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Preview: God as the Mystery of Theology

God as the Mystery of Theology

A theological forum for reading and discussing the work of Eberhard Jüngel.

Updated: 2017-09-08T16:59:09.276-07:00


Jüngel on Jesus as the bread of life


Picture from
I’ve been reading an Eberhard Jüngel sermon on John 6:32-35, today, a text in which Christ speaks of himself as ‘the bread of life’ (found in volume 3 of Jüngel’s Predigten: Schmecken und Sehen, Radius 2003)

A few sound bites from the great theologian and preacher:
Glauben heißt in der Bibel oft nichts anderes als satt werden, an Leib und Seele satt werden
('Faith in the Bible often means nothing but being satisfied, in body and soul satisfied')
Auch die Kirche sollte sich davor hüten, das Brot des Lebens zu einem religiösen Pharmakon verkommen zu lassen
('... also the Church should be careful not to allow 'the Bread of Life' to become a religious medicinal cure [Pharmakon]')
Jesus Christus stillt den Hunger nach Leben so, dass nun erst recht der Lebensappetit erwacht
('Jesus Christ satisfies the hunger for life in such a way that then awakens the appetite for life')

He is the kind of preacher who educates his listeners almost without them knowing it. His biblical expositions are doused with liberal citations from Luther and wider literature without it sounding, at least to my ears, pompous. Others of us would claim it as a promotion to even be considered pompous!

Denkwürdiges Geheimnis: Festschrift for Eberhard Jüngel


Over at Faith & Theology, I’ve just posted a review of this book: Ingolf U. Dalferth, Johannes Fischer, and Hans-Peter Großhans (eds.), Denkwürdiges Geheimnis: Beiträge zur Gotteslehre: Festschrift für Eberhard Jüngel zum 70. Geburtstag (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 653 pp.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

In their foreword, the editors offer a succinct and acute summary of the central themes of Jüngel’s theology. More than any other theologian, Jüngel “placed God’s advent at the centre of his thought. Since God comes, we must speak of him and we can think him. Without God’s advent, there would be no faith, the Christian would have nothing to say, and Christian theology could not think any truth” (p. ix).

Although God comes always “from himself, to himself and through himself,” he nevertheless comes “to the world and to humans.” Indeed, God comes “as the mystery of the world by showing himself as the human God” (p. x). And this coming of God as the world’s mystery is by no means a “worldly necessity” – on the contrary, it is “more than necessary.” God’s coming “does not follow from any conditions inherent in the world, nor does it fulfil any preceding human needs” (p. x). In other words, God is neither merely possible nor necessary for the world – instead, he is actual, since he freely comes to the world. And because God comes to the world again and again, “we must always speak of him further, and we can never be done with thinking of him” (p. xi).

This has always been Jüngel’s central concern – to engage in the difficult business of thinking God; to think God as the coming one, the one who relates to the world in sheer freedom and actuality, and therefore the one of whom we can truly speak.

In honour of Jüngel, the editors have thus gathered a massive collection of 32 new essays, all centred on the theme of “God and the thinking of God” – since this is the central theme both of all theology and of Jüngel’s entire career (p. xii).



Mark Mattes has written a great little book, The Role of Justification in Contemporary Theology. In his chapter on Jüngel, he writes,

Theology, for Jüngel, is not primarily construction, as it often is presented today, but Nachdenken, following after the Triune God on the various paths that God has taken and takes. Its constructive work is wholly accountable to the divine journey as presented in the biblical narratives. Both the divine and the human are seen in terms of correspondence--not of mind to thing, but of words to realities which re-orient life and convey God's coming as transcending the opposition between presence and absence. The order of knowing then matches the order of being, being-as-arrival. The order of being is based upon concord, not dissonance that recognizes the irreconcilable disharmony that faith never accords with sight this side of the eschaton... In Jungel the Bultmannian paradox between history and eschatology is channeled into a Barthian analogy of faith, giving rise to the "analogy of advent."

Praying with Jüngel


I have recently wondered if the best place to start with Jüngel’s theology is his prayers. It is certainly the quickest way to see what makes his heart beat, and helps grasp his Trinitarian vision. At the end of his fourth volume of sermons (the new Radius series), Unterbrechungen, there is a collection of some of his most delightful and usually thoroughly Trinitarian prayers. Also, I’m rather pleased to have found an English translation of Jüngel's Trinitarian Prayers for Christian Worship (a pdf file) on the web. I think this file contains most of the prayers found at the end of Unterbrechungen.

My suggestion in a nutshell: To understand Jüngel is first to learn to pray with Jüngel.

Herr Gott, barmherziger Vater!
Wir danken Dir, dass Du allein unser Richter bist.
Das lässt uns hoffen.
Das gibt uns Mut.
Denn Du richtest uns mit Gerechtigkeit und mit Barmherzigkeit.
Herr erbarme Dich unser!

Lieber Herr Jesus Christus!
Dich loben wir, der Du Dich für uns hast richten lassen.
Du hast Dich für uns alle aus Liebe dahingegeben.
Das gibt uns Vertrauen.
Das macht uns frei.
Denn deine Liebe ist stark wie der Tod.
Deine Liebe befreit uns aus unserer Schuld
Und macht uns frei von den Mächten, denen wir verfallen sind.
Deine Liebe führt uns an die Seite Gottes des Vaters,
wo Du für uns eintrittst
und die Welt regierst mit Gnade und Barmherzigkeit.
Christe, erbarme Dich unser!

Komm, Heiliger Geist,
und rede mit uns, dass wir hellhörig werden in dieser schwerhörigen Welt.
Komm, Heiliger Geist,
und wecke uns auf aus den Alpträumen, die uns bedrücken.
Komm, Heiliger Geist,
und erneuere uns durch und durch,
dass wir in dieser gewalttätigen Welt zu Werkzeugen des Friedens und mitten im Unrecht zu Zeugen der Barmherzigkeit werden.

Jungel and Thomas


Hi all,

what do you make of Jungel's engagement of Thomas on analogy, especially in light of the new reading of Thomas from Burrell, Kerr, Rogers, et all? My initial reaction is that there is something remiss in Jungel's reading of Thomas. I think it's a neglect of the tertia pars and its controlling christological function, but I'd like to hear what others think.


A neglected blog


I apologize. I have neglected this blog and failed to put forth any energy in new posts. I hope this will change in the near future. I have been too busy to finish my Gottes Sein ist im Werden series, so hopefully I will get around to that soon.

Markus Barth: on demythologization


Bultmann’s program of demythologization is based on a peculiar definition of myth which baffles the reader at the same time by its simplicity and by its disregard of the involved history, development, and scholarly discussion of the myth. According to him, myth is present wherever the unworldly is spoken of in a worldly way, where one speaks of the gods in a human way, where the transcendental is objectivized. It seems as if the whole problem of myth were narrowed down to a specific way of thinking and speaking.

—Markus Barth, “Introduction to Demythologizing,” The Journal of Religion 37:3 (1957), 148.
I think it is worth pointing out that, while Markus Barth is correct in criticizing Bultmann’s limited rather unusual understanding of myth, what Barth demonstrates is precisely why Bultmann should be taken much more seriously than he is. Bultmann is not simply a pawn of the scientific Enlightenment; he is concerned about proper speech about God. Myth is improper because it confines and objectifies God. Myth, in other words, is for Bultmann what metaphysics is to theologians post-Karl Barth. This is why Jüngel is quite right to see a deep correlation between Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity and Bultmann’s program of demythologization: both are concerned about proper talk of God.

Some recent scholarship


Dear readers,

I would like to highlight some upcoming Jüngel scholarship from a friend of mine, Dr. Christopher J. Holmes of Providence Seminary in Manitoba.

Upcoming in the Toronto Journal of Theology is a translation of Jüngel's Die Ewigkeit des ewigen Lebens, which he has translated as The Eternality of Eternal Life.

As well, in the next issue of IJST (Oct. 06) his piece "The Glory of God in the Theology of Eberhard Jüngel" will appear.



Some theses on heresy


In his “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie” (presented in Tübingen, 1969/70), Eberhard Jüngel includes a series of 30 theses on heresy and superstition. Here’s a selection:
  • There is no heresy that does not ultimately give rise to christological defects or wrong christological decisions.
  • Heresies are attempts to enrich faith illegitimately.
  • The basic form of all heresies is addition.
  • The basic heresy of addition is a denial of the particula exculsiva “solus Christus” and an attack on the particulae exculsivae “sola gratia,” “sola fide” and “sola scriptura.”
  • The cause of all heresies is the inability (i.e. the unwillingness) to let God be heard in Jesus Christ.
  • Heresies are unholy.
  • A theology that does not say No to untruth cannot say Yes to truth.
  • A merely negative defence against heresies is itself heretical.
  • A mere recitation of confessions of Jesus Christ does not preserve theology from becoming heretical, but makes it all the more heretical. The mere recitation of confessions is christological superstition.
—Eberhard Jüngel, “Thesen zur Grundlegung der Christologie,” in Unterwegs zur Sache: Theologische Bemerkungen (Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1988), pp. 283-84.

God and the Crucified


"European Christianity hsa considered itself capable of thinking of God in his being as God without thinking of him simultaneously as the Crucified... the perfection of God required by the law of metaphysics forbade imagining God as suffering or even thinking of him together with one who was dead. This prohibition and its alleged reason are seen, however, from the perspective of the word of the cross, to be the basic aporia into which European theology has blundered" (GMW, 39).

This may be one of Jüngel's most crucial insights (pun intended!), but he gets it from the Lutheran tradition, so he can't claim it as coming to him ex nihilo. He also rightly qualifies the social and continental location of theology he is criticizing, not necessarily because the criticism can't be levied against theologies in other places, but because he is mostly in dialogue with the European theological tradition.

He goes on to state that "faith in the crucified One as true God and the theological consequences of this faith do not merge easily and without difficulty." You can say that again. This is a constant challenge, danger, aporia. Nevertheless, naming the aporia goes a long way towards addressing the issue. At least the lack is now known. It has been diagnosed.

Thinking God together with the crucified is what leads Jüngel to understand God as not simply "necessary" (the traditional metaphysical understanding of God in relation to the world), but rather as "more than necessary". This is a metaphysical way of saying what can be said more precisely and yet less clearly as "God is not God without humanity." Or at least God does not desire to come to Godself without humanity. If this saying confuses you, then see, you've already started not thinking of God together with the crucified, because isn't the crucified human?

Gott als Geheimnis der Welt, Marginalia, and Deus Caritas Est


Some of us read, admittedly, pretty dense theological prose. But even within the world of academic theology, Jüngel is considered a special case. I think Gott als Geheimnis ranks up there with Paul Ricoeur and a few others as a volume, and a writer, worth reading who, simply put, intimidates through their erudition.

So, I confess, I've been slow to post anything related to my reading of this book as a result of sheer terror.

I understand that one way to overcome writers block is to write about anything at related to the topic, simply to clear the air. In that spirit, I'll note to all interested readers that:

a) I purchased my copy of God as Mystery from an on-line seller through Amazon for $45. This was the cheapest copy I could find. The actual seller, Fullerstone Books, was selling it in store for $67. I'd be interested how much readers of this blog would be willing to pay for a copy.

b) My book has had two previous owners, Raymond Cannata, and W. Jim Neidhart, both of Randolph, NJ. So apparently two people in Randolph have either read or owned Jüngel.

c) My translation was done by Darrel Guder. I believe this is the only English translation. I wonder how Guder, then Director of of the Institute of Youth Ministries at Fuller, convinced folks that translating Jüngel counted as a "youth" ministry?

d) My used volume has that tacky paper around the outside to protect, and came with one used band-aid stuck inside.

e) I intend to read the book in tandem with a study of the Pope's Encyclical Deus Caritas Est with the longer view of writing a paper connecting the two as they relate to a practical issue in public theology. Ostensibly, Jüngel's book is an exposition of the statement from 1st John: "God is Love." We shall see.

Thanks for the invitation to participate in this dialogue, and I hope my contributions are, on the whole, salutary.

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I hope


I believe, therefore I hope. Faith necessarily becomes hope. For faith knows itself grounded in a history that carries the future in itself. The believer is certain that the final future which determines world history in its totality and each individual life-history within it, is a future already decided in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The believer has a foundation for hope, hope in his or her own resurrection from the dead and an eternal life in communion with God.

For faith, then, it is not a matter of some vague hope to which one clings because without it a miserable life would be only just endurable or perhaps could no longer be borne at all. Hope is hope in God and in his coming kingdom and as such grounded in the certainty of faith. The revelation of God which has already taken place (though in the form of a particular kind of hiddenness) promises and guarantees the surpassing of hope through the one who, now in glory, comes again to the world and reveals himself directly to the world and to all people. This is why the believer hopes for the Day of the Lord, which will no longer be limited by darkness and will bring everything to light. For in this day the saviour of the world will bring everything into his light and thus into the proper light. It will be a saving light, precisely because it will be the judgment which discloses what has been. I believe, therefore I hope that world history will not be the judge of the world, such that murderers would always triumph over their victims. Rather I hope that Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, in order to reveal himself again in this judgment as the one who calls sin by name and thus as the saviour who liberates the sinner from sin.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 15

GBB: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 17-27


God’s Being Is in Becoming: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 17-27: The vestigium trinitatis as a hermeneutical problemKey Concept: The revelation of God is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity.Summary: The question of vestigia trinitatis [vestiges of the Trinity] has exercised theologians throughout the history of the church. The attempt to reveal a connection between God’s being and created reality by finding trinitarian structures in nature raises the primary question of this chapter: What is the root of the doctrine of the Trinity? Vestigia present us with a hermeneutical problem by posing the more specific question: Is the root of the Trinity found in the created “trinities” that we see in nature, or is the root found elsewhere? More broadly speaking, is the doctrine of the Trinity based on something natural to this world or not? Barth offers two ways of understanding vestigia: either (1) as the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, or (2) as a mode of theological language which attempts to appropriately bring the triune God to speech. These two options will guide our overview of this section.A second question follows from the first: What is the capacity of language? Does language have the capacity to grasp revelation? Barth presupposes that human language is “shaped in form and content” by the creaturely conditions of this world, but he also recognizes that revelation is indeed brought to speech. In light of the actuality of human speech about revelation, Barth addresses the possibility of this reality. What makes speech about God’s revelation possible? Does language grasp revelation, or is it rather the fact that revelation grasps language?We are led, then, back to the question of vestigia trinitatis and the two options for interpretation: Either we understand God from things made, or we understand things made from God (Deum ex factis, sed ea, quae facta sunt, ex Deo); either creaturely realities form the basis for our doctrine of God, or God’s self-revelation enables expression in human speech; either the capacity to speak about God is natural to human language itself, or it is “ascribed to the language . . . from without.” Barth views the first option as the analogia entis and the latter as the analogia fidei. Insofar as vestigia determine our doctrine of God, we are dealing with a true analogia entis; but insofar as they are simply one way of expressing God’s triune self-revelation in human terms, they demonstrate the analogia fidei. In our two options, we are thus led to the heart of the problem of theological language.Whether or not Barth properly understands the analogia entis as espoused in the Catholic tradition (and Jüngel argues in God as the Mystery of the World, pp. 281-86, that Barth actually gets it wrong), we can still use the typology of analogia entis and analogia fidei to represent two opposing strands of theological thought: the former allows created reality to determine speech about God, while the latter allows God’s revelation to determine speech about God. Barth recognizes that analogy is not only necessary but indispensable to the theological expression of revelation, yet in his analysis of analogy he has one overarching rule which is normative for all theological language: God must come to speech as God. God must not be brought to speech as the conclusion to a logical proof, or as the infinite projection of the created “trinities” found in nature. God must come to speech as God. In order for this to happen, language must be “commandeered” by God’s revelation. Where language is commandeered by revelation, “there is a gain to language. The gain consists in the fact that God comes to speech[...]

On the Doctrine of Justification: A Series


My series on Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification is finished, although the topic itself is far from exhausted. The following are links to each individual post. I welcome comments and criticisms.

On the Doctrine of Justification: A Series

Part I: Introduction to the doctrine of justification in the theology of Eberhard Jüngel

Part II: Solus Christus

Part III: Sola gratia

Part IV: Solo verbo

Part V: Sola fide


Jüngel, Eberhard. God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1983).

—. Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, trans. Jeffrey F. Cayzer (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 2001).

Recommended Reading:

—. The Freedom of a Christian: Luther's Significance for Contemporary Theology, trans. Roy A. Harrisville (Minneapolis: Augsburg, ET 1988).

—. "On the Doctrine of Justification" in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 1:1 (1999), pp. 24-52.

—. Theological Essays II, trans. J. B. Webster and A. Neufeldt-Fast (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1994).

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part V: Sola Fide


Part V: Sola fideIn our discussion of the final Reformation phrase, “by faith alone,” we reach the heart of the doctrine of justification and, in fact, the heart of the Christian faith itself. All proponents of the traditional teaching on salvation argue that our faith is what saves us, which is perfectly correct when placed in its proper context. Jüngel, following the Reformers, is deliberate in emphasizing all four particles in this specific order—solus Christus, sola gratia, solo verbo, and now sola fide. The question posed to the traditional view is whether we actually possess any of these soteriological foundations. The first three clearly belong to God alone: the Christ of God, the grace of God, and the word of God. But what about faith?First, at the very least, we can see that faith is impossible without Christ, grace, and the word. Without the gospel word that interrupts us with the grace of God in Jesus Christ, faith is an impossibility. But thanks be to God that the impossible has become an impossible possibility! Second, recent New Testament scholarship has made a convincing argument that Paul’s statement, “faith in Jesus Christ,” should also be understood as “the faith of Jesus Christ” (cf. The Faith of Jesus Christ, by Richard Hays). Third, theology supports this exegetical move in the doctrine of the mediation of Christ. Jesus is the only the mediator between God and humanity, but his role of mediation was not limited to his passive obedience on the cross as the bearer of our sins before the Father; that is, the cross and resurrection do not exhaust the significance of Jesus. While the cross rightfully receives the emphasis in Christology and soteriology, all too often such a narrow focus fails to give attention to the incarnation and the life of obedience that Jesus lived. What theologians like T. F. Torrance quite rightly affirm is both the passive and active obedience of Jesus Christ. Jesus not only fulfilled the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but he also fulfilled the necessary human response of faith and obedience. Jesus was our mediator not only in death but also in life. Jesus stood fully in our place, as the one who lived and died on our behalf. His death was our death, and his life of faithful response was our faithful response.We return to the question: What about our faith? Does not Paul write in Romans that the righteousness of God “comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” and that God “justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:22, 26)? And did not Paul and Silas tell the jailer in the Acts of the Apostles, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31)? And as 1 John 5:1 declares, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.” It would seem from such passages that our faith saves us, or that our faith does something necessary for us to be the children of God. In a certain sense, yes, our faith is essential and necessary. But in what way? To answer that question, I shall quote from Eberhard Jüngel on the subject of faith.Why and how is faith justifying faith, fides iustificans? Why and how is it that very faith which justifies human beings? What is human faith that it can achieve such great things? The simplest answer to the question of the nature of human faith is that faith is the human ‘Yes’, the affirmation, coming from the heart, to the definitive affirmation from God which comes to us in the occasion of our justification. It is the human ‘Yes’ to that clear and already accomplished negation by God which we have because of that definitive affirmation in Jesus [...]

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part IV: Solo Verbo


Part IV: Solo verboThe God of grace, the God who justifies the ungodly is a God who speaks. This very fact, that he is not a silent partner, but speaks as he interacts with us, is grace. (Jüngel 198)The justification of the ungodly is a word event. Primarily, this is because the justifying grace of God is actualized in Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate. Secondarily, God’s grace reaches us existentially in the “word of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18), in which the reality ‘there and then’ in AD 1-30 becomes our reality ‘here and now.’ Jesus Christ is the Word of God to us, for us, and with us. In him God has spoken new life through the cross and resurrection. In him God has revealed the No of judgment and the Yes of reconciliation. In him the dialectic of rejection and justification are conjoined and completed. In him we hear the word of the gospel: Immanuel, God is with us.God has spoken, spoken once and for all, in the person of Jesus Christ, who died for all human beings and was raised from the dead (Heb. 1:2). And he has said what he had to say once and for all in the story of this person. Paul compresses this neatly when he writes: ‘in him it has always been “Yes”’ (2 Cor. 1:19 [NIV]). And this Yes of God’s happened when God gave his grace its due place and thus set in motion the justification of the ungodly. (198)Justification is a trinitarian dialogical event. We can describe the dialogical theo-drama of salvation in the following way. In the protological first act, the triune God constitutes Godself in triunity by speaking the primal Yes ad intra—the Father speaks, the Son is spoken, and the Spirit unites the divine dialogue—followed by the second act, in which God both reveals this Yes ad extra in the incarnation of the Word in time and space and empowers the Yes of God’s Word through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who welcomes broken humanity into the divine dialogue of grace. The economic work of the triune God is thus an act of self-communication to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who comes to us now in the “word of the cross,” the gospel of grace, in which we hear the proclamation of our justification and the invitation to respond with thanks and praise. The Yes of God to humanity invites us to respond with our own Yes.The event of justification in the economy of salvation has a two-fold movement—ontological and ontic, or christological and existential—which begins when God speaks the divine Yes as a judgment on the life and death of Jesus “in the form of a Word that raises from the dead” (199). God’s Yes to Jesus establishes the ontological status of humanity, who are all elect in the incarnate Word, the one mediator between God and humanity. The event of justification is then realized existentially when God speaks the divine Yes to human beings in the kerygma. The human response of faith establishes the ontic status of each individual by bringing the inner person into correspondence to God. The passive new human responds with her own Yes to God in invocation and thanksgiving through the Eucharistic fellowship of the communio sanctorum. The joy of this Yes overflows to the outer person who is liberated to continue this dialogue in human acts of love. To quote Luther, “nothing happens but that our dear Lord himself speaks with us through his holy word, and we in turn speak with him through prayer and praise.” Thus we do not act on our own power but only out of the encounter with the speaking God who conforms us into Christ’s image, and thus into the imago Dei. God pro nobis graciously communicates to humanity, and humanity[...]

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part III: Sola Gratia


Part III: Sola gratiaIf the exclusive Christological formula excludes our having any other mediator but Jesus Christ (or any other mediatrix), then the exclusive formula of sola gratia guarantees that everything God has done for humanity in, through and for the sake of Jesus Christ is an unconditional divine gift. (Jüngel, Justification 173)The phrase “by grace alone” conditions the statement “Christ alone” by asserting that God’s love and mercy is not conditioned by anything external to God. The triune God alone is the unconditioned, self-determining God of all grace. Nothing humanity does or fails to do has any impact upon what God accomplishes. The formula sola gratia “clearly excludes human beings from taking an active role in their justification” (175). Any active participation on the part of human beings is excluded by God’s free and sovereign grace. The outworking of God’s love remains free from any creaturely conditions, and thus is not deterred by human sinfulness. God’s love must be understood out of itself, out of divine self-revelation, and not out of any comparison with human love. God’s love does something sui generis; it is utterly incomprehensible and yet revealed to us in the person of Jesus. The love of God is grace, and as grace it is creative and replete with possibilities. The gracious love of God accomplishes what humankind cannot accomplish: it brings the dead to new life.God’s love for us thus flies the banner ‘by grace alone’. A fellowship of love is by definition a fellowship of choice, except that there is an important distinction between a fellowship of love from human being to human being and one of God to human beings. Human love, amor hominis, chooses what is attractive and present. [. . .] The amor crucis, on the other hand, God’s love revealed in the cross of Jesus, discovers nothing attractive, only sin, so that God’s love first creates what is attractive by the act of love: ‘The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it’ (Luther). The love of God, the amor Dei, is directed to the unlovable and the ugly and by the act of creative love makes them lovable and beautiful. That is the difference between human fellowships of love and the loving fellowship of God and human beings which is founded on compassion. God has mercy on those who are totally unlovable. (174)Jüngel writes at length about the nature of God’s love in God as the Mystery of the World, in which the transformative, creative aspect of divine grace is emphasized. Love, according to Jüngel, is that which overcomes opposition not by force, but by transformation from within:Love wants to radiate. As love, it presses to move beyond the lovers themselves. … It wants to radiate out into the realm of lovelessness. … And so it does not fear lovelessness but rather drives out fear (1 John 4:18). … For love does not assert itself in any other way than through love. And that is both its strength and its weakness. Since love asserts itself only lovingly, it is highly vulnerable from the outside, but inwardly it is profoundly indestructible. It remains with its element, and it radiates in order to draw into itself. It cannot destroy what opposes it, but can only transform it. (GMW 325)God has himself only in that he gives himself away. But, in giving himself away, he has himself. That is how he is. … God is the one and living God in that he as the loving Father gives up his beloved Son and thus turns to those others, those people who are marked by death, and draws the death of these people into his eternal life[...]

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part II: Solus Christus


Part II: Solus ChristusThe affirmation that Christ alone is our justification begins by identifying the Second Person of the Trinity with the man Jesus, apart from which we can have no guarantee of our salvation. The central text is John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (cf. Acts 4:12, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20). By affirming the uniqueness and exclusiveness of Jesus Christ, we state that in him alone we find new life for the world. No one else can serve as a savior alongside the Son of God; only Jesus is capable of fulfilling this role. By confessing that Jesus alone is Lord and Savior, we confess that we play no role in accomplishing our salvation. We confess that God finished this work in the life, death, and resurrection of the one mediator between God and humanity.Faith in Jesus Christ implies that only he can stand and has stood in the place of all people. Only he and he alone! But this one alone takes the place of all others and so represents all others. That is the inclusiveness, which is the goal of Jesus’ exclusiveness. Both are fundamentally linked to each other in the concept of substitution. This concept links the element of Jesus’ exclusiveness to that of inclusiveness. It says that this one single person died for all (2 Cor. 5:14f). Therefore in him all are made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Thus the aim of confessing the exclusiveness of Christ is to decide the status of all people. In him alone all people are included. His exclusiveness consists in the universal inclusion of all people. (Jüngel, Justification 150-51)The statement “Christ alone” takes us back to “God alone,” apart from which we might be misled into thinking that Jesus’ life and death is simply a moral example and not a salvific, substitutionary, sacrificial death on behalf of the world. Jesus Christ—as true God and true human, as the Creator who enters the creation—is alone capable of atoning for the sins of the world, because in him alone both the God who judges and the people who are judged are present. The statement “Christ alone” states “that in Jesus Christ alone, none other than God himself has come into the world and that therefore in this one person the salvation of all people is determined” (153).The death of Jesus is God’s offering of Godself for the world in order to bring shalom to a broken creation. The cross is the eschatological event that establishes the covenantal foundation for the new heavens and new earth. God’s self-offering brings life and freedom to those who once existed in bondage to sin and death: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10; cf 1 Jn. 5:20). Just as the sins of Israel were transferred to the animals sacrificed to God in order to restore relations between God and the covenant community, so too our sins—in fact, our very persons—are assumed by Jesus so that his death is our death and his new life brings new life to all people. In both situations, Israelite offerings and God’s self-offering in Jesus Christ, it is never human beings who effect the atoning work. God alone acts to reconcile sinful human beings with the Holy One of Israel. And nowhere is this more pronounced than in the “word of the cross,” in which we hear the astounding news that God became the sacrifice. In Jesus, God took on the very being of sinful humanity in order to atone for sin and establish new relations between Creator and creation.It is not God who is conciliated [in the sacrificial offering of an animal], but God who recon[...]

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part I: Introduction


Part I: Introduction to the doctrine of justification in the theology of Eberhard Jüngel

Over the next week, I will post my expositions on Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification, which were originally published as part of a series on universalism at my blog. These posts follow the trajectory of Jüngel's thought in his most recent major publication, Das Evangelium von der Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen als Zentrum des christlichen Glaubens, translated into English by Jeffrey Cayzer as Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith. Along the way, I also quote from God as the Mystery of the World, where most of his best work is on display. This first post is an introduction to the series and to the contours of Jüngel's thought on the subject.

The doctrine of justification, made prominent in the theology of Martin Luther, is in many respects the “heart of the Christian faith.” Justification is the hermeneutical category through which we grasp the significance of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the Christian gospel. Jesus apart from justification can be interpreted in any number of ways. There is a lot of textual support from the sayings of Jesus in the gospel accounts for a version of Christianity as a purely moral religion—i.e., how we live our lives, whether for good or evil, determines whether we are accepted by God or not. A strong case could be made, divorced of course from the rest of the New Testament, that Jesus brings to the world a message of how to live one’s life in a holy and righteous way. We see this, for example, in the Mormon church. Any interpretation of Jesus along these lines is an interpretation devoid of justification, because justification asserts that Jesus, the Christ of God, came to make righteous those who were otherwise unrighteous and would remain so regardless of how well they lived their lives before God. Justification is the negation of our human efforts at pleasing God for the sake of a greater affirmation brought about by the Son of God incarnate, who lived, died, and rose again for our justification.

Eberhard Jüngel qualifies the doctrine of justification with the four Reformation particles: Christ alone (solus Christus), by grace alone (sola gratia), by the word alone (solo verbo), and by faith alone (sola fide). As Jüngel points out, the sum effect of these four phrases is the single assertion: solus deus—God alone. “Humans are indeed excluded with the aim of properly including them in their justification” (Jüngel 148). What I will do next is provide an overview of Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification according to each of the particles. I will close with some reflections on Jüngel's significance for contemporary theology.

NB: All cititations are from Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, unless otherwise noted.

GBB: God's Being Revealed, pp. 13-17


God’s Being Is in Becoming: God’s Being Revealed, pp. 13-17Key Concept: The doctrine of the Trinity is the methodological and material starting-point for theology, because this doctrine thinks about God solely in light of God’s self-revelation.Summary of Section: In these opening pages of the first chapter, Eberhard Jüngel argues that Barth’s Church Dogmatics is significant in that it attempts to think through God’s self-revelation in light of the doctrine of the Trinity. Barth thinks-after the movement of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, Christology is the heart of Barth’s project, but Christology brings us back to the doctrine of election, which brings us back to the doctrine of God. When we examine the economic activity of God in human history, we are thrust back to the nature and being of God as the one who determined to be this God in Jesus. Consequently, Barth places the doctrine of God’s being as triune at the start of his dogmatics as a hermeneutical decision. Karl Barth’s entire dogmatic enterprise originates in his conviction that the doctrine of the Trinity is the hermeneutical center out of which we may think Christianly about the being and work of God. We are thus given a theological lens through which we may properly understand election, incarnation, reconciliation, and redemption as the acts of a triune God who is free and sovereign as the God who is self-moved and self-determining.By placing the doctrine of the Trinity at the start of the Church Dogmatics, Barth replaces the usual prolegomena with a material dogma. In doing so, he rejects the usual method which decides upon a method first before discussing the material. Instead, Barth places the doctrine of God at the start in order to allow the being of God to condition both our hermeneutics and dogmatics. (We can see from the start that Jüngel views the doctrine of the Trinity as the answer to the debate between dogmatics and hermeneutics, between Gollwitzer and Braun.) The triune being of God is not the end but the beginning of the theological journey. According to Jüngel, “the whole Church Dogmatics finds its hermeneutical foundation here [in the doctrine of the Trinity], and, on the other hand, with this decision hermeneutics itself finds its own starting-point” (17). But we reach the doctrine of the Trinity only because we start from God’s self-revelation. The rest of this chapter will address the relationship between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of revelation.Key Quote:God preceded the far country into which he went, in that he decided to go there. This precedence of God in his primal decision shows that God’s being not only ‘proceeds’ on the way into the far country but that God’s being is in movement from eternity. God’s being is moved being: ‘God is who He is in the act of revelation.’ Equally, however, God’s primal decision teaches us to understand God’s being concretely. God’s primal decision to go into the far country is certainly not a decision forced upon him from the far country, not something foreign to him, but his free decision. Moreover, as God’s decision to go into the far country in which he suffers what is foreign to him for the benefit of humanity threatened in the strange land, this decision is an act of love. Thus God’s primal decision, realised in our history, allows us to perceive ‘the being of God as the one who loves in freedom.’ … Thus God’s moved being will certainly have to be handled—most especially in the [...]

Jüngel and baptism


Kurt Anders Richardson’s book, Reading Karl Barth, includes a very substantial engagement with Eberhard Jüngel’s work on baptism. Richardson argues for the validity of Jüngel’s assertion that “whoever wishes to baptise infants should not proclaim his closeness to Barth’s doctrine of predestination.” I’ve discussed this in a review of the book over at Faith and Theology.

Further GBB posts


I plan on continuing the series through God's Being Is in Becoming starting this next week. After looking at the two introductions, the posts will now follow a set pattern to keep them at a reasonable length. They will have the following format:

Key Concept

Summary of Section

Key Quote

Further Reading

The first chapter is "God's Being Revealed," and the first section is on the vestigium trinitatis.

'My Theology': I believe, therefore I differentiate


I believe, therefore I differentiate. Faith is an act of original differentiation. Through an act of original differentiation, God created other, creaturely being, and within this created reality he created wholesome distinctions between heaven and earth, day and night, water and land, man and woman, etc. Similarly, faith which trusts in God knows itself bound to original differentiation. It differentiates first and foremost between God and world, between creator and creature, in order to bring out their proper relation of an unsurpassable nearness. ...

Those who believe have found in God and in God alone the origin and goal of their being, the supporting foundation of their existence. They know themselves to be eternally secure in his creative love, and in it alone. They know themselves to be justified by God’s grace, and by it alone. They know Jesus Christ as the way and the truth and the life, and he alone. When it is a matter of the truth of their idea of God and of their salvation, they listen to the Holy Scriptures, and to them alone. The believer knows faith and faith alone as that creative passivity, in which being able to take is more blessed than being able to give. But to say alone and only is already to be involved in differentiating in a fundamental way that which may in no way be mixed. Sin is known as the presumptuousness of wanting to be like God, and its destructive compulsion as the need to want to be like God. The believer knows that God became human to differentiate savingly and definitively between God and humanity. ‘We should be human and not God. That is the summa.’ The believer exists in distinction. In this way he or she safeguards life’s wealth of relations. Whoever differentiates has more from life.

—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays II, 12-13

Jüngel's sermons


(image) Part of the original vision for this blog was formulated as follows:

‘I hope people will join in the task of making this very difficult but even more profound theologian more accessible to the church today’.

It is for that reason that I shall, now and then, post selections from Jüngel’s sermons, with perhaps light discussion as to his method. I am a NT exegete, and how Jüngel handles scripture is a major question within my own horizon.

In his introduction to his multi-volume collection of sermons, Jüngel writes:

‘Sermons are attempts, with the help of biblical texts, to make discoveries with God. Whoever discovers God doesn’t remain the old person, the one who he, until now, was aware of, and of whom he must truly be aware of again and again. For whoever discovers God, learns also to know himself entirely anew, making, to a certain extent, surprising discoveries about himself and his world. And so he begins to become astounded’ (Predigten, Vol 1., p. 7)