Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 6th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Webster on Barth’s view of Lex Orandi

How in the world anyone can disagree with lex orandi,  I don’t know…

Barth, of course, in his late writings on ethics, gave a related but distinct account of the relation of liturgy and ethos (an account with which Jüngel is closely familiar). For Barth, invocation of God is the first action of the Christian ethos:97 the law of prayer (lex orandi) is the law of action (lex agendi). This is not only because it makes human action a passive (darstellend) celebration of prior divine acts, but also (and, for the late Barth, more importantly) because it requires that human moral action correspond in its sphere to the work of God in Jesus Christ, to which it testifies in analogous human action. The tension between this model and what we have already seen of Jüngel’s use of justification in the context of discussing ethics is worth exploring at greater length.98[1]


97 ChrL, pp. 36–46.

98 Jüngel has been one of the major commentators on Barth’s ethics of reconciliation, as well as one of its chief defenders against misunderstanding: see his various pieces ‘Karl Barths Lehre von der Taufe’, ‘Thesen zu Karl Barths Lehre von der Taufe’ and Zur Kritik des sakramentalen Verständnisses der Taufe’, in Barth-Studien, pp. 246–90, 291–4, 295–314. Jüngel (with H.-A. Drewes) edited ChrL for the Swiss Gesamtausgabe, and published a commentary on the material, ‘Invocation of God’.

[1] John Webster, Barth’s Moral Theology: Human Action in Barth’s Thought (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 198.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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