Paul Chung on Barth again, this time on on the ecclesial-political form of life appropriate to our participation in the apocalyptic history of Jesus:
“In respect to the establishment of God’s lordship in Jesus Christ on earth, there is no place for us to remain neutral, nonparticipants, or merely spectators toward others and ourselves. In protest and opposition to the unreconciled world and the reality of nothingness, we are called to be living participants in the prophetic history of Jesus Christ. Human beings under the grace of reconciliation are free ‘to live in contact, solidarity and fellowship’ with God as well as with the reconciled world. Therefore we live ‘as companions in the partnership of reconciliation, as brothers and sisters in the fulfilled covenant of God.’ Human beings under the glad tidings of reconciliation can live and work ‘in contact, solidarity, and fellowship both vertically and horizontally’.
In fact, it is impossible to have the attitude of an ostrich, burying one’s head in the sand. This prophetic history of Jesus Christ can be depicted and understood eschatologically as the supratemporal, transcendent future that has not yet arrived but has begun with Jesus Christ. In other words, a biblical and eschatological perspective tells us about the present irruption of God’s future, or the advent of the new human being here and now, or the present passing of the old reality, the disruptive truth of the new and true reality.”
Paul S. Chung, Karl Barth: God’s Word in Action (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, Forthcoming). 370.
I have recently called for a proper theological account of the use of adjectives in theology. One of the great banes of contemporary theology is the sort of sloganeering which tends to dominate discussions. Adjectives tend to become gaudy baubles which adorn the views advanced by the author, while the views of his oppositional interlocutors are confined to an arid desert of bland description and stale summarization. In short, adjectives become a theological form of passive-aggressive weaponry, and indeed sometimes an entirely aggressive form of armament. And I am as guilty of that as anyone.
Against this, I propose that the use of adjectives in theological discourse should primarily function, not to differentiate claims one is advancing from claims one is disputing, but rather in the mode of doxology. Theological use of adjectives should represent, not a way of gussying up one’s theological claims over-against competing claims, but rather as a mode of doxological excess in which our attempts to speak about God are drawn into God’s infinite plenitude, glory, and beauty. Our use of adjectives should be evoked by the reality of God in Christ about which we enter into discussion rather than contrived for the instrumental purpose of persuasion and rhetorical victory.
Clearly there is a place in theology for polemic and rhetoric. However, the fundamental point I want to advance about our basic theo-grammatical sensibilities is that the beauty of theology’s language, its deep structure, its poetic-linguistic richness must fundamentally derive from, refer to, and be grounded in the beauty of theology’s object: the Trinitarian God revealed in the cross and resurrection of Christ. Our use of thick description, of adjectival depth must be rooted in and evoked by the God to whom we seek to bear witness in our theologizing. The proper mode for the use of adjectives in theology is ultimately, and fundamentally doxological rather than argumentative. This is really just a point about the nature of theology as a whole.