About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Karl Barth: Determination Without Determinism?

By identifying God’s will with election in Jesus Christ, Barth removes the complexity, mystery and multiplicity of providence. God no longer wills this or that occurrence in abstraction from history. Instead, all occurrences remain under God’s sovereignty and are actively ‘determined’ in correspondence to this singular will. Freely or inadvertently, positively or negatively, openly or obscurely, every detail of world-occurrence is ‘determined’ by the living God in its correspondence or lack of correspondence to election in Jesus Christ.

Darren M. Kennedy, Providence and Personalism: Karl Barth in Conversation with Austin Farrer, John Macmurray and Vincent Brümmer (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011), p. 206

It’s been a few years – probably the best part of a decade, in fact – since I last read Church Dogmatics III/3. I’ve never moved beyond my conviction that, concerning providence, what Barth gives with one hand he takes with the other. I’ve never truly recognised his so-called ‘radical correction’ (CD III/3, p. xii) of the older dogmatic tradition on matters providential. But Kennedy’s Providence and Personalism is opening my eyes to a couple of things, and the above quotation makes a great deal of sense to me, demonstrating how God can determine something without determinism!

Expect a review of Providence and Personalism before the end of the month.

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