Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.1 §11.1 "God as Reconciler" pp. 399-414

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 §11 states: "The one God reveals Himself according to Scripture as the Reconciler, i.e., as the Lord in the midst of our enmity towards Him. As such He is the Son of God who has come to us or the Word of God that has been spoken to us, because He is so antecedently in Himself as the Son or Word of God the Father."

In subsection §11.1 ("God the Son: God the Reconciler"), Barth begins like he did in §10:
We return to the starting-point of the previous section where we began with the question: Who is the One whom Holy Scripture calls the Lord, who has dealings with man in revelation? and where we gave the answer that at the climax of the biblical witness it is stated (obviously with the intention of stating what is true and valid for the whole of the biblical witness, including the Old Testament) that Jesus of Nazareth is this Lord (399).
Barth jumps off with a discussion of God the Son's communion and unity with God the Father (399). Just as in the previous section where Barth explored the relation of the Father to Son, he will now explore the relation of Son to Father. He demonstrates, with a small print section that analyzes the scriptural titles of Jesus (not the least of which is Lord), that biblical statements of unity of the Son with the Father are essentially statements about the deity of Jesus (400).

Picking up this theme of Jesus as Lord, he then hops off into an extended small print discussion of ways in which this conversation can go awry - and there are essentially two main ways (which history has demonstrated) one can construct the theology in error: 1) The first way is to assert the theory that God adopted Jesus of Nazareth as his Son ("adoptionism"; cf. Ebionitism). In other words, Jesus was born human but became God’s Son at a particular point in his life. This theory fails to reflect scriptural texts that point to Jesus’ eternal relationship with the Father (e.g., Jn 17:5); 2) The second way one can go wrong is by asserting Jesus appeared among us as the personification and symbol of a divine being. Barth here makes reference to Docetism, the teaching that Jesus was fully God but only appeared to be human (taken from the Greek dokeō, “to seem or appear”). Docetist theologians emphasized the qualitative difference between God and humans and therefore downplayed the human elements of Jesus’ life in favor of those that pointed to his deity. The early church rejected docetism as an heretical interpretation of the biblical teaching about Jesus.

Rejecting these two errors, Barth makes a clear statement about Jesus being Lord as a function of his being the reconciling self-revelation of God:
The fact that God can first tell us anything, this primary inconceivability in view of His wrath on sinful man, is in God’s revelation the work of the Son or Word of God. The work of the Son or Word is the presence and declaration of God which, in view of the fact that it takes place miraculously in and in spite of human darkness, we can only describe as revelation. The term reconciliation is another word for the same thing. To the extent that God’s revelation as such accomplishes what only God can accomplish, namely, restoration of the fellowship of man with God which we had disrupted and indeed destroyed; to the extent that God in the fact of His revelation treats His enemies as His friends; to the extent that in the fact of revelation God’s enemies already are actually His friends, revelation is itself reconciliation. Conversely reconciliation, the restoration of that fellowship, the mercy of God in wrath triumphant over wrath, can only have the form of the mystery which we describe as revelation (409).
Compared with creation, reconciliation is a new work, one which emphasizes the unique modes of being of the One Godhead but one which in no way undermines the triune unity:
Thus Jesus is Lord as the Son of God who has come to us or as the Word of God that has been spoken to us. We say here something which goes beyond the statement that God is the Creator or “our Father in heaven.” Jesus reveals the God who is the Creator and “our Father in  heaven.” But as He does so, as that which is unheard of takes place, namely, that this God is revealed in Him, He reveals Himself to us, so assuredly does the fact of revelation signify a new thing vis-à-vis its content, so assuredly is reconciliation not to be understood as the completion of creation but as a miracle in and on the fallen world. We have seen in the previous section that in the context of the New Testament witness this new revelation of the Creator and our Father cannot be abstracted from the person of the Revealer. It was in the light of this unity of the content of revelation and the person of the Revealer that we then understood the original and proper sense of the fatherhood of God: He is Father because He is the Father of this His only-begotten Son. From the same unity we at once have the further result of the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. There is no abstract person of the Revealer, but the person of the Revealer is the person of Jesus Christ, who is subordinate to the Creator revealed by it, yet who is also indissolubly co-ordinate with Him, who is with Him; in this person the revelation is a reality. In other words, there is no Jesus per se [in Himself] who might then acquire also the predicate of a bearer of the revelation of his Father. Nor is there any revelation of the Father per se [in Himself] which might then be apprehended in Jesus in exemplary and pre-eminent fashion. Jesus is the revelation of the Father and the revelation of the Father is Jesus. And precisely in virtue of this “is” He is the Son or Word of the Father (411-412).
We must distinguish them, these two [Reconciler and Creator], and we must obviously distinguish them in such a way that we perceive and acknowledge the relation of subordination that is present here. We must say, then, that the Reconciler is not the Creator, and that as the Reconciler He follows the Creator, that He accomplishes, as it were, a second divine act—not an act which we can deduce from the first, whose sequence from the first we can survey and see to be necessary, but still a second act which for all its newness and inconceivability is related to the first. God reconciles us to Himself, comes to us, speaks with us—this follows on, and, we must also say, it follows from the fact that He is first the Creator. We can also say that it follows on and from the fact that He is “our Father in heaven.” If He were not first the Creator and Father who is the Lord of our being, against whom we have sinned, whose wrath is thus upon us, but whose wrath is but the reverse side of His love as Creator and Father, how then could He be the Reconciler, the Peacemaker? To this order of creation and reconciliation there corresponds christologically the order of Father and Son or Father and Word. Jesus Christ as the Reconciler cannot precede the Creator, “our Father in heaven.” He stands to Him in the irreversible relation of following on Him and from Him as the son follows on the father and from the father and the word follows on the speaker and from the speaker. But again this subordination and sequence cannot imply any distinction of being; it can only signify a distinction in the mode of being. For reconciliation is no more readily comprehensible and no less divine than creation. It is not as if reconciliation, unlike creation, could be made intelligible as a creaturely event. As creation is creatio ex nihilo [creation from nothing], so reconciliation is the raising of the dead. As we owe life to God the Creator, so we owe eternal life to God the Reconciler (413).