16.3.09

Oh Barth - that's it!

Well, I don't think I can do anything more with Barth. I have lived and breathed the guy for a few weeks now. Time to put the last full stop in place and submit my work. His articulation of Christ is so abstract and the critics who write about him set him within a context which I am only just starting to grapple with, so the whole thing has been extremely challenging but I like the guy, or at least the version of the guy that I have constructed, for some of it might be error.

He is so positive. I put it like this:
Barth's ''The Humanity of God', begins with a synopsis of his evangelical heritage, presents his Christology and ends with a reflection on humanity's ethical response to God's generosity. Barth's theology centres on the person of Jesus Christ who is God and Lord, King and Head, Reconciler and Redeemer, reflected albeit imperfectly in the Church and its people. Jesus Christ was given for humanity and we delight in his divinity made human and we rejoice in our own humanity, for however imperfect, it has been redeemed. God's grace is triumphant because he has put to death the 'No' to sin in Jesus Christ's crucifixion and raised up the mighty 'Yes' to new life in his resurrection. The gift poured out is the Son; it is the YES! It is the affirmative which defeats the negative. At its recognition, man praises the giver and loves those who share in its acknowledgement. Hence, the commandments are satisfied to love God and our neighbour. For Barth, the Christian life cannot help but be an ethical life if it is a life led truly in response to its giver.

He is so inclusive. I put it like this:
Christ is the answer to any 'otherness' of God. God in his 'majesty' is notintending to confirm in man a feeling of 'hopelessness', just as God in his humanity does nothing to rob God of his glory. God, in love transferred his divine expression to humanity. This Jesus Christ is fully human (bar sin) and fully divine and this is to the glory of man. Therefore for Barth, Calvin's insistence on humanity's depravity becomes a judgement too harsh for what it says about our humanity. Barth exhorts us to rejoice at God's having chosen to 'be man's partner'. In God's freedom he chose to be so generous so that the reader can hardly denigrate that which was created and called good and God has chosen to father. Pastorally, the Church would affirm the members of its congregations and indeed those outside its walls too. There is no doctrine of a predestined elect here, instead it is our job to treat every human being 'as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother'1 and make known to each their sacred sibling connection if they are unaware of it. Barth has been accused of Universalism because for him Christ is the rejected and the elected and we are all recipients of salvation, whether we know it or not. We are encouraged even to view what might be considered monstrous as something with a potential to reveal God in his goodness. Pastorally, the implication for the Church is that no-one is beyond its reach.

I also reflected on Barth's fedeism: that he starts with the presupposition that God does indeed exist. He does not engage in apologetics. I also reflected on how there is also something very post-modern about Barth. For Barth revelation lies in something beyond the powers of human reasoning, tradition and experience. Any human system fails to articulate God. Barth is suspicious about how we arrive at truth if the investigation starts with man. All words fail, apart from the Word (Jesus Christ) to reveal God. Perhaps today we would better capture the attention of a people whose natural hermeneutic is one of suspicion, if we sought less to investigate and corroborate systems which will only ever be suspected and presented more a God who is revealed simply by Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, where in effect only God can reveal God! Like today's post-modern audience, Barth was always questioning the worldly foundations upon which the Church proposed so certainly to 'know'.

1Barth K, The Humanity of God, p.53

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