The Psychological Development Of Jesus

our_lady_of_czestochowaI came across this passage today while reading an abridged version of Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology.

One fact about the Lord’s incarnation encouraged me to take this step of working from an “analogia fidei” to an “analogia entis“, from a man believed in by faith to be normal, to the problems of being in men as we find them now. This was the suprising fact, that although the ‘kenosis’, or ‘humbling’ involved our Lord in the laying aside of kingship and much else besides, this did not include the ultimate kenosis of being born in a brothel from a sluttish woman who would bring him up to know the seamy side of infancy. Tradition affirms the special holiness and godliness of the blessed Virgin Mary. From this it is not unreasonable to infer that God the Father was making provision for his Son’s human spirit to come to ‘being’ and ‘well being’ by response to a woman whose character was like his own, in loving kindness, holiness and graciousness. Can we then regard the Godlike mothering of Jesus Christ as a normal pattern and expect to find that divergences from it in the direction of unloving or unGodlike behaviour towards the child will cause disturbances and distortions of the nascent spirit within the foundation years? Indeed, this is so. As my psychiatric colleagues and I have spent many hours with patients reliving the first year, this dynamic cycle of interpersonal relationships provided a better model of a normal ontological matrix than any other hypothesis we had encountered.

Lake is making a move that flows from the assumptions of both Barth and Schleiermacher. We don’t consider what human being is and then look to Jesus seeking to subsequently understand him in light of our experience. Rather we look first to Jesus as the normative pattern for human existence, seeking subsequently to understand ourselves and our experience in light of his.

Barth clearly spells out the relationship between the mystery of the Incarnation and the sign that attests it:

The man Jesus of Nazareth is not the true Son of God because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. On the contrary, because He is the true Son of God and because this is an inconceivable mystery intended to be acknowledged as such, therefore He is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. And because He is thus conceived and born, He has to be recognised and acknowledged as the One He is and in the mystery in which He is the One He is…In the understanding of Scripture and Church doctrine there is neither a physical nor, as Biedermann would have it, a “religious” Son of God, but only the one eternal, if you like, “metaphysical” Son, who becomes a man like us in the mystery of Christmas and yet is and continues to be the eternal Son of God. As a sign of this mystery there is the miracle: conceptus de Spiritu sancto…The mystery does not rest upon the miracle. The miracle rests upon the mystery. The miracle bears witness to the mystery, and the mystery is attested by the miracle.

Perhaps the miracle points us to part of the mystery which is psychological in nature, making sense of how Jesus can be really human and thoroughly immersed in a web of relatedness utterly conditioned by sin and brokenness, and yet be a vision of wholeness and holiness.

Barth On The Nature Of The Church’s Vocation

In re-reading some passages from Church Dogmatics IV.3.2, I came across the following passage:

It can, of course, be said of all organic and inorganic creation that secretly but very really it stands in the service of both God and man, and that it probably does so in its own way far more effectively and gloriously than the poor Christian community. Yet in the context of this great and comprehensive ministry of all creation the Christian community has its own specific function and service. In this context it is indeed distinguished to the extent that in it and in it alone is it a matter of the service of reconciliation, and this in the direct and concrete following of the prophetic work of the One in whom God has accomplished it. It is also distinguished to the extent that as such it does not take place secretly like that of the rest of creation, to be manifested in its reality only in and with the final revelation of Jesus Christ, but that even in its weakness and corruption, in anticipation of the disclosure of the secret of all creation, it is already revealed to be service of God and man here and now in time and space. [Emphasis mine.]
-CD IV3.2, 834.

It always astounds me when people say that Barth doesn’t take other religions seriously, or that he is dismissive of cultural or contextual realities confronting the Church. It will be a great day when Barth is read and then rejected for positions he actually held.