The PostBarthian

Jürgen Moltmann on Women in Ministry

MoltmannSpiritPentecostIn Jürgen Moltmann's The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, he provides a biblical argument for Women in Ministry that is rooted in Joel 2:28-30, 'It shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .' (cf. Acts 2:17ff). All baptized men and women have received the Holy Spirit, such that none may remind silence, and all shall prophesy. Moltmann explains that we must start with Pentecost and our experience of the Spirit. There is one Spirit and many gifts or charisma. And all the gifts (charisma) of the Spirit collectively form the charismata. Moltmann says, "To be a woman is a charisma, to be a man is a charisma, and to be different charismata operate together for the rebirth of life." The one Spirit forms a community of all men and all women, and this is not confined within ecclesiastical boundaries either. Moltmann believes patriarchy was introduced into the church by Constantine, but this Hierarchical model (i.e. patriarchy) is not the right understanding of the Scriptures. Furthermore, this determines that the Image of God should likewise be interpreted to include women as well: "human beings have been created to be the image of God as man and women. The community of the sexes to the community of generations." 

There are more Women in Ministry than ever before, and more and more churches are ordaining women Bishops, Elders and Deacons. However, there is still strong opposition to opening all of the Church offices to women by some conservative Evangelical churches. This opposition often originates in people who believe that the Scriptures oppose women ordination and who desire to be faithful to the Scriptures against perceived societal pressures. The Complimentarian versus Egalitarian debate might be sidestepped by reading the Scriptures again with Jürgen Moltman.

The following quotation is from Jürgen Moltmann's The Spirit of Life: A Universal AffirmationI've added the additional headers to what would otherwise be a continuous quote of Chapter XI §2.3 "Community between Women and Men". (For more on Moltmann and Feminism, listen to this audio: Jürgen Moltmann on Women at the 2009 Emergent Village Theological Conversation.)

The image of God as man and woman, explained by the Prophet Joel:

Human beings have been created to be the image of God as man and woman. The community of the sexes corresponds to the community of generations. This too was already given to the Christian church beforehand by the way of creation and history — and given, moreover, in its always specific psycho-social form. What fellowship do women and men arrive at in fellowship with Christ and in their experience of the Spirit who desires to give life to all flesh? How do women and men experience one another in the community of Christ's people, and in the fellowship of the life-engendering Mother Spirit? This is not merely a matter of church politics, and it is not solely an ethical question either. It is a question of faith, which means that it is a challenging question about the experience of the Spirit in the community of Christ. According to the promise in Joel 2:28-30 'It shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .' (cf. Acts 2:17ff). The eschatological hope for experience of the Spirit is shared by women and men equally. Men and women will 'prophesy' and proclaim the gospel. According to the prophecy in Joel 2, through the shared experience of the Spirit the privileges of men compared with women, of the old compared with the young, and of masters compared with 'men-servants  and maidservants' will be abolished. In the kingdom of the Spirit, everyone will experience his or her own endowment and all will experience the new fellowship together.

The Christological and Hierarchically Error:

The 'new community of women and  men' which is being sought in the many churches today is a question of experience of the Spirit. This is disregarded by theologians who transfer the conditions of hierarchically organized church to marriage in particular, and to the position of women in relation to men in general. Their monotheism knows only monarchy: one God — one Christ — one pope — one bishop — one church; and the man is accordingly the monarch in marriage (pater familias), with a God-given leadership role, and the woman is destined to serve, in subordination to him. This is to think in Roman terms, not Christian ones. It has meant that ever since Constantine, women have been excluded from the priestly ministry, although baptism has made them just as much bearers of the Spirit as baptized men.

Protestant theologians who proceed from a Christocentric concept of the church arrive at the same judgment: just as God is 'the head' of Christ, so Chris is 'the head' of the church, and the man has accordingly to be the 'head' of the woman (1 Cor 11). They transfer the relationship between Christ and the church to the relationship between men and women, as if the man represented Christ and the woman the church. This Christocentric interpretation also leads logically to the exclusion of women from the ministry or 'spiritual office', although through baptism women have received the Spirit just as much as men, and are destined to 'prophesy', and are therefore in faith already 'spiritual'.

Christocentric and Hierarchical organization represses the early Christian experience of Pentecost:

Neither the hierarchical nor the Christocentric ecclesiologies cherish any further expectation of an experienceable outpouring of the Spirit, and they repress the early Christian experience of Pentecost. Both the hierarchical and the Christocentric notions of the church are clerical, because they transfer conditions in the church to family and social relationships between men and women in secular society, and are ready to make the 'anti-Christian spirit of the age' responsible for the protests which consequently arise.

If, on the other hand, we start from the early Christian experience of Pentecost, we have to develop a pneumatological concept of the church: there is one Spirit and many gifts. Everyone concerned, whether man or woman, is endowed and committed through his or her calling, wherever he or she is, and whatever he or she is. To be a woman is a charisma, to be a man is a charisma, and to be different charismata operate together for the rebirth of life. Because the Spirit is poured out 'on all flesh', merely ecclesiastical flesh cannot be meant. Cultural experiences and movements too are shot through by the Spirit. Whatever accords with the fulfillment of the Joel promise in church and culture is the operation of the Spirit. Whatever contradicts it is spiritless and deadly. When, in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century, feminist movement women have risen up against the patriarchy and have broken the silence forced on them and 'prophesied', this is spirit from God's Spirit, which 'comes upon all flesh' so that it may live.

On the Feminist Movement:

The pneumatological concept of the church discerns that church and culture are interwoven in the interplay of the 'spiritual' — which means life-giving — impulses conferred on 'all flesh'. In this case the eschatological experience of the Spirit takes in both Christianity and the feminist movement, and brings them into a mutually fruitful relationship. Feminist theology mediates between the two in as much as a powerful trend in it uncovers the often suppressed traditions in Church history which have to do with the liberation of women, and works for the psycho-social liberation of women in church and society. Christianity learns from the feminist movement that the patriarchal disparagement and suppression of women's charismata are sins against the Spirit. The feminist movement can learn from Christianity, and from other movements, that it is not merely a question of the human rights of women; it is a matter of the rebirth of all the living. And through both Christianity and the feminist movement, men will be liberated from the dominating role which isolates them from life and alienates them from themselves, freed for their true humanity, their own charismata, and for a community with women on all levels in society and the church, a community which will futher life.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Trans. Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 239-41. Print.

Header Image Source: "Jean II Restout - Pentecôte" by Jean II Restout - Art Renewal Center. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Jürgen Moltmann on The Holy Spirit as a Feminine Spirit

moltmann-divine-femininityIs God a "She"? Jürgen Moltmann thinks so! Moltmann believes the Holy Spirit should be referred to with feminine attributes and names, such as "she" or "her" or "mother". This may be alarming to some evangelicals today, especially those use gender-inclusive languages for the purpose of scrubbing feminism out of the bible (compare the translation of Romans 16:7 in the ESV to the NRSV). Divine Femininity appears frequently in the bible and in Church History: The apostles describe themselves as "nursing mothers" (1 Thess 2:7) and God himself as well (Isa 49:15), and Jesus also in a maternal reference to Jerusalem like a mother hen (Matt 23:37).  A simple search of the Bible reveals that the Divine Femininity appears frequently!

Jürgen Moltmann's
The Spirit of Life:
A Universal Affirmation

In the following quotation from Moltmann's The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, several examples of feminine and maternal images of God are discussed in a polemic explaining why Moltmann believes that the Holy Spirit should be "termed a 'feminine' Spirit." Moltmann's famous for his Social Doctrine of the Trinity, that sees the three persons of the one god as a society, emphasizing the three over the one, and the Divine Femininity brings the Trinity closer to the analogy of a nuclear family, such that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are familial understood as the Father, Mother and Son. "In Trinitarian theology, the image of the divine family raises the Spirit to the same rank as the Father, and puts the Spirit before the Son."

Understanding the Holy Spirit as a feminine Spirit brings Feuerbach's criticism of the Divine Family as a projection of the human family, that Moltmann begins to address below but requires more discussion. Additionally, does this Divine Femininity open the door to an affirmation of Mariology as exemplified by Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy?

Even if these two questions produce new problems, the strength of Moltmann's position is that his overthrows Trinitarian Patriarchy. Moltmann sides with the Eastern Orthodox's rejection of the filioque, because the Filioque subjugaftes the Holy Spirit to the Son, where in the East, the Son and the Spirit are two hands of Father as Irenaeus imagined. In Moltmann's view, the Holy Spirit is not subjugated to the Son or the Father, because the Holy Spirit appears besides the Father as the Divine Mother of the Divine Family, such that the Father and the Holy Spirit (as Mother) exclude both Patriarchy and Matriarchy. Both the Father and the Mother are hence liberated, and they are liberated in the Son (Jesus Christ), such that the Son (Jesus Christ) also is not subjugated to the Father or Mother (Holy Spirit).

If these experiences are thought of as rebirth or as being born again, this suggests a singular image for the Holy Spirit, an image which was quite familiar in the early centuries of Christianity, especially in Syria, but which came to be lost in the patriarchal Roman empire: the image of the mother. If believers are 'born' again from the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit is 'the mother' of God's children and can in this sense also be termed a 'feminine' Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is 'the Comforter' (Paraclete), it comforts 'as a mother comforts'. In this sense it is the motherly comforter of believers. Linguistically this again brings out the characteristics of the Hebrew expression 'Yahweh's ruach'.

The earliest testimonies are probably to be found in the Gospel of Thomas: 'He who will not love his Father and his Mother as I do, cannot be my disciple. For my mother gave me life.' In Jerome we find a quotation from a Hebrew gospel: 'When the Lord came up out of the water, the whole wellspring of the Holy Spirit came down and rested on him, and said to him: "My Son, in all the prophets I awaited thy coming, so that I might rest in thee. For thou are my rest, thou my first-born Son, who reigneth in eternity."' The Hebrew gospel has passed down the following saying: 'Then my mother, the Holy Spirit, seized me by the hair and bore me away to the great Mount Tabor.' In the Christian-Gnostic 'Hymn of the Pearl' (in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas), the Trinity consists of God the Father, the Holy Spirit as Mother, and the Son. In the Syrian version of the poem we find the prayers: 'Come merciful Mother' and 'Come, giver of life'. The Holy Spirit is also addressed as 'Mother of all created being'. In the Greek translations of these Gnostic text, 'Mother' is then often already replaced by 'Holy Spirit'.

Right down to Irenaeus, there was a struggle in the mainstream church against the Gnostic-Christian congregations, and this opposition also extended to feminine images of God, especially in the Roman empire. But among the Syrian Fathers this language held its ground. Aphraates is an early witness. In order to justify his problematical ascetic and celibate way of life, he said: 'Why does a man forsake father and mother when he takes a wife? This is the explanation: as long as a man has no wife, he loves and reverences God his Father and the Holy Spirit his Mother, and has no other love. But when the man has taken a wife, he leaves this Father and Mother of his, and his heart is fettered by this world.' The typically semitic, motherly form of the Holy Spirit can also be found in his view of the Paraclete.

The famous Fifty Homilies of Makarios the mystic come from the sphere of Syrian Christianity, and they inspired and influenced both the Orthodox churches and the churches of the West. The real author was in fact the theologian Symeon of Mesopotamia, who was a Messalian, not the desert father Makarios. These homilies talk about 'the motherly ministry of the Holy Spirit', using two arguments. 1. The promised Comforter (the Paraclete) will 'comfort you as a mother comfort's (here John 14:26 is put together with Isa 66:13); and 2. Only the person who has been 'born anew' can see the kingdom of God. Men and women are 'born anew' from the Spirit. They are 'children of the Spirit' and the Spirit is their 'Mother'. These homilies were translated into German in the seventeenth century by Gottfried Arnold, and were widely read in the early years of Pietism. John Wesley was fascinated by 'Macarios the Egyptians', and August Hermann Francke gave extensive treatment to 'the motherly ministry of the Holy Spirit' in his treatise on nature and grace. For Count Zizendorf, this perception was a kind of revelation, and in 1741, when the Moravian Brethren founded their community in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he officially proclaimed 'the motherly office of the Holy Spirit'. In 1744 this finding was elevated to the rank of community doctrine.

By doing this, Zizendorf made the divine Trinity, conceived according to the pattern of a family, the prototype for the community of brothers and sisters on earth: 'since the Father of our LOrd JEsus Christ is our true Father, and the Spirit of JEsus Christ is our true Mother; because the Son of the living God . . . is our true Brother.' 'The Father must love us and can do no other, the Son, our brother, must love souls as His own soul, and must love the body as His own body, because we are flesh we are flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone, and He can do no other.' The biblical grounds Zinzendorf contributes was inspired by the era of 'sensibility' - the cultivation of the feelings - which was now beginning. What is motherly about the operations of the Spirit can be sensed in its tenderness and sympathy: '. . . they are driven forward by a certain tender Impulse, through Delight in the matter, through a blessed Attraction which souls feel for this and that thing, through a Sympathy which they also discover in themselves, and yet the awareness of the Savior and his Image is the concept. Paul Gerhardt describes the leadings of the Spirit in much the same way as a guiding 'with motherly hand' ('Mit Mutterhänden leitet er die Seinen ständig hin und her . . .').

The metaphor of rebirth or new birth makes it seem natural to talk about an engendering Deity. Here God is experienced, not as the liberation Lord but as 'the well of life'. Giving birth, nourishing, protecting and consoling, love's empathy and sympathy: these are then the expressions which suggest themselves as a way of describing the relations of the Spirit to her children. They express mutual intimacy, not sovereign and awful distance.

In Trinitarian theology, the image of the divine family raises the Spirit to the same rank as the Father, and puts the Spirit before the Son. Unless, like Ludwig Feuerbach, we wish to cast the image aside altogether as a pure projection of a family idyll, it does offer interesting corrective possibilities, if we compare it with the other pictures of the Trinity - Irenaeus's image of the One God with two hands, for example.

But more important than these speculative possibilities is the new definition of what it means for human beings to be the image of God. If the Trinity is a community, then what corresponds to it is the true human community of men and women. A certain de-patriarchalization of the picture of God results in a de-patriarchalization of the church too.

Of course by calling God the Holy Spirit 'Mother' we are merely putting parallel to the 'Father' another power as primal source. Psychologically speaking, inward liberation from the mother is as much a part of human development as emancipation from the Father. Like Israel's prophets, Christianity actually replaced the patriachal and matriarchal powers of origin by the messianism of the Child, as the bearer of hope and the beginning of the future. 'Unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven' (Matt 18:3). But this is not brought out by the patriarchal or matriarchal image of God.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Trans. Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 157-60. Print.


Header Image Source: "Pietro lorenzetti, compianto (dettaglio) basilica inferiore di assisi (1310-1329)". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Karl Barth on Demythologizing the Empty Tomb and Ascension

Jesus_ascending_to_heaven2Jesus is Risen and the Tomb is Empty are often asserted together, but they are two distinct statements: Jesus is Risen is an article of faith but the Empty Tomb is a Passion narrative that may be demythologized. Barth explains the difference between these two statements when he says: "Christians do not believe in the empty tomb, but in the living Christ."  Karl Barth is famous for affirming the historical Resurrection of Jesus, yet denying the historicity of the Empty Tomb. Unfortunately, this has caused people to wrongly believe that Barth denied the resurrection of Jesus at worst, or at best that he was merely rehearsing Rudolf Bultmann. Opponents of Barth have monopolized on this misunderstanding by providing terse summaries of Barth's commentary on the Empty Tomb that further misleads their readers. Therefore, to explain Barth's commentary on the Empty Tomb, I've provided an expanded the quotation from Barth's commentary on the Empty Tomb that includes his comparable assessment of the Ascension from The Church Dogmatics Vol. III.2.

A Terse Summary of Karl Barth's Commentary on the Empty Tomb

Was there an empty tomb? Yes, this is the presupposition of the Resurrected Jesus. Were the Empty Tomb accounts in the Passion narratives Historical events? No, they are not meant to be understood as straight forward literal history that could be reconstructed. Not only is it impossible to harmonize the Empty Tomb narratives as verifiable history, and those who have attempted to harmonize these accounts have resulted in even more absurd results than problems they wished to overcome. If the Empty Tomb is a Legend or Saga or Myth, may it then be omitted from the New Testament? No, they are a necessary presuppositional sign of the Resurrected Jesus. What then is the Empty Tomb? It is a presuppositional sign of the Resurrected Jesus.

The Ascension compared to the Empty Tomb

Barth brilliantly couples his exegesis of the Ascension with the Empty Tomb. Once we admit that Jesus did not ascend to the right hand of the Father in same way as Iron Man or Superman lift off and embark on a flight into Outer Space, and admit that Heaven is not located up there somewhere above the sky or on the Dark Side of the Moon, then we are well poised to understand the Empty Tomb as a necessary and presuppositional sign of the Resurrected Jesus, and not read these accounts as if they were returning historical data that could be harmonized and filmed.

The Empty Tomb as Presuppositional Sign and Legend

We may assess the Empty Tomb in two ways: first as Presuppositional Sign and second as Legend. Barth affirms the importance of the empty tomb narratives, but not as historical events, but as presuppositional signs. This means that for a body to be resurrected, then the tomb must be empty, as a point of deduction or syllogism. The empty tomb as legend refers to the specific narratives in the Passion accounts that retell the historical events of the empty tomb. For instance, the tomb may be empty, even if the empty tomb narratives never happened as reported in the Passion accounts. Even if the empty tomb narratives prove to be legendary, this does not mean that they may be omitted or are superfluous, because they exist as a sign to the historical events, even if they themselves are a-historical.

Barth and Bultmann

Rudolf Bultmann is directly addressed at the head of the small print section containing the following extended quotation. Barth says, "Bultmann is splitting hairs when he calls the literal resurrection a 'nature-miracle'. Far from helping us understand it, this is merely an attempt to discredit it." (p15/[451]) and then writes, "None of the authors ever even dreamed, for example, of reducing the event to 'the rise of the Easter faith of the first disciples.'" (p[452]/16). These two quotations demonstrate the canyon separating Bultmann and Barth on the resurrection, a full and adequate comparison of Barth and Bultmann may be addressed in a later article.

Ten Karl Barth quotes on the Empty Tomb

1. "There is no sense in trying to visualize the ascension as a literal event, like going up in a balloon."

2. "[The Empty Tomb is] indispensable if we are to understand what the New Testament seeks to proclaim as the Easter message."

3. "Taken together, they mark the limits of the Easter period, at one end the empty tomb, and at the other the ascension."

4. "The content of the Easter witness, the Easter event, was not that the disciples found the tomb empty or that they saw Him go up to heaven"

5. "The content of the Easter witness [.. is], that when they had lost Him through death they were sought and found by Him as the Resurrected"

6. "It is the sign which obviates all possible misunderstanding. It cannot, therefore, but demand our assent, even as a legend."

7. "The point of the story is not that when Jesus left His disciples He visibly embarked upon a wonderful journey into space"

8. "Hence it [The Empty Tomb] is only the sign, although an indispensable sign."

9. "The achievements of Christian art in this field are amongst its worst perpetrations. But of course this is no reason why they should be used to make the whole things ridiculous."

10. "It still refers to the phenomenon ensuing the resurrection, to the presupposition of the appearance of Jesus."

Commentary on the Empty Tomb

I've divided this quotation from CD III.2 into three parts. The first is an introduction to the dual sign of the Empty Tomb and Ascension, and the second subsequent quotation is Barth's statements on the Empty Tomb, and the last and also subsequent quote is Barth's analogous comments on the Ascension. I've placed in bold a few sentences from it, to aid readers, and provided translations from the study edition of the original language text.

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (source: wikipedia)

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The Empty Tomb and the Ascension:

A few words may be said in conclusion about the empty tomb (Mk 16:1-8 and par.) and the ascension (Lk 24:50-53; Act 1:9-12). These stories are indispensable if we are to understand what the New Testament seeks to proclaim as the Easter message. Taken together, they mark the limits of the Easter period, at one end the empty tomb, and at the other the ascension. (It is worth noting that the limits are drawn not only backwards and forwards, but also downwards and upwards.) In the later apostolic preaching both events, like the Virgin Birth at the beginning of the Gospel narrative, seem to be presupposed, and are certainly never questioned, but they are only hinted at occasionally here and there, and never referred to explicitly. Even in the Easter narratives the empty tomb and the ascension are alike in the fact that they are both indicated rather than described; the one as an introduction, the other as a conclusion; the one a little more definitely, through still in very general terms, the other much more vaguely.

Indeed, in the strict sense the ascension occurs only in Acts 1:9f. It is not mentioned at all in the genuine Marcan ending (though this is obviously incomplete). In Matthew it is merely implied in the reference of Jesus to the power given Him in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18). Luke's Gospel, according to the more probable reading at 24:51, is also very indefinite: he was parted from them, while in John it occurs only in the comprehensive to go up... and to go away, to be lifed up..., and glorified, which are used to embrace the whole ascent to Jerusalem, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the reappearance, and do not refer to the ascension as a concrete event. There are reasons for this. The content of the Easter witness, the Easter event, was not that the disciples found the tomb empty or that they saw Him go up to heaven, but that when they had lost Him through death they were sought and found by Him as the Resurrected. The empty tomb and the ascension are merely signs of the Easter event, just as the Virgin Birth is merely the sign of the nativity, namely, of the human generation and birth of the eternal Son of God. Yet both signs are so important that we can hardly say that they might equally well be omitted.

"Fra Angelico - Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb (Cell 8) - WGA00542" by Fra Angelico (circa 1395–1455) - Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

"Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb" by Fra Angelico

The Empty Tomb:

The function of the empty tomb, with its backward, downward, earthward reference, is to show that the Jesus who died and was buried was delivered from death, and therefore from the grave, by the power of God; that He, the Living, is not to be sought among the dead (Lk 24:5). "He is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (Mk 16:6). "He is not here; for he is risen even as he said" (Mt 28:6; Lk 24:6). He is not here! But it is the angels who say this. Since the nativity and temptation the angels have not played any active part. But they now reappear at the tomb. And it is only the angels who say this; who as it were draw the line behind which there can be no going back. They only point to the empty tomb. The empty tomb was obviously a very ambiguous and contestable fact (Matt 27:62f; 28:11f). And what has happened around this sepulcher is a warning against making it a primary focus of attention.

The empty tomb is not the same thing as the resurrection. It is not the appearance of the Living; it is only its presupposition. Hence it is only the sign, although an indispensable sign. Christians do not believe in the empty tomb, but in the living Christ. This does not mean, however, that we can believe in the living Christ without believing in the empty tomb. Is it just a "legend"? What matter? It still refers to the phenomenon ensuing the resurrection, to the presupposition of the appearance of Jesus. It is the sign which obviates all possible misunderstanding. It cannot, therefore, but demand our assent, even as a legend. Rejection of the legend of the empty tomb has always been accompanied by rejection of the saga of the living Jesus, and necessarily so. Far better, then, to admit that the empty tomb belongs to the Easter event as its sign.

The Ascension, by Rembrandt (source: wikipedia)

The Ascension, by Rembrandt

The Ascension:

The same considerations apply to the ascension. It is less directly attested in the New Testament, but unlike the empty tomb it has found a place in the creed, and has its own special feast in the Church Kalendar. In contrast to the first sign it points forward and upwards, thus serving a positive function. Just as the discovery of the empty tomb by the women marks the beginning of the Easter time and history, its end is marked by the meeting of the disciples on the mountain, which in Mat 28:16 is located in Galilee, but which Act 1:12 identifies with the Mount of Olives. The end consists in their in the same manner as you saw him go into heaven (Act 1:11). As the empty tomb looks downwards the ascension looks upwards. But again the ascension—Jesus' disappearance into heaven—is the sign of the Resurrected, not the Resurrected Himself. "Heaven" in biblical language is the sum of the inaccessible and incomprehensible side of the created world, so that, although it is not God Himself, it is the throne of God, the creaturely correspondence to his glory which is veiled from man, and cannot be disclosed except on His initiative. There is no sense in trying to visualize the ascension as a literal event, like going up in a balloon. The achievements of Christian art in this field are amongst its worst perpetrations. But of course this is no reason why they should be used to make the whole things ridiculous. The point of the story is not that when Jesus left His disciples He visibly embarked upon a wonderful journey into space, but that when He left them He entered the side of the created world which was provisionally inaccessible and incomprehensible, that before their eyes He ceased to be[sic] before their eyes. This does not mean, however, that He ceased to be a creature, man.

Barth, Karl. "Church Dogmatics Study Edition 16" Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. III.2 The Doctrine of Creation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 17-8. Print. [p453-4]

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Jürgen Moltmann “The Nuclear Age is Humanity’s Final Age”

moltmann-nuclearIn Jürgen Moltmann's The Ethics of Hope, he writes that "the Nuclear Age is the final age of Man" and 'The one who shoots first dies second.' It is no longer a question of if man will come to an end, but since the first nuclear has been dropped, the question is now, when will man come to an end. I was recently reminded, that I live in the only country that used a nuclear weapon against another country. We've already shot first. Moltmann following words are more important than ever before: "We can extend this nuclear endtime, but we and all the generations that follow us must eke out life in this endtime under the Damoclean sword of the bomb."

How do we live here and now in this Nuclear Age? I've selected two quotations from Moltmann's The Ethics of Hope addressing Nuclear Ethics and how then do we live in this endtime of man. For additional ethical ethics on the Nuclear Age, read Jürgen Moltmann's On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics and or more of Moltmann's ethical program in general, read my review of The Ethics of Hope.


Behind this real and deadly political danger to the shared life of the peoples of the earth is a greater danger still. When the atomic bomb was invented and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, it was not just the Second World War that was ended. The whole human race entered its end-time as well. That is meant in an entirely non-religious sense. The endtime is the age in which the end of humanity is possible at any time. Through the potentialities for a global nuclear war, the human race as a whole became mortal. No human being could survive the nuclear winter that would follow a major nuclear war. It is true that, since the end of the Cold War in 1989, a major nuclear war is for the moment not very likely, but there are still giant arsenals of atomic and nitrogen bombs in the United States, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan and Israel, ready for ‘the final solution’ of the question about humanity. ‘The one who shoots first dies second.’ That is humanity’s latent but always-present suicide programme. Today it has been forgotten and suppressed, pushed out of public awareness. But it hangs over humanity as a sombre fate.

Moltmann, Jürgen. Ethics of Hope. Trans. Maragaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. 46-7. Print.

Additional quote from the same book,

Operation Crossroads cake shaped like
Baker's radioactive geyser (source: wikipedia)


1. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the quality of human history was fundamentally changed: our time has become time with a time limit. The dream about ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ is certainly a beautiful dream, but it is only wishful thinking. Nobody seriously expects that one day people will again stop being able to do what they can do now. Anyone who has once learnt the formula can never again forget it. Ever since Hiroshima, humanity has lost its ‘nuclear innocence’ and will never get it back again.

If the nuclear age is humanity’s final age, this means that today the fight for human survival is the fight for time. The fight for life is the fight against the nuclear end. If this is our endtime, we try to make it as endless as possible by continually giving threatened life on earth new time limits. This fight to postpone the end is a permanent fight for survival. It is a fight without victory, a fight without an end—and that at best. We can extend this nuclear endtime, but we and all the generations that follow us must eke out life in this endtime under the Damoclean sword of the bomb. The lifetime of the human race is no longer guaranteed by nature as it has been up to now; it must be ensured by human beings through deliberate policies of survival. Up to now nature has regenerated the human race after epidemics and world wars. Up to now nature has protected the human race from annihilation by individuals. From now on this will no longer be the case. Ever since Hiroshima life has irrefutably become the primary task for human culture, for political culture too. This means that all our decisions today must be considered in the light of the life of coming generations. That is the new, hitherto unknown responsibility of all human beings.

2. The nuclear age is the first age shared by all nations and all human beings. Ever since Hiroshima, the many different histories of the peoples on earth have become the shared world history of the one, single humanity—but initially only in a negative sense, in the mutual threat and the shared danger of annihilation.

Today the nations have entered the first common age of humanity, because they have all become the potential common object of nuclear annihilation. In this situation the survival of the human race is only conceivable if the peoples organize themselves into becoming the collective determining subject of action on behalf of survival. Ever since Hiroshima, the survival of humanity has become indissolubly linked with the uniting of the peoples for the purpose of together averting these deadly dangers. Only the unity of humanity will guarantee survival, and the premise for the survival of every individual is the unity of humanity. The life-saving unification of humanity in the age of nuclear threat demands the relativization of national interests, the democratization of the conflict-laden ideologies, the recognition and acceptance of different religions, and the general subordination of the peoples as a whole to their common concern for life.

Moltmann, Jürgen. Ethics of Hope. Trans. Maragaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. 63-4. Print.

Image Sources:

  • Header Source Image: By United States Department of Defense (either the U.S. Army or the U.S. Navy)derivative work: Victorrocha (Operation_Crossroads_Baker_(wide).jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Cake Image: By Harris & Ewing Studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Ethics of Hope cover image: Fortress Press
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Karl Barth on the so-called Historical Adam

christ-adamI've assembled quotations from three of Karl Barth's books to explain his robust Doctrine of Adam: The Church Dogmatics Vol. IV.1 §60, Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5, and The Epistle to the Romans (Romans II). I've assembled ten statements on Adam to summarized the following quotations from Barth's works.

#1. There are two biblical passages that explicitly refer to Adam: Genesis 2-3 and Romans 5:12-21 (1 Corinthians 15:22,24 may also be considered.)

#2. These passages contain elements of the Saga literary genre that makes scientific paleontology impossible to derive from them, or for polygenism to be excluded, or for specific information about a historical-Adam to be derived from these biblical texts.

#3. Adam has a twofold interpretation: an individual man and a general title for all individuals, such one meaning always includes the other.

#4. Adam is more than a metonymy, he is a first among equals, such that he represent the rebellion of the first man that all men likewise have joined.

#5. The fallen state of Adam (man) is not a poison that was passed on to Adam's children or a sexually transmitted disease, but a rebellion that Adam initiated, that all who were around and part of Adam, regardless of physical descent had joined in upon.

#6. This fallen state is the consequence of no single historical act: it is the unavoidable pre-supposition of all human history.

#7. There never was a golden age. There is no point in looking back to one. The first man was immediately the first sinner.

#8. Adam is like the rainbow in relation to Jesus like the sun. Adam is only a reflection of Jesus. The rainbow has no independent existence of the Sun. The rainbow cannot stand against the sun. It does not balance it, and the same is of all people in Adam and the one person of Jesus.

#9. Barth and Calvin teach that the corruption of all mankind in the person of Adam alone did not proceed from ordinary generation, but from the appointment of God.

#10. No one has to be Adam. We are so freely and on our own responsibility. Although the guilt of Adam is like ours, it is just as little our excuse as our guilt is his.

In Christ and Adam, Barth explains how Adam is at once an individual and all of humanity. Adam is an individual and all individuals are Adam.

What Rom 5:12-21 is specially concerned to make clear is that man as we know him, man in Adam who sins and dies, has his life so ordered that he is both a distinct individual and, at the same time, the responsible representative of humanity and of all other men. In the same way there are no other responsible representatives of humanity than individual men. We are what Adam was and so are all our fellow men. And the one Adam is what we and all men are. Man is at once an individual and only an individual, and, at the same time, without in any way losing his individuality, he is the responsible representative of all men. He is always for himself and always for all men.

Barth, Karl. Christ and Adam; Man and Humanity in Romans 5. Trans. T. A. Smail. New York: Collier, 1957. 112-3. Print.

Another quotation from Barth's Christ and Adam, expands the idea that we are all Adam. No one in particular person is Adam, because all individuals take up Adam's insurgence. No one is innocent, and no one may say they are wrongly punished for what some other man has done, yet at the same time, we are all one in Adam, and the very first man at his initial step missed the mark and gave into the lordship of sin.

The parallel must first be seen be seen as such. In both cases there is the one, and in both, the many, all men. Here, in Adam, is the one, who by what he is and does and undergoes, inaugurates, represents, and reveals what the many, all men who come after him, will also have to be and do and undergo. But here, in Adam, are also the many, all men, not one of them the less guilty or the less penalized because he is not himself the one, but each rather finding himself completely in what the one is and does and undergoes, and recognizing himself only too clearly in him. There, in Christ, is, for the first time in the true sense, the One who stands, as such, for all the others. He also is the Inaugurator, Representative, and Revealer of what through Him and with Him the many, all men shall also be, do, and receive. And there, also for the first time in the true sense, are the many, all men, not one of them less righteous or less blessed because he is not the One, but each rather finding and recognizing himself again in what this One who takes his place is, and does, and has received. As in the existence of the one, here in Adam, the result for the many, all men, is the lordship of sin, and, with it, the destiny of death; so again, in the existence of the One, there in Christ, the result for all men is the lordship of grace exercised in the divine righteous decision and promise of eternal life.

Barth, Karl. Christ and Adam; Man and Humanity in Romans 5. Trans. T. A. Smail. New York: Collier, 1957. 42-3. Print.

In Karl Barth's infamous commentary, The Epistle to the Romans (sometimes called "Romans II"), the essential point is made that there is no one single isolated historical act of a so-called Historical Adam that is to blame for the lordship of sin over humankind, because this acts is a corporate act of all men, and one we all take up willingly in the beginning of every individual's life. The very first man took up this insurgence, yet all people take up this insurgence, because it is our anthropology.

Adam is the 'old' subject, the EGO of the man of this world. This EGO is fallen. It has appropriated to itself what is God's, in order that it may live in its own glory. This fallen state is the consequence of no single historical act: it is the unavoidable pre-supposition of all human history, and, in the last analysis, proceeds from the secret of divine displeasure and divine rejection. Directly related to this 'Fall' is the condemnation unto death, pronounced upon all men; whereby the naturalness and creatureliness, the inadequacy, tribulation, and corruption, of men, as men of this world, constitute alike their curse and their destiny (Rom 5:18). For (Rom 5:19)—by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners. The action of Adam does not merely throw light upon his own individual character; rather, it defines individuality itself, all individuals,—the many. For those who have eyes to see, the many are discovered and exposed as sinners. There is no man, who as a man and as he really is, is not—in Adam. As such, therefore, the old and fallen subject is set under sentence of death, under negation, under the wrath of God.—Such, then, is the old world by which we are continually generated.

Barth, Karl. Trans. Edwyn Clement Hoskyns. The Epistle to the Romans. London: Oxford UP, H. Milford, 1968. 181. Print.

The Epistle to the Romans and Christ and Adam represent bookends to Barth's theology, but the centerpiece is always The Church Dogmatics. And Barth may not know apart from what he wrote in the Church Dogmatics! At the end of the Church Dogmatics Vol. IV. §60, contains the following excellent quotations on Adam that repeat the content of the previous quotes and add (what should be obvious) that these sparse biblical references to Adam are not grounds for any scientific paleontology. The biblical accounts contain various degrees of saga (the literary genre) that makes a historical paleonotogy impossible to derive from Gen 2-3, Rom 5:12-21 and 1 Cor 15:22,45. A point that needs to be repeated frequently is that if Adam is presented biblically as a singular individual as a patriarch of all men, this does not mandate or necessity that a historical man, named Adam as such, that his life was recorded in scripture as straight forward literal history that is absent of any form of saga, metaphor, allegory, or interpretation. It is anachronistic to impose scientific precision upon the text, such that anyone may use the scientific method to determine the historicity of this so-called 'Historical Adam'.

The Bible gives to this history and to all men in this sense the general title of Adam. Adam is mentioned relatively seldom both in the Old Testament and the New. There are only two passages which treat of him explicitly: Gen 2-3 and Rom 5:12-21 (to which we might add 1 Cor 15:22,45). The meaning of Adam is simply man, and as the bearer of this name which denotes the being and essence of all other men, Adam appears in the Genesis story as the man who owes his existence directly to the creative will and Word and act of God without any human intervention, the man who is to that extent the first man.

We could see and attest the coming into being of heaven and earth and especially the coming into being of Adam and his corresponding individual existence? It is not history but only saga which can tell us that he came into being in this way and existed as the one who came into being this way—the first man. We miss the unprecedented and incomparable thing which the Genesis passages tell us of the coming into being and existence of Adam if we try to read and understand it as history, relating it either favorably or unfavorably to scientific paleontology, or to what we know know with some historical certainty concerning the oldest and most primitive forms of human life. The saga as a form of historical narration is a genre apart. And within this genre biblical saga is a special instance which cannot be compared with others but has to be seen and understood in and for itself. [...]

It is the name of Adam the transgressor which God gives to world-history as a whole. The name of Adam sums up this history as the history of the mankind which God has given up, given up to its pride on account of its pride. It sums up the meaning or meaninglessness of this history, and—this is the Word and judgment of God on it, this is the explanation of its staggering monotony, this is the reason why there can never be any progress—it continually corresponds to his history. It is continually like it. With innumerable variations it constantly repeats it. It constantly re-enacts the little scene in the garden of Eden. There never was a golden age. There is no point in looking back to one. The first man was immediately the first sinner.

Barth, Karl. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. Church Dogmatics: IV.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance. Vol. 22. London: T & T Clark, 2009. [507-08]. Print. Study Edition..

In this next quotation from The Church Dogmatics, Adam is introduced as the "first among equals" interpretation, concluding that Adam is not an metonymy for us all in abstract of individual. Adam is the first man, who first lead the rebellion we all have participated in, but he is us all, yet at the same time, the very first man who first committed this treasonous act of insurgence established what man is. It's not a poison that was passed on to Adam's children or a sexually transmitted disease, but a rebellion that he initiated, that all who were around and part of Adam, regardless of physical descent had joined in upon. When a man initiates an insurgences, often his children participate, but most participates of an insurgency are not physical descendants. Almost always, accomplices in crimes are genetically unrelated.

Who is Adam? The greatest unknown who is the first parent of the race? There can be no doubt that this is how the biblical tradition intended that he should be seen and understood. But it is interested in him as such only for what he did. A sinner specially burdened with his act? But compared with what the Old Testament tells us of others, and even of holy men, his offence was obviously so slight and trivial that in view of his particular fault we should hesitate to describe him even as the primus inter pares (first among equals). Certainly there is no reason why a special accusation should be brought against him and his act. He simply did in the insignificant form of the beginner that which all men have done after him, that which is in a more or less serious and flagrant form our own transgression. He was in a trivial form what we all are, a man of sin. But he was so as the beginner, and therefore as primus inter pares (first among equals). This does not mean that he has bequeathed it to us as his heirs so that we have to be as he was. He has not poisoned us or passed on a disease. What we do after him is not done according to an example which irresistibly overthrows us, or in an imitation of his act which is ordained for all his successors. No one has to be Adam. We are so freely and on our own responsibility. Although the guilt of Adam is like ours, it is just as little our excuse as our guilt is his. We and he are reached by the same Word and judgment of God in the same direct way. The only difference is that what we all are and do he was and did at the very gateway of history, and therefore he was reached first by the Word and judgement of God in a way which is typical for all his successors. That is Adam as seen and understood in the biblical tradition, the man who sinned at once, the man who was at once proud man, the man who stands at the gateway as the representative of all who follow, the one whom all his successors do in fact resemble (in the fact that they all sin at once as well).

Barth, Karl. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. Church Dogmatics: IV.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance. Vol. 22. London: T & T Clark, 2009. [509-10]. Print. Study Edition.

In the next quotation from Church Dogmatics Vol. IV. §60, is the most important corrective; Adam and Jesus Christ are not peers, or two or a kind, or equals in anyway. Adam is 'a type of him who is to come' who is Jesus Christ. All people have gone astray in Adam and redemption comes from the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, all people are in Adam and all redemption is in Jesus Christ; the one for the many and the many for the one is Christ and Adam.

We ought to speak of the parallel between Adam and Christ. But at the very least we ought to speak of the parallel between Christ and Adam. For there can be no doubt that for Paul, Jesus Christ takes the first place as the original, and Adam the second place as "the figure of him that was to come" (Rom 5:14), the prophetic type of Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus Christ first and then Adam. But that means that in Adam, in his existence and act and function, in his relationship to the race which derived from him, he saw again, as it were, the negative side of Jesus Christ. In the unrighteous man at the head of the old race he saw again the righteous man at the head of the new. And even the term parallel calls for some explanation. It is not autonomously that the line of Adam and the many who are concluded with him in disobedience runs close to that of Jesus Christ in whose obedience God has willed to have and has had mercy on many and indeed on all. We have only to note how the two are contrasted in Rom 5:15-17 to see that although they can be compared in form they cannot be compared in substance. The former is like the rainbow in relation to the sun. It is only a reflection of it. It has no independent existence. It cannot stand against it. It does not balance it. When weighted in the scales it is only like a feather. That is the relationship between the offence of men in the person and act of one and the free gift of righteousness and life which comes with the judgement of God in the persona and act of this other. That is the relationship between the determination of all men and mankind and the history of man on the one hand and their determination on the other.

Barth, Karl. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. Church Dogmatics: IV.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance. Vol. 22. London: T & T Clark, 2009. 513. Print. Study Edition.

Barth quotes John Calvin's Commentary of John (3:6) that I've provided in context to demonstrated how Barth is in development out of the Reformed Tradition. The essential 'sentence' is that it is not by "ordinary generation" that the corruption of mankind subsists but it exists by the direct "appointment of God".

But here it may be objected, that since the soul is not begotten by human generation, we are not born of the flesh, as to the chief part of our nature. This led many persons to imagine that not only our bodies, but our souls also, descend to us from our parents; for they thought it absurd that original sin, which has its peculiar habitation in the soul, should be conveyed from one man to all his posterity, unless all our souls proceeded from his soul as their source. And certainly, at first sight, the words of Christ appear to convey the idea, that we are flesh, because we are born of flesh. I answer, so far as relates to the words of Christ, they mean nothing else than that we are all carnal when we are born; and that as we come into this world mortal men, our nature relishes nothing but what is flesh. He simply distinguishes here between nature and the supernatural gift; for the corruption of all mankind in the person of Adam alone did not proceed from generation, but from the appointment of God, who in one man had adorned us all, and who has in him also deprived us of his gifts. Instead of saying, therefore, that each of us draws vice and corruption from his parents, it would be more correct to say that we are all alike corrupted in Adam alone, because immediately after his revolt God took away from human nature what He had bestowed upon it.

(Header Image Source: Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Bruce McCormack on the Misuse of the Imago Dei (Image of God)

imago-dei-bruce-mccormackIn a panel discussion at the LA Theology 2015 conference, Bruce McCormack provides this provocative explanation on how the imago dei has been misused in the history of Christian theology. I've transcribed his response in the video link as follows.

Bruce McCormack on the imago dei:

"The doctrine of the Image of God has been badly misused throughout the history of Christian Theology. It's been made to answer the wrong questions. It's been made to answer the question of what gives human beings significance which quickly turns into what makes us different from animals. Now that's a very dangerous game to play, because those who study the higher forms of primate life are eroding those differences left, right and center. And I think, one of the things we may learn from that, is that the Imago Dei is a doctrine about what makes us like god, not what makes us different from the rest of Creation. And because that's the case, you are not going to be able to describe it phenomenological or metaphysically, I think you have to describe it Christologically. You're not describing it in terms of some set of properties, intellect, memory, will, whatever, you're not doing it that way. What I think that the Imago Dei is, at the end of the day, is holiness. It is holiness rooted in kenotic, self-giving, love. Leviticus 19:2 says, 'I the Lord your God, am a holy God, you shall be a holy people.' To be in a relationship with this God, is to be holy. What does this look like? It has to be in conformity of our lived existence in this world to Jesus' own; to his life of perfect obedience; it's about correspondence to him; it's about holiness. And as I say, its a holiness that arises out of kenotic, self-giving love. That's the image, but that's how Christ is."

McCormack, Bruce. "LA Theology Conference Panel Discussion."
YouTube. YouTube, 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.


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John Calvin’s The Wondrous Exchange (The Great Exchange)

wondrous-exchange-calvin"The Wondrous Exchange" is John Calvin's version of Martin Luther's "The Great Exchange". I mentioned the Wondrous Exchange (or Wonderful Exchange) in my previous post on Martin Luther's The Great Exchange. Calvin's Wondrous Exchange surprisingly does not appear in a loci on atonement in The Institutes of the Christian Religion but is found near the fountain head of Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper! The event and act of atonement occurs in the real participation of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper: "For he in some measure renews, or rather continues, the covenant which he once and for all ratified with his blood (as far as it pertains to the strengthening of our faith) whenever he proffers that sacred blood for us to taste." Martin Luther discovered The Great Exchange but John Calvin has found the location of this Wondrous Exchange!

The following quotation containing Calvin's Wondrous Exchange, forms point number two in Calvin's famous chapter on the Eucharist (Institutes, IV.xvii.2), and sets Calvin's concept of atonement in the cornerstone of his Doctrine of the Eucharist. Immediately preceding section 2 is a discussion on how we are nourished bodily by The Lord's Supper by the "taste of this sacred food" that "we receive from the flesh and blood of Christ" (Institutes, IV.xvii.1). In the following section, Calvin says, "as bread nourishes, sustains, and keeps the life of our body, so Christ's body is the only food to invigorate and enliven our soul." (Institutes, IV.xvii.3)

"Godly souls can gather great assurance and delight from this Sacrament; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours. As a consequence, we may dare assure ourselves that eternal life, of which he is the heir, is ours; and that the Kingdom of Heaven, into which he has already entered, can no more be cut off from us than from him; again, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange (mirifica commutati) which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.xvii.2)

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960. 1360-3. Print.

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Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

jddjThe Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ or JD) was an ecumenical agreement on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. The Joint Declaration was completed in February 1997, it was then approved by a supermajority of the Lutheran World Federation churches (89 of the 124 members signed), and then it was signed by the Lutheran World Federation and Catholic Church in Augsburg, Germany in October of 1999 in commemoration of the Augsburg Confession. The Joint Declaration was endorsed by an Official Common Statement by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church and then the Annex to the Official Common Statement was published, mutatis mutandis. In 2009, the ten year anniversary of this landmark document was celebrated in Chicago.

The Joint Declaration is an amazing incarnation of the Legacy of Hans Küng's Doctrine of Justification published forty years prior where he Küng proves that the Catholic Doctrine of Justification is not synergism. The Joint Declaration addresses Lutheranism, but I hope to see in my lifetime a similar ecumenical agreement between Reformed Churches and the Catholic Church that addresses specifically Reformed objections of Catholic Justification, such as those objections raised by Eberhard Jüngel's JustificationFor instance, Reformed theologians have claimed that the Lutheran doctrine of Justification in the Joint Declaration is Osianderian, and that issue raised by the debate between John Calvin and Andreas Osiander (c.f. The Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.11) will need to be resolved before we see a joint declaration incarnate between the Reformed Churches and Roman Catholic Church. Many Reformed works have been published as foreshadows of such ecumenical unity, such as George Hunsinger's Eucharist and Ecumenism. Despite the work that must be done, this is a remarkable document that gives us hope that one day we may confess the Creed as never before: "we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church".

A summary statement explaining the Joint Declaration's objective:

"By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today's partner." (JD 2.13)

The Joint Declaration unifies the Doctrine of Justification between Catholics and Lutherans by understanding each parties as opposing sides of the same coin. Sanctification and Justification are two dogmas that are neither unified or separated, such that the Catholics emphasize sanctification and Lutherans emphasize Justification, but Catholics do not exclude Justification in their formulations on Sanctification, and the Lutherans do not exclude Sanctification in their formulations on Justification, such that the differences are a matter of emphasis. Each difference between the Catholic and Lutheran teaching on the Doctrine of Justification is addressed following this program.

Joint Declaration on the question of human "cooperation":

"We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation. The freedom they possess in relation to persons and the things of this world is no freedom in relation to salvation, for as sinners they stand under God's judgment and are incapable of turning by themselves to God to seek deliverance, of meriting their justification before God, or of attaining salvation by their own abilities. Justification takes place solely by God's grace. Because Catholics and Lutherans confess this together, it is true to say:" (JD 4.1.19)

Catholic: "When Catholics say that persons "cooperate" in preparing for and accepting justification by consenting to God's justifying action, they see such personal consent as itself an effect of grace, not as an action arising from innate human abilities." (JD 4.1.20)

Lutheran: "According to Lutheran teaching, human beings are incapable of cooperating in their salvation, because as sinners they actively oppose God and his saving action. Lutherans do not deny that a person can reject the working of grace. When they emphasize that a person can only receive (mere passive) justification, they mean thereby to exclude any possibility of contributing to one's own justification, but do not deny that believers are fully involved personally in their faith, which is effected by God's Word." (JD 4.1.21)

Joint Declaration on Catholic 'washing away of original sin' verse Lutheran 'simul iustus et peccator (at the same time righteous and sinner)':

"Lutherans understand this condition of the Christian as a being 'at the same time righteous and sinner.' Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament and grants the righteousness of Christ which they appropriate in faith. In Christ, they are made just before God. Looking at themselves through the law, however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them (1 Jn 1:8; Rom 7:17,20), for they repeatedly turn to false gods and do not love God with that undivided love which God requires as their Creator (Deut 6:5; Mt 22:36-40 pr.). This contradiction to God is as such truly sin. Nevertheless, the enslaving power of sin is broken on the basis of the merit of Christ. It no longer is a sin that 'rules' the Christian for it is itself 'ruled' by Christ with whom the justified are bound in faith. In this life, then, Christians can in part lead a just life. Despite sin, the Christian is no longer separated from God, because in the daily return to baptism, the person who has been born anew by baptism and the Holy Spirit has this sin forgiven. Thus this sin no longer brings damnation and eternal death. Thus, when Lutherans say that justified persons are also sinners and that their opposition to God is truly sin, they do not deny that, despite this sin, they are not separated from God and that this sin is a 'ruled' sin. In these affirmations, they are in agreement with Roman Catholics, despite the difference in understanding sin in the justified." (JD 4.4.29)

"Catholics hold that the grace of Jesus Christ imparted in baptism takes away all that is sin 'in the proper sense' and that is 'worthy of damnation' (Rom 8:1). There does, however, remain in the person an inclination (concupiscence) which comes from sin and presses toward sin. Since, according to Catholic conviction, human sins always involve a personal element and since this element is lacking in this inclination, Catholics do not see this inclination as sin in an authentic sense. They do not thereby deny that this inclination does not correspond to God's original design for humanity and that it is objectively in contradiction to God and remains one's enemy in lifelong struggle. Grateful for deliverance by Christ, they underscore that this inclination in contradiction to God does not merit the punishment of eternal death and does not separate the justified person from God. But when individuals voluntarily separate themselves from God, it is not enough to return to observing the commandments, for they must receive pardon and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation through the word of forgiveness imparted to them in virtue of God's reconciling work in Christ." (JD 4.4.30)

A controversial conclusion of the Joint Declaration is not to repeal the mutual anathemas by the Lutherans symbolic literature or the Counter-Reformation literature (especially the Council of Trent) from the 16th century, but to say that those anathemas no longer have potency today. Catholics retain the Council of Trent in their magisterium, and this became a barrier for a group of conservative Lutherans who is unwilling to dialog unless the council is removed.

"Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration." (JD 5.41)

"Nothing is thereby taken away from the seriousness of the condemnations related to the doctrine of justification. Some were not simply pointless. They remain for us "salutary warnings" to which we must attend in our teaching and practice" (JD 5.42)

The reality is that this is a first step in reconciliation after five hundred years of bad blood since the Reformation.

"The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. [JD] 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths." (JD 5.40)

"Our consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification must come to influence the life and teachings of our churches. Here it must prove itself. In this respect, there are still questions of varying importance which need further clarification. These include, among other topics, the relationship between the Word of God and church doctrine, as well as ecclesiology, ecclesial authority, church unity, ministry, the sacraments, and the relation between justification and social ethics. We are convinced that the consensus we have reached offers a solid basis for this clarification. The Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church will continue to strive together to deepen this common understanding of justification and to make it bear fruit in the life and teaching of the churches." (JD 5.43)

The Joint Declaration is a remarkable document and a hope for unity in our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and there will always be those who prefer schism, such as those vocal minority of Luther Churches, like the  LCMS Churches that refused to sign the Joint Declaration We may always hope against hope for the infallibility of the Church, so that we may be one, as Jesus prayed, in the way that he and the Father are one.

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John Calvin’s Definition of Sacrament

calvin-sacramentJohn Calvin provides the following definition of sacrament in the Institutes of the Christian Religion (IV.xiv.1-2) using the vernacular of "sign and seal" that is a staple of conservative Reformed sacramentology, and appears in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the other Reformed confessions.

Calvin's definition is ecumenical, as he desires the unity between the Lutheran Church (Luther-Melanchthon) and the Swiss Reformed (Zwingli-Bullinger), with the Lutherans emphasizing the impression of the seal on the Christian and the Swiss Reformed emphasizing the sign of the Christian, and Calvin stands in the midst and has it both ways with his twofold talk of "sign and seal".

The following quotation provides two definitions of 'sacrament' by John Calvin, and a briefly explanation on how his definition aligns with that of Augustine of Hippo. And lastly, it has a clarification on the term 'sacrament' vs 'mystery' being a different of the Western Roman Church verse the Eastern Greek Church respectively.

First, we must consider what a sacrament is. It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that it is:

An outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men.

Here is another briefer definition:

One may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.

Whichever of these definitions you may choose, it does not differ in meaning from that of Augustine, who teaches that a sacrament is "a visible sign of a sacred thing," or "a visible form of an invisible grace," but it better and more clearly explains the thing itself. For since there is something obscure in his brevity, in which many of the less educated are deceived, I have decided to give a fuller statement, using more words to dispel all doubt.

2. The word "sacrament" 

The reason why the ancients used this word in this sense is clear enough. For wherever the old translator wished to render into Latin the Greek word μυστήριον, especially where it refers to divine things, he translated it "sacrament."

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960. 1277-8. Print.

(Image source:wikipedia)

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John Calvin on the Origin of the Rainbow

calvin-rainbowI discovered two quotations by John Calvin, one in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and the other in his Commentary on Genesis where Calvin argues that the rainbow existed before the Noahic Covenant was established. The False Dilemma between the Bible and Science has been a reoccuring theme I've featured, as well has reviewing quotations from great theologians that demonstrate that it is a false dilemma, with special emphasis on quotations by the great Reformers who are the theological grandfathers of those who assert this false either/or between the Bible and Science. (Maybe this theme is my wrestling with the flannel graph of my Sunday School of long ago.) Calvin's example of this false dilemma is the rainbow, and the false dilemma is presented as, the Bible reveals that the rainbow as specially created as a sign and seal of peace to mankind at the establishment of the Noahic Covenant and yet Science tells a different story concerning the ontology of rainbow prior to the Deluge.

rainbowIn the following two quotations, Calvin discusses the origin of the rainbow in a non-concordant interpretation of Genesis 9:13. The existence of trees, rainbows, and stars is no problem for Calvin's sacramentology, because any existing creature may become a sacramental sign and seal in the same way as any existing nugget of silver may have the sign and seal of Caesar pressed upon it to give it official value. Calvin does not claim that the rainbow came into existence at the time of Noah, but that God has chosen the rainbow from all his created entities to be his special and sacramental sign of peace. So it makes no difference whether the rainbow had existed since the beginning of Creation.

John Calvin's Institutes IV.xiv.18

[...] he gave Adam and Eve the tree of life as a guarantee of immortality, that they might assure themselves of it as long as they should eat of its fruit [Gen. 2:9; 3:22]. Another, when he set the rainbow for Noah and his descendants, as a token that he would not destroy the earth with a flood [Gen. 9:13-16]. These, Adam and Noah regarded as sacraments. Not that the tree provided them with an immortality which it could not give to itself; nor that the rainbow (which is but a reflection of the sun's rays upon the clouds opposite) could be effective in holding back the waters; but because they had a mark engraved upon them by God's Word, so that they were proofs and seals of his covenants. And indeed the tree was previously a tree, the rainbow a rainbow. When they were inscribed by God's Word a new form was put upon them, so that they began to be what previously they were not. That no one may think these things said in vain, the rainbow even today is a witness to us of that covenant which the Lord made with Noah. As often as we look upon it, we read this promise of God in it, that the earth will never be destroyed by a flood. Therefore, if any philosophizer, to mock the simplicity of our faith, contends that such a variety of colors naturally arises from rays reflected upon a cloud opposite, let us admit it, but laugh at his stupidity in failing to recognize God grace, what is gained from these visible sacraments?" as the lord and governor of nature, who according to his will uses all the elements to serve his glory. If he had imprinted such reminders upon the sun, stars, earth, stones, they would all be sacraments for us. Why are crude and coined silver not of the same value, though they are absolutely the same metal? The one is merely in the natural state; stamped with an official mark, it becomes a coin and receives a new valuation. And cannot God mark with his Word the things he has created, that what were previously bare elements may become sacraments?

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960. 1294-5. Print.

John Calvin's Commentary on Genesis 9:13

13. I do set my bow in the cloud. From these words certain eminent theologians have been induced to deny, that there was any rainbow before the deluge: which is frivolous. For the words of Moses do not signify, that a bow was then formed which did not previously exist; but that a mark was engraven upon it, which should give a sign of the divine favor towards men. That this may the more evidently appear, it will be well to recall to memory what we have elsewhere said, that some signs are natural, and some preternatural. And although there are many examples of this second class of signs in the Scriptures; yet they are peculiar, and do not belong to the common and perpetual use of the Church. For, as it pleases the Lord to employ earthly elements, as vehicles for raising the minds of men on high, so I think the celestial arch which had before existed naturally, is here consecrated into a sign and pledge; and thus a new office is assigned to it; whereas, from the nature of the thing itself, it might rather be a sign of the contrary; for it threatens continued rain. Let this therefore he the meaning, of the words, ‘As often as the rain shall alarm you, look upon the bow. For although it may seem to cause the rain to overflow the earth, it shall nevertheless be to you a pledge of returning dryness, and thus it will then become you to stand with greater confidence, than under a clear and serene sky.’ Hence it is not for us to contend with philosophers respecting the rainbow; for although its colors are the effect of natural causes, yet they act profanely who attempt to deprive God of the right and authority which he has over his creatures.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on The Book of Genesis Vol. I. Trans. John King. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 2003. 299. Print.

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