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From Christ’s Death to Jesus’ Life

A Critical Reinterpretation of Prevailing Theories of the Cross- Translated by Joyce J. Michael

Jakub S. Trojan

This book began to materialize in the 1960s and 1970s during clandestine seminars organized by the author for Czechoslovak thinkers who dared to ponder theological questions during the communist era. It therefore provides a revealing glimpse of some of the issues that were of concern to people living under the domination of both the Nazi and communist regimes. This aspect of the book is evident in its emphasis on questions of theodicy which are raised by the idea that Jesus’ death was initiated by God.
At the same time, the book is very much concerned with contemporary issues. By analyzing traditional understandings of the cross held by a number of prominent theologians, the author seeks to address the fact that classic theories of the atonement do not speak in a compelling way to today’s secularized, post-Christian milieu. After examining perspectives that place central emphasis on the salvific consequence of Jesus’ death, the author presents his own views regarding the significance that Jesus’ life may have for the present age. He challenges his readers to venture a living interpretation of Scripture and explores the possibility that God’s plan of salvation is most faithfully represented by the compassion and justice that Jesus modelled throughout his entire life.


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Part II - Dialogue with European Theologians and Kazoh Kitamori 131


Part II Dialogue with European Theologians and Kazoh Kitamori Chapter 5 Karl Barth and Our Theme ‘The Judged Judge’ The most inf luential Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, accord- ing to some of the greatest systematic theologians of today’s Christian com- munity, expresses his opinion on our theme in his Kirchliche Dogmatik.1 And he does that – how else – very systematically indeed. In the provocative Barthian way, he has entitled his entire treatise on this matter ‘Der Richter als der an unserer Stelle Gerichtete’.2 He starts from a classic example of theological ‘music-making’; that is, from Anselm’s question: ‘why did God become a human being’.3 Barth poses the question of the meaning and sig- nificance of the death of Jesus Christ (who is presented as the God-man in Anselm’s theory) in terms of the incarnational questions that constitute the axis of this important work. Although Barth emphasizes God’s aseitas – his self-referential nature and existence for himself alone – he simultaneously maintains that God is externally open to his creation and is also here for us (pro nobis). God made the decision to save the world – his creation – out 1 Karl Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik [Church Dogmatics], iv (Zurich: EVZ Verlag, 1960), IV.1.59. 2 Karl Barth, ‘Der Richter als der an unserer Stelle Gerichtete’, in Kirchliche Dogmatik [‘The Judge Judged in our place’ in Church Dogmatics], iv (Zurich: EVZ, 1960), IV.1 (pp. 231–310). [Tr. note: Professor Trojans’s Czech rendering of the German title of Barth’s treatise reads: the judge who is judged...

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