Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §14.1 "God's Time and Our Time" pp. 45-70

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §14 states: "God’s revelation in the event of the presence of Jesus Christ is God’s time for us. It is fulfilled time in this event itself. But as the Old Testament time of expectation and as the New Testament time of recollection it is also the time of witness to this event."

In subsection §14.2 ("God's Time and Our Time"), Barth begins by orienting us to a new topic and a area to explore in relation to revelation - time. 
If by the statement, “God reveals Himself” is meant the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, it is a statement about the occurrence of an event. That means it also includes an assertion about a time proper to revelation. If stated with reference to this, it is equivalent to the statement, “God has time for us.” The time God has for us is just this time of His revelation, the time that is real in His revelation, revelation time. Moreover in the interpretation of the concept of this time, which is now our task, we shall not have to take as a basis any time concept gained independently of revelation itself. If our consideration of the question as to the time of revelation is serious, we shall at once be aware (1) that we have no other time than the time God has for us, and (2) that God has no other time for us than the time of His revelation. Thus we must let ourselves be told what time is by revelation itself, and only then, and with that reference, form our idea of the time of revelation as such (45).
So what is this "revelation time" (which is time as may be experienced when known in God's grace as Jesus Christ)? Well, Barth rejects right off the bat that "revelation time" is the time that we are accustomed to - "our time" or what he calls "fallen time" (which is time as unredeemed humanity experiences it). Neither is "revelation time" the same thing as "created time" (which is that time as given by God in creation). "Revelation time" is a kind of third thing - which Barth also calls "real time":
But this different time is the new, the third time, which arises and has its place because God reveals Himself, because He is free for us, because He is with us and amongst us, because in short, without ceasing to be what He is, He also becomes what we are. God’s revelation is the event of Jesus Christ. We do not understand it as God’s revelation, if we do not state unreservedly that it took place in “our” time. But, conversely, if we understand it as God’s revelation, we have to say that this event had its own time; in this event it happened that whereas we had our own time for ourselves as always, God had time for us, His own time for us—time, in the most positive sense, i.e. present with past and future, fulfilled time with expectation and recollection of its fulfilment, revelation time and the time of the Old Testament and New Testament witness to revelation—but withal, His own time, God’s time; and therefore real time (49).
What Barth calls "God's time" and "revelation time" is God's time - He is Lord over it. It is his to give. It is fulfilled time also, in that, it is full of the benefits of all that God has to give. And as we are unified with Christ, so time for us is united in past, present, and future.
“God reveals Himself” means “God has time for us.” God’s revelation is God’s inconceivable freeness and so His existence for us. But this very freeness and existence consist in His having time for us. The entire fulness of the benefit of God’s revelation and of the reconciliation accomplished in it lies in the fact that God has time for us, a time which is right, genuine and real. 
In this context we might well pause to think of the fact that to have time for another, although in the abstract this says little, is in reality to manifest in essence all the benefits which one man can show to another. When I really give anyone my time, I thereby give him the last and most personal thing that I have to give at all, namely myself. If I do not give him my time, I certainly continue to be his debtor in everything, even though in other ways I give him ever so much. The difference at once to be noticed between our having time for others and God’s having time for us is twofold, that if God gives us time, He who deals with us is He who alone has genuine, real time to give, and that He gives us this time not just partially, not with all sorts of reservations and qualifications, such as are habitual with us when giving to others, but entirely. The fulfilment of time that took place in Jesus is not just an alms from the divine riches; if, according to Gal. 4:4, Jesus Christ is the “pleroma [fullness] of the time,” we have to remember that, according to Col. 2:9. “in him dwelleth all the pleroma [fullness] of the Godhead bodily.” 
In revelation God stands in for us entirely. And so also the time He creates for Himself in revelation, the genuine present, past and future of which we have been speaking, is presented to us entirely. It should, it can, it will become our time, since He directs His Word to us; we are to become contemporary with this time of His. His genuine time takes the place of the problematic, improper time we know and have. It replaces it in that, amid the years and ages of this time of ours, the time of Jesus Christ takes the place of our time, coming to us as a glad message presented to us as a promise, and to be seized and lived in by us. Just as a light in an otherwise dark space is a light for its own little area and has light for the whole space, so far, that is, as it is a bright open light and so far as there are eyes in the space, and open eyes, to behold it as a light, so is the Gospel (54-55).
Barth rehearses some problems he sees with the common discussion about "Revelation and History" - the question whether and how far humanity's time may be regarded at any definite point as the time of God's revelation (56-59). He considers this way of thinking a "portentous failure to appreciate the nature of revelation (56)." The problems with "Revelation and History" is that:
1) "There has been a failure to see that in answering this question we cannot start with the general phenomenon of time, or, as it is preferably called, history. We cannot assume that we know its normal structure on the basis of comparative observation, and then go on to ask whether and how far the phenomenon of revelation discloses itself, perhaps, to the said comparative observation at a specific point" (56). 
2) "There has been failure to see that the event of Jesus Christ as God’s revelation can be found only when sought as such, i.e., when we are seeking what we have already found" (57). 
3) "There has been a failure to see that if revelation is revelation, we cannot speak of it as though it can be discovered, dug up, worked out as the deeper ground and content of human history. If the sentence “God reveals Himself” has anything even remotely in common-with interpretation, hypothesis, assertion, with appraising and valuing, with an arbitrary fixing, extracting, or excising of a definite bit of human history out of its context, if anything like “absolutising” a reality relative to itself is even remotely the meaning of the sentence in question, then it will be better omitted altogether, especially if it is perhaps to be general, as expressing a very profound and congenial historical intuition" (58). 
Revelation as "God's time" as fulfilled time means three things:
1) Time is mastered by God“God reveals Himself”—if this is said in the light of the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, it is said in view of a factual act of lordship which has already become an event, from which the person making the statement cannot withdraw. Time, and, with the time of revelation itself, the time also of the person making the statement, has found its Master; it has become mastered time" (59). 
2) Within our time we resist God's time“God reveals Himself”—if this is said of the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, it is said in view of the equally factual resistance of man to the divine act of lordship, a resistance in which he who makes this statement will be aware that he participates, and shares in its guilt. Of course, the limitation and determination of our time is completed, the order of rank between God’s time and our time is instituted.  The man who does not know this does not know what he is saying when he repeats the statement in question. But again he does not know what he is saying if he does not know, too, that our time, i.e., that we ourselves are far removed from acquiescing in this limit and order of rank of our own inclination and capacity, that on the contrary we seek to defend ourselves against them in downright earnest. The old æon which passes away in revelation and yet in passing away is still present, stands to the new one that comes in revelation by no means in the neutral relation of any time to any other time following upon it. The old æon is rather God’s time confronting men who boast of their own power and in that very fact are sinful and fallen; and in these men we recognise ourselves, if we really recognise God’s revelation—ourselves as God’s enemies. In this encounter with us as His enemies God’s revelation is a reality. On its reality in this encounter is grounded its hiddenness (61). 
3) New time breaks into the old: “God reveals Himself”—if the statement is made in respect of the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, it is made in view of the actually miraculous event, the special new direct act of God in the breaking in of new time into the midst of the old" (63).
So what does it mean for us and "our time" that there is God's time, fulfilled time? It means that our time is limited and determined by fulfilled time (66). What this mean is that...
1) "Fulfilled time takes the place of our non-genuine and improper time as genuine, proper time. What we mean when we say “time” is real there. We thus have our real time not here but there. It is therefore not an edifying trick of thought, but the assimilation of nourishment absolutely indispensable to our life, when Holy Scripture and the proclamation of its message call and transpose us from our own time away into that time, namely, into the time of Jesus Christ. There and only there, in contemporaneousness with Christ mediated to the Church by the witness of the prophets and apostles, do we really possess time. That time, its presence in the coming of the Kingdom and in the passing away of this world, is in truth our time, really presented to us in God’s revelation" (66-67). 
2) "The fulfilment of time by revelation means—once more we are not in any sense speaking metaphorically but absolutely really—that our own time, the thing we suppose we know and possess as time, is taken from us" (67). 
3) "The fulfillment of time by revelation does not so far mean, of course, the completion, but it means only the announcement, the immediate imminence of the taking away of our time" (67). 
4) "If time is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can no longer regard our time, the time we still possess because of God’s long-suffering, as endless. It is finite time, and therefore its flow from one conjectural present to another is merely a course from its end to its end; from its end—that is, so far as the end is already announced to it; to its end—so far as it belongs to the concept of God’s long-suffering that it (and with it our time) must once for all really come to an end. The myth of infinite or endless time is shattered by revelation. In revelation time has discovered its origin and its aim. Infinite time (and in this infinite time all infinite, absolute values and magnitudes) exists only for a time-consciousness which is unaware of or forgetful of revelation. A time-consciousness aware of it and mindful of it will quite certainly not be a consciousness void of time, but full of time and congruous with it. In the presence of the Word of revelation, its time is marked by the irresistible dissolution of what we call time and the equally irresistible advent of God’s time. In time thus determined and in accordance with the law corresponding to it, it will be an historical, cosmic, ethical, political consciousness. It exists in this time and in no other, because here and now it has really ceased to possess any time other than this time of God’s long-suffering in respect of fulfilled time" (68-69).
What a marvelous (if not a little difficult) reflection today!