Bruce McCormack,  God,  Karl Barth

God Made God

After I wrote my last post, I was reminded of another solution to the problem of making gods in our own image, one put forward by Bruce McCormack, professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton. McCormack focuses on an age old debate over the theology of Karl Barth. Barth wrote, in part, to refute “consciousness” theologians who, according to Barth, had been making god in their own image. In contrast, Barth’s theology sought to assert the transcendence of God. The question many have asked since is: did he succeed?

McCormack, in a novel interpretation of Barth, seems to think that Barth has thrown the image making upstairs – instead of man making god in his own image, God makes himself in man’s image. McCormack suggests that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit could only be that way in relation to his creation. Therefore God must have determined his own nature in correlation to his creation – he determined his own triune nature, chose it. God could have been anything he wanted, suggests McCormack, but determined that he would be triune.

The trouble is that if God has no anticedant essense, something that he has always been, then it is not clear that anything about God is necessarily who or what God is. Instead God is something like a pure choice, a will, but not much else. He is more like a blank slate, ready to be filled. Rather than a camera facing the wrong direction (you really need to read my previous post), God is more like a canvas, painted on only by God when (or at the same time as) creation has been determined. And if that is the case where then any absolute? If God could have been anything, what would prevent him being the devil? Of course, the answer to that is to say that God created himself once he had created man – he created himself in the image of man. But then we are back to the problem of God being made in the image of man.  

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.