Humans Receive God’s Word

For all the topics of Christology and ecclesiology and pneumatology and Trinitarianism that we are rolling through in volume 1 of Church Dogmatics, we are still working through “The Word of God,” how God reveals Godself to humanity.

Jesus, the God Man, is the revelation of God. But God’s revelation always comes to people who do, in fact, hear it and respond to it. It is the reality of human response to the revelation of God that Barth takes up when he turns to the Holy Spirit as a constituent agent of the revelation of God.

Barth is at his strongest as he articulates this move to incorporate the Spirit into the doctrine of the word. We not only know that God reveals, but we know that people have responded.

That given of human response to the revelation of God–witnessed to in scripture–is what Barth intends to explore here.

How do people respond? We don’t know. That they do is the reality of Christian life, the reality of scripture whose prophets have heard and speak the word in response to the God who has spoken.

One question I had: Barth here incorporates our illumination by the Spirit into Revelation itself, rather than relegating it to a separate category of “illumination.” I know that this writing of our response into the doctrine of revelation would be seen as problematic in some circles.

What do you think? Is it good or is it dangerous to put the human response by the Spirit in the same category of “revelation” as Christ himself is the revelation of God.

Theologically, what I found most engaging about this section was the idea that those to whom this revelation come become an extension of God’s revelation to the world. There is an “in Christ” theology that demands the church to take seriously its own life as an extension of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God.

The revelation of God is in the body of the incarnate Christ, and the church, being in Christ by Spirit-engendered faith, is the body of Christ on earth. There is a seriousness to Christian identity in Christ as the continuing revelation of God that we need to recognize as an essential part of our calling.

I realized that the intro to this section made me anticipate some talk of election; I’m not sure if that’s coming up in the next section, or if that anticipation KB has created is simply a factor of his theological method, and the way that all the parts are integrated.

To say that our reception of the word must happen by God creating freedom in us to respond to God’s free act means that we are not free as humans, but only as humans who have received the grace of God. No doubt, more talk of this “God making us free” is in the offing soon.

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