Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.1 §10.2 "The Eternal Father" pp. 390-398

Karl Barth's study is still left in its original condition. See here

Check here for previous posts in the "Blogging with Barth" series or check here for a detailed reading schedule for the Church Dogmatics with links to the respective posts I've written to accompany each day's reading.

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 §10.2 ("God the Father: The Eternal Father"), Barth begins by answering the question... Who is God the Father?... And how is it that he is our Father?...in this way: 
God as the Father of Jesus Christ can be our Father because even apart from the fact that He reveals Himself as such He already is the One He reveals Himself to be, namely, the Father of Jesus Christ, His Son, who as such is Himself God. God can be our Father because He is Father in Himself, because fatherhood is an eternal mode of being of the divine essence. In the One whose name, kingdom and will Jesus reveals, in distinctive differentiation from the One who reveals Him and yet also in distinctive fellowship with Him, we have to do with God Himself (390).
It is important to note Barth's contention that God is only made manifest as "Father" in relation to Jesus Christ - he is not first Father because he is Creator or because he is our Father:
There is thus a fatherhood in God Himself whose truth does not first consist in the fact that He is the Creator and that we are His children by grace but already and primarily in the fact that a revelation of our new birth and therefore a revelation of creation, i.e., of His lordship over our existence, can take place. The possibility of this in God Himself is the Son of God who is identical with Jesus of Nazareth. In relation to Him and therefore as the Father of this Son God is antecedently Father in Himself (392).
God is father in the relation that He has to the Son (and the Spirit) - and we are encouraged here to think of the name 'Father' more in intratrinitarian terms, rather than humanly terms - though :
...the content of revelation, inasmuch as it is also the revelation of creation, of the divine lordship over our existence, refers us back to a corresponding inner possibility in God Himself which, in order, is to be understood as the first and original possibility presupposed in all others. In this first original possibility He is God the Father in the sense of the dogma of the Trinity: the eternal Father (392).
God is Father as he is the Author of the other modes of being, though this in no way suggests a superiority of the mode of being 'Father':
It must be strictly noted that this origination, which is the incomparable model of the relation between Creator and creature, which itself in turn is the incomparable model of all intracreaturely originating relations, refers to the mutual relations of the divine modes of being and is not, then, to be taken to mean that there is between the Father on the one side and the Son and Holy Spirit on the other a relation of super- and subordination regarding their deity. The divine essence would not be the divine essence if in it there were superiority and inferiority and also, then, various quanta of deity. The Son and the Spirit are of one essence with the Father. In this unity of divine essence the Son is from the Father and the Spirit from the Father and the Son, while the Father is from Himself alone (393).
Of course, an absolute equation of Father and Creator cannot be sustained because, the Father is not solely Creator, but also Son and Spirit:
The triunity does not mean that three parts of God operate alongside one another in three different functions. Opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa [the external works of the Trinity are undivided], as also the essence of God is a single and undivided essence and the trinities [Trinity] itself is an individual trinities [undivided Trinity]. Thus not only the subject of the first article of the Creed is the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, but with Him, in the order and sense pertaining to each, the subjects of the second and third articles too. And again the subject of the first article is not only the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, but also, again in the appropriate order and sense, the subject of reconciliation like the subject of the second article and the subject of redemption like that of the third article. Not the Father alone, then, is God the Creator, but also the Son and the Spirit with Him (394).
Thus, Barth concludes,
All theological favouritisms are thus forbidden: the one-sided belief in God the Father which was customary in the Enlightenment; the so-called Christocentrism which Pietism loved and still loves; and finally all the nonsense that is and can be perpetrated with isolated veneration of the Spirit. We cannot call God our Father apart from the Son and the Spirit, nor can we call the Son Saviour or the Spirit Comforter without also having the Father in view in both cases (395).
It is not out of bounds though to think specifically of God the Father as Creator though - just so long as we realize that it does not express the truth of the perichoresis (that the divine essence is shared equally by each of the three Person or modes of being of the Trinity).
In regard to the work of Father, Son and Spirit ad extra [outside of God] we earlier applied the stipulation that they all work in the order and sense appropriate to them. This means that the unity of their work is to be understood as the communion of the three modes of being along the lines of the doctrine of “perichoresis” (cf. § 9, 3), according to which all three, without forfeiture or mutual dissolution of independence, reciprocally interpenetrate each other and inexist in one another. The unity cannot be taken to mean, then, that the truth with reference to God’s work ad extra [outside of God] entails an extinction of the independence of the three modes of being in a neutral, undifferentiated fourth, so that with Modalism no statement relating to this opus ad extra [work outside of God] can be seriously made about a specific mode of being, and all statements relating to this opus ad extra [work outside of God] can be made indiscriminately about any individual mode of being. We are simply emphasising here an integral part of our theme, namely, that the Father is not the Son and is not the Spirit (396).
There is an affinity between the relation of the Father to the Son on the one hand and the relation of the Creator to the creature on the other. In both cases, though in a sense which differs in toto coelo [in every respect[, we are concerned with origination. In respect of this affinity it is not merely permitted but commanded that we ascribe creation as a proprium [things appropriated] to the Father and that we regard God the Father peculiariter [particularly] and specifically as the Creator. Conversely, the eternal truth of this distinction, which is valid for the opus ad extra [work outside of God] too, yields the insight that certain statements about the work of the Son and the Spirit cannot be appropriated to the Father even though God the Father is no less the subject of reconciliation and redemption than the Son and the Spirit (396)
One cannot say of God the Father that He was conceived and born, that He suffered, died and rose again. One also cannot say of Him that there had to be prayer for His coming and that He was to be poured out on all flesh. For one thing, all these statements stand in affinity to the relation of the Son or Spirit to the Father and not vice versa; their content thus applies peculiariter [particularly] to the Son and Spirit and not the Father. Again, the statements in the second article especially relate to God the Son in so far as in His action as the Reconciler He assumed humanity and hence creatureliness. Applied to God the Father they would thus collide with His affinity to the essence and action of God as the Creator. It is true that in the incarnation of the Word the Creator became a creature. It is also true that the Holy Spirit for whom we pray is the Creator Spiritus. Hence we neither can nor should deny a presence of the Father also in the Son who was born and suffered and died and in the Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost. But it would be just as improper to say that God the Father died as to say that Jesus of Nazareth or the Spirit of Pentecost created heaven and earth (397).