Act and Agent

Paul M. Collins

in Trinitarian Theology: West and East

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780198270324
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191683985 | DOI:
Act and Agent

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This chapter examines the agency behind the event of revelation, as set out in the Church Dogmatics. It explores problems surrounding personal divine agency and the question of intentionality. It discusses the category of act and the problematic surrounding a concept of special divine activity. It considers three contrasting understandings of the category of act to illustrate the diversity of the context in which Karl Barth's usage of the category functions. Johann Gottlieb Fichte contrasts ‘Action (pure, autonomous, absolutely initiatory action, grounded solely in itself), and extended matter.’ This understanding of action illustrates the separation of act language from substance language that arises from the abandonment of classical metaphysics as a result of the critique that emerged in the Enlightenment. Thomas Bonhoeffer's understanding of act remains within the post-Enlightenment view, but allows that an act may be said to be temporal in some sense, although he is careful to distinguish between act and being. Martin Heidegger challenges the assumptions of the Enlightenment, and implies that there is a parallel relation between act and being.

Keywords: Karl Barth; act; agency; intentionality; Johann Gottlieb Fichte; Thomas Bonhoeffer; Martin Heidegger; action; being; Church Dogmatics

Chapter.  9739 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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