Knowing One Particular God

Is there some idea of “knowing” that simply have to fill with the right, God-given content, in order to understand how we know God?

Is there some idea of “being” or essence that we simply have to fill with the right, God-given content, in order to understand the God who is?

Do we begin with knowledge and being to know the God who truly is?

When we think about who God is as Lord, Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler, do we reason upward from our general ideas to a God who is Lord, Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler because he is such notions of ours writ large?

No, Barth will argue throughout the first part of his discussion of “The Readiness of God” (Church Dogmatics ยง26.1). We do not have general categories which God fills in a bigger way, and thereby conforms to humanity’s innate ideas. We know the true God as this God is revealed in Scripture. God is known as all these things: Lord, Creator, Redeemer, and Reconciler altogether–so that knowledge of the true God depends on what I would call here the story to which God has bound Godself as primary actor, not simply human notions of what someone called god should do.

In fact, Barth wants to push it back farther than this and to say that it’s not merely our ideas of Lordship, Creation, and the like that are derivative from God’s revelation of who God truly is.

The very idea, and long-standing philosophical problem, of God’s very knowability, is dependent on a prior action of God as well. We can know God because God is actually known and has actually chosen to make himself known. We can know the truth of who God is because God “is” before we are, and this truth of himself is known: Father to Son and Son to Father by the Spirit.

Knowledge of God is, then, an act of grace in which God makes Himself known. This means that it is not an act of nature, in which people might simply reason their way to true knowledge of the true God.

That last piece, an argument against natural theology, takes up a great deal of Barth’s energies as the chapter moves on.

I confess to finding myself torn here. As someone who deals with the deeply contextualized, historically situated texts of the Bible, I stumble over the idea that our images and metaphors for God are revealed rather than varied human expressions of various people in various times and cultures. Note well! I do believe that God reveals and speaks through the images–but that this revelation is known and understood and used because it carries certain preexisting connotative freight for the first hearers.

But on the other hand, I appreciate Barth’s insistence that we not affirm some “god” in general in vain hopes that someone serving such a being will one day attain to faith in the Christian God in particular. This skepticism of natural theology, not only in its validity but also in its purported pastoral value, is well grounded.

Those were my impressions of these 30ish pages. You?

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