Aufhebung

George Hunsinger commented that there are three formal patterns which are at work throughout Barth’s Church Dogmatics: Chalcedonian pattern, trinitarian pattern of dialectical inclusion (by which “the whole is understood to be included in the part withouth rendering other parts superfluous”), and Hegelian pattern of Aufhebung of “affirming, canceling, and then reconstituting something on a higher plane.” (How To Read Karl Barth, pp. 85-86) However, it is not correct to say that Barth simply baptized Hegelian’s dialectical pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Hunsinger noted that the underlying metaphor of Barth’s appropriation of this Hegelian pattern “would seem to be ‘incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.'” (86)

(And, to put it in the words which we might be more familiar with, it is not adequate to characterize the biblical narrative as a pattern of creation, fall, and redemption. We must not speak of creation, fall, and redemption in abstract. This pattern is encapsulated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus when we speak of participating in redemption, it must have this christocentric or cruciform character.)

Thus, in construing the relationship between nature and grace, for example, “nature is subjected by grace to a kind of Aufhebung, in the sense that nature is affirmed, negated, and then reconstituted on a higher plane.”

“In its distinction as a reality other than and over against grace, nature is affirmed. In its corruption as a reality that supposes itself to be autonomously grounded apart from grace, nature is negated. In its destiny as a reality to be drawn beyond itself into genuine fellowship with grace, the negation is negated, and nature is miraculously reconstituted on a higher plane. Two points here are especially to be noted. First, nature has no capacity for grace apart from that miraculously granted and sustained in actu–in and by the act of grace itself. Second, unlike the Hegelian pattern as it may be found or used outside Barth’s theology, within this theology it is never used to assert or imply that nature is drawn into a kind of synthesis with grace, as if the end result of the miraculous transformation were a kind of monism. . . the end result, far from being understood as a monistic synthesis in which nature is swallowed up by grace, is rather understood to be the establishment of a genuine and free relatedness or fellowship between them.” (98)

And, it is interesting to see how we apply this pattern in relation to icons or images of God, which is the subject matter in the discussion which I mentioned in the previous post. As we acknowledge that Jesus is the true image of God, we also acknowledge the judgement of God against all icons of God — pious and heathen. Jesus is the telos of the image of God. In his death, he puts an end (telos) towards all icons of God. On the other hand, Jesus is also the telos of the image of God. He is the goal (telos) of the image of God. Thus, after these icons were judged, they could be re-appraised back in the light of his resurrection. To put it crudely, the idols have been exposed as idols and shams, and that’s why we can re-appreciate them for what they worth — in Christ.

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