Graduate Research School, Sydney College of Divinity

Searching for Theological Freedom: The Divine Sovereignty of Modern Barthianism in Conversation with Church Life

Presentation Abstract

The essentialism and actualism of modern Barthianism produces two differing ethoi of divine and Christian freedom. The former arguing that an eternally free trinity precedes God’s activities with man, the latter holding that an eternal decision for covenant with man precedes God’s trinitarian ontology. The essentialist is charged with a God so autonomous that a diastasis between Jesus of Nazareth and God’s eternal freedom grows, one that can rupture surety in revelation through questioning the immanent and economic relation. The actualist position destabilises Barth’s famous movement away from an anthropomorphic antecedent to theological science, potentially positioning man’s need for covenant with God as critical to divine constitution. What comes into view here is two very different versions of divine freedom, which in turn give rise to two competing models of Christian freedom. The correlation of this debate to Church life is seen, firstly, through a version of God that is so holy that He is unapproachable, making God’s freedom a barrier to man’s relationship with Him. Or secondly, a picture of divine aseity that reduces God to a mere apprehension of man’s philosophical musings over contemporary social issues, collapsing God’s freedom into man’s mind. In this way, our understanding eternal divine freedom sets into motion a process that informs all aspects of theological science. Essentially, two versions of divine freedom establish two theological ethoi for Church life. This paper will explore this conversation.