The conversation between Karl Barth and Amandus Polanus on the question of the reality of human speaking of the simplicity and the multiplicity in God


The Conversation between Karl Barth and Amandus Polanus

On the question of the reality of human speaking of the simplicity and the multiplicity in God


When Karl Barth, after the discharge from his professorship in Bonn and the apparent lack of any prospects at all regarding other theological appointments in Germany, accepted the hastily created function of a professor at the university of his native town Basel in June of 1935, he decided in the first years of his teaching and research there to give special attention to several post-reformation theologians who had worked in this city before him. So his (delayed) inaugural address on the 6th of May 1936, was on Samuel Werenfels,[1] one of the local representatives of the so-called “rational orthodoxy” of the early 18th century.[2] And in three semesters in 1937 and 1938[3] he and the students in his “society” focussed on the two-part Compendium theologiae Christianae of Johannes Wollebius (1626) that had then just been newly edited by Ernst Bizer.[4] But to me it seems that the most important outcome of Barth’s turn to Basel theology is his ongoing conversation with his distant but also, in his own words, “illustrious” predecessor[5] as a professor in Basel, Amandus Polanus a Polansdorf (1561-1610), whose Syntagma theologiae Christianae is present in nearly every volume of Barth’s Church Dogmatics that came into being in the latter’s years in Basel.[6]

Barth had become acquainted with Polanus during his Reformed Theology professorship in Göttingen, when he was getting himself oriented for his first lectures in dogmatics using H. Heppe’s textbook on Reformed orthodoxy (as well as the parallel work on Lutheran orthodoxy by H. Schmid). The statistics are as follows: the number of references to Polanus in the edition of the Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe[7] totals 56, of which Barth himself mentions the name of Polanus 36 times (in the other cases Barth refers to Heppe in a general sense and the editor then identifies the reference as a quotation from Polanus).  In the Prolegomena of 1924 these numbers are 3 and 1 respectively (expanded to 8 and 3 respectively in the Münster Christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf. Prolegomena of 1927), in the Doctrine of God and the Doctrine of Man, 1924/1925, 26 and 19 respectively, in the Doctrine of Reconciliation and the Doctrine of Redemption, 1925/1926, 36 and 16 respectively. Barth was developing a certain familiarity with the older theologian here, as is obvious in phrases like: “and finally our dialectical friend Polanus, in good Reformed manner, added:…” or: “we are here following the sharp-witted Polanus…”[8] Bruce McCormack even thinks that it was Barth’s encounter with the particular form of typically Reformed anhypostatic Christology found in Polanus (as reported in Heppe), that provided him with the intellectual tools for a shift in the structure of his theological thinking in general, for instance, regarding such important issues as the relationship between dialectics and history, or the analogia fidei.[9]

Already in the course of his Göttingen lectures Barth discovered how important it is to investigate orthodox theology in its original form, i.e. starting with the sources and not only using textbooks. So he obtained the Synopsis theologiae (1678) by the very learned Dutch Cocceian theologian Fr. Burmann in 1924[10] and the Institutiones theologiae (1605) by W. Bucanus from the faculty of Lausanne (in Francophone Switzerland) in 1925.[11] Thus he gradually expanded his private collection, until he could say: “Of course to become acquainted with orthodoxy, one cannot stay with Schmid or Heppe, but one has to search and go the difficult way to the sources, where all things very often show a completely different face as one would suspect from the extracts in Heppe”.[12] And this was also Barth’s experience with Polanus!

In the Indexes of the Church Dogmatics I counted references to 32 orthodox Reformed and to 9 orthodox Lutheran theologians.[13] In both of the first volumes of the Church Dogmatics he edited in Basel (I/2, 1938 and II/1, 1940), Barth time and again places Amandus Polanus as an – early – Reformed theologian next to Johann Andreas Quenstedt (quoted from his main work, the Theologia didactico-polemica, 1685) as a – later – Lutheran theologian to be the main witnesses of orthodox Protestant theology. In this paper we focus on Barth’s conversation with the first of these two witnesses.

Amandus Polanus[14] was born in the Silesian town of Troppau. He visited the St. Elisabeth-Gymnasium in Breslau (where the didactic methods of Melanchthon were followed and where Zacharias Ursinus had taught from 1558-1560). He then studied in Tübingen, Basel, and finally in Geneva, where he followed the lectures of Theodore Beza, who considered him to be the most promising member of the next generation of Reformed theologians. For many years he served as an Ephorus (tutor) to the sons of several noble families from Moravia, mainly the house Von Zierotin, while they were taking educational trips. At the end of his life he dedicated his Syntagma to the head of this family, Karl von Zierotin. In 1596 he was appointed professor of Old Testament – the primary field of many classical Reformed theologians, as I think it should be today as well – at the university of Basel. This office also involved certain duties on behalf of the church of the city. Besides a series of commentaries, he wrote books on logic, including a Syntagma logicum Aristotelico-Ramaeum (1605) and he conducted and published many disputationes. His Partitiones Theologicae, a presentation of Christian doctrine and Christian ethics in the form of a series of theses, was published as early as 1589. In fact, the Syntagma Theologiae Christianae, which appeared just before his untimely death due to a plague epidemic in Basel in 1610, should be regarded as a voluminous extension of this earlier work.[15] One of its characteristics is the fact that it gives much more room to polemics. Many disputationes, mainly against the newer Roman-Catholic theological schools (Robert Bellarmin), have been inserted into the framework of the dogmatic exposition. Note that apart from these disputations the doctrinal discourse here is not the fruit of his ordinary lectures. This not the case with John Calvin’s Institutes either. An older Reformed theologian is always primarily a Biblical scholar!

As the title of his revised Logic indicates, Polanus, as was the case with most members of his generation, did not see “Ramism” and “Aristotelianism” as contradicting one-another. The new logic of Petrus Ramus was seen to be useful for stressing the practical tenor of holy doctrine and above all to provide the teacher with a didactic scheme by which to arrange his instructional material. In addition to this the Aristotelian tradition with its syllogistic strength – including its spread throughout Mediaeval scholastics, about which Polanus was very well informed – makes it possible to be victorious in all confessional disputes. It is, so to say, the ideal of scientific research of that age. The subtitle of the Syntagma, “iuxta leges ordinis Methodici conformatum”, suggests “follow this way of clarity, transparency, and logical consistency and you will win all debates with your Roman-Catholic or Lutheran opponents”. As far as I can see, “Ramism” or “Aristotelianism” is not intended to represent a position that in any way touches the content of doctrine.[16]

So far the only major study on the theology of Polanus (but unfortunately not at the level of Staehelin) has been that of Heiner Faulenbach (1967).[17] Although he is looking at the structure of Polanus’ theology and has a chapter on its logic, his presentation in fact completely disregards the Ramist shape Polanus gave his Syntagma. Thus the presentation of the doctrinal material is dissociated from its content. One wonders whether an author is really taken seriously, if treated in this way.

Quite contrary to this Richard A. Muller, in his voluminous Post-Reformational Reformed Dogmatics, takes the Ramist framework of Polanus very seriously. He frequently quotes the Synopsis totius Syntagmatis, which Polanus opens with an overview of the entire work.[18] This attention to the formal structure of the work undoubtedly shows progress in the research of Reformed orthodoxy. Unfortunately, however, Muller, with his vehement protest against any “accommodation” of earlier theologies to the needs and questions of later generations, not only is in danger of eliminating the article of faith of the communio sanctorum, but also of walking away from the theological duty of “historical theology” to challenge “systematic theology” in its constructive task.[19]

In this paper our starting-point will be the Ramist schemes that structure Polanus’ Syntagma. Although Barth doesn’t pay any attention to them, it is apparent that many of his debates with Polanus are related to his interpretation of the Ramist bifurcations as expressions of a supposed theological dualism.  This approach will also give us an overview of the main topics on which Polanus is quoted in the Church Dogmatics (I). After that, we will especially look at the Synopsis of the second book of the Syntagma, “On the Essence and Attributes of God”, and investigate the way Barth quotes this book in CD II/1, where the density of Polanus-quotations is greatest (II). When we then, in a third step, focus on CD II/1 § 29, the debate about human speaking of the names and perfections of God (see the title of this paper), it will turnout that perhaps not so much speaking of a duality as speaking of the simplicity (and then also the multiplicity) of God could be the main theological point of contention between Barth and Polanus (III). Then, in the next section, this hypothesis will be tested by discussing one of the more important excursuses on Polanus in the CD (IV). After thus concluding the main part of this paper, we will return to Barth’s treatment of Polanus in an epilogue. The methodological issue will be raised there, to what extent it makes sense to allow the voice of a theologian of the past to be heard in the structure of one’s own theology, when the quotations of that other theologian are going to inevitably appear in a completely new context. One can also ask, what in fact is the yield of this kind of intertextuality that is taking place between the Church Dogmatics and the Syntagma?[20]

I. An Endless Series of Dichotomies

Ramist formal logic limited itself to defining and dividing.[21] General definitions were followed by ever increasing dichotomies into their refined particularities. The advantage of this logic was its attractiveness from a didactic perspective; it simplified things and was easy to visualize. Many lesson-books in philology, philosophy, physics but also theology were provided with fold-out schemes, full of bifurcations that could be identified by brackets (in stead of this one finds the “Synopsis totius Syntagmatis” tables at the beginning of the gigantic Syntagma[22]). An intense Renaissance need for method – in a pre-Cartesian sense – was being expressed here, as well as an intense need of ordering life (which made this method especially attractive to the Reformed tradition, but not exclusively). This method was undoubtedly deductive in character, but this deductivism only had a methodological, not an ontological status. It is my impression that when Barth read these Ramist schemes in Polanus, he always tended to fear that these formal structures would have repercussions for theological content in the end.

Polanus displays some features of the so-called “analytical” method, which in a particular science first asks for its (practical) purpose and then for the means by which this purpose is achieved. But since Polanus defines the purpose of – “ectypal”, earthly – theology not only in terms of the salvation of man, but primarily (primarius et summus finis) as the “glorificatio Dei” and only in the second place (secundarius & subordinatus) as the “beatitudo creaturarum rationalium”, and therefore subordinates the purpose of the good life for mankind to that of honoring God (both in a theoretical and a practical sense), his method in effect is not very different from the “synthetical”, deductive method. [23]

In his paragraph on “the dogmatic method” Karl Barth says, “we have to dismiss the so-called ‘analytical’ method, which made its entry into Protestant theology at the beginning of the 17th century (…). We must return to the method of the Loci, the method of Melanchthon and also of Calvin” – this remark about Calvin is correct, rrb – “which was wrongly set aside as unscholarly by the more progressive of the contemporaries of J. Gerhard and A. Polanus. For this is the only truly scholarly method in dogmatics.”[24] Three remarks about this. 1. It is unclear why Barth wants to dismiss only the analytical, and not also the synthetical method of that time as a threat to the more open Loci-method in theology.[25] 2. Barth formulates cautiously: “the more progressive contemporaries of… Polanus”. He does not say that Polanus himself abandoned the method of the Loci.  3. Below I will try to show that it is indeed not necessary to see Polanus’ Ramist (and hence for his time more sophisticated) schemes as being in contradiction to the deliberately open method of the Loci.

In a much more precise manner than Barth did, we will now explore the six[26] dichotomies which give structure to the entire Syntagma in all its ten books, and which we find in the Synopsis (cf. Diagram I). In each case we will look at how Barth feared that the technical dichotomy would become a dualism in terms of theological content, and we will try to pay attention to signals that might tell us whether Barth was justified in this fear or not.

I.1.      Theologiae Christianae sunt partes duae: prima de fide [Libri II-VII], altera de bonis operis [Libri VIII-X].[27]

“Our” theology (as theologia viatorum), of which the principle is the Verbum Dei (externum = theologia utriusque testamenti et internum = scriptura cordis; cf. Jer. 31) – Book I: “De theologiae principiis” –, contains these two parts: faith and good works, or, as Polanus’ pupil Wollebius says: knowledge of God and service to God.[28] In the selfsame Scriptures one finds both: Christian doctrine and Christian life. Karl Barth welcomed this link between dogmatics and ethics within a single system, although in this dichotomy it was less strong than it had been in Melanchthon and Calvin.[29] He was also happy with the implication of Polanus’ procedure here, namely that “religion” in this way “is not placed at the head of the system under the theological principles of knowledge. Perhaps on the model of Thomas Aquinas, it is introduced under ethics, as an introduction to the exposition of the commandments of the first table”. And “(…) therefore there can be no question of a freedom of choice between this and other religions”.[30] But nevertheless “the question we may put even to Polan and Wolleb is this: Can we really speak separately of fides, and only afterwards and in other connexions of opera? De Deo cognoscendo and only afterwards and in other connexions De Deo colendo?”[31] Would that not lead to a duality between a theoretical Christian world view without any ethical outlook on the one side, and a visible, much too visible consideration of Christian practice without an effect on the “life that is hid with Christ in God” on the other side?

This question is clear. But from the point of view of Polanus and his pupil one can also ask the question the other way around: is it in any way possible for a creature, a theologian, who is a human viator, in his discourse on the things of God and of God’s commandments not to speak with two words, two view-points, two ways of approximation of the one and simple[32] Word of God? One could imagine that Barth, as a dialectic theologian would have some sympathy for this counterquestion. But unfortunately Polanus never theologically justified his use of Ramist methods, and so he never posed this question either.

I.2.      Doctrinae fidei partes sunt duae: prima de Deo [Libri II-VI], secundo de Ecclesia [Liber VII].[33]

Barth does not mention this dichotomy – the doctrine of faith consisting of the doctrine of God on the one side and the doctrine of the church on the other – at all in his conversation with Polanus. Only once does he refer to the book on the Church in the Syntagma.

Some statistics again: references in the Church Dogmatics to the first part of the Syntagma, “on Faith”. I counted 11 references to Book I, “The theological principles” (CD I/2 in the chapter on the Holy Scripture and in the paragraph on Dogmatic Method); 47 references to Book II, “The Essence and the attributes of God” (all in CD II/1); only one reference to Book III, “The persons of the Godhead” (in CD I/1, on the Trinity);[34] 13 references to Book IV, “The internal works of God” (all in CD II/2); 18 references to Book V, “The creation of all things” (CD II/1 and CD III/3) and 20 references to Book VI, “The actual providence of God” (CD I/2, the passage on the person of the incarnate Son; CD III/3 on “The Nothingness”; CD IV/1-3 on revelation, the law, the covenant, the person of Christ again, and the prophetic office of Christ).

The “exception”, i.e. the three references to Book VII, “The Church”,[35] can all be found in Church Dogmatics I/2 and they are all related to the concept of “heresy”, which was almost absent in the Christian Dogmatics of 1927 but which acquired acute relevance for Barth in the disturbed era of the thirties and became a key concept in his rewritten prolegomena.

Nevertheless we can imagine what Barth’s reservation would be with regard to this formal scheme De Deo – De Ecclesia. It could be conceived as a partition between the inward and the outward side of faith or between the work of God and the work of man.[36] Now Barth himself likes to employ that last partition (see, e.g., his doctrine on baptism in CD IV/4: baptism with the Holy Spirit as a divine work, baptism with water as the human response to that), but he refuses to see the church only on the side of human activity. Instead his expositions on “the earthly-historical form of existence of Jesus Christ” are interwoven with considerations regarding Christology and Soteriology from the doctrine of Reconciliation. The Christian community should not primarily be seen as an organization or institution, but as a secret and an enigma, brought about by the resurrected Christ, and then only in the second place also as an organization. In the Reformed tradition there is the danger that the outward organization gets disconnected from this foundation and becomes an abstract and rather technical means to an end.

But one cannot say that Polanus does this. In his VIIth book he speaks of a church that is grounded in eternal election and he doesn’t hesitate to point out “corpus Ecclesiae Catholicae est mysticum”.[37] But he doesn’t say very much in the part “on God” about the question, how exactly this mystery is grounded. As in the earlier dichotomy, here too he apparently only presupposes that the two sides of the one truth (ex parte Dei – ex nostra parte) are in fact related to that truth, which remains a secret in the middle of both parts. About this matter Polanus says almost nothing at all.

I.3.      Fidei de Deo duae sunt partes: prima de essentia Dei [Libri II-III], secunda de operibus ipsius [Libri IV-VI][38]

For Barth it is a constitutive feature of the whole of his Church Dogmatics to say: “God is who he is in the act of His revelation”.[39] So when Barth is speaking of God as the subject of revelation, he is always looking at this subject acting in election, creation, reconciliation, and redemption, and, the other way round, when Barth is speaking of the acts of this God, he maintains Him as the subject of these acts.

It is clear that the orthodox theologians were looking at a different issue. For them the issue of essence (more as substance than as subject) was located on a different level and had to be seen from a different perspective than the issue of works (more “works” as the result of action, than “acts”, by the way). Nevertheless for a man like Polanus it was evident that when he was speaking of the righteousness of God, he also had to speak of the role of justice in the atoning work of Christ.[40] And likewise, when he had to speak of the immensity of God, the confessional controversy with the Lutherans regarding the ubiquity of the human nature of Christ in the Lord’s supper had to be discussed as well.[41] Moreover, many chapters dealing with the doctrine of God end with a paragraph usus, in which Polanus tries to link doctrine with the practice of piety and ethics. So he had some awareness of the tendency that would be much stronger in Barth later on. But what would no longer be possible for Barth, was still possible for him: to accept that there were different lines of reflection that could remain side by side without being experienced as contradictory.

Barth sometimes was very harsh in his judgement. A case in point is his assessment of how Polanus speaks of the “immutability” of God. “In substance as well as terminology we are transported to quite another world (than the Biblical world) when we read Polanus’ exposition and demonstration of Gods immutability. (…) It is obvious that on the basis of these (Biblical) passages and in face of this (Biblical) God something very different will have to be said (than Polanus is saying here), something which is not in such irreparable conflict with God’s freedom, love and life. The source, however, from which Polanus draws is different and is expressly mentioned. It is his development of the idea of the ipsum ens, the actus simplex et perfectissimus (…)”.[42] Richard A. Muller carefully compares Polanus’ argument with Barth’s reference to it and comes to the following conclusion. “In context, Polanus’ argument from the identity of God as the first mover was hardly the sole or even the primary reason for arguing divine immutability, nor was it stated in isolation from Scripture. Ironically (…), Barth’s own teaching (sc. on the “constancy” of God) appears quite close to that of orthodoxy”.[43]

Here we must also comment on Heiner Faulenbach’s criticism of Polanus that his “logical methodology” relates all points of Christian doctrine to the doctrine of God. “All points of doctrine have their origin in the doctrine of God. It is the center of this voluminous work”. “The essence and will (i.e. the predestination) of God in this way of thinking are a kind of original formula (eine Urformel), from which every insight and every proposition is deduced.”[44] The following can be said about this. 1. As we have seen, the Ramist framework of the Syntagma indeed leads to a deductive way of arguing. However, we have also seen that the nature of this deductive method is merely formal, not material. So the fact that the essence and will of God lead the way in the order of the exposition, is, therefore, not in itself an indication of any ontological priority. Perhaps the 19th century theory of the doctrine of the “Alleinwirksamkeit” (omnicausality) of God as a “material principle” of Reformed theology is exerting too much influence here. 2. Now if we look at the Ramist table in Appendix I, we don’t only see deductive lines, but also parallel lines on every level inside the bifurcations that are connected with a bracket. In this way the relationship of the locus De Deo with the opera Dei is not only a question of deducing the opera from the essence of God, but also a question of parallel lines. One can talk about the fides de Deo on the line of the essence and attributes of God as well as on the line of the works of God. And likewise one can talk about the doctrina fidei on the line of the doctrine of God and his work as well as on the line of the church, which believes in this God. Or one can talk about the Christian theology of Scripture on the line of Christian doctrine as well as on the line of the Christian life. And therefore, although one can look at it from different perspectives, one will always be looking at the same object.

I.4. Fidei de essentia Dei duae sunt partes: prima de attributis Dei [Liber II], secunda de personis Deitatis [Liber III].[45]

Polanus is first dealing with the essence of God in his book on “Gods (essence and) attributes”, and thereafter in his book on “the persons of the Godhead”. Barth criticizes that sequence, for he presumes more than mere didactic reasons behind it. He does so, e.g., when he quotes Polanus’ definition of the essence of God and then says “it was certainly right to define the essence of God (in this way). But even in the definition of this a se et per se there ought never to have been an abstraction from the Trinity, and that means from the act of revelation. In all the considerations that are brought before us in this chapter (“The reality of God”) we must keep vigorously aloof from this tradition, remembering that a Church dogmatics derives from a doctrine of the Trinity (cf. CD I/1), and therefore there is no possibility of reckoning with the being of any other God, or with any other being of God, than that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…” [46] And earlier in the same excursus: “we stand here before the fundamental error which dominated the doctrine of God of the older theology and which influenced Protestant orthodoxy at almost every point. (…) In a surprisingly common thoughtlessness it was usual for reasons of formal logic to start out with the doctrine of God before the doctrine of the Trinity.[47] In the vacuum which this created, there was no place for anything but general reflections on what God at any rate could be…”

Now, Polanus does indeed place the exposition of the essence of God before that of its Trinitarian character, as the more general point of view followed by the more particular one. But it is questionable, whether Barth’s interpretation is correct, namely that the more general point of view has to be seen as a framework that arises from sources other than Scripture and this then tends to dictate talking from the more particular point of view afterwards. Here Barth is probable speaking too much on the basis of the presuppositions of later modernity. In scholastic times the methodical way from the general to the particular point of view was conceived rather as a way of intensification within the one and simple reality.

In connection with the sequence of the second Book of the Syntagma, Richard A. Muller (see below, paragraph II, of this paper) speaks of an “ascending order”, [48] that moves (in this case) “from all being” (esse Dei) “to living being” (vita Dei), “to living being that knows and wills” (sapientia et voluntas Dei), and he find such a sequence in most Ramist authors in Reformed orthodoxy.[49]

In any case, what we saw with the earlier dichotomies is also valid here, namely that we do not only have the deductive sequence – from the attributes to the Trinity –, but also the parallel placement of both members of the bifurcation within one bracket: attributes and Trinity as both included in the “fides de essentia Dei”. One can say therefore that speaking of God by way of the multiplicity of his attributes and speaking of God by way of the Trinity of his persons are two sides of the same coin, two languages one can use to talk about the one and simple reality of God.

For Polanus this means that one can say things differently in either language. When Barth discusses God’s omnipotence with him, we find an example of the confusion this can lead to.[50] Polanus  – as he does in nearly every case that he deals with an attribute of God – distinguishes between the potentia essentialis Dei (we speak of this in connection with God as a principium agendi in aliud) and the potentia personalis Dei (the power of the eternal begetting of the Son and of the eternal proceeding of the Holy Spirit). “According to Polanus”, Barth says, “this power within the Trinity has nothing to do with God’s omnipotence. (…) But it is hard to see what is the purpose of the whole doctrine of the Trinity (…), if in the exposition of this essence the insights gained can be left. (…) Here again we can see clearly how orthodoxy prepared the way for the later abandonment of the basic Christian truth grounded in the doctrine of the Trinity.”[51] Now it is true that Polanus doesn’t adhere to Barth’s rule that speaking of the immanent Trinity must be consistent with speaking of the economic Trinity, and it may also be true that this is unsatisfactory for us. In any case, Polanus here wants to differentiate between two ways of speaking and it is exactly this that Barth refuses to do. That doesn’t exclude, however, that even for Polanus from the very beginning speaking of almighty God is speaking of the Trinitarian God.[52]

A last remark in this context can put the differences between the two theologians in perspective. Barth knows that in effect Polanus does not want to isolate a Trinitarian speaking of God from a speaking of God operating through his attributes. For in many other cases where Polanus is quoted in other contexts in the Church Dogmatics he shows over and over again, how for Polanus as a good catholic theologian it is always the Trinitarian God who is present in his opera, in spite of the appropriation of each work to a specific divine Person. This is the case in the immanent opus of election,[53] and in the opera ad extra of creation[54] and incarnation.[55] So in the end, how seriously are we to take the difference?

I.5. Opera Dei sunt vel interna [Liber IV], vel externa [Libri V-VI][56]

On the concept of the opus internum Dei Barth finds his guide in Wollebius, but here too it is clear that this theologian is only following his teacher Polanus. In Chapter 4 of Book IV of the Syntagma we hear: the philosophers distinguish between an actio immanens and an actio transiens of man, or between πραξις, which is doing something with the subject of the action and ποιησις, which is changing something to the object of his action. In some sense, but not in the same way as with humanity, of course, one can make the same distinction with regard to God’s actions. In him there is also an opus internum, although his action is not fully identical with his essence, but certainly not isolated from it either (because God is pure action). At the same time his action is eternal (because God, as the very Reformed principle says, is never otiosus, inactive). He is active in the works of his inner-Trinitarian life (Chap. 5) and in the works of his wisdom and his free will, i.e. in his council and his decree (Chap. 6). This latter type of the opus internum forms the ground for the opera ad extra.

Barth comments:

“We must first acknowledge the service, which this teaching rendered by at least indicating the problem and insights, which concern us. In the relation between God and creation we certainly have to do with the one immutable God, with the essentia Dei. But the relationship is not simply a fixed one. It is determined and ordered by a decree, a decision of God’s will. Therefore in the one immutable essence of God we have to do with something special in God, the interna voluntatis divina actio. But in the concreteness which it has by its relation with the created world, this actio cannot be expressly placed in the essence of God and therefore identified with God Himself, without involving a notable contradiction of the order of God’s absolutely simple and immovable essence. (…) According to this chapter of Reformed orthodox theology there is, then, something special in God, a movement, change and decision, in virtue of which He both can be and is the One He is in relation to His creation. We certainly cannot say, according to what is at any rate the embryonic teaching of this chapter (in contrast with that on the essentia Dei), that death is God and God is dead.”[57]

This comment indicates 1. That Barth is aware of the fact that in his reading of orthodoxy there is discontinuity in the way two different chapters speak of God, and that he tries to deal with this discontinuity by asserting a “notable contradiction” (“dankenswerte Inkonsequenz”) in the orthodox Polanus – not by revising his own reading of him. At the same time, 2. Barth has problems with the theory of metaphor in Polanus. The philosophical theory of human action can only improprie be applied to the action of God, he says, quoting Wollebius but also meaning to refer to Polanus. Yet he is unsatisfied with that. We will come back to this point below (in paragraphs II.1 and III of this paper).

I.6. Externa opera Dei sunt duo: Creatio [Liber V] & Providentia actualis [Liber VI].[58]

Here, seen from the point of view of the Church Dogmatics (but not explicitly expressed by Barth as he neglects the Ramist shaping of the Syntagma), there is a material limit to the formalistic chain of dichotomies. The actions of a Trinitarian God would actually require a threefold partition at this stage, but the formal framework here only allows for a bifurcation.

It is the classical dichotomy between the work of the Deus Creator and that of the Deus Redemptor, which appears here. Other divisions, as those in opera naturae and opera gratiae, are rejected by Polanus as being too limited.[59] The fifth Book deals with creation and offers a cosmic overview in the tradition of the patristic and medieval hexaëmeron (in 35 Chapters). The sixth Book is by far the largest book of the entire Syntagma and subsumes the entire economy of salvation under the denominator of the Providentia actualis (VI.1-10: the divine Ruling, sin and the Law; VI.11-29: the Gospel, the person and the work of the Mediator; VI.30-47: the covenant of grace, the spiritual benefits of salvation; VI.48-64: the signs of the sacraments, miracles and the signs of the times; VI.65-75: eschatology).

Thus Book VI seems to be a sacra doctrina on its own merits. It could at a later time be isolated from the more “metaphysical” and subsequently “ethical” framework, in which Polanus placed it. Faulenbach also notices the special significance of this part of the work of Polanus, which with its starting point in salvation history contains completely new features of his theology.[60] Nevertheless Faulenbach does not speak of a “break” in the work as a whole. Our approach, starting from the Ramist arrangement and division of the work, can make clear, why indeed there is no such break. Again we are here dealing with one side of a reality that consists of several dimensions.  Doctrine and life, essence and works of God, world view and the experience of salvation are displayed one after the other here, but must be conceived next to each other, to the extent that the human mind is able to do that.

Here again we are confronted with a major issue where Barth seriously fears there is a theological dualism in a material sense. From the point of view of the formal framework of Polanus, however, we can say no more than that we here too are dealing with a bifurcation in perspectives, with language games, which each in their own way refer to the one and simple reality, the reality of God. But how then, we have to ask, is Polanus speaking about and thinking of that unity in his series of dichotomies?

II. The Sequence in the Treatment of the Divine Attributes

Before we can discuss this central theological question, however, it makes sense to first survey the structure of the doctrine of the divine attributes in the second Book of the Syntagma (cf. Diagram II). We find this dealt with from the 6th Chapter onward.

Chapter 1 offers the dichotomy fides and bona opera in theology as discussed above (I.1). Chap. 2 presents the confessions that enumerate the articles of faith, which form the material for books II-VI. In Chap. 3 “descriptio Dei traditur & declaratur”, Chap. 4 treats the esse and Chap. 5 the essentia of God.

There are three[61] main dichotomies, which structure this doctrine.

II.1. Attributa divina vel propria [II.6-31] sunt, vel figurata [II.33-37][62]

As figurative attributes Polanus distinguishes metonymies (e.g. “The Lord my strength”, Ps. 18,2; II.33), ironical descriptions (e.g. “Behold, the man is become as one of us”, Gen. 3,22; II.34), synecdoches (“heaven” is mentioned when God himself is meant; II.36) and metaphors (taken from the human body – “the eyes”, “the nose”, “the right hand” of God –, from human affections – “anger”, “repentance”, “pleasure” –, from human actions – “thinking”, “visiting” –, or from created things – “the throne”, “the foot-stool”; II.35). He considers these characterizations that are not properly spoken of the real God.

Karl Barth is very critical of Polanus on this point. He restricts himself to the metaphoric category (in Chap. II.35) and regrets very much that Polanus sets these attributes apart. “It is quite arbitrary to describe these in a special way, so that they have first to be divested of their full meaning to make the truth of God visible.” Apparently “in their fullness they are especially adapted to describe the special life and being of God.” For “not only some but all human standpoints and concepts, even those used by Scripture, are “anthropomorphism”.” “It is not a mere simile in Holy Scripture when God is described in wrath, mercy, patience, repentance, pleasure, pain, or in the like, or as remembrance and forgetting, speech and silence, coming and going, presence and absence; and when God’s action as attested in deeds is of such a kind as to make it necessary in describing it to apply such categories”.[63] And on a page further on: “Can it really be maintained that all that is meant non theologice, sed oeconomice: secundum captum nostrum et imbecillae cognitionis nostrae sensu? Are the decisive and in truth very meaningful Trinitarian descriptions of God as “Father”, and “Son” also not to be understood theologice? How can anyone think to explain Holy Scripture when he treats these concepts figuratively, setting over against them something “purely spiritual”, as what is really intended?” With finally the verdict: “It is at this point that we can appreciate how the orthodox doctrine of God, as determined by that of the philosophy of pagan antiquity, paved the way for the later Enlightenment with all that that involved”.[64]

For the time being we can defer an assessment of the last sentence, as well as of the theological renewal Barth is surely proposing here.[65] As far as Polanus is concerned we can agree with Barth to the extent that Polanus actually fails to justify the exact limits within his dichotomy at this point. Furthermore, if one thinks it makes sense to distinguish between speaking of God in a “theological” and an “economical” way (in the tradition of the Greek fathers), one does have to make clear in what respects one kind of speaking differs from the other. Polanus assumed such a difference without really arguing any grounds for it.

II.2. Attributa divina propria sunt tum nomina divina [II.6], tum proprietates Dei essentiales [II.7-31][66]

Speaking of God is not only about concepts, but primarily about names. It is not by accident, I think, that an Old Testament scholar like Polanus stresses this. Actually the chapter on the names of God is not very extensive. A distinction is made between nomina essentiam Dei designantia (as Jehovah, Jah, Eheie) and nomina designantia propria essentiae Dei (as El, Elohim, Shaddai). Barth is silent about this.

            “Essential properties” assert a truth about the divine essence, which can be distinguished from other truths of this essence.[67] Barth quotes this category in many of the definitions of divine attributes he borrows from Polanus,[68] but he does not discuss the category as such.

II.3. Proprietates Dei essentiales sunt duplicis ordinis: aliae primi [II.8-13], aliae secundi [II.14-31][69]

Here we find the most extensive part of the second Book of the Syntagma.[70] Polanus distinguishes two groups of attributes. Their names are not very specific. The first group contains a priori propositions about God, which indicate his absolute essence, belong only to him, are attributed to him in his essence, action, and power, and are in themselves  incommunicable.[71] In this group Polanus distinguishes four main properties, in two groups of two: simplicity (8) and perfection (9), infinity (10) and immutability (13).[72] Eternity (11) and immensity (12) are, as categories, improperly spoken, of “time” and “place”, subordinated to infinity. The second group contains a posteriori propositions about God in his quality as the principle of action. To the extent that they are in God, they are incommunicable; but by way of analogy they can be called communicable, to the extent that some similarity with them can be found in creatures.[73] As the four main properties Polanus here distinguishes life (15) and immortality (16), beatitude (17) and glory (31) – we should be aware of the fact that for Polanus humanity glorifying God is the primary, and human beatitude the secondary aim of the whole enterprise of human theology itself![74] Subordinated to beatitude are again four properties: wisdom (18) and will (19), power (29) and freedom (30); here we have to think more or less along the lines of a “psychological” scheme: God thinks and wills, he is able to do what he thinks and what he wills and he has the autonomy to do this. Under the will there is the bifurcation of goodness (20) and justice (26). To the goodness of God also belong his grace (21), love (22), mercy (23), patience (24) and generosity (25), to his righteousness also his veracity (27) and his holiness (28). It seems very clear to me that we have to observe – if ever in Polanus, then here! – an “ascending order” in this dichotomy, i.e., starting with the properties of the first category in the direction of the properties of the second category; gradually we come ever nearer to our salvation, our hope, and our obligations.

Now as we know Karl Barth could not see this way of “intensification” as we have just read it in this classical sequence of the two tables of divine attributes. For him it is a dangerous order, which compels us to think from the more general to the more particular point of view, from the pagan God to the biblical God, from the “metaphysical” level to the level of God acting in his divine, that is charitable, covenant. In his Church Dogmatics Barth proposed to turn this sequence around. He wanted to start with the properties of Polanus’ second group, the attributa relativa, communicabilia etc. After that he took the properties of the first group, the so-called attributa absoluta, incommunicabilia etc. as critical qualifications for describing the actions of the God who is the subject of his covenant.[75] This implies, that when Barth quotes Polanus, or when he is in conversation with Polanus in this part of his Church Dogmatics – and that happens many times, especially in this volume – he almost always refers to Polanus in another place and in another context than Polanus himself when he is talking about what we would think are “the same things”.[76] We have to take that into account in our description and assessment of this conversation.

A survey of the conversation on the doctrine of the divine properties tells us the following.

In § 30, “The Perfections of the Divine Loving”, Barth treats three pairs (that are in tension themselves) of two = six divine properties that all correspond with properties of the “second group” in the Syntagma: grace[77] and holiness[78], mercy[79] and righteousness[80], patience[81] and wisdom[82]. In each of these he couples his reference to Polanus’ definition with a reference to the orthodox Lutheran theologian Andreas Quenstedt, mentioned earlier. Only at the end of this tour Barth remarks with slight disappointment: “Polanus and Quenstedt, whom we have so far consulted for the orthodox doctrine of God, fail us at this point”.[83]

In § 31, “The Perfections of the Divine Freedom”, Barth again treats three pairs (that are in tension themselves) of two = six divine properties. Among these the properties of unity, omnipresence[84], constancy[85], and eternity[86] correspond to properties of the “first group” in the Syntagma. The two properties of omnipotence[87] (supported by insights from Polanus’ treatment of divine knowledge[88] and the divine will[89]) and glory[90] correspond to categories of the “second” group, but Barth arranges them in such a way that in the table of the perfections of freedom they have to remind one of the table of the perfections of love. Quenstedt is only mentioned once now[91] and is lost as a permanent conversation partner.

We can conclude that Polanus is present in the treatment of almost all of the dozen divine “perfections” Barth has chosen to deal with in these paragraphs of the Church Dogmatics. Only once Polanus is missing.[92] Namely in the treatment of the divine property of unity, which is about the simplicity and uniqueness of God, and which opens the sequence of the “Perfections of the Divine Freedom” (in § 31.1). This is strange. For at the end of the first paragraph of this paper, when we were looking at problems regarding Barth’s conversation with Polanus about the latter’s endless chain of dichotomies, we asked: “how is Polanus speaking about and thinking of unity in his series of dichotomies?” And now, of all things, Barth shouldn’t be interacting with Polanus on unity? Fortunately, however, even though Barth isn’t doing so in this passage on the simplicity of God, he does so in another context. In the next paragraph we will turn to this.

To conclude the present paragraph we now quote two summaries Polanus himself has given of his doctrine of God.

The reader of the Church Dogmatics can read the first summary in volume CD II/1, which should inform him of the structural shape in which Polanus rendered his doctrine of God. As we have seen, however, Barth does not inform the reader directly. Yet he does so indirectly. Namely in a quotation which can be found in the text on the glory of God. In the Syntagma as well as in the Church Dogmatics this is the closing section of the doctrine of the essence and attributes of God. Barth quotes a definition of the divine glory, in which Polanus summarizes the whole of his second book, as follows: “Gloria Dei est essentialis ejus majestas, per quam intelligitur Deum revera esse (4), eundem essentia sua esse revera id quod esse dicitur (5): simplissimum (8), perfectissimum (9), infinitum (10), aeternum (11), immensum (12), immutabilem (13), viventem (15), immortalem (16), beatum (17), sapientem, intelligentem, omniscium, prudentem (18), volentem (19), bonum (20), gratiosum (21), amantem boni (22), misericordem (23), justum (26), veracem (27), sanctum, castum (28), potentem imo omnipotentem (29), & talem se in omnibus operibus suis (!) declarare. Breviter: essentialis gloria Dei sunt virtutes in ipso Deo existentes & in operibus relucentes (Ex. 33:18).”[93] And Barth comments: “It is indeed the glory of God, that He gives Himself to be known as all this…!”.

The second summary is quoted by Ernst Staehelin, Polanus’ modern biographer, from a writing that Polanus addressed to the citizens of Basel in the year 1600 as an appendix to a defense of the professors of the theological school, when they were attacked on account of their teaching on the doctrine of predestination.[94] It reads:

“Wir glauben, [Book II:] dasz Gott ein Geist ist und nicht ein leiblich Wesen,[95] dasz er unendlich (10), vollkommen (9), unwandelbar (13), ewig (11), unermeszlich, allenthalben gegenwertig (12), lebendig (15), unsterblich (16), selig (17),[96] weyse (18), gut (20), gnedig (21) und barmhertzig (23), gedultig (24), gerecht (26), allmechtig (29), aller Dingen frey unnd  Niemanden unterworffen (30), [Book III:] dasz er einig im Wesen, aber drey Personen, Vatter, Sohn und Heiliger Geist, seye.”

III. The Multiplicity of the Predications and the Simplicity of God

The place I meant, where the simplicity of God is at stake in the conversation between Barth and Polanus, is the place where Polanus speaks of the proprietates Dei essentiales in genere and Barth of “the possibility, legitimacy and necessity of speaking of… the glory of God as a multiplicity of perfections”.[97]

After giving his definition of the essential divine properties,[98] Polanus presents eleven axiomata in his (short) chapter on this issue. They state (in an abbreviated rendering): 1. These properties are the essence of God Himself and they do not differ from this essence or from one another 2. In God there is no essential difference, for all things that are in Him are the one and indivisible and most simple essence. 3. The divine properties are not distinguished in reality or in the nature of the object, but in our reasoning, or rather in a certain manner, according to our conception, our comprehension, our understanding.

‘We don’t mean this in the way of Gabriel Biel or William of Occam, who assert that the propositions of our mind are only imaginative or fictional; but we do it in the way of Aristotle and Aquinas, who assert that definitions and divisions in our mind are provoked by the object of our thinking itself, so that the differences we make – as the difference between the mercy and the righteousness of God – are actually related to this object.

4. The divine properties are not parts of the divine essence, but every essential property as a whole is an integral divine essence, in such a manner that the divine essence and the divine essential property are not two different matters, but one and the same. 5. The essential divine properties can in reality not be separated.

‘This is said against Gilbert of Poitiers, who was of the opinion that the attributes of the divinity could be separated from God Himself, as accidents from the subject and who was condemned for that by pope Eugenius at the synod of Reims.’

 6. What God is or does in Himself in one and the same act, which is his own essence, is what He is or does in Himself; so at the same time and in one act he is simple, infinite, unchangeable and He lives, understands, wills, loves etc.  7. The divine properties are eternal, “from everlasting to everlasting”, although He does not always explain them as such in His external works [italics:] which in some respect happen in time. 8. The essential properties are not posterior to the divine essence, for they are in reality the essence itself. 9. The essential properties are not accidental forms in God nor are they accidental matters, but they are ideas or essential forms. For there is nothing in God that has no subsistence in itself. 10. The essential properties are actions, for God is the most pure action and the most simple being. 11. God cannot exist without his essential properties. Therefore He Himself is the most proper wisdom, goodness, power and so on. After the division of the two groups of properties – see above, II.3 – the warning again follows:

‘Properly said there is no multitude of properties, but only one, which is no other than the divine essence; but with respect to ourselves we need to distinguish many properties, for they are many in our mind. For our intellect is not able to know all other things and thus also to know God in one simple act, but it needs many and distinct acts in order to do that.

1. Proprietates Dei essentiales sunt realiter ipsamet Dei essentia, & nec ab essentia Dei nec inter se reipsa differunt… 2. Nulla in Deo distinguuntur essentialiter: quia omnia quae sunt in Deo sunt una & indivisibilis & simplicissima essentia. 3. … non realiter, ita nec ex natura rei, sed ratione distinguuntur aut modo potius, id est nostra conceptione & comprehensione, seu nostro intelligendi modo.  4. … non sunt partes essentiae divinae sed quaelibet proprietas essentialis est ipsamet Dei essentia tota et integra, ita ut essentia Dei & essentialis Dei proprietas non sint aliud & aliud, sed unum & idem. 5. … sunt realiter inseparabiles..   6. quicquid Deus est aut in sese agit, uno & eodem actu, qui est ipsius essentia, id est aut in sese agit: ideo uno & eodem actu simplex, infinitus, immutabilis est, uno & eodem actu vivit, intelligit, vult, amat &c. 7. .. sunt in Deo ab aeterno in aeternum, etiamsi externis operibus eas non semper… declaret. 8. … non sunt posteriores essentia Dei, quia reipsa sunt idem. 9. … non sunt in Deo formae accidentales seu accidentia, sed sunt ideae & formae esssentiales: quia nihil est in Deo non per se subsistens… 10. … sunt actus, prout Deus actus purissimus est & simplissimus. 11. Sine proprietatibus divinis essentialibus Deus esse non potest, ne sine seipso sit: ipse enim ipsissima sapientia, bonitas, potentia est.  Non sunt proprie loquendo multae proprietates in Deo sed una tantum, quae nihil aliud est quam ipsa divina essentia… sed respectu nostri quasi multae proprietates dicuntur, quia in nobis sunt multae… Intellectus noster non potest uno simplici actu, sed necesse habet multis distinctisque actibus, ut alia omnia, ita & Deum cognoscere.’

Barth’s argument is as follows. First he notes, speaking of divine perfections in the plural is not at all self-evident (CD II/1, 327). In an excursus he then distinguishes two lines of thought. The first one is that of extreme nominalism. For that position all our predications of God are purely subjective ideas or concepts, and the reality of God then disappears as a “nude essence” behind our predications. In this context he mentions the names of Occam and Biel – perhaps he found them in Polanus (after axiom 3). The second line of thought is what Barth calls a “semi-nominalism” in the mainstream of theological tradition. With the nominalists this position acknowledges the limitations of human understanding vis-a-vis its object, but on the positive side it stresses that this is a form of understanding. Here quite a lot of theologians are quoted, and among them also Aquinas and Polanus. Barth refers (328) to the italics of Polanus’ axiom 3 to show the concession to nominalism, but then to axioms 7, 8 and 11 as propositions “in which the basic nominalism is apparently – but only apparently[99] – transcended (‘gesprengt’)”. The italics at the end of Syntagma II.7 are cited to stress, how limited this transcending is. Barth fears, that “starting from the generalised notion of God, the idea of the divine simplicity was necessarily exalted to the all-controlling principle, the idol, which, devouring (“verschlingend”) everything concrete, stands behind all these formulae” (329). German theologians from the 19th century have encouraged Barth to search for a different way of arguing (330).

Therefore again Barth proposes three theses in the main text. 1. “The multiplicity, individuality and diversity of the divine perfections are those of the one divine being and therefore not those of another divine nature allied to it” (331). In the excursus Barth rejects the position of Gilbert of Poitiers.[100] He could have referred to Polanus’ fifth axiom here, but he doesn’t. 2. “The multiplicity, individuality and diversity of the perfections of God are those of His simple being, which is not therefore divided and then put together again.” (332). In the excursus Barth here first quotes axioms 4 and 6, but then he apparently fears that these propositions could lead to the conception of a fully undivided, and therefore unspecified and in the end nude and empty divine simplicity and so by way of counterbalance he quotes axioms 7, 8 and 11 (quoted for the second time here, without noting that). For “we must reject out of hand the semi-nominalistic reservation that in the last resort we can speak of the proprietates Dei only improprie, that the most characteristic inner being of God is a simplicitas which is to be understood undialectically. If we refuse to do this and to recognize that God’s being transcends the contrast of simplicitas and multiplicitas, including and reconciling both, it is hard to see how we can escape the view of a God who is extremely lofty in His pure simplicity but also quite empty and unreal” (333). 3. “The multiplicity, individuality and diversity of God’s perfections are rooted in His own being and not in His participation in the character of other beings”. In the excursus (334) this thesis is illustrated by the orthodox assertion, that the divine properties are no formae accidentales seu accidentia – Polanus’ ninth axiom could have been quoted here, but that doesn’t happen. Instead there is a reference to axiom 10, with the addition: “all this would be excellent, so far as it goes, if it were not for the cloven hoof (“Pferdefuß”) of semi-nominalism which at once appears and obviously compromises everything again with the explanation:… “ – and then follows the final passage in italics (which strictly speaking doesn’t belong to the whole of the axioms) already quoted on page 329 (did Barth remember this himself?): “proprie loquendo there is only one proprietas Dei, namely His essentia, – sed respectu nostri quasi multae proprietates dicuntur…”. “On the one hand”, Barth comments,

“they (the orthodox) falsely defined the being of God, which they were supposed to be defining proprie, in such a way that it did not transcend but was subject to this notion of unity. On the other hand, they made the multiplicity of the divine attributes, which they wanted to ascribe to God only improprie, dependent on the discursiveness of the human intellect and the manifoldness of the created world” (335).

“But”, according to Barth’s conclusion,

“the whole point was that they should not have subsumed the idea of God at all in either case, but that they should have done justice conceptually to His revealed being as such”. “One should not subsume the idea of God at all.”

I suppose in this charge here we find Barth’s own description of the simplicity of God (Deut. 6, 4!).[101]

Some statistics again: Barth quotes Polanus’ axiom 3, 4, 6, and 10 once each, and axioms 7, 8, 11 and the italics at the end of chapter II.7 twice (did that happen out of carelessness or was it intentional?); the axioms 5 and 9 are referred to indirectly; and, of course, axioms 1 and 2 could have been quoted too. Barth has carefully studied Polanus!

We can observe that Barth has some sympathy for the efforts of Polanus. He thinks that the orthodox theologian tries to speak of the divine perfections in Gods acts ad extra as well as in His essence in a Biblical way and tries to find a dialectical balance between respecting the fundamental difference between God and man on the one hand and speaking realistically of the one and simple God in the multitude of His properties and His acts on the other hand. Nevertheless Barth sees that Polanus, in agreement with a long theological tradition (perhaps rooted in the Neoplatonism of late antiquity), identifies the simplicity of God with one of the poles in the dialectic of individuality and multiplicity, namely with the pole of the one being behind the multitude of phenomena. And this identification, Barth fears, presents an obstacle to a realistic speaking of the plurality in God. And it prepares the way for a nominalistic or semi-nominalistic reduction of speaking of Gods properties to the human subject’s work of predication.

Now I suppose that this so-called obstacle is not a very acute problem, as long as the idea of doing theology is embedded – as it is in Polanus, according to the model of Franciscus Junius and others – in the difference between an “archetypal” and an “ectypal” theology.[102] “Archetypal” is the theology of the essential and uncreated knowledge that God has of Himself. “Ectypal” theology is communicated first to the human nature of Christ, to the angels and to the saints in heaven. In its higher forms there can be a way of knowing by intuition; the multitude of forms can be conceived uno simplici actu, in one simple act. But as long as man is wandering on earth (“theologia ectypa” as “our theology”) and not yet in his heavenly country, he must – being subject to a lower form of “ectypal” theology – reconcile himself to the limits of his faculties as an intellectual creature, i.e. of his discursive mind. Now in the course of the 17th century the pressure of nominalism became ever stronger. Socinians and later on also Cartesians (not to mention the Spinozists) stressed the human nature of naming attributes of God. At the end of the century the scholastic distinction of archetypal and ectypal theology had become but an old-fashioned rudiment. Therefore one should not be surprised that Barth thought he could not go back to the solutions of an orthodox theologian like Polanus and that he had to propose other solutions.[103] But before we embrace these solutions (or not, as the case may be), it is our task to ask: did Karl Barth really understand the intentions of Polanus?

IV. A Thesis and its Elaboration: the Relationship between the Series of Dichotomies and Divine Simplicity

Scholars who have studied Polanus thus far characterize him as a eclectic thinker who was wonderfully able to take up and develop methods and insights of other theologians before him, but who did not try to systematically bring together the influences he underwent from different sources that sometimes diverged among themselves, and to justify their cohesion in his own work.[104] Regarding the issue at hand, we first saw (in parts I and II of this paper) that Polanus structured his Syntagma as a continuous series of Ramist dichotomies, each of which was used to throw light on one aspect of the same reality which is found in Holy Scripture, without trying to describe the reality, which both sides refer to, in an unequivocal way that gives no occasion for misunderstanding. Karl Barth, although he could have recognized in this “speaking with two words” some features of his own dialectical method, nevertheless distrusted these dichotomies, because he feared that they actually represented a dualistic view of reality. But as far as Polanus is concerned this suspicion does not seem to be justified. For he didn’t want his arrangement of doctrinal materials to suggest a chain of dichotomies in terms of theological content, but only in terms of their formal presentation. Apparently for him human creatures cannot think and speak in only one way about the one reality to which both sides refer. After that we examined (in part III) the way Polanus speaks of the relationship between the one divine simplicity on the one hand, and the multiplicity of predications with regard to the essentiales proprietates of God on the other hand.[105] Here again we found a dialectical way of speaking. Polanus shares the “semi-nominalistic” opinion of mainstream theological tradition that our discursive mind cannot really grasp the reality of divine simplicity and in its speaking has to keep separate what is actually one and undivided in the one and simple God. But at the same time he is not saying that the divine reality is a totally undifferentiated identity, which would be a very abstract and pale idea of oneness.[106] The multiplicity of our predications is good enough when referring to a reality in God. Polanus himself does not combine these two lines of thought, one originating from his Ramism and the other from his semi-nominalism. And neither does Karl Barth. But in my opinion the real difference between Polanus and Barth is not so much situated in Barth’s objections against the supposed dualities of the Ramist dichotomies in Polanus (which, as we have said in paragraphs I and II, are due to a misunderstanding on the part of Barth), but rather in their divergence in speaking of the reality of human speaking of the simplicity and the multiplicity in God (par. III). When there is more clarity on this issue, the difference regarding the function and nature of the dichotomies can be explained more clearly as well.

To verify this thesis we will now first look at three other issues in the Church Dogmatics about which Barth is in conversation with Polanus. We can then check, whether there too the divergence between the two theologians appears at the same point. Therefore we will discuss three dichotomies in the Syntagma: that of creation and redemption (for the second time) (IV.1), that of body and mind (IV.2) and that of reason and revelation (IV.3). After this we will hopefully be able to formulate our thesis in a more satisfactory fashion.

IV.1. The dichotomy of Creatio and Providentia actualis.[107]

At the beginning of Volume III/2 of the Church Dogmatics, which is on the creature, Barth asks himself, whether this doctrine should really be limited to the doctrine of man, as Barth has done, or whether it should be expanded into a doctrine of the entire created cosmos (as, we can add, is an option again in contemporary ecumenical discussions on “the integrity of creation”). In an excursus he stresses that tradition has suggested to do the latter, i.e. to offer a worldview on the totality of being, but in actual fact would concentrate on the former, the creation of man on the “sixth day”. Barth, however, wants to mention Polanus here as an exception. For “in the fifth volume [Liber] of his Syntagma we do in fact find an attempted exposition of the cosmos”.[108]

“Beginning with the upper and the lower heavens [V.8: de coelo supremo; V.9: de secundo seu medio coelo]; descending to the good and the bad angels [V.11: de Angelis in communi; V.12: de bonis Angelis; V.13: de malis Angelis]; thence to natura visibilis [V.14: de principiis internis naturae visibilis, nempe materia prima, forma & privatione], to space and time [V.15: de proprietatibus corporum naturalium a Deo creatorum (= de loco, de finitate, de motu)], fire and light, day and night [V.16: de elemento ignis & luce primigenia, die item et nocte], the air and meteorological phenomena [V.17: de aëre & meteoris in eo], the earth and its minerals [V.19: de terra; V.20: de fossilibus], plant life [V.21: de plantis] and earthquakes [V.22: de terrae motu]; then upwards again to the sun, moon and stars [V.23: de Sole, Luna et aliis stellis]; back again to the aquatic sphere [V.24: de aequitilibus], birds [V.25: de volatilibus] and animals [V.26: de brutis animalibus terrenis]; and then finally and centrally to man [V.27, de homine et definitione hominis; V.28 de causa efficiente hominis], to the anatomy and physiology of his body [V.29: de materia hominis; V.30: de partibus humanis corporis; V. 31: de humoribus et spiritibus in corpore humano], to the nature of his soul [V.32: de anima hominis], to his heavenly and earthly destinies [V.33: de hominis finibus], his divine likeness [V.34: de statu hominis integro & imagine Dei in homine] and his paradisal perfection [V.35: de externis bonis hominis in statu integritatis].”[109]

“Nothing”, Barth concludes this account,

“or very little, seems to have been forgotten, and the skill with which contemporary biblical knowledge, philosophy and science were bound into a whole is remarkable.”

The presupposition of this “binding” for Polanus is, of course, that “Biblical knowledge” on the one side and “philosophy and science” on the other side can never contradict each other. Both give evidence of the one truth, of the one creation. But the “world view” that results from that for its part can never contradict the insights of faith, as the knowledge of the world of God the Creator, which the Bible offers, can ultimately never contradict its character as a proper doctrine of the knowledge of God the Redeemer. Since, as we saw, Book V and Book VI of the Syntagma are connected by a bracket, they have to be seen as two sides of one reality, grounded in the one and simple God.

Therefore Barth is both right and one-sided at the same time, when, at the beginning of his doctrine of creation, he enthusiastically refers to Polanus’ sentence, that “the true and sure knowledge of creation has to be considered as received not from philosophy but from theology, not from nature but from faith, not because of the acuteness of the human mind but from the divine light, not from human reasoning but from divine revelation, not from arguments and proofs of physics but accepted from authorities and divine witnesses”.[110] When we look at the context of this sentence in the Syntagma (Chapter V.3), we see that Polanus says this in connection with a polemic against the heathen philosophers of antiquity. That there is a God as causa efficiens of creation they could have known from their own reasoning (as is underlined by texts like Rom. 1, 20); but that this God did his work by way of a creatio ex nihilo according to his will and command at a particular point in time, they could only know by faith (as he would consider Hebr. 11, 1 to say).[111] What Barth is quoting here is actually only formulated as a conclusion of the second assertion. It is true that this is the most important assertion, insofar as Polanus is speaking about creation and creatures as a theologian, so that this speaking is accomplished behind the bracket that indicates the externa opera Dei. But as far as the range of this “faith in God the Creator” as an actual expression of faith is concerned, both theologians differ considerably.[112] Polanus can give some autonomy to the realm of faith in creation, as not being quite the same as faith in redemption, because of his confidence in the ultimate unity of creation and redemption grounded in divine simplicity.

There is one place in the doctrine of creation in the Church Dogmatics, where Barth indirectly comes back to this subject of the simplicitas Dei. Namely where he speaks of the classical doctrine that though all created things did not yet exist in the council and being of God before they came into being, yet their archetypes did. These exemplaria, archetypa, prototypa, paradigmata, rationes primaevae with reference to the things distinct from God which are to be created, are not (as in a Platonism interpreted in an Aristotelian manner) to be conceived of as ideas that have an existence of their own independent of Gods essence. They are rather to be seen as a fullness which lies eternally in God, inasmuch as He is the fountain of all life, just like the singular number includes all numbers in itself. Only in this way can one maintain that the existence of these archetypes does not contradict the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo.[113]

We see a slight difference here with the question of the attributes of God mentioned earlier[114]. There the multiplicity of divine perfections concerned proprietates essentiales and had to be thought of as real in God in some way. Here the multiplicity of ideas through which the world outside of God could be created is at the same time also thought as fully one, even as the number one in God, when these prototypes are reduced to the essence of God.  Again we see: apparently there is a tendency in this type of thinking to stress that true essence is always one and simple.

IV.2. Man as corpus and anima

Regarding the second issue, man, Polanus does not divide the material into a dichotomy. Instead he works – as he frequently does as well – with the Aristotelian division, namely definitio (hominis) [V.27], causa efficiens [V.28], materia [V.29-31], forma [V.32], and finis [V.33]. The body is then, of course, the matter, the soul the form of human being.

Barth speaks on Polanus’ definition of man in the paragraph “Phenomena of the Human”. That is already an indication of his objections against this definition. Although Polanus qualifies it (after the analysis of the nomen) as the beginning of a contemplatio theologica hominis, Barth cannot see the real theological point in it and considers it to be a description of the mere phenomenon of a human, which does not point to the real man.[115]

“Polanus opens with the [in Barth’s eyes] clear-cut Aristotelian definition:  homo est animal ratione praeditum. He explains it as follows:

[definitio haec duabus partibus constat: genere & differentia specifica:]

‘man belongs to the genus animal, i.e. he is a substanti corpore organico et anima vegetante atque sententie & loco movente constans’ [Polanus refers here to Gen. 2, 7 and 1 Cor. 15, 46-47]. The differentia specifica from other animals is that he is gifted with reason. By this we are to understand the vis intellectus, qua is λογιζεται, ratiocinatur et [ut Scholastici loquuntur] discurrit, hoc est ex uno aliud [deducit] vel aliud post aliud ordinat. Hence the opus seu officium of reason consists in discursus, i.e. in the swiftness [celeritas] with which his mind moves from one thing to another, from causes to effects, from effects to causes, and therefore to the knowledge of all things. This vis intellectus is not given to any other animal…”[116]

It is indisputable, Barth comments, that one here sees a phenomenon of the human. But the definition is already doubtful from a philosophical point of view,[117] and still more so with regard to the theological quality of it. What is the relationship between this result of (classical Greek-dualistic[118]) human self-understanding, namely an understanding of the own vis intellectus, andthe knowledge of God as a knowledge of the covenant (in the sense of the opening Chapter of the Institutes of Calvin)? We can understand why Barth is asking this. But as far as his conversation with Polanus is concerned, it is striking how rapidly he passes over this characterization of the human mind as a discursive mind (with its deductive and ordinal abilities). Above we have seen how crucial this characterization in particular was for Polanus’ theological epistemology. Discursivity for him is the main characteristic of the mind of the homo viator in the (in “our”) ectypal theology on earth. It causes the limits to our predications with regard to the divine names and attributes. It also explains the necessity of speaking in dichotomies, since it is impossible for the human mind to offer a direct representation of the simplicitas Dei. Therefore we conclude that Barth is right in wanting to overrule Polanus’ definition of man for his own 20th century reasons, but that he is also too quick to ignore the specific reasons[119] why Polanus insisted on precisely this point.

Now these objections against Polanus’ approach are fully compensated in a certain sense by a beautiful passage further on in Barth’s doctrine of the creature, where he speaks about the way Polanus treats the human body. Generally speaking, he remarks, the dualism of mainstream Christian tradition leads to a terrible neglect of the body. But that is not the case with Polanus.

“He accords to the human body as such three whole chapters of his exposition [V.29-31], and even develops an Anatomia theologica partium humani corporis, in which he tries to show, in a series of astonishing allegories, that we are instructed by the composition of the human body on divine matters, i.e. on God, his essence, attributes, works, benefits, judgements etc; on Christ the Mediator, on the angels, on the church, on our office that we are obliged to fulfill towards God and towards our neighbor, and finally on other excellent matters which  lift our minds up to God”.[120]

Barth then mentions a series of examples of such allegories: on the human heart (its form; but also its systole and its diastole), the skull, the forehead, the two ears but the one mouth, the ears themselves, the mouth itself, kisses (“strict Calvinist that he is, Polanus discourses for two columns on the different kisses that appear in the Bible”!) and

“it is clear that the existence and activity of the different “spirits of life”, with which Polanus deals in accordance with the physiological knowledge of his day, give occasion for significant side-lights on the work of the Holy Spirit”.[121]

Conclusion: “We need not waste time in showing how dubious is this whole line of investigation.”

“Yet, though we shake our heads at his “theological anatomy” (…), it will be conceded to Polanus that this stepchild of anthropology [i.e. the human body], which otherwise was mostly despised, did at all events occupy him in its way, and that he did at least attempt to help it to the honour which was otherwise denied it.”

We can now add to these remarks that we are here again dealing with a dichotomy, the dichotomy of body and soul in this case, which is characteristic for Polanus. There is a direction of intensification: the soul is nearer to the truth of God than the body, and we go from the body to the soul. There are also two lines that have to be followed relatively independently from each other. But at the same time both lines actually refer to the same reality, as it becomes visible and palpable in the allegorical “reading” of the parts of the human body. Polanus doesn’t have the need – as philosophers later on in the 17th century would have[122] – to think through both lines to their coming together in the one and simple God. For him the experience of the unity of the universe and humanity in it is still strong enough that he can be content with the figure of the parallel and nevertheless (allegorically) connected lines we encountered in this subsection.

IV.3. Patefactio tum naturalis, tum supernaturalis

The third dichotomy, which we will use to verify our thesis, can be found in the chapter on revelation in the sixth book of the Syntagma. Barth discusses it in (the first part of) his doctrine of sin, which, as is well known, he has incorporated into his doctrine of reconciliation.[123]

In an excursus Barth illustrates the danger of searching for other sources of revelation than Holy Scripture with references to the Reformed orthodox theologies of Piscator and Bucanus before Polanus, and of Wollebius, the Leiden Synopsis, Burmann, and Heidegger after him. About Polanus the following is said:

“He too, as was now the general custom in Protestantism, allowed quite definitely and eloquently for a twofold patefactio: tum naturalis, tum supernaturalis. In the first of these all men have a share qua homines [est communis omnibus hominis qua homines sunt, tam reprobis quam electis; tam non renatis, quam renatis]. Apart from the liber naturae, i.e., the visible external works of God in creation, it includes the liber conscientiae or the lex naturae, i.e. the naturalis notitia in prima creatione cordibis hominus impressa, tradens discrimen honestorum et turpium. Polan accepts this lex naturalis, which being identical with the vera philosophia, cannot contradict the Word of God.”

Barth here has collected several utterances that are rather spread out in the present chapter. It makes sense here to pay attention to a link in Polanus’ argument that Barth has omitted. The liber naturae, Polanus says, canreveal some attributes of God to the non renati, but not the Trinity or its vestigia. For the accurate knowledge of God it is insufficient, although at the same time it does not contradict supernatural revelation. And then we hear a variant of a famous Thomist sentence: “nam gratia non tollit naturam, sed eam perficit, & naturam supra naturam evehit: tum gratiae subordinata est natura”. True philosophy is therefore that philosophy, which functions within the framework of this subordination.

Barth then continues his account as follows:

“But against it (against the former sentence), and he (Polanus) obviously means this seriously, he sets the statement that the unregenerate man (by reason of his native blindness and corruption) can deduce from this natural revelation only false ideas of God.[124] What is left is a warm defence of the legitimacy of a formal use of the recta ratio [which offers us notiones communes in the field of logic as well as in the field of ethics]. But materially theology must keep strictly to Scripture.”[125]

Two points are relevant here. 1. For an unregenerate person natural reason (after the fall) has no power at all. But when one is reborn, it has a useful function of its own at its own level. This means, that here too we have to take the bracket that connects book V and VI of the Syntagma very seriously. There is one faith, and only the one who is faithful can also read the book of nature in addition to the book of grace. This is a completely different type of “natural theology” than that of the period after the year 1700. And it is so much in line with the other brackets of the Syntagma that it is difficult to isolate it from the whole framework of this theology. 2. In this chapter Polanus gives the foundation for the methodology he employs in quite of lot of the chapters of his Syntagma. With many issues he starts out by giving arguments for his main thesis on the basis of Scripture. After that he underscores his point (mostly in a polemic context) using logic, often in the form of a series of syllogistic proofs. Both methods, the Scriptural and the logical argument, can remain next to each other, because both actually speak of the same truth, and this truth is always one. Of course, as Barth says, in the end a subordination of logic to Scripture is presupposed here, but it is not necessary to stress that. For it is unthinkable that the result of logical reasoning should differ from the result of Scriptural study – and in fact that means: differ from the content of the Reformed confession, right? Indeed: “the vera philosophia can not contradict the Word of God”, as this God is a one and simple God.

IV.4. Conclusion

We come to a conclusion now. We will try to explain our thesis in light of its validation in the three dichotomies we have dealt with in this paragraph.

1. Polanus lived in an atmosphere, where the experience of the unity was still very strong, or was supposed to be very strong. What Scripture says and what logic says (to the regenerate), what the confession believes and what reason proves, in the end it is all the same. Of course, Scripture and confession have priority, but this priority does not always have to be visible and in some contexts it even is obvious that logic dominates the stage. Against the background of these more formal dichotomies, the more content oriented dichotomies can also be understood. Dogmatics and ethics, theological and economical speaking of God, divine attributes and divine persons, creation and redemption, human body and human soul – in each of these dichotomies two ways of saying may appear, two methods of treatment, two areas of subject matter, and it is not always clear how the two can possibly be harmonized. But perhaps it isn’t necessary to do that anyway, because again, in the end it’s all the same.[126] In fact, the homo viator with his discursive mind must even accept this situation, for he may know that the position where both sides of the one reality are seen together at a glance is a position in heaven, which is not his situation. So he may be comforted by this and leave the real knowledge of the unity to God, his angels, and to glorified man.

In the time of Karl Barth the situation has completely changed. The fields of Scriptural exegesis and of natural (and also of historical!) science have become completely separate and all Polanus’ formal dichotomies have increasingly been experienced as dual realities in the course of later modernity. Therefore Barth takes radical measures. He feels compelled to abandon the pious skepticism of what he calls “seminominalism” and deems it necessary to only make statements in theology that – in a certain exaggerated epistemological boldness – can be said to be truly derived from God in his “revelation”. For otherwise it is impossible to maintain that certain propositions are really theological propositions. This methodological shift also means that, where for Polanus some parts of theology can have a certain autonomy, Barth now also has to justify the insertion of these parts into the development of the main lines of thought in theology. Thus the doctrine of the divine essence had to be developed from the doctrine of the Trinity, the divine theology from the divine economy, the divine attributes of the “first order” (in Polanus’ terms) from those of the “second order”, creation from the covenant of grace, the doctrine of man from the doctrine of the Son of man, the ethics of the Law from the message of reconciliation in the gospel, and so on. Therefore for Barth theological method acquired an inner connectedness with theological content to an extent that a man like Polanus could never have dreamt of.

2. The specific point of this paper now is to see what consequences this methodological shift has for speaking of divine simplicity. Polanus never intended to give a pale and abstract idea of the oneness behind the living fullness of God in his proprietates and his opera. But he had no need to think through these affirmations as being truly present in God himself.  For Barth, on the contrary, human speaking of God must correspond with the inner being of this God. And therefore it is important that also the multiplicity in human speaking of God truly corresponds to a multiplicity within God himself – of course, not the multiplicity of an unqualified plurality as such, but the multiplicity of the divine virtues, and corresponding with this the multiplicity of his acts of salvation. This implies that the traditional attribute of divine simplicity also acquires a new sense. It is no longer an assumed abstract idea of oneness behind the multiplicity of the forms of appearance, which was at least a danger in Polanus, but it becomes a characterization of the freedom of God to realize his decree time and again in new ways and in new respects.

If we can understand divine simplicity in this way, we can, perhaps, wonder about what Polanus says at the end of his chapter on divine simplicity (under the category: usus – παρακλησις), “Quia Deus est simplicissimus: ergo & nos in futura vita fiemus simplissimi corda, verbo et opera”.[127] Why should such human simplicity only come about “in futura vita”, why not also in this life?

Epilogue: on the Conversation of Barth and Polanus as Such

Since we have now drawn our conclusions with regard to the main issue of this paper, the opportunity remains to comment on the art of conversation Barth practiced with Polanus in his Church Dogmatics.

First of all it must to be said then that we are here dealing with an admirable achievement. Barth has studied the Syntagma intensely; he has consulted it many times, when he was at a crossroads in his dogmatic investigations. He let himself be inspired by it. He sparred with it, and I presume he was in some way in love with it. And the achievement is even more noteworthy when we realize how many orthodox (Reformed and Lutheran) theologians he studied besides Polanus – although not in all cases as extensively as he studied him – and how this encounter with Protestant orthodoxy only represented one aspect of the multidimensional intellectual project the Church Dogmatics was.

To further characterize this conversation we will now discuss five of its features one by one, (1) its critical, (2) its praising, (3) its ironic, (4) its pious and (5) its productive sides.

1. Criticism. Barth does not call himself an orthodox theologian and he thinks he knows why. He also keeps some distance towards Polanus. We hear that Polanus’ formulation “in spite of its correctness in detail makes a fatal mistake”,[128] his argument “although it is correct in itself, assumes a certain arbitrary appearance”,[129] like all of orthodoxy “unfortunately he did not display any great felicity in his handling of this matter”,[130] and so on. Sometimes, as we have seen, the criticism is due to a more or less fundamental misunderstanding (the name of Petrus Ramus does not appear in the index of the Church Dogmatics!). Sometimes there is a certain arbitrariness to it as well: “Polanus fails us at this point…”,[131] but it isn’t quite clear why exactly at this point, when at so many other points he is reasoning in practically the same way. But generally speaking it is true: there is a difference between the two theologians, a fundamental difference in some respects, and Barth was rightly aware of that.

2. Praise. When Barth praises Polanus, it may be unbalanced in a similar way as when he criticizes him.[132] In particular Barth tends to introduce Polanus as an exceptional theologian regarding issues where he is perhaps less unique as Barth might have wished. He is a “striking exception even at the beginning of the 17th century”,[133] “amongst the orthodox dogmaticians known to me” – do note the modest reservation  – “I can think of only one in whom we find passages which point a way past the dilemma, and that is Polanus”,[134] “I know of only one exception, viz. the systematic account attempted by Polanus”,[135] “Polanus is an infrequent exception”,[136] “among the older theologians Polanus was an exception”.[137] In some cases Barth was right in his observations, in others he tended to induct Polanus too much into his own theological program.

So far the most disputed case has been the way in which Barth presents Polanus as his own predecessor in the development of a “Christological concentration” in the doctrine of eternal predestination. After Augustin and especially Athanasius[138], Polanus appears as the third witness to a line in the history of Christian doctrine, in which one still knows that Christ, as the eternal Son is the subject of election. Moreover Polanus, living before the Synod of Dort, didn’t hesitate to call the election of Christ the fundamentum et firmamentum electionis, a phrase that later would be suspected as “Arminian”.[139] Now E.P. Meijering[140] as well as R.A. Muller[141] have demonstrated that Polanus actually did not correct the orthodox Calvinist doctrine of double predestination as such with this recollection of the precedence of the eternal Son. Muller also notes: “in my own research, I found that Polanus was hardly alone in recognizing that Christ, the divine Son, was not merely the agent of election.” But most important for him is that “there is a rather heavy-handed anachronism at the heart of Barth’s analysis.” “Barth imposes his theology on the materials, identifies a problem that was not actually present, and then, remarkably, all in the course of a “historical excursus”, finds that the orthodox dogmaticians hinted at a way out of the “problem” in anticipation of Barth’s own theology.” We will come back to this last sentence under point 5.

3. Irony. Already in Göttingen Barth had developed a “personal relationship” to Polanus, which he communicated to his students.[142] In Basel he continues that attitude. So when he criticizes the old Christian idea of “self-love” and says: “Even (!) Polanus has a chapter entitled ‘The love of man towards himself’, beginning with the luminous statement (!): ‘Everyone is in first instance a neighbor for himself, and then afterwards also for others’.”[143] Or in the reference to Polanus’ chain of allegories to the human body, mentioned earlier (above, subsection IV.2), when he finally gives his diagnosis: “I seriously wonder whether my illustrious predecessor did not fall victim occasionally in this chapter to the spirit of the Basel Fastnacht, and quite deliberately indulge in pious witticism.”[144]

4. Piety. Although the Syntagma presents itself as a work “juxta leges ordinis Methodici conformatum”, Barth found not merely logic and argument in it, but also comfort and direct Biblical language of piety. Most of the examples here are taken from the last part of many chapters, entitled usus. E.g., in the paragraph on the righteousness of God, when Polanus stresses the connection between this essential divine attribute and its important function in the execution of the satisfactory work of Christ the Mediator, and Barth quotes some sentences of Polanus with the introductory remark: “the same truth must again be expressed in the words of Polanus – if only to remind us how fearlessly and unequivocally the older orthodoxy, for all its defects, could speak of this, the heart of the New Testament message” (I have already called this the language of love).[145] And above all, e.g., in the quotation, with which Barth not only concludes the treatment of the divine Glory, but also the entire doctrine of the divine virtues:

“God wants his Glory to be praised, and that necessarily: in first instance by the ministers of the Word of God. But when the ministers of the Word of God do not want to do it, and when the bishops do not want to do it, then let the lay people do it, to shame the ministers of the Word of God and the bishops. And when men do not want to do it, let women do it. And when the rich and the mighty in this world do not want to do it, let the poor and the needy perform it. And when adults do not want to do it, then God has perfected praise for himself out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. Yea, when men do not want to do it, God is able to raise up children out of stones for himself. Yea, God is able to even set up non living creatures to be proclaimers of his glory. And the heavens declare the glory of God, as Psalm 19, 1 says.”[146]

5. Production. As we have been following Barth closely while he was working on the texts of the Syntagma, we were ushered into his dogmatic workshop for a while as it were. His conversation with Polanus is related to the inner process of developing his own texture. In some respects Barth was the journeyman and Polanus the master. For undoubtedly Barth learned very much from orthodoxy as he honed his skills in his dogmatic craft. At the same time he was the pupil who tried to surpass his teacher. And in this productive process inevitably the phenomenon of productive misunderstanding also raised its head. Barth reads Polanus against the grain, and this unconventional reading produces fruitful effects for contemporary theology. As far as the main theme of this paper is concerned,[147] we saw this especially in the way Barth dealt with the Ramist dichotomies in Polanus. Historically he was wrong in interpreting them as dualities, but for his intervention in his own theological environment this misunderstanding turned out to be very effective. Nevertheless this state of affairs can be problematic for the poor reader, who does not have at his disposal the sources that Barth used. Quotations now appear in a totally different context than the one in which they were situated originally, and the result of that may be that they sound differently, even if their literal wording has not been changed at all.[148] How can a reader know that, when he cannot check the original contexts and structures and does not have a beautiful antiquarian library at his disposal like Barth himself had? Barth obviously did foresee such questions, for in his Preface to the first volume of the Church Dogmatics he wrote:

“If for the most part I have reproduced in extenso passages adduced from… the fathers and theologians, this has not merely been for the sake of the many who do not have ready access to the originals, but in order that all readers may have the opportunity, more directly than would be possible by mere references, to hear the voices which were in my own ears as I prepared my text, which guided, taught, or stimulated me, and by which I wish to be measured by my readers. I never imagine that these voices said exactly what I say, but I do suggest that what has to be said and heard in dogmatics today is better understood, and in the last resort can only be understood, if we join in listening to these voices…”

And in addition towards those who may have objections to the selection he made: “they should consider that dogmatics follows a different principle of selection from that which obtains in historical presentation in the narrower sense.”[149] This last sentence may be true, but for a historicist scholar as Richard A. Muller it remains an unacceptable accommodation of the voices of the past to the needs of the present. I do not endorse the approach of these opponents at all, but it is true that – for the sake of the multiplicity of the voices, which reflect the multiplicity and riches of the Lord – it would be better in “dialogical dogmatics”, if these voices, which a dogmatician has in his ears, can also be heard sounding their own tune from within their own context. In the case of Polanus that would mean that readers of the Church Dogmatics should be able to have before them some insight into the ordering principles of his own main work, which Barth deals with so many times. As things are now the reader often has no choice but to guess regarding those principles. I don’t claim to have a solution for satisfying this desideratum. But it is permissible to formulate a future task for dogmaticians in this area.[150]

Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer

In the version for this website both diagrams are missing, RRB

[1] K. Barth, ‘Samuel Werenfels (1657-1740) und die Theologie seiner Zeit’, in: Evangelische Theologie 3 (1936) Volume 5, 180-193.

[2] Already in his lecture course Die Theologie Zwinglis 1922/1923 (Recently edited in the Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe by Matthias Freudenberg, Zürich: TVZ 2004, 412-413) Barth draws a line of theological indecision in the genius loci of Basel: Erasmus – Oecolampadius – Werenfels – De Wette – Hagenbach. Cf. also Die protestantische Theologie im 19. Jahrhundert (1932/1933), Zürich: EVZ, 1947, 124. To be sure, the uncompromising Amandus Polanus and his companion Johann Jakob Grynaeus are the exceptions to this rule.

[3] Cf. E. Busch, Karl Barths Lebenslauf nach seinen Briefen und autobiographischen Texten, Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1975, 277-279.

[4] The first edition appeared in Basel in 1626, the new edition in Neukirchen in 1935. In 1958, in his ‘historical introduction’ to his new edition of H. Heppe’s ‘Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche. Neu durchsehen und herausgegeben von Ernst Bizer, Neukirchen, XLVII, Bizer remarks in a footnote: ‘Ich fürchte, ich habe damals die Bedeutung Wollebs weit überschätzt’ (‘I fear, I vastly overestimated the importance of Wollebius at the time’). With some remarkable exceptions Wolleb offers a very clear summary of the Syntagma of Polanus (see below), and as a survey of Reformed dogmatics his work enjoyed some popularity not only in Switzerland but, for instance, also in the Netherlands. Barth likes to quote his definitions, canons, etc.

[5] Cf. Kirchliche Dogmatik – Zürich: EVZ, 1932-1970; henceforth: KD –  III/2, 457: ‘mein illustrer Vorgänger’ (in the English translation, Church Dogmatics – Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956-75; henceforth: CD –  III/2,382: ‘my illustrious predecessor’).

[6] I counted 131 references to Polanus in the Church Dogmatics: I/2: 34x (!); II/1: 47x (!!); II/2: 14x; III/1: 5x; III/2: 14x; III/3: 1x; III/4: 1x; IV/1: 6x; IV/2: 5x; IV/3: 3x. In IV/4 (fragment) Polanus is missing. The only reference in I/1 (Bonn, 1932) is a quotation from the textbook of Heinrich Heppe. In the first subdivision of I/2, which deals with the doctrine of the incarnation of the Word of God, Barth is already quoting from the first edition of the Polanus’ Syntagma that he had apparently acquired for himself. I don’t know whether Barth already had this original edition at his disposal, when he lectured on this material in Bonn in 1933/1934, or whether he first used it later on, when he revised these lectures as the volume was being edited in 1937.

[7] K. Barth, ‘Unterricht in der christlichen Religion’, Volume One: Prolegomena 1924, published by Hannelotte Reiffen, Zürich: TVZ, 1985; Volume Two: Die Lehre von Gott / Die Lehre vom Menschen 1924/1925, published by Hinrich Stoevesandt, Zürich: TVZ, 1990; Volume Three: die Lehre von der Versöhnung / die Lehre von der Erlösung 1925/1926, published by Hinrich Stoevesandt, Zürich: TVZ, 2003.

[8] Barth, ‘Unterricht’, Volume Two, op. cit. 163 (‘und endlich fügte unser dialektischer Freund Polanus gut reformiert noch hinzu:…’) and 194 (‘wir folgen hier dem rüstigen Polanus’).

[9] Bruce L. McCormack, Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology. Its Genesis and Development 1909-1936, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 364ff, with a reference that can now be found in ‘Unterricht. Volume Three’, op. cit.  51-52. Cf. Polanus, Syntagma VI.16 and later on KD IV/2, 82 (CD IV/2, 75-76).

[10] K. Barth, ‘Unterricht. Volume Two’, op. cit. XI and 123.

[11] K. Barth, ‘Das Schriftprinzip der reformierten Kirche’ (1925), in:  Vorträge und kleinere Arbeiten 1922-1925, published by Holger Finze, Zürich: TVZ, 1990, 510 (Polanus is here still quoted from Heppe, op. cit. 520). Cf. Karl Barth – Eduard Thurneysen, Briefwechsel Band 2, Zürich: TVZ, 1974, 323 (letter from March 30th, 1925). In the Christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf. Erster Band. Die Lehre vom Worte Gottes from 1927 Barth also quotes from the original edition of the Loci theologici (1610 ff.) by the great Lutheran master Johann Gerhard.

[12] K. Barth, ‘Zum Geleit’ (1935), in: Heppe/Bizer 1958, op. cit. X.

[13] More precisely: at a certain point 28 Reformed orthodox theologians are quoted from the original edition of their main work, 4 are quoted from Heppe, 9 others are only mentioned, not quoted. The preponderance of theologians is not Reformed, because Barth himself adhered to the Reformed confession, but because there were simply more Reformed than Lutheran dogmaticians at the time.

[14] See the very accurate documentation in: Ernst Staehelin, Amandus Polanus von Polansdorf. Studien zur Geschichte der Wissenschaften in Basel, Basel: Von Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1955.

[15] For a comparison of the Partitiones with the Syntagma see Robert Letham, ‘Amandus Polanus: a Neglected Theologian?’, in: Sixteenth Century Journal XXI (1990)3, 463-476.

[16] An example: In Syntagma II.4, the chapter on the demonstrations for the existence of God, Polanus is in effect following the ‘five ways’ of Thomas, by giving fourteen (!) demonstrationes a posteriori. But in the end he remarks: ‘Imo Deum esse ex tactu divinitatis, ante omnem rationis usum, omnes omnino homines sciunt. Itaque, Deum esse per se notum, frustra negant Thomas Aquinas [sc. Summa Theologiae I q. 2 a. 1 against Anselm, rrb] & alii Scholastici’. So, behind the Thomistic Aristotelian empiricism Polanus presupposes a more (inherited from Calvin?) Platonic immediate knowledge (tactus divinitatis). One can wonder whether this position has been well thought through, but it does not arise from one particular philosophical presupposition.

[17] H. Faulenbach, Die Struktur der Theologie des Amandus Polanus von Polansdorf. Basler Studien zur historischen und systematischen Theologie, Zürich: EVZ, 1967.

[18] Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, IV Volumes, Second Edition, Grand Rapids (Mich.): Baker Book House, 2003.  For quotations from the Synopsis see, for instance, Vol. III, The Divine Essence and Attributes, 159, 227, 255, 271, 366, 381-382, 384, 444.

[19] Unlike Muller, Paul Althaus, who provided Faulenbach with his main questions with regard to Polanus and who can with some justification be criticised for that by Muller, was aware of this, when he formulated the opening sentence of his book Die Prinzipien der deutschen reformierten Dogmatik im Zeitalter der aristotelischen Scholastik (Leipzig 1914: Deichertsche, 1): ‘historische und systematische Theologie haben stets in Wechselwirkung gestanden’ (‘there has always been interaction between historic and systematic theology’).

[20] Karl Barth (Cf. above, footnote 6) owned a copy of the first edition of the Syntagma Theologiae Christianae, Hanoviae (= Hanau) 1609/1610 (more than 4500 columns!). The library of Kampen University has a copy of the second edition, Hanoviae 1615, a text containing 699 pages with two columns each. In the following text both editions will be referred to.

[21] See the lemma Ramus, Petrus in Theologische Realenzyklopädie 28 (1997), 129-133 (Christoph Strohm) and the literature mentioned there.

[22] In the Dutch translation of the Compendium of Wollebius, Kort begryp van de christelicke Godts-Geleertheydt, Amsterdam 31664, on the other hand, we find two fold-out tables for the two parts De Deo cognoscendo – de Deo colendo (‘Van Got te kennen – Van Got te dienen’ [about knowing God – about serving God]).

[23] For the difference (introduced by Zarabella) of the analytical and synthetical method cf. W.J. van Asselt, P.L. Rouwendaal, Inleiding in de gereformeerde scholastiek, Zoetermeer 1998: Boekencentrum, 84-87.

[24] KD I/2, 973; CD I/2, 870 (§ 24.2: ‘the Dogmatic Method’).

[25] Is this perhaps because Hermann Bavinck and others saw in the analytical method of Keckermann and Amesius a tendency, which would in the end develop in the direction of Schleiermacher? Cf. Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek I., Kampen: Bos,  21906, 11 and Die christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf, op. cit. 86.

[26] There is also a seventh dichotomy that as far as I can see is not subject to the reproach of a potential dualism. See Synopsis Libri IX: ‘bona opera sunt duplicia: alia immediati cultus Dei [Liber IX], alia mediati [Liber X]’. The immediate cult concerns the first table of the Law, i.e. the true and sincere religion; the mediate cult concerns the second table, i.e. the development of the moral virtues of man. On the first one Barth speaks in § 18.2, ‘the love of God’ (KD I/2, 424, 440; CD I/2 385, 400), on the second one in connection with the ‘love of oneself’ (Syntagma X cap. 2: ‘de charitate erga proximum in genere’; KD I/2, 426; CD I/2, 387) and again in § 52.1 on ‘the problem of Special Ethics’ (KD III/4, 7; CD III/4, 8). In the place just mentioned he reproaches Polanus for displaying a casuistic approach to ethics: ‘a legal text being strangely compiled from the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament and from all sorts of definitions of virtue from Greek and Roman antiquity’. It is not my impression that Polanus is offering such a ‘compilation’ here. Rather he is trying to develop a Christian variant of an ethics of virtue. Barth seems to have no eye for the merits of such an attempt.

[27] Synopsis Libri II. Cf. Syntagma II.1 (21615, 130 ff.) and VIII.1 (op. cit., 558 c. 1).

[28] A dichotomy, which was maintained by a certain tradition within Reformed theology, from John Knox’ Confessio Scotica and Bullinger’s Confessio Helvetica posterior up to the late Voetian dogmatician Johannes à Marck with his Compendium theologiae Christianae of 1686.

[29] KD I/2, 877; CD I/2, 784 (§ 22.3: ‘Dogmatics as Ethics’).

[30] KD I/2, 310; CD I/2, 285 (§ 17.1: ‘The problem of Religion in Theology’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma IX.1-4 (11609, 3694-3719; 21615, 575-580). Barth levels the criticism here that we can find in Wollebius ‘the very thing which Polanus obviously tried to avoid: (…) a general and neutral definition of the concept “religion”.’ Actually, however, ‘general’ in the definition of Wollebius does not deal with general religiosity, but with the bracket of the immediate and the mediate cult of God = the first and second table of the Law. Here too we see the consequences of Barth’s neglect of the Ramist shaping of doctrine in the works of these theologians.

[31] KD I/2, 880-881; CD I/2, 787 (§ 22.3 again).

[32] Synopsis Libri I: ‘Idque (Verbum Dei) re & substantia unicum est & simplex, sed revelationis modo duplex est’.

[33] Synopsis Libri II. Cf. Syntagma II.1 (21615, 132 c. 1) with the assertion: ‘has tantum duas esse doctrinae fidei partes confirmat Symbolum Apostolicum, fidei Christianum perfectum compendium’.

[34] Cf. above, note 6: this is due to the fact that Barth had not yet acquired a copy of the Syntagma for himself in 1932, when he was lecturing on and writing about the doctrine of the Trinity (CD I/1) in Bonn.

[35] KD I/2, 907-908; CD I/2, 811-812 (§ 23.1, ‘The Formal Task of Dogmatics’). References to Polanus, Syntagma VII.22 (11609, 3527-3537; 21615, 548 c. 1 – 549 c. 2).

[36] In Book VI of the Syntagma, when dealing with the covenant, Polanus actually makes a division between the ‘capita sive articuli federis ex parte Dei’ (donatio Spiriti Sancti, iustificatio, regeneratio, liberatio, perseverantia and so on; Syntagma VI.34-45, 21615, 451-489) and the capita ‘ex nostra parte. Psal. 110.3 (op. cit., 489 ff.).

[37] Syntagma VII.3, 21615 520 c. 1.

[38] Synopsis Libri II. Cf. Syntagma II.5 (21615, 135 c. 2), with a reference to Psalmo 136, in quo hortatur Psaltes fideles omnes ad preaedicandas Dei laudes propter naturam ejus bonum & opera.

[39] KD II/1, 228; CD II/1, 257 (§ 28.1, ‘The Being of God in Act’).

[40] Syntagma II.26 (11609, 1166; 21615, 182 c. 2). Cf. KD II/1, 448; CD II/1, 398 (§ 30.2).

[41] Syntagma II.12 (11609, 942ff.; 21615, 147-148). Cf. KD II/1, 549-550; CD II/1, 488-489 (§ 31.1).

[42] KD II/1, 553; CD II/1, 492-493 (§ 31.3). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.13 (11609, 967; 21615, 151 c. 1).

[43] Muller, op. cit. III, 309.

[44] Faulenbach, op. cit. 319. We are confronted here with an important conclusion in Faulenbach’s analyses.

[45] Synopsis Libri II. Cf. Syntagma II.6 (21615, 137 c. 2); and III.1 (op. cit. 198 c. 1): consentaneum  est ordini didascalico ( !), ut de personis in essentia illa unica, quantum per Sacras literas nobis patefactu est, sedulo inquiramus’.

[46] KD II/1, 292; CD II/1, 261 (§ 28.1). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.5 (11609, 865; 21615, 135 c. 2). E.P. Meijering, Von den Kirchenvätern zu Karl Barth. Das altkirchliche Dogma in der ‘Kirchlichen Dogmatik’, Amsterdam: Gieben, 1993, 217 note 99 shows, that in his own way Polanus is also arguing on the basis of Trinitarian presuppositions, but that he deliberately presents his definition the way he does, so that also the ‘heathen’ could be convinced by it.

[47] Unfortunately this sentence was not translated correctly in the Bromiley/Torrance-edition.

[48] Muller, op. cit., III, 366.

[49] Current interpretation of Thomas Aquinas finds a comparable ‘ascending order’ of intensification in his Summa Theologica: in the first part the movement of all things by God, in the second part the movement of man for God and then, in the third part, the movement by God in the unio hypostatica of the second Person of the holy Trinity with humanity and the movement for God through the sacraments in the direction of eternal life. In this ascending order, the result, i.e. the speaking de personis Dei in the third part, is already presupposed in an abstract way in the speaking de essentia Dei in the first part. Cf. Jozef Wissink, Thomas van Aquino. De actuele betekenis van zijn theologie, Zoetermeer: Meinema, 1998, 36, with references to Y. Congar and M. Corbin.

[50] KD II/1, 594-595; CD II/1, 528-529 (§ 31.2). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.29, (11609, 1191; 21615, 186 c. 1).

[51] Meijering, op. cit. 229-230 (note 213) rightly points out that Barth omits the Trinitarian opening sentence of the chapter Syntagma II.29. A similar case we find in the subparagraph on the hiddennes of God, where Barth, quoting Polanus’ Deus non potest definiri, asks: ‘is that the Deus of the revelation?’ and fears: ‘the context points in another direction’. But he omits the first context: the Trinitarian opening sentence of the chapter. KD II/1, 214; CD II/1, 191 (§ 27.1). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.3 (11609, 857; 21615, 134 c. 1).

[52] See also the subparagraph on the eternity of God. Polanus acknowledges that there is an ordo, a movement, a before and afterwards in the triune God (begetting, proceeding), and so he speaks of the attribute of eternity in relationship to the Trinity, but he doesn’t go as far as Barth does, when he speaks of eternity as a specific form of time. KD II/1, 694; CD II/1, 615 (§ 31.3). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.11 (11609, 929; 21615, 145 c. 2). Cf. Meijering, op. cit.,  198 and 235 (note 246).

[53] KD II/2, 119-120; CD II/2, 111-112 (§ 33.1). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma IV.9 (11609, 1574; 21615, 245 c. 1): electio est totius Sacrosanctae Trinitatis commune opus, cujus principium est Pater.

[54] KD III/1, 52; CD III/1, 49 (§ 41.1). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.3 (11609, 1650; 21615, 257 c. 1): sic ut Creatio sit opus commune omnibus personae Sacrae Trinitatis; Pater tamen singulari jure appellatur Creator.

[55] KD I/2, 37-38; CD I/2, 34 (§ 13.2). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma VI.13 (11609, 2347; 21615, 364 c. 1): the becoming man is inchoative (as divine action) a commune opus of the whole Trinity, terminative on the other hand (as the divine determination achieved through this action) it is the opus proprium Filii.

[56] Synopsis Libri IV (secundo). Cf. Syntagma IV.4 (21615, 237 c. 2) and V.1 (21615, 244 c. 1).

[57] KD II/1, 583-585; CD II/1, 519-520 (§ 31.2, with a reference to a former remark on KD II/1 555 = CD II/1, 494). Cf. the similar problem in the relationship between the eternal divine decision regarding the assumption of human nature in Christ on the one side and the assertion that this happened without any alteration or transformation in the divine nature on the other side, including Barth’s strengthening of Polanus’ solution: KD II/1, 579-580; CD II/1, 515-516, with a reference to Syntagma II.13 (11609, 979; 21615, 153 c. 1).

[58] Synopsis Libri V. Cf. Syntagma V.2 (21615, 256 c. 1).

[59] See note 57. Barth appears happy with the way Polanus here stresses the gracious character of the work of Creation, although he notices some hesitation to really see this grace as grace in Christ. Cf. KD III/1, 31; CD III/1, 30 (reference to Syntagma 11609, 1646; 21615, 256 c. 1) and Meijering, op. cit., 288 note 7.

[60] Faulenbach, op. cit., 190.

[61] Polanus also mentions the distinctions between affirmative and negative attributes (Synopsis Libri II; Syntagma II.6, 21615, 137 c. 2) and between absolute and relative attributes (Synopsis Libri II; Syntagma II.32, 21615, 192 c. 1), but these distinctions do not structure the doctrine as a whole.

[62] Synopsis Libri II; Syntagma II.6 (21615, 137 c. 2 ; Syntagma II.33, 21615, 192 c. 1).

[63] KD II/1, 296-297; CD II/1, 265 (§ 28.1). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.35 (11609, 1231f.; 21615, 192). Polanus, however, does not consider ‘Mercy’ and ‘patience’ to be ‘figurative’ but rather ‘essential’ attributes of God (cf. Syntagma II.23 and II.24 respectively), as Barth himself elsewhere shows to be aware of (KD II/1, 416; CD II/1, 370-371).

[64] KD II/1, 298; CD II/1, 266. Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.35 (11609, 1231f.; 21615, 192 c. 2). For the distinction between the ‘theological’ and the ‘economical’ way of speaking in this connection Polanus in turn refers to a dialogue of Theodeoret of Cyrus.

[65] In Dutch theology this renewal became very important for the development of Biblical hermeneutics. Cf. K.H. Miskotte, ‘Die Erlaubnis zum schriftgemäßen Denken’, in: Antwort. Karl Barth zum siebzigsten Geburtstag, Zürich: EVZ, 1956, 29-51.

[66] Synopsis Libri II; Syntagma II.6 (21615, 138 c. 1).

[67] Syntagma II.7, 21615, 141 c. 1: sunt attributa divina, quibus & essentiae divinae veritas in se innotescit & ab omnibus aliis essentiis discernitur.

[68] Cf. CD II/1, 263 (vita Dei), 278 (amor Dei), 353 (gratia Dei), 359 (sanctitas Dei), 608 (aeternitas Dei).

[69] Synopsis Libri II; Syntagma II.7 (21615, 141 c. 2).

[70] Muller, op. cit., III, 106: ‘With specific reference to the doctrine of God, the Syntagma certainly represents the most highly developed system of its era, exceeded in length only by Zanchi’s De tribus Elohim and De natura Dei.’ Cf. Faulenbach, op. cit., 138.

[71] Syntagma II.7, 21615, 141 c. 2: proprietates Dei essentiales primi ordinis, sunt quae de Deo velut a Priori dicuntur ut est, hoc est, quae essentiam Dei declarant ut est in se absolute, eique soli insunt & tribuuntur secundum essentiam, actu & vim; ac proinde sunt simpliciter incommunicabiles.

[72] The figures in brackets here and in the following pages refer to the chapters in Book II of the Syntagma. Cf. Appendix II.

[73] Syntagma II.14, 21615, 154 c. 1: proprietates Dei essentiales secundi ordinis, sunt quae de Deo a posteriori dicuntur, ut est agendi principium. Et hae sunt incommunicabiles, ut sunt in Deo; communicabiles tamen dicuntur κατ’ αναλογιαν, quia earum similitudo quaedam in creaturis reperitur.

[74] Synopsis Libri I. Syntagma I.4, 21615, 3 c. 1: theologiae cum creaturis rationalibus communicatae fines sunt duo: primarius et summus est glorificatio Dei tanquam summi boni; secundarius et subordinatus est beatitudo creaturarum rationalium. Cf. above, what was said in the introduction of this paper about the ‘analytical method’.

[75] CD II/1, 348-350 (§ 29).

[76] An example: KD II/1, 397; CD II/1, 353 (§ 30.1. Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.21; 11609, 1040; 21615, 163 c. 1) Barth refers to Polanus’ definition of grace: gratia in Deo residens est essentialis proprietas nimirum benignissima voluntas Dei et favor, per quem vere et proprie est gratiosus, quo favet et gratis benefacit creaturae suae. In the first place, as we have already remarked, not all divine properties are ‘proprietates essentiales’ for Polanus. And in the second place, for him grace is the last link in the chain beatitudo (17) – voluntas (19) – gratia (21), as can also be seen in the definition. But how can a reader of the Church Dogmatics, who does not have the Syntagma in his personal library, see this?

[77] See the preceding footnote.

[78] KD II/1, 403-404; CD II/1, 359 (§ 30.1, ‘The Grace and Holiness of God’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.28 (11609, 1185; 21615, 185 c. 1).

[79] KD II/1, 416f.; CD II/1, 370-171 (§ 30.2, ‘The Mercy and Righteousness of God’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.23 (11609, 1119; 21615, 175 c. 1). About the first part of Polanus’ definition, ‘Deus est misericors sua aeterna et simplici essentia’, Barth shows himself enthusiastic: ‘we have to take this positive part of the sentence (as) seriously (as the negative one: non autem qualitate aliqua, non affectu, non passione). The mercy of God really means His σπλάγχνα and no less than all His other attributes denotes His aeterna and simplex essentia.’ There is a contradiction between this praise and the criticisms of mercy as a figurative attribute, as mentioned above in footnote 63.

[80] KD II/1, 426, 433 and 448; CD II/1, 379, 385 and 398 (§ 30.2). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.25 (11609, 1157f., 1162f. and 1166; 21615, 181, 182 c. 1 and 182 c. 2).

[81] KD II/1, 461-462; CD II/1, 410 (§ 30.3, ‘The Patience and Wisdom of God’). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.24 and II.25 (11609, 1145-1146 and 1152; 21615, 179-180). Cf. Meijering, op. cit., 222 note 150.

[82] KD II/1, 479-480; CD II/1, 426 (§ 30.3). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.18 (11609, 998ff.; 21615, 156ff.).

[83] See the preceding footnote. Barth remarks: ‘for Polanus the wisdom of God seems to be dissolved in the general idea of divine knowledge as omniscience.’ Here Barth seems to ignore that for Polanus sapientia is a subcategory of beatitudo. In addition the subcategories of sapientia, i.e. intelligentia – scientia – ars – prudentia, offer a broader perspective than Barth suggests.

[84] KD II/1, 530 and 549-550; CD II/1, 471 and 488-489  (§ 31.1, ‘The Unity and Omnipresence of God’). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.12 (11609, 937 and 942ff.; 21615, 146 c. 2, 147-148). Cf. above, note 41.

[85] KD II/1, 553 and 579-580; CD II/1, 492-493 and 515 (§ 31.2, ‘The Constancy and Omnipotence of God’). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.13 (11609, 967 and 979; 21615, 151 c. 1 and 153 c. 1). Cf. above, note 42.

[86] KD II/1, 686, 694 and 698; CD II/1, 608, 615 and 619 (§ 31.3, ‘The Eternity and Glory of God’). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.11 (11609, 928-930; 21615, 145 c. 2).

[87] KD II/1, 588-589, 594-595, 600 and 601; CD II/1, 523, 528-529 and 534 (§ 31.2). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.29 (11609, 1191-1196; 21615, 186-187).

[88] KD II/1, 618, 640 and 646; CD II/1, 549, 568 and 573. References to Polanus, Syntagma II.18 (11609, 1001 and 1014; 21615, 156 c. 2 and 158 c. 2 – 159 c. 1).

[89] KD II/1, 619-620 and 632; CD II/1, 550-551 and 562. References to Polanus, Syntagma II.19 (11609, 1025f.; 21615, 160 c. 2).

[90] KD II/1, 725-728, 753 and 764; CD II/1, 643, 645, 667 and 677 (§ 31.3). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.31 (11609, 1213, 1225, 1214f., 1225; 21615, 190 c. 1, 191 c. 2, 190 c. 1 and 191 c. 2).

[91] CD II/1, 523 (definition of omnipotence).

[92] Where Barth refers to tradition speaking on divine simplicity among orthodox Protestant theologians, only Wolleb is quoted (KD II/1, 502-503; CD II/1, 446-447): for him it means that God is expers compositionis. The definition of Polanus in Syntagma II.8 is more detailed, following the examples of Aquinas and Zanchi: for him the simple God is expers compositionis, divisionis, multiplicationis et accidentium (Syntagma 21615, 141 c. 2). Besides simplicity Barth also omits references to the divine properties of immortalitas (II.16), bonitas (II.20) and libertas (II.30). The last omission is a strange one, considering the titles of CD § 28 as well as § 31.

[93] KD II/1, 725-726; CD II/1, 643. Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.28 (11609, 1213; 21615, 190 c. 1). Cf. note 90.

[94] ‘Kurtzen Inhalt der gantzen Lehr, welche in der Theologischen Schul der loblichen Universitet Basel geführt wirdt’; Staehelin, op. cit. (111-130), 112: ‘Von Gott’ (title by Staehelin borrowed from Polanus’ Partitiones), article 5.

[95] For Barth’s commentary on Polanus’ describing of God as Spirit see KD II/1, 298-299; CD II/1, 266-267 (§ 28.1). References to Polanus, Syntagma II.3 (11609, 860; 21615, 134 c. 2). Barth fears an idealism, in which the sense of describing God as ‘Spirit’ only serves to distinguish Him from the world of ‘nature’. That may be a danger. In the tradition of Calvin’s Institutes, however, the sense of the ‘spirituality’ of God is rather to stress the fundamental difference between the God of Israel and the gods of the ‘gentiles’ as hypostatized creatures (cf. the Institutes of 1559, Book I the beginning of Chapter 13).

[96] Beatitudo: see KD II/1, 317-318; CD II/1, 283 (§ 28.2). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.17 (11609, 996; 21615, 155-156).

[97] Syntagma II.7, 21615, 141; KD II/1, 368-376; CD II/1, 327-335 (§ 29, ‘The perfections of God’). Cf. Faulenbach, op. cit., 138-140.

[98] See above, footnote 67.

[99] Barth says (CD II/1, 329): ‘an explanation of what is to be understood by the “fundamentum” (of the human predication of properties in God Himself) has never been vouchsafed’. It is the opinion of Richard Muller, op. cit. III, 287, that Reformed orthodoxy seriously sought to find such a ‘fundamentum’.

[100] The former numbers 389-392 in Denzinger’s Enchiridion symbolorum etc. are deleted in the newer editions, because ‘Gilbertus vero subtiliter se defendendo ita successit (sc. at Reims in the year 1148), ut papa istis capitulis nullam haeresis notam inusserit’.

[101] Cf. K.H. Miskotte, De praktische zin van de eenvoud Gods, Amsterdam: Holland, 1945.

[102] Synopsis Libri I. Syntagma I.3 and I.4 respectively. Cf. Althaus, op. cit., 231 ff.; Faulenbach, op. cit., 52; Van Asselt, op. cit., 108-109; Muller, op. cit., I, 225-238 and (in relationship to the doctrine of the divine attributes) III, 204.

[103] Therefore the effort of Richard Muller, as mentioned in footnote 99, to understand the endeavours of the orthodox theologians in their predication of the divine attributes is very useful, but cannot contain the last word for us.

[104] E.g. Bizer, op. cit. XLVII: ‘He was really a conserving epigone, to a large extent also a compiler’ (wesentlich bewahrender Epigone, weithin auch Kompilator’).

[105] We could have also here examined the relationship between speaking of the divine unity and the Trinity in Book III of the Syntagma, but as we saw Barth does not deal with this, so we will not either.

[106] In his study Divine simplicity (Kampen 1987), F.G. Immink (against Alvin Plantinga) tries to show that it was never the intention of classical theology to hold this type of idea of an abstract identity with regard to God.

[107] This sub-paragraph is a continuation of sub-paragraph I.6, above in this paper.

[108] KD III/2, 3-4; CD III/2, 5 (§ 43.1, ‘Man in the Cosmos’).

[109] Barth refers almost to the whole content of this book. Syntagma V.1 treats the externa Dei opera in genere; V.2-5 is about creation itself; V.6 offers a creaturae definitio; V.7 speaks de mundo communiter.  Chapter V.10 seems to be missing in Polanus. Furthermore Barth omits Chapter V.18: de elemento aquae.

[110] KD III/1, 2; CD III/1, 4 (§ 40,’Faith in God the Creator’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.3 (11609, 1700; 21615, 264 c. 2): Creationis vera ad certa cognitio non philosophiae sed theologiae, non naturae sed fidei, non acumini mentis humanae, sed divino lumini, non humanae ratiocinationi, sed divinae revelationi, non rationibus et demonstrationibus physicis, sed autoritatibus et testimoniis divinis accepta est ferenda.

[111] The first assertion can be found in Thesis X, the second in Thesis XI of Chap. V.3, ‘de creationis causa efficiente’. Cf. Meijering, op. cit., 387.

[112] Cf. Paul Althaus (op. cit., 232-233): ‘faith’, as an activity of ectypal theology, makes propositions here on earth that are derived from and can be proved only by the higher, original science in heaven. By doing so Polanus follows the Thomist tradition.

[113] KD III/2, 184; CD III/2, 154 (§ 44.3: ‘Real Man’. Here Barth shifts the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo from the more or less cosmological to the anthropological realm). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.6 (11609, 1718-1726; 21615, 267-268). In the CD, Barth also quotes Tertullian, Hippolytus, Anselm, and Augustin. But he became acquainted with this line of thought through Polanus (in 1925). See Unterricht, op. cit. II, 234-235; with reference to Heppe/Bizer, op. cit. 153 f.

[114] Paragraph III of this paper. CD II/1, 334.

[115] KD III/2, 88-90; CD III/2, 76-77 (§ 44.2). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.27 (11609, 1987; 21615, 308 c. 1). Cf. Meijering, op. cit., 277. See also Barth’s remark: ‘the animal ratione praeditum in itself is a ghost’.

[116] Barth continues: ‘… and it is here that there is to be sought the distinction and particularity of man in relation to all other animals and therefore to all other beings in general’. The last words are not those of Polanus, however. How could Barth forget here the angels, who actually are ‘other beings’, but not ‘animals’!

[117] CD III/2, 77: ‘It is not at all self-evident that the concept animal really ought to be the subject of the definition and human ratio only a predicate, only a kind of ancillary to the mainly animal being of man. Both the naturalism of this view of the subject and the intellectualism of the understanding of reason could and necessarily did bear evil fruits later’. Apparently Barth sees in such a resumption of Aristotelianism the preparation of the Cartesian concept of the absolutist self with all its effects in shaping modernity.

[118] So in KD III/2, 456; CD III/2, 380 (§ 46.3, ‘Soul and Body in their Interconnection’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.32 (11609, 2060; 21615, 319). Barth refers here – with a negative connotation – to Polanus definition of the soul: [anima hominis est] substantia [nempe proprie sic dicta, non qualitas aliqua, ullumve re aliud accidens, sed] talis naturae, quae a corpore etiam separati & subsistere per se [here you have to add: ipsa] possit.

[119]Barth finds another reason for this in Polanus: ‘The purpose of this definition has always been clear. It is to define the most general features of man in order to proceed securely to the particular. But what is overlooked is that it is precisely the most particular thing about man, namely, his existence in a history determined by God’s attitude to him, which is the most genuinely universal and decisive feature…. (of man as a creature)’. This sentence says more about Barth’s own theology than that of Polanus.

[120] KD III/2, 457-458; CD III/2, 381-382 (§ 46.3). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma V.30 (11609, 1900f.; 21615, 310 c. 2).

[121] Barth wrote these examples out with perceptible pleasure and the reader will experience these pages of the Church Dogmatics in the same way. We refer here only to their locations in the Syntagma (21615). Cor: 313 c.1; cranium: 313 c. 2; frons: 314 c. 2; una tantum lingua: 316 c. 1; aures: 315 c. 2; os & osculum: 316 c. 2 – 317 c. 1; de humoribus et spiritibus: V.31, (21615) 318 under usus.

[122] When Spinoza is thinking the two infinite attributes of cogitatio and extentio both in the one infinite essence of the deus sive substantia, he actually is forced to give up the notion of the simplicitas Dei. Cf. Martial Gueroult, Spinoza I. Dieu, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1968, e.g. 53 and 108.

[123] KD IV/1, 408-409; CD IV/1, 369-370 (§ 60.1, ‘The Man of Sin in the Light of the Obedience of the Son of God’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma VI.9 [Barth here mentions the chapter in the first edition, but not the column] (21615, 348 c. 1ff.).

[124] E.g. Polanus, op. cit. 348 c. 2, G: lux naturalis in homine, ultro a vere luce averso, prope extincta fuit.

[125] After this Barth adds two remarks on the chapters on the Law (VI.10) and on sin (VI.3), which we will not discuss here.

[126] Bert Loonstra has come to a similar conclusion with Polanus in a different locus, that of Holy Scripture. There he encountered the sentence: unum et verum convertuntur, i.e. there is only one meaning in Scripture and this meaning will always be the one truth. It is clear that this position is unacceptable from the point of view of present day hermeneutics. See his article ‘Scholasticism and Hermeneutics’ in: Willem J. van Asselt & Eef Dekker (eds.), Reformation and Scholasticism. An Ecumenical Enterprise, Grand Rapids Mi.: Baker Academic, 2001, (295-306) 302.

[127] Syntagma II.8  (21615, 143 c. 1).

[128] KD II/1, 404 (‘krankt in fataler Weise daran…’); CD II/1, 359 (on the definition of Holiness).

[129] KD II/1, 426 (‘bekommt einen eigentümlich willkürlichen Charakter’); CD II/1, 379 (the righteousness of God).

[130] KD II/1, 553 (‘hat leider auch an dieser Stelle keine glückliche Hand gehabt’); CD II/1, 492 (the constancy of God). Cf. above, footnote 42.

[131] KD II/1, 479 (‘er versagt in dieser Sache’); CD II/1, 426 (the wisdom of God). Cf. footnotes 82 and 83 above.

[132] See for instance KD II/1, 416; CD II/1, 370-371 (the identification of the mercy of God with his essence). Cf. above, footnotes 63 and 79.

[133] KD I/2, 310 (‘eine auffallende Ausnahme’); CD II/1, 285 (the place of the treatment of religion in the Syntagma). Cf. footnote 30 above.

[134] KD II/2, 119  (‘ich weiß unter den mir bekannten Dogmatikern der Orthodoxie nur einen…’); CD II/2, 111 (§ 33.1. ‘Jesus Christ, Electing and Elected’).

[135] KD III/2, 3 (‘ich kenne nur eine Ausnahme von dieser Regel..’); CD III/2, 5. Cf. footnote 108 above (the cosmic view on the creature).

[136] KD III/2, 457 (‘so war es eine seltsame Ausnahme, wenn Polan…’); CD III/2, 381. Cf. footnote 123 above (the doctrine of the human body).

[137] KD III/3, 359 (‘Es war schon bei den Alten eine Ausnahme, wenn etwa Polan dem malum afflictionis eine besondere Abhandlung zuwendete und diese der Behandlung des malum peccati et culpa sogar vorangehen ließ’); CD III/3, 315 (§ 50.3, ‘The Knowledge of Nothingness’). Barth’s reference to Syntagma VI.7 is not very clear. Probable VI.4 is meant. Indeed Polanus makes the distinction: malum est duplex, culpae et afflictionis (VI.3; 21615, 334 c. 1). Afflictio for Polan however seems not to be quite the same as ‘Nothingness’ is for Barth. It is characterised as miseria and it is related to God-forsakenness, perseverance, trial, martyrdom and death.

[138] Meijering, op. cit. 257, suspects that it was Polanus who called Barth’s attention to the Athanasius passage in question.

[139] See above, footnote 134. Barth refers especially to chapter 8 in Syntagma IV, ‘De electione Christi & beatorum angelorum’ (21615, 244; the sentence about the electio Christi as fundamentum is Axiom V there).

[140] Meijering, op. cit. 244 and 259.

[141] Richard A. Muller, After Calvin. Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition, Oxford/ New York: Oxford University Press, 2003, 99-100.

[142] See above, footnote 8.

[143] KD I/2, 426 (‘So gibt es denn auch bei Polanus ein Kapitel…., anhebend mit dem strahlenden Satz:…’); CD I/2, 387 (§ 18.2, ‘The love of God’). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma X.3, ‘De caritate hominis erga seipsum’ (11609, 4182f.; 21615, 651 c. 1): unusquisque sibi ipsi primum proximus est, deinde aliis.

[144] KD III/2, 457 (‘Ich frage mich ernstlich, ob mein illustrer Vorgänger hier nicht mindestens stellenweise dem Geist der Basler Fastnacht verfallen ist und ganz bewußt fromme Witze machen wollte’); CD III/2, 381. Cf. above, footnotes 5 and 120. Faulenbach, op. cit. 182 (footnote) quotes this sentence of Barth, but I fear he failed to see the irony in it.

[145] KD II/1, 448 (‘schon zur Erinnerung, wie unerschrocken und einsichtig die “alte Orthodoxie”, trotz aller ihrer Mängel gerade im Blick auf diese Mitte… zu reden gewußt hat’); CD II/1, 398 (§ 30.2). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.26, the passage on the ‘iustitia irae’ (11609, 1166; 21615, 183 c. 2): nullam exemplum iustitiae, irae et comminationum divinarum est expressius, severius, horribilius quam in Christo…’ and so on. Cf. above, footnote 40.

[146] KD II/1, 764; CD II/1, 677 (§ 31.3). Reference to Polanus, Syntagma II.31 (11609, 1225 – instead of 1125, as Barth has erroneously written; 21615, 191 c. 2).

[147] We have to realize that some major doctrinal themes in the conversation between Barth and Polanus are not or hardly touched on in this paper. Let me mention, e.g., the doctrines of Holy Scripture (CD I/2), election (II/2), the covenant (IV/1) and the person (I/2; IV/2) as well as the (prophetic) office (IV/3) of Christ.

[148] Cf., e.g., above, footnote 76.

[149] KD I/1, VII; CD I/1, XII.

[150] With thanks to A.F. den Exter Blokland, Ph.D., Chicago, USA for the correction of the English.

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R.H. Reeling Brouwer

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