Kroeker on Guretzki on Barth on the Filioque


I’m pleased to point Theommentary readers (just in case you care–if you don’t, I won’t be hurt…just don’t tell me!) to a fine review of my book on Barth and the Filioque. It is by Sarah Stewart-Kroeker, a Princeton Seminary PhD student. You can find the review here.

My response to Sarah’s review is threefold.

1) Sarah does a fantastic job of expositing the most important points of the book. This is concise, clear, and faithful exposition at its best. If you have no time to read the book, read her summary, and you will get an excellent abstract. Indeed, it is abstracted better than I think I could even accomplish! If people want more than a one or two sentence summary of my book (that I sometimes try to give), I’ll just point them to her review!

2) I think Sarah rightly critiques my imprecision in distinguishing between the analogia entis and vestigium Trinitatis in Barth. She is right that these aren’t to be conflated in Barth, and I admit I could have done a better job of clarifying my point here. So what is my pont? I think I wanted to argue that Barth could be in danger of unwittingly falling into supporting one or the other of these concepts which he explicitly and adamantly opposed. I agree that the concepts aren’t the same thing, but the question for me remains: Did Barth’s opposition to one or both of these concepts run contrary to what he actually does when he perceives a trinitarian pattern in creation, history and creation-history? Sarah suggests (plausibly) that “The systematic formalization of the analogies lends them the false appearance of being revelatory in themselves, rather than as the imperfect but faithful labor of human speech about the self-unveiling God.” But that, in my opinion, still supports what I am saying: If Barth didn’t intend some kind of vestigium Trinitatis (or analogia entis), and if he did intend a faithful human discourse about God’s self-revelation, he presents his case in a way that is difficult to separate his “intention” from the “appearance” of what he is really doing. More simply point, if Barth wants to maintain distance from a vestigium Trinitatis or an analogia entis, why then does he work so diligently (and extensively) to show a Trinitarian pattern in his doctrine of creation, or to show how the self-revelation of God is echoed in creation? To me, this is at best puzzling, and worst, internally contradictory.

3) The only part that I wish Sarah had highlighted a bit more was my insistence that Barth’s pro-filioque position not be pigeon-holed as typically Western. Whether or not he is fully convincing to Eastern (and Eastern leaning) anti-filioquists, Barth nevertheless manages to be “pro-filioque” with much greater affinity to Eastern concerns than any other Western theologian of which I have knowledge. And he does so not as an upholding of the ecclesiastical authority of bishops, popes and councils, but on the grounds of a theological-exegetical reading of Scripture. He affirms the filioque not because it is affirmed by Latin authorities, nor because it is against Greek authorities, but because he truly believes that it is biblical.


One thought on “Kroeker on Guretzki on Barth on the Filioque

  1. Sarah

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your prompt response! It’s great to hear your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading your book.

    As to your second point, I agree that it is puzzling and possibly internally contradictory – I would like to read Barth as trying to engage in the kind of analogical thought that falls within the bounds of faithful discourse about God’s self-revelation, which he seems to acknowledge is possible, if risky. The vulnerability to misinterpretation is no doubt greater than if he were simply to maintain his distance (particularly given the systematic way in which he carries it out), but perhaps worth taking… I tend to want to either soften or challenge his (seemingly?) categorical opposition to any kind of analogical thought, but whether it holds up is another matter!

    And thank you for reiterating your emphasis on how Barth’s treatment of the filioque is not typically Western.


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