Monday, December 2, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.1 §10.1 "God as Creator" pp. 384-390

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §10 states: "The one God reveals Himself according to Scripture as the Creator, that is, as the Lord of our existence. As such He is God our Father because He is so antecedently in Himself as the Father of the Son."

In subsection §10.1 ("God the Father: God as Creator"), Barth would like to further discuss the three "modes of being" beginning with God the Father, particularly a discussion of His work as Creator in the present subsection. The way that Barth constructs the discussion in this and the next five sections [six sections total] is by pairing a subsection devoted to God's work and a subsection discussing who God is in Godself. Thus what we get in these final sections of I,1:

God the Father =
§10.1 - God as Creator
§10.2 - The Eternal Father

God the Son =
§11.1 - God as Reconciler
§11.2 - The Eternal Son

God the Holy Spirit =
§12.1 - God as Redeemer
§12.2 - The Eternal Spirit

Barth opens with a discussion - very direct and clear at that - of the fact that one of the things we receive in revelation is the knowledge that God is Lord:
In the event which the Bible describes as revelation God deals with man as the Lord: not as a being of the kind and order to which man himself belongs and therefore not as a being over which man for his part might equally well be lord; nor yet as a being which exists and remains in and for itself in its own kind and order. These are the two errors or lies about God which are set aside by revelation. God deals with man as the Lord, i.e., as the authority which in distinction from all others is absolutely superior to man, but which, even in this absolute superiority, also concerns and claims man with the same absoluteness. The fact that God reveals Himself, i.e., that He deals with man as Lord, is not equivalent to saying that He has and exercises power over man. Power is indeed the presupposition and means of lordship. We are speaking of lordship when one person brings himself to the awareness of another, an I to a Thou, as the bearer of power, when a superior will makes its power known. This is what takes place in the event that the Bible calls revelation. This is why the prevailing names for God are Yahweh in the Old Testament and Kyrios in the New (384). 
But who is the Lord? Or better put - what does it mean to suggest that God is Lord when God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? As Barth contends, the climax of scripture's depiction of God as Lord is Jesus Christ. But in this statement, there is an important "but" which is addressed in scripture:
Even in the New Testament, however, the answer that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord is by no means self-evident. It never became this in the Church and it can never do so. Why not? If this Jesus of Nazareth was a true and real man, there is an asymmetrical element about the answer. At all events its symmetry has to be disclosed. In the first instance the New Testament ascribes the true and real deity expressed by the predicate Kyrios to One who is quite other than Jesus (384-385).
Barth states, along scriptural lines in the small text on p. 385-386, that Jesus is Lord as the manifestation, exercise, and application of the lordship of God the Father. As he says, "The essence of the deity ascribed to Jesus is to make clear and impart and give effect to who God the Father is, who God is in the truest sense, and what He wills and does with man. It is to represent the Father" (386).
As Ireneaus has said: "The Son reveals knowledge of the Father through his appearing..." 
As Luther has said: "… that in his words we should regard not Himself but the Father… that with our eyes thus focused on Christ, we should be taken and caught up directly to the Father..."
But to affirm that God is Father and to examine him as such is more than just an investigation of the natural term "father," which might yield an affirmation of human existence. To affirm God as Father is to be radically questioned by it because the term "Father" and "Lord" are in many ways synonymous when we speak of God:
If in answering the question about Him who in Scripture is called the Lord it is right to start with the confession: Jesus is Lord, it is also right to let ourselves be pointed first in the different and as it seems opposite direction, and thus to ask: What is the goal to which Jesus is the way? Whom or what does He reveal in so far as He reveals God the Father? What do we see in Him to the degree that He is God’s reflection and mirror? Who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? The answer which the New Testament gives us here is a very different one from that which a natural and edifying but utterly arbitrary exposition of the word “father” might yield. What may be known as the manward will of the heavenly Father in what takes place through and to Jesus does not lie primarily in the direction of a genial affirmation, preservation and insurance of human existence but rather in that of a radical questioning and indeed abrogation of it. Note that already in the Old Testament the term “father” is no less to be interpreted by “lord” than vice versa (Deut. 32:6; Mal. 1:6) (386).
Now Barth makes a move which took me several times reading through these paragraphs to appreciate what he has said (I think I have it now). That God is Father means that God is Creator which means that God is Lord over all existence of human beings. Which means that God is our death and life - that in the new birth we are dying and being raised to new life.
The believer calls Him who reveals Himself thus in Jesus Αββὰ ὁ πατήρ [Abba, Father]  (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15). He who sees Jesus sees this Father (Jn.14:7f.). The Jesus “who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25) is the One to whom this applies. And since faith is faith in Jesus it is itself faith in the will and work of this Father. Being baptised into Christ is being baptised into His death, “being planted together in the likeness of his death” (Rom. 6:3f., cf. Phil. 3:10), being crucified and dead with Him in His crucifixion (Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:3; Eph. 4:22). Already in the Synoptics, then, following Jesus is identical with self-denial and taking up one’s cross (Mk. 8:34) and one can save one’s life only by losing it for Jesus’ sake (Mk. 8:35). Beyond this strait gate lies absolutely everything the New Testament can say about καινότης ζωῆς [newness of life] (Rom. 6:4) in the baptised and believing. And the One who deals thus with men in Christ, who leads them along this way to this goal, is called by believers Father and “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is the Father of the Son who was dead and is alive again, who was lost and is found (Lk. 15:29). Μετανοεῖν [To repent], to reverse one’s thinking, to think afresh, to think through to God and His kingdom, really means in the New Testament too, and here especially, to consider the fact that we must die (Ps. 90:12, cf. Ps. 39:5). Nor does it just mean this, but all else it might mean it can mean only if first and decisively it means this. Note that Thy name, Thy kingdom and Thy will are the objects of the first three petitions of the prayer directed to “our Father, which art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9f.), and it is on these that the three which follow rest. In the context of the New Testament the Thy makes these petitions absolutely equivalent to the saying: “Teach us to reflect that we must die.”
The One whom Jesus reveals as the Father is known absolutely on the death of man, at the end of his existence. His will enters the life of man, not identically with death, nor merely in the same way as death, but really with death, executing death on man, impressing the signs of death upon man. Only in the sharply drawn boundary line of the cross, which is to be drawn again and again, is His will revealed as the will to quicken, bless, and benefit. The life that His will creates will be a life that has passed through death, that is risen from death; it will be eternal life, truly a new birth
What is the bearing of all this on our question: Who is God the Father? As stated, this cannot mean that God the Father is identical with death, with the negation of human existence. Here rather death is vanquished in death and negation in negation. Resurrection is indeed the power of the cross and the gaining of life the power of the losing of life. But strictly and exclusively it is only as the power of the cross, of the losing of life, that there is resurrection here and the gaining of life. This implies at all events that God the Father is also not identical with what we know as our life or perhaps with its meaning and power, that His will stands over against our will to live, supreme, unbound, or rather in absolute control. Not only will it be impossible to establish what God the Father wills with us by the way of self-understanding, of analysis of our own existence. Rather it cannot be concealed from us that even to its deepest foundations and powers this existence of ours is set in radical crisis by the will of God, that as the will of God the Father is done upon it, it must become new. God the Father wills neither our life in itself nor our death in itself. He wills our life in order to lead it through death to eternal life. He wills death in order to lead our life through it to eternal life. He wills this transition of our life through death to eternal life. His kingdom is this new birth (387-388).
Barth helpfully summarizes, reminding us that it is by revelation in Jesus Christ that God is known as Lord - and Creator - who is known as the Father of Jesus Christ:
We sum all this up by saying that God the Father, whose will and work on men these are, is the Lord of our existence (388).
...if God is the Lord of existence in the full sense of the term, this means that our existence is sustained by Him and by Him alone above the abyss of non-existence (389).

By the name “father” we do, of course, denote the natural human author of our existence. But our natural human father is not our Creator. He is not the lord of our existence, not even the lord of our life, let alone our death. When Scripture calls God our Father it adopts an analogy only to transcend it at once (389).
God our Father means God our Creator (cf. for this Deut. 32:6 and Is. 64:7). And it should be clear by now that it is specifically in Christ, as the Father of Jesus Christ, that God is called our Creator. That God is our Creator is not a general truth that we can know in advance or acquire on our own; it is a truth of revelation. Only as that which we know elsewhere as the father-son relation is transcended by the Word   p 390  of Christ the Crucified and Risen, only as it is interpreted by this Word, which means, in this case, only as it acquires from this Word a meaning which it cannot have of itself, only in this way may we see what creation means. But in this way we can see. The Father of Jesus Christ who according to the witness of Scripture is revealed in Jesus His Servant has the qualities of a Lord of our existence. The witness to Him leads us to the place where the miracle of creation can be seen. It bears witness to the holy God, the God who alone is God, the free God. It is this witness that we have to understand with the help of the basic statements of the doctrine of the Trinity (390).