Can Jesus' divinity be recognized as 'definitive, authentic and essential' if it is grounded in election? Just how far did the later Barth historicize christology?

This article explores Karl Barth's early and later understanding of the incarnation with a view toward answering two very important theological questions: did Barth so historicize his Christology in his doctrine of Reconciliation that he could no longer accept his own earlier view that “His Word would still be His Word apart from this becoming [incarnate], just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit would be none the less eternal God, if no world had been created”? Or did his earlier view enable him to present a more powerful understanding of how God himself was at work in the history of Jesus of Nazareth and in human history effecting the reconciliation of the world both from the side of God and from the human side? This article argues that Barth never historicized his Christology to such an extent that he ever would have espoused the idea that Jesus' human history “constituted” his being as the second person of the Trinity, since any such thinking undermines Barth's belief that Jesus' divinity must be recognized as “definitive, authentic and essential” if it is to be truly recognized at all. It is further argued that those who do espouse this view have confused epistemology and ontology by mistakenly assuming that since we cannot know the eternal Trinity except through the human history of Jesus as the incarnate Word, that must mean that the eternal Word never existed without that human history so that, strictly speaking, we can no longer distinguish between the immanent and the economic Trinity and the logos asarkos and logos incarnandus . This article suggests that those who hold that God realizes his own eternal being by suffering and dying for us have missed a crucial point of Barth's trinitarian doctrine which is that God realizes his purposes for us in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, but that he did not thereby realize his own being as the triune God, since God's eternal being and act does not need any realization by virtue of the fact that God is perfect and acts toward us in the overflow of that perfect love in perfect freedom.
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DOI 10.1515/nzst.2010.004
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