I know, I know, I’ve fallen way behind on my Barth reading. But travel sometimes has its perks, so I’ve polished off the last 140 pages of 2.1 in the past week. It’s been glorious.
The final, large swath of Barth’s Doctrine of God continues to uncover how the God we worship is the God who is made known within the particular story of Israel, and most pointedly in the story of Jesus Christ.
God is power, but power is not God. Thus, the true God is truly known when that God’s power is made known in a certain way, in a certain story:
He is certainly the Lord, and therefore the substance of all power, but He is not any kind of Lord. He is the Lord who in his speech and action makes Himself our Lord and declares Himself to be such: “I am the Lord and as such thy God.” When God reveals Himself, His omnipotent speech and action are not self-exhausting but point back beyond themselves to the One who speaks and acts.
Barth will not allow Christian confessions about God to be drawn into abstractions about our “highest value” or “the power behind all.”
God is the God who makes Himself known as “our God.”
Barth spills countless ounces of ink on God as one who is “omnipotent,” in a power that is tied to God’s will and knowledge, in order to say, in the end: this must be so if God is to be love.
God’s power must be a power of knowing, of knowing things into being, of willing, of willing the things that happen–and a free willing of those things–in order for God’s reconciliation of humanity to be an act of love (599).
The final section, on God’s eternity and glory, started out a bit creepy for my blood.
Talking about how God is eternally extant, with time a function of creation, and God’s past, present, and future being a true proceeding from, acting, and proceeding to, but not bound by time (rather binding time)–well, that all gets a bit heavenly for my earthly-grounded brain.
But things turned a corner for me when Barth didn’t flinch at the implications of incarnation:
In Jesus Christ it comes about that God takes time to Himself, that He Himself, the eternal One, becomes temporal, that He is present for us in the form of our own existence and our own world, not simply embracing our time and ruling it, but submitting Himself to it and permitting created time to become and be the form of His eternity…. His name [i.e., Jesus Christ's] is the refutation of the idea of a God who is only timeless. (§31.3, p. 616)
In talking about time, and locating Jesus Christ at the center of it, Barth is able to incorporate NT eschatology as an already and not yet reality: the overlap of the present with the future that ensures the reality of both.
Finally, Barth turns to discuss God’s glory. God is glorious, and God also makes this glory known and fulfills it in the creation-story by people freely responding to this glory with our own glorification of God.
One of the most insightful moments of this chapter comes at the end, as Barth reflects on the Son’s incarnation and humiliation. These make possible the human glorification of God which reflects God’s own glory.
The whole point of creation is that God should have a reflection in which He reflects Himself and in which the image of God as the Creator is revealed, so that through it God is attested and proclaimed. For this reflection is the centre and epitome of creation concretely represented in the existence of man. … It was in order that there should be this reflection that the Son of God became flesh.
Bring on the Adam Christology!
Barth here has laid out some of the most nuanced argumentation about the conjunction of divine, determining foreknowledge, and human freedom. This is setting us up for a lengthy engagement, head-on, with the doctrine of election.
What will that look like in the context of a God who not only loves in freedom but calls on the creature to freely love? We’ll start finding out in a couple of weeks.