Thursday, 1 September 2011

The difference between the Christian doctrine of creation and every conceivable world-view

Volume 3, paragraph 42, end of section 1, which is entitled Creation as Benefit. Barth states that the doctrine of creation is not a world-view. This is because, according to Barth, in the two cases "the objects as well as the grounds of knowledge are different." Theology is concerned with revelation but world-views are concerned with "such apprehension of the cosmos as is possible to unaided reason,".

He then lists implications of this for the doctrine of creation, including these four: 1. It cannot itself become a world-view. 2. It cannot base itself on any world-view. 3. It cannot guarantee any world-view. 4. It cannot come to terms with these views. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Genesis 1 days

Our time consists neither in millions of years nor in a single instant but is made up of real days. If we filch from Gen. 1 the relationship of light to a real day, the relationship of light to our time is destroyed, and Gen. 1:3f. ceases to be a proclamation of the meaning of history and becomes a more or less interesting, credible and binding scientific or philosophical theory. If it is more likely that the purpose of the story of creation in Genesis - of the beginning of the history of the covenant and salvation developed in the Old Testament - is to instruct us in the sense of this proclamation rather than of such a theory, it follows that we must take the "days" of which it speaks, and especially the "day" of Gen. 1:3f., in the literal sense of the term. CD vol. III.1, p.126.

Friday, 10 June 2011 two times and worlds

This is part of Barth's exposition of the command to love God and love our neighbour...

"The connexion and the difference between the two commandments are plain when we remember that the children of God, the Church, now live, as it were, in the space between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and in the time of the forbearance of God and their own watching and waiting. In effect they live in two times and worlds. And in both of these their one undivided existence is claimed absolutely by God, subjected to His command and engaged to obedience. There can be no question of any other Lord but God claiming our love, or of any other object but God wanting to be loved. But the love of the children of God corresponds to their twofold existence in two times and worlds. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ have taken place. On this basis they are already members and participants of the new world created by Him, by faith in the manifestation of the Son of God in and with the human nature which He has adopted, in and with the flesh which He has united to His deity and glorified by His power. Represented by Him, peccatores iusti, in His person they are already assembled before the throne of God, citizens of His everlasting kingdom, participators in eternal life. They are in Christ; and it is in the totality of this their hidden being, which is none other than their actual human and creaturely existence here and now, that in the way described they are put under the commandment to love God, to seek after the One who has first sought and found them. But by virtue of the coming but not yet visible lordship of Jesus Christ, in faith in His coming, comforting themselves with the promise of the forgiveness of sins, given in the Word made flesh for all flesh, they always stand in need of the comfort and warning of this promise, because although the former time and world are past they still lie, indeed are, behind them. They have to wait and watch for their Lord as iusti peccatores. They have to serve Him in the relationships, connexions and orderings of a reality which has, of course, been overthrown and superseded by His resurrection, but not yet visibly abolished and replaced by His second coming, in the space between the times, where it doth not yet appear what they shall be. They "walk" in the light in face of darkness, and in this visible pilgrimage in all its hope and peril, which is simply the totality of their actual human and creaturely activity here and now, God had placed them under the commandment to love their neighbour." CD vol. I.2, pp.408,409

Monday, 30 May 2011

"...we cannot venture..."

A leap forward in the current trend of posting on vol I.2. The quote below is relevant to a current debate within American evangelical circles. How much of the current discussion on hell is inspired - consciously or otherwise - by Barth? It is interesting that Barth's re-definition of the doctrine of election must also re-define consequent or subsequent doctrines of the last things. I've heard at least one major theological figure teach that the (Protestant) church should follow Barth's open mind as illustrated below. I do not agree with this, preferring to stick with the line suggested by people like Paul Helm in his blog post here.

Here is the quote from Barth's monumental vol II.2. The 'it' that Barth writes about in the first sentence quoted is "the (in itself) closed circle of the election of Jesus Christ and His community":

"...If we are to respect the freedom of divine grace, we cannot venture the statement that it must and will finally be coincident with the world of man as such (as in the doctrine of the so-called apokatastasis.) No such right or necessity can legitimately be deduced. Just as the gracious God does not need to elect or call any single man, so He does not need to elect or call all mankind. His election and calling do not give rise to any historical metaphysics, but only to the necessity of attesting them on the ground that they have taken place in Jesus Christ and His community. But, again, in grateful recognition of the grace of the divine freedom we cannot venture the opposite statement that there cannot and will not be this final opening up and enlargement of the circle of election and calling. Neither as the election of Jesus Christ, the election of His community, nor the election of the individual do we know the divine election of grace as anything other than a decision of His loving-kindness. We would be developing an opposing historical metaphysics if we were to try to attribute any limits - and therefore an end of these frontier-crossings - to the loving-kindness of God." CD vol II.2, p.417,418

Saturday, 14 May 2011


God Himself and God alone turns man into a recipient of His revelation - but he does so in a definite area, and this area, if we may now combine the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the area of the Church. ... That the world contains such a place created and indicated by God is declared to be true and not untrue by the development of the universal Church from the national community of Israel. This truth cannot be ignored. Put pointedly and to be taken cum grano salis, there exist over against Jesus Christ, not in the first instance believers, and then, composed of them, the Church; but first of all the Church and then, through it and in it, believers. While God is as little bound to the Church as to the Synagogue, the recipients of His revelation are. They are what they are because the Church is what it is, and because they are in the Church, not apart from the Church and not outside the Church. And when we say "Church", we do not mean merely the inward and invisible coherence of those who God in Christ calls His own, but also the outward and visible coherence of those who have heard in time, and have confessed to their hearing, that in Christ they are God's. The reception of revelation occurs within, not without, this twofold coherence. CD vol. I.2, pp.210,211

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Object and theatre of the acts of God

That the Word was made "flesh" means first and generally that He became man, true and real man, participating in the same human essence and existence, the same human nature and form, the same historicity that we have. God's revelation to us takes place in such a way that everything ascribable to man, his creaturely existence as an individually unique unity of body and soul in the time between birth and death, can now be predicated of God's eternal Son as well. According to the witness of the Evangelists and the apostles everything miraculous aout His being as a man derives its meaning and force from the fact that it concerns the true man Jesus Christ as a man like ourselves. This is true especially of the Easter story, the evangelium quadraginta dierum, as the supreme event of revelation. It is true of the sign of His birth of the Virgin at the beginning, and the sign of the empty tomb at the end of His historical existence. It is true of the signs and wonders already manifested between this beginning and end, which proclaim the Kingdom of God in its relation to the event of Easter. What in fact makes revelation revelation and miracle miracle is that the Word of God did actually become a real man and that therefore the life of this real man was the object and theatre of the acts of God, the light of revelation entering the world. CD vol I.2, p.147

Monday, 28 March 2011

Form and content

Every statement in the New Testament originates in the fact that the Word was made flesh. God's covenant with man, the covenant which God made with Abraham, with Moses and David, finds its reality solely, but completely and finally, in the fact that God was made man, in order that as man He might do what man as such never does, what even Israel never did, appropriate God's grace and fulfil God's law. This is what God did Himself as man in Jesus Christ. For that very reason in Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God is at hand, as nigh as it can get while time has not yet become eternity. So the New Testament declares. It declares nothing else, it declares, broadly speaking, nothing more than the Old Testament. But it declares it in a different way, because it is looking back at the fulfilment. The form now has content which corresponds to it exactly. The question has now achieved its precise answer. CD I.2, p. 104.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Scripture and Method

On the contrary, if theology is really to correspond to the witness of Holy Scripture, they must give theology its essential forms and they must also determine its methods, for without these it could not be theology. CD 1.2, 5.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Interpretation or illustration?

The finders of the vestigia trinitatis had no wish to postulate a second and different root of the doctrine of the Trinity side by side with revelation. Far less did they wish to represent this second root as the only true one or to deny the revelation of the trinitarian God. But their action is deeply overshadowed by the question whether this is not precisely what they did. We are plainly dealing with that non-obligatory, uncommissioned and dangerous possibility whenever theological language, as here, thinks it must not just be the interpretation of revelation but also its illustration. Interpretation means saying the same thing in other words. Illustration means saying the same thing in other words. Where the line is to be drawn between the two cannot be stated generally. But there is a line, for revelation will submit only to interpretation and not to illustration. If we illustrate it we set a second thing alongside it and focus our attention on this. We no longer trust revelation in respect of its self-evidential force. CD I.1, p344,345

Thursday, 17 February 2011

God conceals Himself in revealing Himself

And, according to Barth, God does this concealing in revealing as he assumes the form of the humanitas Christi.

Some of the most thrilling passages in Church Dogmatics are found in the small print sections. Barth produced these to allow for more technical discussions, allowing the dogmatic presentation itself to stand apart so that non-theologians could read it in a connected way.

On pages 322,323 of the old T&T Clark edition that I am reading, Barth writes about how the humanity of Christ contains one of the hardest problems of Christology. Is the humanity of Christ as such revelation? Barth hints that God's reconciling action is the being of God in Christ. So, for example, His resurrection is not an operation proper to Christ's humanity.

Revealing was not ascribed to Christ's existence in the form of a man as such: "...Jesus did not become revelation to all who met Him but only to a few." This has to be understood as part of Barth's overall understanding of revelation. Any doubts about Barth's view on the humanity of Christ can probably be connected to doubts about his view of revelation.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


"Revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling, imparted to men, of the God who by nature cannot be unveiled to men. ...inscrutability, hiddenness, is of the very essence of Him who is called God in the Bible. ...this God by his grace, i.e., by His self-unveiling, says to everyone to whom it is imparted that of himself he could not do what is there done to him and for him. It is thus of the very nature of this God to be inscrutable to man. In saying this we naturally mean that in His revealed nature He is thus inscrutable. It is the Deus revelatus who is the Deus absconditus, the God to whom there is no path nor bridge, concerning whom we could not say nor have to say a single word if He did not of His own initiative meet us as the Deus revelatus." CD I.1,p320,321

Monday, 7 February 2011

We are being enriched

"Church Dogmatics is clearly a monumental work in which the place of Scripture in the church and in theology receives most careful attention from Barth. ... Anyone who reads this material is bound to be enriched."

Roger Nicole, in an essay called 'The Neo-Orthodox Reduction'.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Christ as the primary theme

I sense that paragraph 8 is where things start to heat up. Volume 1 is all about revelation. Barth makes this comment: "God reveals Himself as the Lord; in this statement we have summed up our understanding of the form and content of the biblical revelation." CD I.1,p314

And, further on the same page:

"Historically considered and stated the three questions answered in the Bible, that of revealer, revelation, and being revealed, do not have the same importance. The true theme of the biblical witness is the second of the concepts, God's action in His revelation, revelation in answer to the question what God does, and therefore the predicate in our statement. Within this theme the two other questions, materially no less important, are answered. Similarly the doctrine of the Trinity, when considered historically in its origin and development, is not equally interested in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Here too the theme is primarily the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, the deity of Christ."

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

"...the basic presupposition..."

"In a dogmatics of the Christian Church we cannot speak correctly of God's nature and attributes unless it is presupposed that our reference is to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity is the basic presupposition of God too is no obstacle to regarding it already as also and precisely the interpretation of revelation as such. Not as an exhaustive interpretation; to give that we should have to speak not only of the God who reveals Himself but also of the way He does it and the man to whom He does it, and we should thus stand in need of further anticipations from the area of specific doctrines; there are certain parts of christology and pneumatology that we should have to consider. What we do in fact gather from the doctrine of the Trinity is who the God is who reveals Himself, and this is why we present the doctrine here as an interpretation of revelation. ... When we say, then, that the doctrine of the Trinity is the interpretation of revelation or that revelation is the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, we find revelation itself attested in Holy Scripture in such a way that in relation to this witness our understanding of revelation, or of the God who reveals Himself, must be the doctrine of the Trinity." CD I.1, p312

Monday, 17 January 2011


"The time has now come to lodge a protest in the name of purity and propriety against the corruption of theology which has now been in full swing so long and which has been brought about by trying to understand and treat it simply as a branch of the humanities in general. To give this protest inner justification more will be neeeded, of course, than phenomenological interest in the respecting of existing orders and categories or the jeolousy of an intellectual trade unionism insisting on its special rights. The formal need for the autonomy of theology can and should be pointed out, but one should not forget that the seriousness of the reference stands or falls with the attention that is actually paid to the witness of Holy Scripture and not just with speaking about it." CD I.1, p285

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Union with Christ

"Neither in Augustine nor in Luther is there anything about a deification in faith in the sense of a changing of man's nature into the divine nature. What makes the expressions possible is the apprehensio Christi or habitatio Christi in nobis or unio hominis cum Christo that takes place in real faith according to the teaching of Gal.2:20. In emphasising this more than mystical and more than speculative principle that faith means union with what is believed, i.e., with Jesus Christ, Calvin did not lag in the least behind Luther nor either of them behind Augustine, Anselm, or Bernard of Clairvaux. Without this principle it is impossible to understand the Reformation doctrine of justification and faith. How it was distinguished from the idea of an essential deification of man in the Reformation period may be seen especially from Calvin's controversy with A.Osiander (Instit.,III,11,5f.); there can be no question of a mixtura Christi cum fidelibus." CD I.1,p240