism possible in the first place. Essentialistic are all ways of thinking which would treat the ontological otherness of God as something that can be defined and established by human beings without respect for the incarnate life of God and, therefore, as something complete in itself apart from and prior to all acts of God. Open theists merely replace one form of essentialism with another. At the end of the day, the choice between them will be an arbitrary one where it is made without respect for the concrete reality of the incarnate life of God. I regard the lack of an adequate Christologyi.e., one which gives comprehensive attention to the problem of the ontological constitution of the Mediatorto be the single biggest defect in open theism; one which threatens to undermine the entire scheme and render its justified protest against classical theism ineffectual. DIVINE PROVIDENCE (or, The Acts of God in History) The root of the open theistic doctrine of providence is to be found in the understanding of conversion shared by all members of the movement. They are self-styled Arminianseven consistent Arminians. But their radicality finally emerges in relation to the question of divine foreknowledge. How does God convert the sinner? Through an offer of the gospel of grace which the individual must freely accept. That such a conception of the workings of grace entails a conception of human sinfulness is clear. Pinnock affirms the Tridentine concept of a prevenient grace, which assists sinners to conversion if they assent and cooperate with it. This account of free will is the motor which drives the open theistic account of divine providence. The limits imposed on Gods use of power are self-imposed. God did not have to create at all, and having decided to create, God did not have to create free rational creatures. But the decision to do the latter is itself an act of selflimitation. Gods will is a world-in-progress, and on this point open theism is in agreement with process theology. Consistent with this view of the evolution of the will of God in history, open theists deny that the eternity of God is rightly thought of as timelessness. Notwithstanding the elements which open theism shares in common with process theology, however, the differences are significant. When we turn to the problem of Gods knowledge, however, we enter onto terrain on which the open theists find it much harder to defend their claim to orthodoxy. And it has to be said that the key argument advanced in support of their rejection of an exhaustive divine foreknowledge is strictly philosophical in nature. The Philosophical Case for the Rejection of an Exhaustive Foreknowledge At the heart of the argument against exhaustive foreknowledge is the claim that such knowledge is logically incompatible with genuine human freedom. The Achilles heel of this argument lies in the fact that it confuses certainty with necessity. As Bill Craig observes, certainty is a predicate of persons, of knowers. Necessity is (or is not) a predicate of the events known. Gods foreknowledge gives him certainty with regard to what will happen. Whether the events God knows with certainty take place necessarily or contingently is a function of the natural and historical conditions under which they take place. This argument seems to me to be irrefutable. Because this is so, the whole of the open theistic case for a new understanding of Gods knowledge seems to be in jeopardy. For in the event that Haskers philosophical argument fails, all that the open theists are left with are the OT passages touching on divine repentancepassages which are read in the light of a metaphysical conception of God grounded in observations made with respect to the requirements of love on the human plane. But now notice: it is not just the case against an exhaustive divine foreknowledge that is in jeopardy. Virtually the whole open theistic case against divine timelessness rests finally upon the claim that Gods knowledge is discursive. Because God experiences past, present and future successively, God finds things out as they happen. Here again the need for an adequate Christology is clear.

Final Assessment: Just How Orthodox is the Open Theistic Proposal? Open theistic doctrine on foreknowledge goes well beyond anything that traditional Arminianism would have been willing to grant. What counts as orthodox teaching is disputed. For most, it is the ancient creeds and conciliar decisions which are the most important. Where the doctrine of predestination/election is concerned, the early church was able to arrive at a fairly high degree of agreement as to the limits of orthodoxy. The Council of Orange decided not to come down firmly on either side (of the followers of the later Augustine and the semi-Augustinians) but sought instead to keep them together within the bounds of a single united church. Thus both unconditional election and a conditional election based upon Gods foreknowledge of who would believe and make proper use of the sacraments were upheld as orthodox. When the later Reformed churches made the Augustinian/Calvinist doctrine alone to be authoritative teaching, they were most certainly narrowing the limits of what might be regarded as orthodox by their own members. But other Protestant churches did not follow them in this. Thus the open theists are on solid ground, ecumenically speaking, where the evangelical Arminian elements in their program are concerned. The same cannot be said for their doctrine of divine foreknowledge. (Sidebar comments on Louis de Molina.) To the extent that evangelical Protestants are willing to recognize the Council of Orange as bearing at least some degree of ecclesial authority, Molinism must count as orthodox. This excludes open theists, who do what Molinists refused to do: deny to God an exhaustive foreknowledge of future contingents. Pinnock tries to define the orthodoxy of open theism by arguing that divine foreknowledge has never been made the subject of a church council. But the logic of such a view would make it impossible to test the orthodoxy of any proposal made since the Reformation. Provisional Conclusions What is valuable in the open theistic proposal is its critique of a putative divine impassibility and timelessnessthough the attempt made to ground that critique in a metaphysic that is every bit as essentialistic as that which funded classical theism has caused the critique to misfire at the decisive point. The thought of an exhaustive divine foreknowledge enjoys widespread ecclesial support and is not at all inconsistent with a christologically grounded doctrine of God. Karl Barths Doctrine of God Priliminary Observations The primary object of election is God himself. The content of Gods primal decision was his determination to be God in the covenant of grace and to be God in no other way. What makes this decision truly primal is that there is no other being of God standing in back of it, hidden in the shadows. The eternal event in which God chose to be God for us is, at the same time, the eternal event in which God gave (and continues to give) to himself his own beingand visa versa. So there are not two eternal events, one in which God gives being to himself and a second in which he enters into a relationship with the human race. These are one and the same event. This divine election stands at the root of Gods being or essence. This is the revolutionary insight set forth in Barths doctrine of election. The fundamental problem addressed by Barths doctrine of God was the same problem faced by classical metaphysics: How do you talk about God without talking about something else instead? But the answer Barth gave to this question was quite different from the classical one. Traditional metaphysics held that it is not possible to speak of God without first speaking of something else. The hope was that through a series of negations and a series of analogies one would eventually arrive at talk about God that was really talk about God and not just an endless chain of self-referential statements. Barth held that on the basis of metaphysical reasoning, such a hope was bound to end in disappointment. If talk of God is really to be possible then it must begin and end with the event in which God gives himself his own beingas Jesus Christ. 5

Barth was not always consistent which the vision I have set forth. His doctrine of election in CD II/2 has required some smoothing out of his own reflections in the direction of what I believe to be his best and most important insights. In any event, in the second half of the next section I will show why Barths mature Christology as found in CD IV/1 succeeds in its challenge to classical theism in relation to impassibility and timelessness where the challenge of open theism failed. In a third section I will deal with Barths treatment of the divine concursus. My goal here will be to think through Barths understanding of how Gods will is made effective in relation to rational creatures possessed of a relative autonomy. The Eternal Being of God GODS BEING AS ACTUS PURUS ET SINGULARIS There is a tension that cuts through the heart of Barths treatment of the being or essence of God in CD II/1. Barth writes When we ask questions about Gods being we cannot leave the sphere of his actions and working as it is revealed to us in his works. But in the next sentence, he does precisely what we must not dohe leaves the sphere of Gods actions: He is the same even in himself, even before and after and over his works, and without them. How Barth could in any way know that God would be the same in himself without his works without resorting to a form of metaphysical essentialism is anything but clear. Still, in the first statement we catch sight of a possible line of thought which will achieve all that open theists hoped to achievewithout the problems that attend their efforts. Barth believes that what God is can be known, for the following reason: For classical theology, the essence of God had been universally regarded as unknowable, but this commitment was not without its problems. On the one hand, classical theists wanted to say that God would have been the same in himself without his worksa claim that would make sense only if it could be known what God is in himself. On the other hand, they wanted they wanted to say what God is essentially is unknowable. Barth wants to overcome this ambivalence: What God is as God, the divine individuality and characteristics, the essentia or essence of God, is something which we shall encounter either at the place where God deals with us a Lord and Savior, or not at all. When Barth speaks of God as being-in-act, he is not speaking of a being in the act of a dynamic relationality that is the immanent Trinity in and for itself without regard for Gods works, Gods being-in-act is, rather his being in a most concrete an definite act in history. It is his being, as Barth puts it, in the act of his revelation. To its very deepest depths, Gods Godhead consists in the fat that it is an eventnot any event, not events in general, but the event of his action, in which we have a share in Gods revelation. Barth explains the significance of this claim by means of the concept of Gods being as actus purus. God is indeed pure act. But we must be very careful, when we say this, not to assume that we can know what is meant on the basis of what actuality means elsewhere. Gods being-in-act is a being in a particular eventan event whose singularity consists in the fact that its basis is different from all other events in history. No other being exists absolutely in its act. No other being is absolutely its own conscious, willed and executed decision. The eternal act in which God determines to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ and the act in time in which this eternal act reaches its (provisional) goal are a singular act, an act utterly unique in kind, God is what he is in this actwhich is not true of anyone or anything besides God. Barth does seem at times to contradict this where he speaks as if Gods trinity were something complete in itself, apart from and prior to the eternal act of self-determination to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ. But this is not a path he should have entered. Granted, to say that God would still be God without us is something that needs to be said by anyone desirous of honoring the divine freedom in Gods act of eternal self-determination. But if we wish to pass beyond such limit-language, if we think ourselves to know precisely what God would be had he not determined himself to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ, if we think ourselves to know how his being would have been constitute in the absence of his relation to us, then we have looked away from Gods being in the act of his self-revelation and have made ourselves guilty of thinking on the basis of some form of metaphysical essentialism. God might still have been triunethough what precise form that might have taken is impossible to say. 6

One of the consequences of the line of thought I am pursuing here is that what it means to be a divine person is something that can be known, if at all, only on the basis of Gods being in the act of his self-revelation. If we think that we can arrive at the satisfactory conception of divine personhood on the basis of a phenomenological consideration of personhood on the human plane, we are deluding ourselves. The real person is not man but God. It is not God who is a person by extension but we. It follows, second, that we can know what is meant by the statement God is love only when we have before us the divine person and not human persons. God is love does not mean simply that God is well disposed toward us, that God has strong feelings of affection for us, and so forth. God is love is a statement which describes the nature and meaning of the act in which God gives himself his own being. The act in which God gives to himself his own being is an act of love. When Barth speaks of an overflow of Gods love in his turning toward us, he is not speaking of a secondary act, an act which merely expresses Gods true being. He is speaking of what God is essentially. It implies so to speak an overflow of his essence that he turns to us. We must certainly regard this overflow as itself matching his essence, belonging to his essence. The correction offered here to open theistic exegesis is obvious. Ironically, the open theists would really like to be in a position to say what Barth says. They would like to say that love is the essence of God. On the basis of their metaphysical essentialism, however, they are only finally able to speak of dispositional states. Clearly, Barths christologically based divine ontology allows him to say much more. In sum, Gods being-in-act is his being in the eternal act of turning toward the human race in the covenant of grace, and as a direct consequence, it is his being in history as incarnate Lord and outpoured Spirit as the completion of this eternal act. Barths actualist ontology is not philosophical in nature; it is strictly theological. It remains only to say a brief word with regard to what Barth adds to this line of reflection in CD II/2, where Barth introduces a critical correction into his earlier doctrine of the Trinity on the basis of the line of reflection we have been following. The astonishing claim: Jesus Christ is the electing God. How can being Jesus Christ be the consequence of an eternal act if the One performing this action already is Jesus Christ? Logically the transformation of a Subject into another mode of being cannot be carried out by a Subject who already is that mode of being; otherwise no transformation has taken place at all. In truth, however, Barths claim will never be understood where we rest content with playing with the logic of Subject-object relations. What is happening here is quite simply a refinement of Barths earlier doctrine of the Trinity. Barths basic model of the Trinity was (and would remain) that of a Single Subject in three modes of being. One Subject three times, an eternal repetition in eternitythis is the basic structure of the triunity of God. God is the same Subject as Father and as eternal Son. And because God is the same Subject in both modalities it is the same Subject who makes the eternal decision to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ and who as a consequence is Jesus Christ. So whether we say that the Father is the electing God or the eternal Son is the electing God, we are really speaking of one and the same Subject. Why say Jesus Christ instead of the eternal Son? Because this eternal act of choosing to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ is the very act in which God constitutes himself as triune. The Second Person of the Trinity is not the eternal Son in abstraction from the humanity we would assume. He is Jesus. Any talk of the eternal Son in abstraction from the humanity to be assumed is an exercise in mythologizing: there is no such eternal Son and there never was. We are now ready to consider the implications of Barths mature Christology for his treatment of a putative divine timelessness and impassibility. THE ETERNAL BEING OF GOD IN THE LIGHT OF BARTHS MATURE CHRISTOLOGY (CH IV/1-3) Barths mature Christology consists in an actualizing of the two natures Christology of the Chalcedonian Formula. The justification for this actualizing is to be found in a faithful following through of the ontological implications of his doctrine of election. But such internal requirements should not prevent us from seeing that some adjustment of the formula would have been needed regardless, due to problems resident within the formula itself. The Chalcedonian Formula was written under a two-fold pressure: (1) Bishops were committed to affirm the notion of divine impassibility (as much as Arius was), and (2) they were just as committed to a soteriology of theosis. 7

The effect of the first commitment was to keep the divine and human natures as far apart as possible. Thus the sufferings of Jesus had to be restricted to the human nature. Later orthodox thinkers explained this separation by treating the person in whom both natures subsist (the Logos) as a kind of mediating principle. But if the Logos could perform this role, if the Logos could be distinguished conceptually from his divine nature that the former was thought to be capable of acting upon or with respect to the latter, then the Logos was being treated as an absolute metaphysical Subjectthat is, one without the qualities or predicates we associate with his divine nature. The truth, of course, is that the Logos would not be the Logos in the absence of his divine nature (qualities and predicates) and could not function as a Subject otherwise than as the Logos clothed in his divine nature. But the pressure created by the thought of impassibility was leading the orthodox into incoherence. Even Cyril was only able to point out the direction in which a real solution could be found with his talk of suffering impassibly. He was not able to arrive at the solution himself. What was right in this phrase was its first half. The Logos did indeed suffer. How could it be otherwise? If the human nature assumed by the Logos subsists in the Logos (i.e., has reality only to the extent that it is the nature of this Subject), then there is no other Subject to whom suffering might be assigned than the Logos. Not even Cyril was able to break free from the spell cast by the thought of impassibility. On the other side was the soteriological commitment. This pressure was opposite of the first. The effect here was to bring the two natures into the most intimate communion conceivable. No longer was the Logos treated as an absolute metaphysical Subject. It was precisely because the Logos was divine in nature and possessed the attributes of incorruptibility and immutability that the Logos was thought capable of infusing his life into the crucified Jesus. But now we need to take a final step. What made possible the incoherent use of the Chalcedonian Formula to defend impassibility in the first place was a third commitment: that to the Greek notion of substance. The word substance was meant to point to the whatness of a thing, that which made it to be what it is. The effect of the doctrine was to treat the whatness of a thing as something complete in itself without regard for its actual existence. This had the effect of making what a nature is to be something that is complete in itself apart from and prior to all the acts and relations which make up the lived existence of the individual in which this nature in instantiated in time. The most basic meaning of the word essence is (or should be) the self-identical element proper to a thing or person which perdures through all outward changes of circumstance and so forth. Controlled by the doctrine of substance, however, the essence of a divine person was not controlled by an eternal act, a decision for historical existence in time; rather, it was defined in abstraction from that decision and that history. If the problems resident in the nexus of ideas which made the Chalcedonian Formula possible in the first place are to be overcome without setting aside the theological values contained in that formula, then clearly a different set of ontological commitments are needed. And this is what Karl Barth sought to provide. The values resident in the formula are three in number. Chalcedon committed the church to (1) a single-Subject Christology, one in which both (2) the full divinity and (3) the full humanity of Christ could be upheld. As we have seen, it is the single-Subject Christology which is imperiled by a commitment to impassibility. Addressing this problem would mean replacing the doctrine of substance with a different understanding of essenceone that is both actualized and historicized. In the process, the thought of a divine timelessness and impassibility is rendered completely untenable. That is Barths contribution. For Barth, Jesus Christ is his history. He is the history set in motion by an eternal act of self-determination. This is what he is essentially. If Gods eternal act of self-determination is a determination for existence as a human being in time, then it is the eternal decisions itself which founds time. And if Gods being is, on the basis of this decision, a being-for-time, then clearly Gods being cannot be timeless. Time is not alien to the innermost being of God. The critique of impassibility requires a further step. Who, we might ask, is the Subject who suffers in Jesus?...What Barth has done is to insist that a single-Subject Christology such as Chalcedons cannot make this move (i.e., suppose the Logos to be an absolute metaphysical Subject who suffering in Christ without any ontological implications for his divine nature). There can be only one Subject of the human sufferings of Jesus. That the Logos suffers humanly goes without saying. Suffering is made possible through the assumptio carnis. But 8

it is the Logos who suffers, for there is no other Subject. Even more important where the concept of impassibility is concerned, Barth has closed the gap between the Logos and his divine nature. If the Logos is the Subject of the human sufferings of Jesus, then suffering is an event which takes place within the divine lifewhich also means that the divine nature cannot be rightly defined in abstraction from the event. The divine nature can only be defined by this event. If God is immutably determined for suffering, then the concept of immutability has been cut loose from impassibility. THE WILL OF GOD AND DIVINE CAUSALITY IN BARTHS DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE (CH III/3). recall what was said earlier about foreknowledge and necessity. One can indeed say that God knows all that will happen in the world even before he creates the world and one can even say that God knows all that will happen precisely because he has willed all things (thus making foreknowledge to be dependent upon foreordination) and still not make all events to be necessary. As we have seen, foreknowledge does not, in and of itself, necessitate anything. Granted, it does give to the One who foreknows certainty with regard to what is to come. But certainty is a predicate of persons. Necessity, on the other hand, is (or is not) a predicate of events. All of this is true on the level of a formal analysis of concepts at the very least. But for it also to be true materially, Gods way of ensuring that his eternal will is fulfilled in this world must leave room for the autonomy that is proper to the creature. If necessity is indeed a function of how events take place, then contingent events must truly be contingentwhich means that the autonomy of the human must be honored. So everything depends here on ones understanding of Gods providential activity. The open theists, I would suggest, have been looking in altogether the wrong direction by concentrating their attention almost exclusively on foreknowledge. What they should have been looking at more closely is the doctrine of providence. How is Gods eternal will made effective in this world? According to the Thomistic/Calvinisistc doctrine of providence, every event in history was specifically decreed by God before the world was made. Nothing falls outside the eternal will of God. And God knows how, Thomas maintained, to move the free choice of the human without suppressing or nullifying it. Judged by todays standards, Thomas was a compatibilist, that is, one who held that divine determination is fully compatible with human freedom My own view is that, in Thomas hands at least, compatibilism is indeed coherent. The decisive point, where a conversation between Barth and open theism is concerned, is that Barth did not follow Thomas or the later Calvinists in making the efficacy of Gods eternal will depend on a work that God does in human beings. He thoroughly revised the Thomistic/Calvinistic understanding of Gods providential activity so that the autonomy proper to the creature could be fully honored. And the consequence was that he was also in a position to show why God can have an exhaustive foreknowledge of future events that are truly contingent in nature. For Barth, no adequate solution to the problem of concursus can be had unless we keep in mind the content of Gods eternal will. The content of the eternal will of God is the covenant of grace made with all men and women in Jesus Christ. The eternal will of God is not all things considered as ends in themselves but all things only in their relation to the covenant. In other words, God does not specifically decree an earthquake here, a tsunami there, as particular events. God wills this world and its history as the context in which the covenant of grace is played out. In willing this world and its history, it goes without saying that God has willed the kind of world in which earthquakes and tsunamis take place. But it is in that sense only that God wills all things. How is Gods will made effective in this world? Barth makes it clear that we cannot completely avoid the concept of cause if we wish to speak of Gods activities in the world. But certain conditions have to be met if the term (condition) is to be used rightly of God. He names five such conditions. First, the term cause applied to God must not be regarded as the equivalent of a cause that is effective automatically. The free actions of personswhether divine or humancannot be conceived of as merely mechanical in nature. Second, if the term cause is to be employed correctly, care must be taken lest the idea should creep in that in God and the creature we have to do with two things.... The point here is simply that the knowledge of persons is quite different from the knowledge of things. In knowing things, the knower stands above the object to 9

be known as one who would master the object through knowledge of it. In knowing persons, this is impossible. If persons are to be known, they must reveal themselves. The third condition is the most important. If the term causa is to be applied legitimately, it must be clearly understood that it is not a master-concept to which both God and the creature are subject, nor is it a common denominator to which they may both be reduced. The problem of concursus cannot be understood in terms of the relationship between primary and secondary causality. For here the understanding of primary causality was built on a foundation laid in a knowledge of secondary causality, and the absolute difference between God and the human was not safeguarded. The fourth condition follows from the third. When the causal concept is introduced, it should not be either with the intention or the consequence that theology should be turned into philosophy at this point, projecting a kind of total scheme of things. The first four conditions were negative in character. The fifth has something positive to say: As the doctrine of concursusis expounded, there must be a clear connexion between the first article of the creed and the second. The first question cannot be, How does God act? But, rather, Who is the God who acts? And the answer to this question is: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Concursus, then, rightly understood, is the doctrine which seeks to explain how it is that God executes this (i.e., Gods will understood as the covenant of grace) will in time. And so Barth says, Therefore his causare consists, and consists only, in the fact that he bends their activity to the execution of his own will which is his will of grace, subordinating their operations to the specific operation which constitutes the history of the covenant of grace. What view of the divine concursus fulfills all five of these conditions? How is the eternal will of God made effective in this world in and through all creaturely occurrence? Barths answer is deceptively simply: God makes his will effective through Word and Spirit. The operation of God is his utterance to all creatures of the Word of God which has all the force and wisdom and goodness of his Holy Spirit. Or, to put it another way, the operation of God is his moving of all creatures by the force and wisdom and goodness which are his Holy Spirit. What this answer says is thatwe are to look to the one particular event in which alone the meaning of the whole is enacted, namely, the event of Gods self-revelation in Jesus Christ. But there is even more to this answer than appear here in the context of Barths treatment of concursus. Barth holds that the Holy Spirits work consists in awakening the individual to the truth that Christs work is already effective for him or her. That God works by Spirit refers to this work of awakening. But the work of the Spirit does not consist in a work done in the human. Granted, the effects of this work are indeed realized in the individual. But the Spirit does not need to perform a sort of divine surgery on a will which itself has been construed as an isolable element in human nature. What is required is imply that the Holy Spirit reveal Christ. What Barth sets forth in CD III/3 is a christologically grounded conception of divine providence. The effect of this grounding is to completely reorient the problem of concursus. From being a solution to a question arising in cosmology (the divine government of the world), it has now been rendered the reflex of a christologically grounded soteriology with a very definite content. What Barth has done is transfer the concept of irresistible grace out of the realm of the Holy Spirits work in calling, justifying, and regenerating the individual into the realm of Christs work. God does not subtract anything from the creature or add anything to it, but allows it to be just what it is in its creaturely essence. Given that a relative autonomy (i.e., an autonomy whose meaning and significance is everywhere relativized by Gods activity) is proper to the creature as such, the world of the Holy Spirit does nothing to change that. Rather the Spirit encounters individuals precisely in their freedom. Can, then, the grace of God in Christ be resisted? The traditional formulation of the problem would need to be revised in the light of Barths solution to the problem of concursus. What is beyond question is that the work of Christ is finished. In sum, the concern of the open theists to preserve and protect the relative autonomy proper to the creature has been upheld by Barth. But he has upheld it without surrendering an exhaustive divine foreknowledge. God knows all things because he wills all things: this much Barth shares with the tradition. But God wills all things only in relation to a covenant of grace which is made efficacious in and through all creaturely occurrence without detriment to the relative autonomy of human beings. This is not sleight of hand: it makes 10

eminent sense on the soil of a theological ontology which finds its ontic ground in election and noetic ground in Christology. DIVINE IMMUTABILITY, POWER, KNOWLEDGE, AND WILL IN CH II/1 At no point in his CD does Barth come closer to sharing the concerns of Pinnock than in his treatment of Gods holy mutability in CH II/1 where Barth refuses to allow talk of divine repentance in the Old Testament to be treated figuratively: It would befoolish to try to see in the alteration which is certainly contained in the idea of repentance only an alteration in man in his relation to God, but not an alteration in God and his relation to manit would not be a glorifying, but a blaspheming and finally a denial of God, to conceive of the being and essence of this self-consistent God as one which isself-limited to an inflexible immobility, thus depriving God of the capacity to alter his attitudes and actions. And yet this proximity to Pinnock is to be explained, in part at least, by the fact that Barth has not yet arrived at his most mature conception of the being and essence of God. Here and there he will speak of the becoming of God in history as something essential to God. But Barth can also speak in a quite different way, as though the constancy of God refers solely to his fidelity to purposes established in election, as though such fidelity is also a fidelity to himself but only because his purposes are somehow consistent with a being that is complete in itself above and prior to the decision which gives rise to those purposes established in his electing grace. It is very instructive to compare Barths understanding of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ in CD II/1 (a quite traditional reading of the Christ Hymn in which the divine Subject conceals himself in the form of a slave who is then revealed through exaltation) and his later view in IV/I where the divine self-humiliation clearly has ontological significance. No longer is holy mutability treated alongside the concept of an immutable vitality which remains complete in itself, so that the former has to be assigned to the attitudes and actions of God and the latter to his true being and essence. Now humiliation is made essential to the eternal Son. The tensions resident in Barths doctrine of God in II/1 are due to the fact that Christology does not yet control his theological ontology. It is for all of these reasons that Barth was never closer to Pinnock than he was in CH II/1. Pinnock too tried to distinguish an essential immutability from a mutability in relation to the world of human beings. Turning, then, to the concept of divine power found in CH II/1, much that is said there could still be said subsequent to Barths revision of his understanding of election. It is the being of God which defines power in him. Gods power is the omnipotence of grace and holiness, mercy and righteousness, patience and wisdom. The root meaning of omnipotence, for Barth is that God is able to do what he wills. But then the dialectic takes one more turn, this time in a less than helpful way. Barth describes Gods power as a power over everything that he actually wills or could will. He is concerned to uphold the freedom of God both in the sense of the independence of his being from the being of the works of his hands and in the sense of the sheer gratuity of Gods decisions to create, redeem, and so forth. Would that Barth had realized that he could have achieved these ends without the expedient of speaking of a surplus of power which passes beyond the limits of what God actually willed to do. In speaking not only of what God did but of what he could have done, Barth has trespassed against the very core of his methodological commitments. He has opened the door in speculation with regard to what God would have done, thereby looking away from the limits set for us by Gods self-revelation in Jesus Christ. None of this is necessary. Barth could have upheld the divine freedom simply by insisting that the eternal act of Self-determination in which God chose to be God in the covenant of grace and to be God in no other way is itself a free act. The residue of classical metaphysics had to be eliminated. The new doctrine of election in CD II/2 had to be effected and so the door be firmly closed against the possibility that election (and the work which God does on the basis of it) will be seen as simply one possibility among others available to a God whose omnipotence has been defined in abstraction from what he has actually done in Jesus Christ. When we turn finally to Barths treatment of knowledge and will in God, we find the same ambiguities which surrounded his treatment of immutability and power. On the one hand he can speak in ways which seem to limit the knowledge of God to that which God willed and that which, by willing its contrary, he rejected. On the 11

other hand, Barth can speak in ways that suggest that power is basic to both knowing and willing and that the more basic attribute do divine omnipotence is to be understood as Gods power to be himself, to be the Triune God whose being is securely established in itself above and prior to the eternal act in which God decides to create and redeem. First, on the side of an equation of knowing and willing with the essence of God, Barths tendency is to make divine willing the basis of divine beingso that Gods constancy is rooted in his will always to be that which he has willed. What surprises is that Barth does not take this seriously enough to reorder his treatment, for if constancy can be known only on the basis of the divine knowing and willing and if, as Barth surely intends, the order of being has to correspond to the order of knowing and vice versa, then surely constancy is a function of the divine knowing and willing, of the divine judgment and decision. So why then does Barth treat constancy (immutability) above and prior to knowing and willing? The answer has everything to do with the fact that there is an instability at the heart of Barths treatment of the being of God in CH II/1an instability which finds its root in the belief that to Gods essence there belongs both a necessary element and a contingent element. To define the essence of God in terms of both necessity and contingency, of immutability and mutability, of absoluteness and concreteness is to allow both elements in these pairs to be canceled out by the other: An essence that is contingent, mutable, and concrete is not and cannot be necessary, immutable, and absoluteunless God is necessary, immutable, and absolute precisely in his contingency, mutability and concreteness. Where the two are allowed to fall apart as polar elements, the result can be only incoherence. It is clear what led Barth into this predicament. He wanted to insist that God is God in his self-revelation in timea concern which had motivated him from the earliest days of his dialectical theology. But he also wanted to preserve in God a triunity that is complete in itself above and prior to the eternal act of self-determination in which God chose himself for the human race. The problem is that Barth cannot have it both ways. He has to choose: either necessity (so that power, knowledge, and will in God are limited by his necessary being) or freedom (so that Gods essence is whollynot primarilydetermined by that power and knowledge which find their root in an eternal act of divine will. It is this instability which allows Barth to say, second, that God knows himself and therefore he knows about us and all things. In this context Barths position on the Molinist controversy is explicable. He sides with the Thomists who held that Gods knowledge of what would have taken place had the space-time conditions in the world that God actually chose to create been otherwise is to be reduced simply to Gods free knowledge. My only comment on all of this is to point out that if Barth had taken seriously his claim that everything that God is and does must be understood as his free will, he would have realized that all divine knowledgeeven Gods knowledge of himselfought to be regarded as free. There is only one kind of divine knowing, the knowing that is rooted in the eternal act of free self-determination in which God gives to himself his own being. It is a reflection of the confusions which lie at the heart of Barths doctrine in CH II/1 that he did not take this step. Still, Barth does anticipate a more mature perspective. In any event, which is most significant where a conversation with open theism is concerned is that an exhaustive divine foreknowledge is, for Barth, a necessary consequence of the fact that God wills all things and that what God wills he knowsand knew it before anything that was made had been made. It is not that God knows everything because it is, but that it is because he knows it. Conclusion In this essay, I have tried to do two things. First, I have tried to show that a christologically grounded doctrine of God will accomplish all that is important and legitimate in the open theistic program, namely, the substitution of the living God of the Bible for a timeless, impassible deity. The attack on an exhaustive divine foreknowledge is clumsy at best: everything that the open theists wanted to achieve with it could have been achieved by a different route. Second, I have tried to show that a thoroughgoing Christological grounding of the doctrine of God is something that could emerge in Barths thinking only after his revision of election in CD II/2. Therefore, those who would make exclusive and uncritical use of CD II/1 in their efforts to elaborate Barths doctrine of God fail to see that his doctrine of election had ontological implications which brought Barths thinking 12

into conflict with elements of his exposition of that doctrine in II/1. The doctrine of God that is capable of addressing all of the valid concerns of the open theists is a doctrine he never elaborated directly. It is a postmetaphysical doctrine which must be teased out of his mature Christology in CD IV/1 and following. Only one task remains. One thread was left dangling. I said earlier that there is a discernible progress in the comprehension of revelation as we move from the Old T to the New Ta progress which both the defenders of classical theism and the defenders of open theism either miss or ignore in their efforts to make their preferred strand of Old T teaching be the basis for a metaphysical construction. The progress in comprehension which I have in mind has everything to do with the concept of election. Election in the Old T is a wholly this-worldly, historical activity. In the New T however the concept of election is no longer simply historical. It has now become tied to the idea of predestinationan activity of God which took place before the foundations of the worldand which election is tied to Christ. If Jesus is God, if Gods salvific purposes could be fulfilled only by Gods own appearance in history as a human being, then it becomes necessary to locate the history of Israels elect ion (and the dialectic of divine mercy and wrath to which it gave rise) within a larger narrative whose starting point and telos transcend time and thereby to modify the received understanding of election found in the Old T. If should go without saying that any attempt to elaborate a Christian concept of election on the basis of the Old T alone is bound to fail. But it is also the case that a doctrine of God which chooses the immutability pole of the Old T witness over the mutability pole or vice versain order to construct a metaphysical understanding of Gods being which comports with the preferred strandwill be sub-Christian at best and probably not Christian at all. Abstract doctrines of God have had their day. It is time for evangelicals to take more seriously their affirmation of the deity of Jesus and being to think about God on a thoroughly christological basis.

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