Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.1 §12.1 "God as Redeemer" pp. 448-466

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §12 states: "The one God reveals Himself according to Scripture as the Redeemer, i.e., as the Lord who sets us free. As such He is the Holy Spirit, by receiving whom we become the children of God, because, as the Spirit of the love of God the Father and the Son, He is so antecedently in Himself."

In subsection §12.1 ("God the Holy Spirit: God as Redeemer"), Barth tackles the third mode of being of the Godhead - the Holy Spirit. Knowing that Barth intended to address the topic of redemption in the fifth and final volume in his Church Dogmatics but was never able to because of his death, it is always interesting when we hear Barth reflecting on the Holy Spirit - which would have the major emphasis of his work on redemption.

Barth begins in the same he has done previously in §10 and §11, with a question. This time the question is "How do people come to confess that Jesus is Lord?" In other words, how do they come to have faith?
How do they come to say this? How do they reach this beginning of their thinking about Him? How does it happen that they believe the Father through the Son and the Son through the Father? How do these contents get into this vessel? How does this predicate, this faith, come to this subject, the subject man? How can anyone have this faith? Can men believe? (448).
Barth reflects on this "becoming manifest."
Becoming manifest has to be something specific, a special act of the Father or the Son or both, that is added to the givenness of the revelation of the Father in the Son. The Father must reveal it to man (Mt. 16:17). The Father must draw him (Jn. 6:44). The Father must give it to him (Jn. 6:65). Man must be given to the Son by the Father (Jn. 10:29). He must hear and learn from the Father (Jn. 6:45). But it can also be said that the incarnate Word of God Himself gives to those who receive Him the ἐζουσία [authority] to be the children of God and as such to believe in His name, so that as such they are what they are, not in virtue of their first and natural generation and birth, but in virtue of their second and divine generation and birth (Jn. 1:12–13; 3:3). There can also be reference to a stream of living water, clear as crystal, flowing forth from the throne of God and the Lamb (Rev. 22:1). This is the added element of becoming manifest in revelation. The riches of grace are not just present for us in Jesus Christ but: ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσελ λνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ [he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will] (Eph. 1:8-9). This special element in revelation is undoubtedly identical with what the New Testament usually calls the Holy Spirit as the subjective side in the event of revelation (449).
Barth reminds us that in scripture the "Spirit of God" or "Spirit of Christ" is a figure of speech - it is God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit - in whom revelation is being revealed - who is being referenced (449-450). The Holy Spirit is not identical with Jesus Christ, with the Son or the Word of God (450). Thus, even when scripture says the "Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:17) it is still the Holy Spirit which is being referenced. And yet, the Spirit is not to be regarded as a "new instruction, illumination and stimulation of man that goes beyond Christ, beyond the Word, but in every sense as the instruction, illumination and stimulation of man through the Word and for the Word" (452-453).

Barth then moves to articulate how the Spirit operates in the redemptive work of God - as a threefold guarantee for us.

He guarantees our participation in revelation:
1. The Spirit guarantees man what he cannot guarantee himself, his personal participation in revelation. The act of the Holy Ghost in revelation is the Yes to God’s Word which is spoken by God Himself for us, yet not just to us, but also in us. This Yes spoken by God is the basis of the confidence with which a man may regard the revelation as applying to him. This Yes is the mystery of faith, the mystery of the knowledge of the Word of God, but also the mystery of the willing obedience that is well-pleasing to God. All these things, faith, knowledge and obedience, exist for man “in the Holy Spirit" (453).
He guarantees our instruction:
2. The Spirit gives man instruction and guidance he cannot give himself. A point that we should remember in what has been said already is made quite explicit here: the Spirit is not identical, and does not become identical, with ourselves. He is absolutely other, superior. We can only note what His Yes is to the Word of God. We can only repeat this Yes of His. As our Teacher and Leader He is in us, but not as a power of which we might become lords. He remains Himself the Lord. Along these lines the Spirit is obviously not so much the reality in which God makes us sure of Him as the reality in which He makes Himself sure of us, in which He establishes and executes His claim to lordship over us by His immediate presence (454).
He guarantees our witness:
3. Exegetically most obscure but materially of crucial importance is the fact that the Spirit is the great and only possibility in virtue of which men can speak of Christ in such a way that what they say is witness and that God’s revelation in Christ thus achieves new actuality through it. Has God’s personal coming to us, in the twofold sense in which we have viewed it, any independent signification as a work of the Holy Spirit alongside the fact that by the Holy Spirit man can and should become a real speaker and proclaimer of real witness and therefore of the real Word of God? Does not the New Testament doctrine of the Holy Ghost point beyond all that the Spirit can mean for the believer in this personal relation with God to that which, in the power of the Spirit, ought to happen in the believer and through the believer for God, i.e., in the service of God? Is not the relation between the Spirit and the Church, or the relation between the Spirit and the will of the Lord of the Church which is to be executed, the dominating factor which governs all the rest? 
The Holy Spirit is the authorisation to speak about Christ; He is the equipment of the prophet and apostle; He is the summons to the Church to minister the Word. To the extent that everything in which this authorisation, equipment and summons consists—we discussed this under 1. and 2.—is directed to this goal, to the extent that it cannot be a private affair but only the affair of the Church, or rather the Lord of the Church, if there are individuals to whom the Spirit guarantees that God’s revelation comes to them, individuals whom the Spirit constrains—to that extent we shall have to call this third operation of the Spirit the decisive one. If we ask concerning the mind of the Spirit (τὸ σρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, Rom. 8:27), we must answer that it consists in the fact that He is the gift of speaking about the “wonderful works of God.” But if we ask what it means to receive and possess this gift, we shall constantly have to read off the answer from the first two definitions of our concept (454-455).
There are two gifts which come to us as a gift from the Holy Spirit - adoption as God's children and freedom (which comes to us as a 'capacity' to be a recipient of revelation). The two gifts are not unrelated, but deeply connected:
In the thesis we have described the nature and work of the Holy Spirit in revelation by two expressions which carry allusions to biblical statements: He is “the Lord who sets us free” and “by receiving Him we become the children of God.” We may claim that these two expressions are a summary of what we must infer from the witness of Holy Scripture to the nature of the Spirit as an element of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. The word “freedom” implies first and formally that when Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as an element in revelation we are dealing with an ability or capacity or capability which is given to man as the addressee of revelation and which makes him a real recipient of revelation. The problem by which we found ourselves confronted was: How can man believe? How does homo peculator [human sinner] become capax verbi divini? [able to receive the divine word]? The New Testament answer is that it is the Holy Spirit who sets man free for this and for the ministry in which he is put therewith (456).
On the other hand the concept of divine sonship declares materially that when Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit as an element in revelation the reference is to a being of the man to whom this freedom or ability belongs. These men are what they can be. They can be what they are. It is thus that they are real recipients of revelation. It is thus that they can believe. We ask again how homo peculator [human sinner] can become capax verb divini [able to receive the divine word]. The second answer, which comprehends the first, must now be that he does not first become this in order to be it; he is it, and in virtue of this being he becomes it. He is the child of God. As such he is free, he can believe. And he is God’s child as he receives the Holy Ghost. One can and should also say conversely: He receives the Holy Ghost as he is God’s child. At all events, in receiving the Holy Ghost he is what in himself and of himself he cannot be, one who belongs to God as a child to its father, one who knows God as a child knows its father, one for whom God is there as a father is there for his child. This is the second and material summary of the operations of the Holy Spirit in God’s revelation (457).
Of course, it must be said, as it has been for Jesus Christ, the second mode of being, that the Holy Spirit is God, the third mode of being of the triune Godhead.
In what has been said we have stated already that according to the testimony of Scripture the Holy Spirit is no less and no other than God Himself, distinct from Him whom Jesus calls His Father, distinct also from Jesus Himself, yet no less than the Father, and no less than Jesus, God Himself, altogether God (459).
And what of the relationship between humans and the Spirit when the Spirit comes and makes God's effect in their lives?
Even in receiving the Holy Ghost man remains man, the sinner sinner. Similarly in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost God remains God. The statements about the operations of the Holy Spirit are statements whose subject is God and not man, and in no circumstances can they be transformed into statements about man. They tell us about the relation of God to man, to his knowledge, will and emotion, to his experience active and passive, to his heart and conscience, to the whole of his psycho-physical existence, but they cannot be reversed and understood as statements about the existence of man. That God the Holy Spirit is the Redeemer who sets us free is a statement of the knowledge and praise of God. In virtue of this statement we ourselves are the redeemed, the liberated, the children of God in faith, in the faith we confess with this statement, i.e., in the act of God of which this statement speaks. This being of ours is thus enclosed in the act of God. Confessing this faith in the Holy Ghost, we cannot as it were look back and try to contemplate and establish abstractly this being of ours as God’s redeemed and liberated children as it is enclosed in the act of God. We may, of course, be strong and sure in faith—that we are so is the act of God we are confessing, the work of the Holy Spirit—but we cannot try specifically to make ourselves strong and sure again by contemplating ourselves as the strong and the sure. To have the Holy Spirit is to let God rather than our having God be our confidence (462).
And thus God is our confidence, and we have this confidence, and this is our present and future hope:
We believe that we are redeemed, set free, children of God, i.e., we accept as such the promise given us in the Word of God in Jesus Christ even as and although we do not understand it in the very least, or see it fulfilled and consummated in the very least, in relation to our present. We accept it because it speaks to us of an act of God on us even as and although we see only our own empty hands which we stretch out to God in the process. We believe our future being. We believe in an eternal life even in the midst of the valley of death. In this way, in this futurity, we have it. The assurance with which we know this having is the assurance of faith, and the assurance of faith means concretely the assurance of hope (463).
When faith arises in us as a work of the Holy Spirit and we talk about its effect in the life of the believer - in the end these are eschatological statements:
In the New Testament sense everything that is to be said about the man who receives the Holy Spirit and is constrained and filled by the Holy Spirit is an eschatological statement. Eschatological does not mean in an inexact or unreal sense but in relation to the ἔσχατον [eschaton], i.e., to that which from our standpoint and for our experience and thought has still to come, to the eternal reality of the divine fulfilment and consummation. It is precisely eschatological statements and these alone, i.e., statements which relate to this eternal reality, that can claim real and proper meaning as statements about temporal relations. For what can be more real and proper for man than truth in this particular relation? The New Testament speaks eschatologically when it speaks of man’s being called, reconciled, justified, sanctified and redeemed. In speaking thus it speaks really and properly. One has to realise that God is the measure of all that is real and proper, that eternity comes first and then time, and therefore the future comes first and then the present, just as the Creator undoubtedly comes first and then the creature. Those who realise this will not take offence here. Only of God Himself, which means at this point the Holy Spirit and His work as such, can one speak non-eschatologically, i.e., without this reference to something other, beyond, and future. It might be said, of course, that even our talk about God Himself and His work is eschatological to the extent that all our thoughts and words as such cannot grasp this object but can only point beyond themselves to it. But that to which they point when we are speaking of God and His essence and work has itself no margin or border. It is not related to an ἔσχατον [eschaton] but is itself the ἔσχατον [eschaton]. This is what we cannot say of the man we know even and precisely in faith. The man we know does not live an eternal life. This is and remains the predicate of God, of the Holy Spirit (464).
And thus, by the Holy Spirit, are we able to seek our everything in God. We have no claim on him. The Spirit is not faith, the Spirit is God:
The deity of the Holy Spirit is thus demanded. The essentiality, the directness of the work of the Holy Spirit is demanded. We are not grasping at more but at less, and ultimately at nothing at all, if in addition to the guarantee which is identical with God Himself we think we must grasp at an unequivocal experience, at a guarantee of the guarantee so to speak, in order that we may then decide for certainty of faith, as though a certainty for which we must first decide could be the certainty of faith. “If I have but thee, I ask naught of heaven and earth,” and further: “Though body and soul languish within me, yet thou, God, art the strength of my heart and my portion for ever” (Ps. 73:25f.) This is how we think and speak ἐν πνεύματι [in the Spirit]. But if we grasp at another, at ourselves, if we seek strength and confirmation in ourselves, we simply show thereby that we are still far from thinking and speaking ἐν πνεύματι [in the Spirit], or have long since ceased to do so. We can comprehend God in ourselves only as we comprehend ourselves in God, just as we can, of course, comprehend ourselves in God only as we comprehend God in ourselves. It is precisely ἐν πνεύματι [in the Spirit] that we shall be ready either way to turn from ourselves to God and to pray to Him, not to contemplate God and manipulate Him. But again only the man who seeks everything in God prays to Him. And yet again only the man who seeks nothing in himself seeks everything in God. What we have to offer, to sacrifice to God in order to pray aright, is ourselves in this total lack of any claim. Whether prayer is made aright and answered depends on this total lack of any claim. The impregnable basis of faith, the assurance of faith by God’s revelation, depends on whether this basis, not just at the beginning but in the middle and at the end too, is sought in God alone and not anywhere else, not in ourselves. Grace is the Holy Spirit received, but we ourselves are sinners. This is true. If we say anything else we do not know the deity of the Holy Spirit in God’s revelation (465-466).