Monday, January 13, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §15.2.2 "Very God and Very Man (Part 2)" pp. 147-159

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 two. In part two Barth focuses on the "flesh" part and the fact that the Word became flesh. For Barth, the fact that the Word became flesh means four things:

First, that...he is true humanity:
That the Word was made “flesh” means first and generally that He became man, true and real man, participating in the same human essence and existence, the same human nature and form, the same historicity that we have. God’s revelation to us takes place in such a way that everything ascribable to man, his creaturely existence as an individually unique unity of body and soul in the time between birth and death, can now be predicated of God’s eternal Son as well. According to the witness of the Evangelists and apostles everything miraculous about His being as a man derives its meaning and force from the fact that it concerns the true man Jesus Christ as a man like ourselves. This is true especially of the Easter story, the evangelium quadraginta die rum [the Gospel of forty days], as the supreme event of revelation. It is true of the sign of His birth of the Virgin at the beginning, and the sign of the empty tomb at the end of His historical existence. It is true of the signs and wonders already manifested between this beginning and end, which proclaim the Kingdom of God in its relation to the event of Easter. What in fact makes revelation revelation and miracle miracle is that the Word of God did actually become a real man and that therefore the life of this real man was the object and theatre of the acts of God, the light of revelation entering the world (147).
Second, that...the Word became a man...something that the Word wasn't before - the Word now participates in our nature:
That the Word became flesh means, indeed, that He became a man. But we have to be careful about the sense in which alone this can be said. If we ask what the Word became when in His incarnation, without ceasing to be the Word, He nevertheless ceased to be only the Word, and if we allow ourselves to say that He became flesh, we must note that primarily and of itself “flesh” does not imply a man, but human essence and existence, human kind and nature, humanity, humanities [humanity], that which makes a man man as opposed to God, angel or animal. 
The Word became flesh” means primarily and of itself, then, that the Word became participant in human nature and existence. Human essence and existence became His. Now since this cannot be real except in the concrete reality of one man, it must at once be said that He became a man. But precisely this concrete reality of a man, this man, is itself the work of the Word, not His presupposition. It is not (in the adoptianist sense) as if first of all there had been a man there, and then the Son of God had become that man. What was there over against the Son of God, and as the presupposition of His work, was simply the potentiality of being in the flesh, being as a man. This is the possibility of every man. And here—for the individuality and uniqueness of human existence belong to the concept of human essence and existence—it is the one specific possibility of the first son of Mary. The Word appropriated this possibility to Himself as His own, and He realised it as such when He became Jesus. In so doing He did not cease to be what He was before, but He became what He was not before, a man, this man (149).
Thus the reality of Jesus Christ is that God Himself in person is actively present in the flesh. God Himself in person is the Subject of a real human being and acting. And just because God is the Subject of it, this being and acting are real. They are a genuinely and truly human being and acting. Jesus Christ is not a demigod. He is not an angel. Nor is He an ideal man. He is a man as we are, equal to us as a creature, as a human individual, but also equal to us in the state and condition into which our disobedience has brought us. And in being what we are He is God’s Word. Thus as one of us, yet the one of us who is Himself God’s Word in person. He represents God to us and He represents us to God. In this way He is God’s revelation to us and our reconciliation with God (151).
Third, that...the Word became flesh, and though sinless, still inhabited that flesh which is subject to the judgment and wrath of God:
So far we have looked upon σάρξ [flesh] as a description of neutral human nature. This fact, too, that the Word became flesh, we have had to establish in its generality. But what the New Testament calls σάρξ [flesh] includes not only the concept of man in general but also, assuming and including this general concept, the narrower concept of the man who is liable to the judgment and verdict of God, who having become incapable of knowing and loving God must incur the wrath of God, whose existence has become one exposed to death because he has sinned against God. Flesh is the concrete form of human nature marked by Adam’s fall, the concrete form of that entire world which, when seen in the light of Christ’s death on the cross, must be regarded as the old world already past and gone, the form of the destroyed nature and existence of man as they have to be reconciled with God (151)
The Word is not only the eternal Word of God but “flesh” as well, i.e., all that we are and exactly like us even in our opposition to Him. It is because of this that He makes contact with us and is accessible for us. In this way, and only in this way, is He God’s  revelation to us. He would not be revelation if He were not man. And He would not be man if He were not “flesh” in this definite sense. That the Word became “flesh” in this definite sense, this consummation of God’s condescension, this inconceivability which is greater than the inconceivability of the divine majesty and the inconceivability of human darkness put together: this is the revelation of the Word of God (151-152).
Fourth, that...the Word is flesh in a way different than a way that will sinlessly, and ultimately, save us:
In becoming the same as we are, the Son of God is the same in quite a different way from us; in other words, in our human being what we do is omitted, and what we omit is done. This Man would not be God’s revelation to us, God’s reconciliation with us, if He were not, as true Man, the true, unchangeable, perfect God Himself. He is the true God because and so far as it has pleased the true God to adopt the true being of man. But this is the expression of a claim upon this being, a sanctification and blessing of this being, which excludes sin. In it God Himself is the Subject. How can God sin deny Himself to Himself, be against Himself as God, want to be a god and so fall away from Himself in the way in which our sin is against Him, in which it happens from the very first and continually in the event of our existence? True, the Word assumes our human existence, assumes flesh, i.e.. He exists in the state and position, amid the conditions, under the curse and punishment of sinful man. He exists in the place where we are, in all the remoteness not merely of the creature from the Creator, but of the sinful creature from the Holy Creator. Otherwise His action would not be a revealing, a reconciling action. He would always be for us an alien word. He would not find us or touch us. For we live in that remoteness. But it is He, the Word of God, who assumes our human existence, assumes our flesh, exists in the place where we exist. Otherwise His action would again not be a revealing, a reconciling action. Otherwise He would bring us nothing new. He would not help us. He would leave us in the remoteness. Therefore in our state and condition He does not do what underlies and produces that state and condition, or what  we in that state and condition continually do. Our unholy human existence, assumed and adopted by the Word of God, is a hallowed and therefore a sinless human existence; in our unholy human existence the eternal Word draws near to us. In the hallowing of our unholy human existence He draws supremely and helpfully near to us (155-156).