Storied Humanity: Karl Barth’s Christological Anthropology

Theologians often look to the terms of Chalcedon and an/enhypostatic Christology to provide the guidelines for a metaphysical or ontological depiction of the hypostatic union. This paper will explore Karl Barth’s development of what I call a “post-Chalcedonian” Christology, in which elements of geschichte (history/story), identity, and relationship take priority over metaphysical, philosophical, and anthropological descriptions of the humanity of Jesus Christ, and therefore of the whole of humanity. This work dovetails with Bruce McCormack’s recent constructive critique and extension of Barth’s Christology, cf. The Humility of the Eternal Son: “Reformed” kenoticism and the repair of Chalcedon (Cambridge, 2021), and brings the same into dialogue with numerous expressions of Evangelical systematic theology.

Barth argues in the Church Dogmatics, The Humanity of God, and Christ and Adam, that what makes Jesus Christ fundamentally human is not the external, creaturely qualities or ontological categories of his existence as human per se, but rather his history of being-in-relation with God as Father and covenant partner. For Barth, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of that human-divine history which is the basis of human existence. After describing Barth’s construal of a Christologically conditioned account of anthropology, the paper suggests several ways in which a post-Chalcedonian Christology might be applied to a description of authentically human action and identity. If the history and existence of Jesus Christ can be said to define what it means to be authentically human, then theological ethics need look no further than the obedience of Jesus Christ as the basis of all responsible human action. Thus the “story” of humanity’s covenantal relationship with God in Jesus Christ becomes a central category of both theological anthropology and ethics.

3 thoughts on “Storied Humanity: Karl Barth’s Christological Anthropology”

  1. I’m game
    I’m not a fan of Barth, & I get concerned about messing with Chalcedonian Christology. However, the last paragraph of applying a Christological anthropology sounds constructive.

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