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God After God: Jenson After Barth, Part #7

Perhaps you will remember from the last post, according to Jenson, Israel’s hope, as well as our own, is for participation in God’s own reality, which is nothing less than deification.[1] Working this idea out, Jenson asks, can God as Triune “bring other persons into that life?”[2] His answer is, on the surface, less threatening than we might have expected, though minimally. He writes, “that if bringing other persons into the triune life were in such a fashion to ‘deify’ them as to increase the number of persons whose life it is, if it added to the identities of God, then God could not accommodate them without undoing himself.”[3]

So, how does Jenson explain the deification of participants in the divine life? Not surprisingly his answer has a grammatical focus. In other words, the participant who is deified does not become a divine identity. But what does that mean? According to Jenson, “a divine identity is a persona just of that dramatis dei actually told by the gospel,” thus any other relation than this “is not a divine identity.”[4]

Consequently, Jenson is drawing a distinction between the narrative of Scripture and history itself. Thus, the Triune God is eternal “by the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”[5] However, in and through Christ God takes our time into His time. Thus, the source of God’s temporal infinity is found in the Person of Christ. Therefore, we find that Jenson wants to distinguish between Creator and creature even in the telos.

This constant attempt to maintain a Creator creature distinction is also consistent with his understanding of the analogia entis. Let us return one final time to Jenson’s revolutionized understanding of analogy this time as it relates to deification or perichoresis. I have already pointed out that for Jenson the analogia entis is an irreducibly grammatical construct as it relates to being, which is conversation.

However, Jenson realizes that there is a breakdown between grammatical assertion “God is” and “creatures are.”[6] Thus, Jenson adopts categories that will help us to understand the breakdown. He says, “‘x is’ is univocal in its locutionary sense” but “equivocal in its ‘illocutionary force.’”[7] In other words, the utterance’s illocutionary force is the particular act performed when it is said.[8] We might interpret Jenson as saying that the illocutionary force is the product (act) of the locutionary sense. Thus, says Jenson, “We may ask, when we say “God is,” what do we do?”[9]

Consequently, Jenson maintains an archetype ectype distinction in his understanding of analogy and in his view of deification. But can he uphold the distinction? Again, let us return to Jenson’s conception of the incarnation. For him, it is simply the adoption of Christ; an adoption that is only constituted in the univocal address of the man Jesus of Nazareth to God the Father. However, can there be a coincidence between the thought of man and the thought of God, or according to Jenson, between the conversation of man and God, without there being a coincidence of being? Surely the answer is, no.

Thus, the implications are obvious. If there is a univocal epistemological address between God and man then there must be a univocal correspondence between the being of God and man. Thus, in and through the application of Jenson’s view of the analogia entis to the incarnation of the second Person of Trinity, Jenson has destroyed the archetype ectype distinction that he seeks so carefully to maintain. Thus, God has become history or perhaps more to the point, man has become the Biblical narrative. Thus, Jenson has thoroughly temporalized God. There is now, no distinction between God and man. God has been thoroughly temporalized; man has been thoroughly deified. Thus, both God and man are irreducibly univocal grammatical constructions.

Having come to the end of this series, which was one post more than intended, I believe that I have demonstrated my thesis. Through his revolutionized understanding of the analogia entis Jenson laid the groundwork for the total temporalizing of God. What is more, Jenson’s inability to reconcile the univocal address of the man Jesus in his adoptionistic grammatically oriented view of the incarnation destroyed any residue of an archetype ectype distinction. Furthermore, such a move opened the door for the full deification of participants in the Godhead.

Throughout these posts the nagging question has been; has Jenson gone beyond

Barth? Now, we may answer without reservation. Yes, though Barth sowed the seeds, Jenson has indeed reaped a Barthian harvest of ideas with regard to the Creator-creature distinction that are simply contrary to the Biblical account and the orthodox confessions of the faith.

 

[1] Jenson, ST 1, 71.

[2] Ibid., 226.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 219.

[6] Jenson, ST II, 38.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

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