According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Karl Barth on Knowing God

[A] Humanity Ready for God

by JRD Kirk
February 4, 2012

Karl Barth claims that God is ready to be known by people, and hence actually knowable by people. In §26 of the Church Dogmatics, he approaches this from two different angles.

First, as we discussed previously (here and here), Barth draws us back to revelation, claiming that God is only known as God has revealed himself in and by the word.

In §26.2, Barth takes up the same question from the human side. If God is knowable, there must not only be a God who makes Godself known, but a humanity capable of receiving this knowledge.

Who, then, or perhaps what, is this humanity?

First, Barth returns to the question of natural theology, applying his previous arguments about God as knowable through the natural order to humanity as those who can know as they are by nature.

Well, not exactly as humanity is “by nature.” What humanity is in its “fallen nature” is more to the point. We’ll come back to this in a second. At any rate, humans as we actually are cannot truly know the true God through a natural theology, but only through God’s revelation.

“Anthropology” is not the route to humanity’s ability to know God.

Interestingly, and again, perhaps, surprisingly, Barth is equally insistent that ecclesiology, humanity as addressed by the church, is not the humanity able to receive the revelation of God. Humanity in the church is as liable to deception about its understanding of God as humanity in general. It is as liable to control it for its own purposes, as humanity in general.

Though I don’t recall Barth saying so explicitly, I wonder if this twin denial isn’t a recurrence of Barth’s regular two-sided glance: on the one hand he wants to show how evangelical dogmatics stands over against Christian liberalism; on the other he wants to show how it stands over against Roman Catholicism.

If not anthropology or ecclesiology, then on what basis can we discover humanity’s readiness for God? Unsurprisingly, it comes from Christology.

God is [the] known Knower in the triune, eternal relationship between Father and Son. This Son who has eternally known God, becomes human, thus joining the eternal self-knowing God with human flesh. How can people know God? Because, on the human side as well as the divine, God knows Godself. “On the human side” meaning, in this case, the humanity of the God-man.

I have a couple of questions about Barth’s construction.

First, do his stances against anthropology and ecclesiology as means by which we might see that God is knowable to people underplay the significance of Christ as The Human One and of the church as the Body of Christ? In the salvation story, there is a redefinition of humanity, of “image of God,” of the people of God, of “the church,” that is derivative from Christ himself.

Does Barth take this incorporation into Christ seriously enough in his denial that as humans or as the church we can know God?

Second, and related, does Barth give too much play to sin as a defining element in our human nature? Not that all humans aren’t born in sin and all the rest. But being sinful isn’t at the core of what it means to be human. Yes, it’s the reality that we are born into and from which Christ ushers us into a better future.

But Christ was fully human, and yet without sin. So if it’s sinfulness that keeps us from knowing God, it’s not our humanness that keeps us from God, but instead it’s the lack of true humanness that keeps us from knowing God.

So then, third, why is it that Christ offers a new humanity in which God is knowable? Is it because Christ is God? Or is it because Christ is truly human? Has Barth retreated too quickly to the Trinity rather than taking full stock of the inherent value of humanity as created in God’s image and recreated in the image of God in Christ?

That’s the real fun stuff. On a side note: is there a difference between natural theology and general revelation? The latter phrase keeps the requirement of “revelation” on the table, as Barth says is necessary, but allows for a broader compass of revelation than we find in only scripture, Christ, and preaching.

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