Monday, December 9, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §13.1 "Jesus Christ the Objective Reality of Revelation" pp. 1-25

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §13 states: "According to Holy Scripture God’s revelation takes place in the fact that God’s Word became a man and that this man has become God’s Word. The incarnation of the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, is God’s revelation. In the reality of this event God proves that He is free to be our God."

In the first subsection of volume 1.2 - subsection §13.1 ("Jesus Christ the Objective Reality of Revelation"), Barth starts by asking and answering the question: "What is the subject of the revelation attested in Holy Scripture?"
This answer may be summarised by saying that the revelation attested in Holy Scripture is the revelation of the God who, as the Lord, is the Father from whom it proceeds, the Son who fulfils it objectively (for us), and the Holy Spirit who fulfils it subjectively (in us) (1).
Paragraph 13 is titled "God's Freedom for Man" and Barth's initial move is to reflect on the ways in which (in revelation) God is free for us (pp. 4-7). He explores, not the possibility of revelation, but its objective reality. Barth concludes (based on the witness of scripture) that in revelation God is in no way bound to humanity but his revelation is an act of divine freedom:
The method prescribed for us by Holy Scripture not only assumes that the entelechy of man’s I-ness is not divine in nature but, on the contrary, is in contradiction to the divine nature. It also assumes that God is in no way bound to man, that His revelation is thus an act of His freedom, contradicting man’s contradiction. That is why the language of the prophets and apostles about God’s revelation is not a free, selective and decisive treatment of well-found convictions, but—which is something different—witness. That is, it is an answer to what is spoken to them, and an account of what is heard by them. That is why their order of knowing corresponds to the order of being in which God is the Lord but in which man is God’s creature and servant. That is why their thought and language follow the fact of God’s revelation, freely created and provided by Him. That is also why their interpretation of it is a following after, in which any revolt of man on the ground of any categories of understanding which he brings along with him is out of the question. That is why their conception of what is possible with God is guided absolutely by their conception of what God has really willed and done, and not vice versa.
If the aim of theology is to understand the revelation attested in the Bible, theology as distinguished from all philosophical and historical science of religion will have to adhere to this method quite rigidly. It is not thereby decided whether its thought and language is a thought and language based on faith or on unbelief. No one will deny that even the devil can quote the Bible, that unbelief too can imitate and adopt the method of Scripture and faith. But the decision whether the thought and language in a theology are based on faith or on unbelief is not a scientific, still less a human, decision. It belongs to the hidden judgment of God that sooner or later it unmasks a dead orthodoxy for what it is. But that cannot and ought not to hinder us from inquiring about the thought and language enjoined upon faith, or from deciding for this method because of its objectivity and against the other method because it lacks objectivity.
We have to remind ourselves of the need for this decision, if we are to think and speak correctly about “The Incarnation of the Word of God.” As the approach to the doctrine of the Trinity is affected by the realisation that in order to perceive God’s revelation at all we must follow the order of being in Holy Scripture and first ask about God as the Subject of revelation, so the approach to Christology is affected by the realisation that first we have to put the question of fact, and then the question of interpretation. Or (because interpretation is involved in the question of fact, and nothing but fact is involved  in the question of interpretation) we must first understand the reality of Jesus Christ as such, and then by reading from the tablet of this reality, understand the possibility involved in it, the freedom of God, established and maintained in it, to reveal Himself in precisely this reality and not otherwise, and so the unique possibility which we have to respect as divine necessity (7-8).
Of course, the objective reality of revelation is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I love how Barth begins to unveil this...
If we now question Holy Scripture about the reality of God’s revelation, to which it claims to bear witness, and if we obtain from it the answer that Jesus Christ is this reality, it would be well to realise above all, that this answer, in spite of the problems in which it is presented to us, even in the plainest form in which we can hear and grasp it, points to a reality that is utterly simple, as simple as anything else in the world, as simple as only God is.
The answer of the New Testament to our question about the reality of God’s revelation is to be found in the constant reiteration in all its pages of the name Jesus Christ. This name is God’s revelation, or to be more exact, the definition of revelation arising out of revelation itself, taken from it and answering to it (10).
There it is - "simple as God is." Love it. As Geoffrey Bromiley puts it in his Introduction: "Revelation is a reality in its fulfillment in the incarnation of the Son."

That being the case then - everything (we should note) hinges on Jesus Christ!
We come now, on the basis of the New Testament witness, to speak more specifically of this simple, once-for-all reality of Jesus Christ. The Word or Son of God became a Man and was called Jesus of Nazareth; therefore this Man Jesus of Nazareth was God’s Word or God’s Son (13).
Thus the two-fold fact which the scriptures witness to and we must as well: the Word became a man and that man Jesus is the Word.

Barth then musters a beautiful cornucopia of scripture - primarily Johannine material - in support of the two-fold fact. I repeat it here for your enjoyment:
It is οὗτος [He], this man, who in the beginning was with God, as we read in Jn. 1:2. Who is this man? The Logos who became flesh, whose glory we beheld because He tabernacled among us (Jn. 1:14). Then in Jn. 1:17 for the first time the Name is mentioned, in direct contrast to those of Moses and the Baptist, the witnesses. This is he!, says John the Baptist repeatedly (Jn. 1:15. 29. 35f.). That is why in the same Gospel Jesus Himself says ἐγώ εἰμι [I am], I am the bread of life (6:35), the light of the world (8:12), the door for the sheep (10:7), the good shepherd (10:11), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way, the truth and the life (14:6), the true vine (15:1). And Nathanael says, Thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel (1:49). And Martha of Bethany says, Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that cometh into the world (11:27). And Peter says. Whither shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God (6:68f.). It is significant that even Pilate says, Art thou the king of the Jews? (18:33), and, Behold the man! (19:5). Thomas had to see the hands of the Risen One with the nailprints of the Crucified and put his own hands in His side and so become “believing and not unbelieving,” in this very identification confessing, My Lord and my God (20:27f.). To the other disciples also Jesus had shown His hands and His side, and thereupon they rejoice ἰδόντες τὸν κύριον [seeing the Lord] (20:20). Hence in Jn. 6:52f. the “hard saying” about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus, whereupon many of His disciples ἀπῆλθον εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω [ceased following him] (6:66). In accordance with all this, the entire meaning of the Gospel is summarised in 20:31, “This is written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The Fourth Gospel is distinctively the Jesus-Gospel, so far as it aims at the definite assertion that Jesus is the Christ. So and only so does it follow that it is naturally also the Christ-Gospel. In the Johannine Epistles this statement acquires the polemical note even more clearly. With a reference to the fact that that which was from the beginning, namely the life, was manifested, seen, heard and handled by the apostles, and therefore and thereupon proclaimed by them (1 Jn. 1:2), the theme of Jn. 1:1–18 is taken up. The spirits are divided, according to 1 Jn. 4:2f., into those who confess Jesus as ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα [the one who has come in the flesh], and those who do not confess Him in this sense, i.e., it is Antichrist who confesses Him in another, in a docetic sense. The meaning here (and in 2 Jn. 7) is sharp and unmistakable. But 1 Tim. 3:16, without making this antithesis visible and in order to describe the Christian mystery, also insists in the first place that ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί [He appeared in the flesh]. Behind that stands Rom. 8:3: Because the law is weak in the flesh (in man, or in the world of the flesh), and in order to condemn sin in the flesh, God sent His son ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας [in the likeness of sinful flesh]; Gal. 4:4: When the fulness of the time was come, God sent His son, born of a woman, made under the law; and Phil. 2:6f.: Who being in a divine mode of existence humbled Himself by assuming a servant’s mode of existence, had His being in likeness to men, was seen in human form (σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος [was found in form as a man]), and right up to death, the death of the cross, maintained this obedience of a servant. Therefore—that is, in His actual treading of this path and because He trod it, in the concreteness of His humanity—God exalted Him and gave Him the name of Lord. The name Jesus as such is the name of the Lord (1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9). In distinction from and in contrast with the Jews who demand a sign, and the Greeks who hanker after wisdom, we preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). Because the children whom God has given Him have part in flesh and blood, He is not ashamed to call them brethren and so in like wise to have part in flesh and blood. He thus adopts not the status of the angels but the status of Abraham’s race; He had to be equal with His brethren in every respect, in order to show them mercy, and at the same time be their righteous High Priest before God (Heb. 2:14f.). In Him we have such a High Priest as can sympathise with our weaknesses, who in everything was tempted like as we are. Consequently we come with confidence to the throne of His grace (Heb. 4:15f.). All along the line these christological pronouncements are directed to the fact that God’s Son became and is man; that event is the reality of revelation; in it God has preserved His freedom to be our God. Thus to believe in and know God’s revelation means to believe in and know this man in His identity with the presence and action of God. The kerygma [proclamation] here is the message about Jesus, proceeding from the discovery of salvation, forgiveness, life, lordship, the eternal Word, the Son of God in Him and in no one else, consisting therefore in the proclamation that Jesus possesses and is all that. Such a starting point for the confession safeguards it from devotion to and suspicion of historism, false realism, deification of the creature, all of them characteristics of ebionite Christology, of which we shall have to speak later. Moreover, such a starting-point renders intelligible the frequently emphasised and unusual transparence of the Johannine picture of Christ and the dominant position, at first so striking in view of 1 Cor. 1:23, of the risen Christ in the Pauline message. Neither must in any way be brought into connexion with Docetism. Wherever the incarnation becomes the subject of discussion or assertion, then demonstration consists in the exposition of the Logos as seen and heard in the flesh; wherever the Crucified is the theme, its exposition will have to be completed in the proclamation of the Risen One. How should the statement, “Jesus is the Christ” be proved otherwise than by indicating that Jesus is the Word, the Light, the Life, the Way, the Truth? For the actual purpose of this proof no abstractly historical knowledge of the man Jesus or any becoming acquainted with Him as such could be contemplated (2 Cor. 5:16). Precisely in relation to Jn. 6 we shall also be able and bound to take warning that ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν [the flesh profits nothing] (Jn. 6:63). The unfolding of the witness of the concrete man Jesus has its fitting place where the witness is meant primarily to be a Christ-message, where the evidence is to be adduced that Jesus is the Messiah. On the other hand, where it is meant to be a Jesus-message, where the antidocetic evidence is to be adduced, the emphasis must be laid directly upon the Messiahship, the divinity of the person and work of Christ. That anyone should deliberately and frequently mention John and Paul in the same breath with the idea of Docetism because of their undoubtedly spiritual view of the human life of Jesus, belongs to the very worst kind of misunderstandings of the New Testament. Docetism cannot be countered adequately in any other way than that used by the Fourth Evangelist and Paul (18-19).
As Barth closes the subsection, he reminds us that as the New Testament writers witness to the two-fold fact - they are speaking a penultimate (not ultimate) word. If they were speaking an ultimate word - they would be saying the same thing simultaneously as they were uttering the name, Jesus Christ:
To sum up: that God’s Son or Word is the man Jesus of Nazareth is the one christological thesis of the New Testament; that the man Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Son or Word is the other. Is there a synthesis of the two? To this question we must roundly answer, No. Of course there is a place where these two theses are not two but a single one. The New Testament witnesses obviously have this place in view, for it determines their thinking and speaking. And obviously they wish to challenge their readers to look in this direction, and so to recognise for themselves the truth of what they are telling them. In the variety of their language about the reality of revelation, when they call the true God man and the true man God, they are uttering only their penultimate word, not their ultimate. When they are uttering their ultimate word, they say the same thing. This ultimate word, however, is not a further thesis, not a synthesis, but just the name Jesus Christ. By naming Him, they want to let Him who is so named have the final word (23-24).