Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Theology of Eberhard Jüngel

I picked up Eberhard Jüngel: Theological Essays II (ed. John Webster) from the library this evening and read the first essay entitled "'My Theology' - A Short Summary" over dinner. After a self-conscious introduction, Jüngel outlines nine points to offer his own theological confession of sorts. I found it to be really interesting, especially the third and ninth point. However, for what it is worth, I'm not entirely convinced that "speaking" which comes as a result of belief, should formally precede "listening", "astonishment", "thinking", or more importantly, "suffering." The following are his nine confessional points with excerpts under each point:

1. I believe, therefore I speak.
  • "Not of me and of my faith - or at any rate of me and my faith only in so far as it is pertinent. I believe, therefore I speak of the God in whom I believe and of his liberating truth" (4).
2. I believe, therefore I listen.
  • "One should note: God himself comes to speech. He himself 'takes the floor'. Indeed, to his eternal being there belongs language that addresses. No human being can speak from him or herself. But God is the one who does speak from himself. His word is the original expression of his being and the original form of address and, in the unity of both, the word that creates out of nothing. Faith hears this word. It knows itself to be created by this word. It owes itself to this word. Hearing, it comes into existence. And it always returns again to the word which created it. I believe, therefore I listen to the God who speaks out of himself" (6).
3. I believe, therefore I am astonished.
  • "In believing, the human person experiences the mystery of the triune God who takes the relationlessness of death upon himself, in order to be the being rich in relations, the being of love in the unity of life and death to the benefit of life. It is the mystery of even greater selflessness in the midst of such great trinitarian self-relatedness. In faith in the triune God, the depths of the word of the cross are opened up. I believe, therefore I am astonished at the trinitarian mystery as the sum of the gospel: God from eternity and thus in and of himself is God for us" (8).
4. I believe, therefore I think.
  • "The faith which gives itself to be thought attains its idea of God from the harshness of the death of Jesus Christ. It therefore demands that God be thought as the one whose creative omnipotence and freedom are something other than what is prompted by axiom of divine absoluteness, and as the one whose eternity and activity is something other than what is demanded by the axioms of the timelessness and impassibility of the eternal. If God is love, then truly love is omnipotent, and love is the very core of all true power. And the truth-criterion of power is that it is able to have compassion, and in this way to overcome suffering. God's being must then be thought as an existence which exposes itself to nothingness, whose richness of being realizes itself as a se in nihilum existere, existing out of itself into nothingness. And God's creation must then be thought as an act of primordial beginning which implies as act of primordial self-limitation" (11).
5. I believe, therefore I differentiate.
  • 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. ... 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 definitely between God and humanity. ... The believer exists in distinction. In this way he or she safeguards life's wealth of relations. Whoever differentiates has more from life" (13).
6. I believe, therefore I hope.
  • "I believe, therefore I hope that world history will not be the judge of the world, such the 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 savior who liberates the sinner from sin" (15).
7. I believe, therefore I act.
  • "Hope is the motive of all action. However, clear hope in God's coming kingdom has obligated hope to a specific course of action. For in view of the coming kingdom of freedom of peace, of justice, and of love, the one who hopes recognizes what is to be done and what is to be left undone, given the conditions of the world. He or she hopes to be able to make plausible for human reason at least distant - very distant - parables of the kingdom of God on earth as goals of human activity, and is determined to work for the realization of these goals as much as possible" (16).
8. I believe, therefore I am - namely, a new creature and as such, one called to represent the being of Jesus Christ in the communion of saints, as a person existing as a member of the church of Jesus Christ.
  • "The church is different from other human communities in that it lives from the forgiveness of sins and precisely thereby is holy, and in that it knows that it lives from the forgiveness of sins. In this way it represents God as the one who forgives sin by granting a share in his holiness. In this way, moreover, it represents God as the one who liberates from self-incurred slavery and immaturity by granting a share in his freedom. In this way, also, it represents God as the one who reconciles the world by granting a share in the peace of his life as Father, Son, and Holy Spire in which the deepest opposites are united" (17).
9. I believe, therefore I suffer.
  • "In fact the believer will often be able only to be silent. Yet if faith's silence is not the last possibility, if there is no final silence for faith, it is because faith has come to know God as the truth himself. One may not therefore withhold from him even the sorrowful and painful truth. Afflicted silence necessarily directs the complaint which speaks truth toward God, even if it is only expressed in the form of a cry de profundis. Theology need not be ashamed of this cry to God, which must also be able to accompany even the most certain talk of God, if it is to be responsible talk of God. ... For as a theology of the cross, it connects the tested faith to its origin, back to the God who suffers for us, because through his suffering he helped the love that has overcome death to victory, the only comfort of suffering humanity. He has eternally condemned evil and sin to defeat. The first and last task of proper theology is therefore not that of articulating our story of suffering, but that of bringing the story of Christ's passion to speech as gospel. Yet in everything it has constantly asserted one thing and one thing only: that the God who was denounced and crucified by his human creatures has said to us and so also to himself once and for all Yes (2 Cor 2:19). And 'my theology' can be and seeks to be nothing other than the reflective attempt to spell out this divine Yes" (19, emphasis added).

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