Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §15.2.1 "Very God and Very Man (Part 1)" pp.132-146

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §15 states: "The mystery of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ consists in the fact that the eternal Word of God chose, sanctified and assumed human nature and existence into oneness with Himself, in order thus, as very God and very man, to become the Word of reconciliation spoken by God to man. The sign of this mystery revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the miracle of His birth, that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."

In subsection §15.2 ("Very God and Very Man"), Barth says of the title to this section, "Very God and Very Man"...
We understand this statement as the answer to the question: Who is Jesus Christ? and we understand it as a description of the central New Testament statement, Jn. 1:14: “The Word was made flesh.” Therefore this New Testament verse must guide us in our discussion of the dogmatic statement that Jesus Christ is very God and very man (132).
In subsection §15.2, Barth undertakes a three-part exegesis of John 1.14 - "The Word was made flesh" - and today's summary looks at part one. In part one Barth focuses on "the Word" which Barth notes is "very God."
Ὀ λόγος, the “Word” spoken of in Jn. 1:14, is the divine, creative, reconciling, redeeming Word which participates without restriction in the divine nature and existence, the eternal Son of God. According to the whole context of Jn. 1:1–12, what is meant by Jn. 1:14 is the Word that was in the beginning, that was with God and was indeed God Himself, by whom all things were made, the sum total of the life which shines as the light of revelation in man’s darkness. His name is not John, but He is the object of John’s witness. He begets children for God among men, not of their will or power, but completely and solely by His own might, whose glory is that of the only-begotten, of whose fulness His witnesses can only receive grace. The Logos is He who proclaims God, who is invisible for all other. He alone can proclaim Him, because He is Himself the only-begotten, in the bosom of His Father. For that reason, the Word, and therefore the Jesus Christ who is identified with the Word according to Jn. 1:1–18, is “very God.” And “very God” means the one, only, true, eternal God (132).
This truth is of vital importance:
The importance of this truth and its recognition extends not only over the whole of Christian proclamation but also over the whole of Church dogmatics. It is not to be circumvented, forgotten, or disdained in any quarter where there is a duty to speak correctly about God and about man. If Christology in particular insists upon this truth and its recognition, it thereby describes as it were an inner circle surrounded by a host of other concentric circles in each of which it is repeated, and in which its truth and recognition must be maintained and expounded. This inner circle can come fully into view only if we read the text right to the end, “the Word was made flesh.” (133).
And there are, according to Barth, four primary implications of this confession:

1) The Word is the subject of what happens.
"In the statement, “the Word was made flesh,” the Word is the Subject. Nothing befalls Him; but in the becoming asserted of Him He acts." [...] "Like creation itself, it is a sovereign divine act, and it is an act of lordship different from creation." (134).
2) The Word as subject acts in divine freedom:
"When it says that the Word became flesh, this becoming took place in the divine freedom of the Word. As it is not to be explained in terms of the world-process, so it does not rest upon any necessity in the divine nature or upon the relation between Father, Son and Spirit, that God becomes man. We can certainly say that we see the love of God to man originally grounded upon the eternal relation of God, Father and Son. But as this love is already free and unconstrained in God Himself, so, too, and only then rightly, is it free in its realisation towards man." (135).
3) The Word does not cease to be free in becoming flesh:
When it is said that the Word became flesh, even in this state of becoming and of having become, the Word is still the free, sovereign Word of God. Strictly speaking, the Logos can never become predicate or object in a sentence the subject of which is different from God. The statement “very God and very man” signifies an equation. But strictly speaking, this equation is irreversible. If it is reversed and Jesus is called not only very God who is very man, but also very man who is very God, in the second statement we must not neglect to add that it is so because it has pleased very God to be very man. The Word became flesh, and it is only in virtue of this becoming, which was quite freely and exclusively the becoming of the Word, that the flesh became Word. (136).
This has theological implications - the rejection of certain heresies prevalent in the Christian world:
Likewise from this point there results the inevitable rejection of any abstract Jesus-worship, i.e., any Christology or christological doctrine or practice which aims at making the human nature, the historical and psychological manifestation of Jesus as such, its object (136). 
With this the “historical Jesus” of modern Protestantism falls to the ground as the object of faith and proclamation. It was purposely discovered, or invented, in order to indicate an approach to Jesus Christ which circumvents His divinity, the approach to a revelation which is generally understandable and possible in the form of human judgment and experience (137). 
This undertaking finds its exact material and historical parallel in the Heart of Jesus cult which (on the basis of a vision of Maria Margareta Alacoque in 1675) arose and spread in the Roman Catholic Church of the same period with the special co-operation of the order of Jesuits. On all sides efforts were made to guard against any connexion between these two phenomena, but it makes no difference to the reality of it. In the Heart of Jesus cult, too, it is blatantly a matter of finding a generally illuminating access to Jesus Christ which evades the divinity of the Word (137).
4) That the Word became flesh justifies in some way the description of Mary as theotokos, "Mother of God":
To a certain extent it amounts to a test of the proper understanding of the incarnation of the Word, that as Christians and theologians we do not reject the description of Mary as the “mother of God,” but in spite of its being overloaded by the so-called Mariology of the Roman Catholic Church, we affirm and approve of it as a legitimate expression of christological truth. We must not omit to defend it against the misuse made of the knowledge expressed in this description. But the knowledge in question and so the description as well must not for that reason be suppressed (138).