The Twofold Life of the Word: Karl Barth's Critical Reception of the Extra Calvinisticum

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Abstract

Though the extra Calvinisticum has played an historically important role for Christology, the doctrine has been criticized not only by Lutherans and modern Christologies ‘from below’ but by some Reformed thinkers as well. This article examines the place of the extra in dogmatic thinking about the incarnation: specifically, Karl Barth's critical response to his own tradition. After examining the differences between Lutheran and Reformed construals of the relationship of the Logos asarkos to the Logos ensarkos I take up Barth's views on the extra, which over the course of his career moved from enthusiastic affirmation to a sharp critique. Finally, I suggest that Barth's mature Christology retains the best of both Protestant positions by correcting a critical inconsistency in Reformed thought. He does not reject the doctrine of the Logos asarkos, but he does suggest a way in which this is related to the life of the Logos ensarkos that marginalizes the former. Barth is right not to discard the extra, but also that it has been misused in how it is deployed in dogmatic theology.

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