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Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte


Hitchcock, Nathan


Karl Barth and the Resurrection of the Flesh. The Loss of the Body in Participatory Eschatology.


Cambridge: James Clarke (Lutterworth Press) 2013. 228 S. Kart. £ 19,50. ISBN 978-0-22717410-4.


Mårten Björk

Nathan Hitchcock, Assistant Professor of Church History and Theology at Sioux Falls Seminary, has written an engaging book on the problem of resurrection in the theology of Karl Barth. H. in-vites us to go back to the Credo in resurrectionem carnis – »I believe in the resurrection of the flesh« – in the Apostles’ Creed. This credo should prompt theologians to conceptualize the continuity of the flesh before and after the resurrection and may be used as a yardstick to evaluate works written about resurrection. It is this ques-tion of continuity that causes Barth’s multifaceted analysis of the resurrection to falter according to H.: it lacks the capacity to formulate the early Christian view of resurrection as re-surrection, as something that returns the dead to the living as new but yet the same life as before.
H. begins his study by outlining the doctrine of the resurrec-tion in the early church. He builds a taxonomy around the concepts of collection and participation. The notion of resurrection as collection, for example defended by Augustine and Jerome, implies that God gathers the particles of the dead and restores them to fullness, whereas resurrection as participation is defended by thinkers as Origen and Maximus and described as a partaking in God. This twofold survey of the doctrine of the resurrection is also a critique of spiritualizing tendencies in the history of the church. On the one hand, the collection view can lead to a re-configuration of the body such that it loses all its sensual characteristics, and on the other, the participation view can transform the idea of resurrection of the flesh into a resurrected life that is fully submerged in eternity. According to H., this betrays the hope for the resurrection of the flesh as flesh, i. e. as embodied human life.
H. continues his study with a series of well-written chapters on the problematic of the resurrection of the flesh in the work of Barth. H. is especially interesting when he discusses Barth’s early work, for example Die Auferstehung der Toten, where Barth describes the dead as all life outside God – which implies that the resurrection of the dead is equal to the revelation of the life of God. Resurrection reveals to man the fact that he is under judgement, and it is therefore a crisis of the old life, a way to live »against« the realm of mortality in the midst of life and death. Barth develops this understanding of resurrection as revelation in his later work, and H. outlines three conceptualizations of resurrection in his reading of Church Dogmatics and other books. Resurrection in Barth’s work, argues H., could be understood as 1. eternalization, 2. manifestation, and 3. incorporation.
H. praises Barth’s work for being an important contribution to the rethinking of eschatology in relation to the human body, and even claims that his view of resurrection could describe what happens to the dead in their wait for bodily resurrection. But, according to H., Barth reproduces the problematic of participation: all par-ticular life is subsumed in God, which cannot acknowledge the particularity of the specific bodies that yearn for resurrection. H. criticizes Barth’s theory for leading to a »panen christism« (167) which offers no possibility for thinking of the plurality of bodies, since everything is subsumed in the ontological concept of the resurrection of Christ. But the main problem with H.’s intelligent and important critique of Barth lies exactly here. He acknowledges but fails to understand the consequence of Barth’s view on the resurrection as not only individual but corporal – in the sense that it applies to a corpus, a community – and ontological in the sense that it applies to the being of this corpus, that is to a manifold and a plurality of bodies. H. seems to blur the difference between what we might call an ontological and an ontic understanding of resurrection.
H.’s critique of Barth might have led to other consequences if he had read the resurrection of the flesh not in relation to particulars but to ontology, to the being of man, to which Barth’s understanding of the resurrection seems to lead. The New Adam, the resurrected Adam, is as less as the old Adam, a single, particular individual, but rather a form of life, a communal being of man, maybe even a new species. If resurrection for Barth is the end of the old Adam and the coming of the new Adam, this is not because eternity exhausts temporality or annuls life in death, but rather be-cause it grounds creaturely existence in another state of being, that is in the community of the resurrected. This community is a community of multiple and singular beings, but beings who partake in that community of the dead and the living that Barth tries to conceptualize precisely through the flesh – that resurrected flesh that has risen from the dead and been incorporated in the eternal life and Sabbath of God.