Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §18.3 "The Praise of God" pp. 401-454

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §18 states: "Where it is believed and acknowledged in the Holy Spirit, the revelation of God creates men who do not exist without seeking God in Jesus Christ, and who cannot cease to testify that He has found them."

In subsection §18.3 ("The Praise of God"), Barth begins his exposition on the "doing" side of the greatest commands. First there is the love of God (the 'being') then there is the praise of the God (the 'doing'). Working from Mark 12 again, Barth is look at the greatest commandment, the second one this time, the love of the neighbor. He writes:
Rather strangely, the emphasis in Mk. 12 falls on the last part, the “second commandment,” “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” From what we said at the outset, and fundamentally, about the relationship between the love and the praise of God, and from what we have just said in our exposition of the commandment to love, this really comes under our new heading. As anticipated, the whole meaning and content of the commandment to love our neighbour is that as God’s children, and therefore as those who love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we are summoned and claimed for the praise of God as the activity and work of thankfulness which, by reason of our being as those who love, we cannot avoid. The “second” commandment has no other meaning and content apart from and in addition to: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his Holy name.” And vice versa, it is by the “second” commandment that we experience point by point and exhaustively what is the praise of God, what is the meaning and content of the revealing, manifesting, attesting, confessing, living out and showing forth of the lordship and redemption which has come to the children of God. Therefore we have to say just as strictly that no praise of God is serious, or can be taken seriously, if it is apart from or in addition to the commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as  thyself.” Whatever else we may understand by the praise of God, we shall always have to understand it as obedience to this commandment (401-402).
Barth begins by asking how the first command (the love of God) in the Greatest Commands relates to the second command (the love of neighbor). He rejects several things. First, the second command does not stand absolutely separate from the first command (402). There are not two absolute commandments side by side. But neither is the second commandment identical to the first (402-406). God is the one Lord and God and people are not God and we wouldn't want to confound this distinction by insisting that both commands are identical and equal. God is not the neighbor, the neighbor is not God. Also, Barth rejects a third possibility, that the second commandment is derived or relative to the first command (406-409).  He concludes:
The connexion and the difference between the two commandments are plain when we remember that the children of God, the Church, now live, as it were, in the space between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and in the time of the forbearance of God and their own watching and waiting. In effect they live in two times and worlds (408). 
They have to wait and watch for their Lord as iusti peccatores*. They have to serve Him in the relationships, connexions and orderings of a reality which has, of course, been overthrown and superseded by His resurrection, but not yet visibly abolished and replaced by His second coming, in the space between the times, where it doth not yet appear what they shall be. They “walk” in the light in face of darkness, and in this visible pilgrimage in all its hope and peril, which is simply the totality of their actual human and creaturely activity here and now, God has placed them under the commandment to love their neighbor (409). 
So, regarding the relation between the two commandments, Barth suggests three features demand emphases (he calls these a "purifying of the presuppositions" on p. 411):

1) First, the two commands should be genuinely distinguished (409).

2) Second, both commandments "have to do with the one claim of the one God on the whole man" (409).

3) Third, the two commandments are not symmetrical and there is a reason that the two commands are not symmetrical: "To the extent...that the commandment to love God refers us to our existence in the time and world which comes and remains, the commandment to love the neighbour in the time and world which now is and passes, we are in fact dealing with a first and a second commandment, a primary and a secondary, a superior and a subordinate, an eternal and a temporary. The two times and worlds are not symmetrical. They do not balance each other. The one prevails over the other. That which comes and remains has the priority and superiority over that which now is and passes" (410).

Barth now turns, once again, to an exposition of the text in Mark 12....

1) First, the "thou shalt" means that we are witnesses and need to act in obedience as witnesses, not hiding our "lights under a bushel" in relation to the present world. No, we let them shine in love for the neighbor as we love God now because he first love us.
It is actually the case that in the midst of the world which now is and passes, they cannot cease to attest that God has found them. For they cannot exist without seeking Him as members of the eternal time and world, for which He has made them. The twofold determination of their existence, that they are members of both the coming and the passing world, cannot involve any limitation of the commandment and of obedience to it. On the contrary, it is because they are found, and therefore members of the coming world, that they are also members of the passing world. The second commandment, that they should love their neighbour, reminds them of the unity and therefore of the totality of their existence as the children of God. But if we think of love to the neighbour as in this sense based on love to God and therefore enclosed by it, here, too, we cannot understand the “thou shalt” apart from the promise: “thou wilt.” When it is a matter of the neighbour, it is a question of our walk and activity as those who love God, of the inevitable outward side of that which inwardly is love to God. If love to God is its content, the “thou shalt” simply shows to the children of God the future which is definitely before them: thou wilt be what thou must be as one who is loved by God; thou wilt seek the One who hath found thee. But this being the case, obviously the second commandment, if love to the neighbour is its content, can only show them the future which is before the one who hears the first command and is therefore to be addressed as one who loves God. The one who loves God, the second commandment tells us, will love his neighbour as himself (411-412).
2) Second, the "neighbor" event, an opportunity to offer our praise to God, our brother, often times a needy one who is suffering, our benefactor, a hidden representative of Christ (420-430):
In the biblical sense of the concept my neighbour is not this or that man as such. Nor is he the member of this or that larger or smaller group, or of the group which comprises the whole of humanity. It is not therefore the case that the question: Who is my neighbour? really means: Is this or that individual one of my neighbours? On the contrary, my neighbour is an event which takes place in the existence of a definite man definitely marked off from all other men. My neighbour is my fellow-man acting towards me as a benefactor. Every fellow-man can act towards me in this way, not, of course, in virtue of the fact that he is a man or that he is this particular man, but in virtue of the fact that he can have the commission and authority to do so. But not every fellow-man does in fact act towards me in this way. Therefore not every man is my neighbour. My neighbour is the man who emerges from amongst all my fellow-men as this one thing in particular, my benefactor. I myself, of course, must be summoned by Jesus Christ, and I must be ready to obey the summons to go and do likewise, that is, to be myself a benefactor, if I am to experience as such the emergence of a fellow-man as my benefactor, and therefore to see and have him as my neighbour. Therefore I myself have a decisive part in the event by which a fellow-man is my neighbour. But when we say this, do we not simply say that the whole matter is that of an event? What is the meaning and content of this event, and therefore of the benefit which comes to me through my neighbour? To begin with, we can only reply that it consists in this: that through my neighbour I am referred to the order in which I can and should offer to God, whom I love because He first loved me, the absolutely necessary praise which is meet and acceptable to Him (420).
The afflicted fellow-man offers himself to us as such. And as such he is actually the representative of Jesus Christ. As such he is actually the bearer and representative of the divine compassion. As such he actually directs us to the right praise of God. For him to be and do this, we do not need to know anything about his mission, about the sacramental character of his existence. At first we will not be able to know anything about it. We need to take him simply as what he actually is: as the neighbour who is near us propinquissimus [most nearly] in his misery. That is how the purpose is fulfilled which God has with him and for us. That is how we have to do with Jesus Christ Himself in this world, in the time of waiting and watching. For that reason we need to have to do only with our fellow-man. In a purely secular, profane and human way, this fellow-man confirms to the children of God the Word of God, by which they are begotten: the Word of their reconciliation by Him who although He knew no sin, was made to be sin. How can it be confirmed to them more powerfully and clearly than by their recognising in their fellow-man the afflicted one, the sinner, the one who is punished for his sin? (429-430).
3) Third, to "love" the neighbor readiness to live in co-existence with the neighbor, to see in the neighbor my own state and need, and in that way, be served, even as we serve. I witness to him and serve him though I have no knowledge of what work is taking place in this neighbor's life. "I simply live the life of my faith in the concrete encounter with the neighbor ..."
We go on to ask what is meant by “Thou shalt love thy neighbour.” In view of all that we have said about “shalt” and “neighbour” we can only reply that in the sense of the second commandment to love means to enter into the future which God has posited for us in and with the existence of our neighbour. Therefore to love means to subject ourselves to the order instituted in the form of our neighbour. To love means to accept the benefit which God has shown by not leaving us alone but having given us the neighbour. To love means, therefore, to reconcile ourselves to the existence of the neighbour, to find ourselves in the fact that God wills us to exist as His children in this way and this alone: in co-existence with this neighbour, under the direction which we have to receive from him, in the limitation and determination which his existence actually means for ours, in the respecting and acceptance of the mission which he actually has in relation to us (430). 

But that they accept the existence of the neighbour, and willingly so, can never be the last word on the subject. To accept my neighbour necessarily means to accept his service. As we have seen, if I  really recognise him as my neighbour, he serves me by showing me in his own person my sin and misery, and in that way the condescension of God and the humanity of Jesus Christ the Crucified. We had to lay all the emphasis upon the fact that this is the actual content of my meeting with the neighbour as such. Of course, Jesus Christ is always concealed in the neighbour. The neighbour is not a second revelation of Jesus Christ side by side with the first. When he meets me, the neighbour is not in any sense a second Christ. He is only my neighbour. And it is only as such and in his difference from Christ, only as a sign instituted by Christ, that we can speak of his solidarity and identity with Christ. Therefore once again to love the neighbour necessarily means that we actually allow him, just as he is, and as we see him, to do the service which he has to do us. But again that means that we allow him to call us to order, to remind us of our place. Our place is not that of those who boast of a possession and have therefore to substantiate a claim. It is only by forgiveness that the children are saved from the judgment of God. That they have received forgiveness is their new birth, the work of the divine Word and Spirit within them. That they ought to live by forgiveness is the new life which is given them with all the gifts of faith, knowledge, holiness, joy, humility and also love, which are included in this life (434-435).
...I praise God, i.e., bear witness to my neighbour of the love with which God in Jesus Christ has loved me and him. To love the neighbour, therefore, is plainly and simply to be to him a witness of Jesus Christ. That the duty of love is the duty of witness results from the fact that I am summoned by my encounter with the neighbour to expect to find in him a brother of Jesus Christ and therefore my own brother. I do not know this. I cannot perceive it in my neighbour. All the more reason, therefore, why I should definitely believe it of him when he actually proclaims to me the grace of God, when he acts towards me as a servant of God, when he has acquired for me this sacramental significance. If he has reminded me that I live by forgiveness, how can I not be summoned to assume the same of him? How can I believe that he will have a different future from myself? How can I not think of him that as one who is loved by God he will love God in return? It is this faith in respect of him that I now have to live out. And the living out of this faith is the witness to which he has a claim and which I owe him. It will be as well—just because it is a question of helping the neighbour—not to connect the concept of witness with the idea of an end or purpose. Witness in the Christian sense of the concept is the greeting with which, if and when I believe, I have to greet my neighbour, the declaration of my fellowship with one in whom I expect to find a brother of Jesus Christ and therefore my own brother. I do not will anything and I may not will anything in rendering this witness. I simply live the life of my faith in the concrete encounter with the neighbor (440-441).
A witness is neither a guardian nor a teacher. A witness will not intrude on his neighbour. He will not “handle” him. He will not make him the object of his activity, even with the best intention. Witness can be given only when there is respect for the freedom of the grace of God, and therefore respect for the other man who can expect nothing from me but everything from God. It is in serious acknowledgment of his claim and our responsibility that we do not infringe this twofold respect. I only declare to the other that in relation to him I believe in Jesus Christ, that I do not therefore meet him as a stranger but as my brother, even though I do not know that he is. I do not withhold from him the praise which I owe to God. In that way I fulfil my responsibility to my neighbor (441).
Barth now proceeds to articulate three decisive forms of this witness (and this love):

1) First, I witness to Jesus Christ: "When it is a matter of bearing testimony, there can be only one theme and centre of what I say. And that is the indication of the name of Jesus Christ as the essence and existence of the loving kindness in which God has taken to Himself sinful man, in order that he should not be lost but saved by Him. This name, and in the strict sense only this name, the name of the Helper, is what we know about help in need, and therefore can and must speak. This name is the word which we do not grudge our neighbour, but with which we have to greet him as a future brother" (443).

2) Second, we give help as a sign of God's promised help: "The second form of the witness consists in the fact that I give assistance to my neighbour as a sign of the promised help of God. At this point we touch the sphere in which love to the neighbour or the active expression of that love is particularly or even exclusively to be sought, according to a widespread view. But there is no place here for an emphasising or exclusive emphasising of this sphere" (444).

3) Third, I show by my attitude the things I am witnessing to in word and deed: "The third form of witness consists in this: that I substantiate to my neighbour by my attitude what I have to say to him by word and deed. Here again it is not a question of a third thing, which has to be added to a first and second. If it had still to be added, then the first two, even my word and deed, would not be the witness which I owe to my neighbour. Again there can be no witness by an attitude apart from the word and deed. The witness in question is that of an attitude in the word and deed, of the word and deed as they become event in a definite attitude. By attitude as opposed to word and deed we have to understand the disposition and mood in which I meet my neighbour, the impression of myself which I make on him in speaking to him and acting on his behalf. The only attitude which we can regard as consistent with witness is the evangelical attitude. If my words and acts are real witness to Jesus Christ, then in, with and under them there is an additional and decisive something of my own subjection to the lordship of Jesus Christ, of the comfort of forgiveness, by which I myself live, of the liberty of the children of God in which I myself move" (447).

Finally, Barth turns to the last part of the second commandment, "as thyself":
We will do this in our survey of the final part of the text of Mk. 12, which so far we have not discussed. What does it mean when it says: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (450). 
This is not self-love! To love the neighbor as myself limits self-love.
The only positive meaning of “as thyself” is, then, that we are commanded to love our neighbour as those who love themselves, i.e., as those who in reality do not love, as the sinners that we are. It is as those who in fact and absolutely and constantly seek themselves and serve themselves and think of themselves, in this reality that we are addressed and claimed by the revelation and commandment of God and therefore concretely by the commandment to love our neighbour. This reality of self-love and therefore of sin is the reality of the life of the children of God in this present, passing world and therefore in relation to this activity. We have already asked who are we who are summoned to love our neighbour? and what have we to stake and offer who have not only to bear witness but to be witnesses in word and deed and attitude? We are now given the answer—by the commandment itself—that we can stake and offer ourselves only as sinners. Even as we love our neighbour, it will always be true that we love ourselves, that there is, therefore, no love in us. Our existence is that of those who absolutely and constantly withdraw from love. That, and the fact that we stand under the judgment of the commandment, is the answer which we must give to the question which is made particularly urgent by the problem of our attitude (450-451).
We cannot meet him in a self-invented mask of love. We can only venture, as the men we are, to do what we are commanded in word and deed and attitude, relying entirely on the fact that the one who commands that we—who are without love—should love, will see to it that what we do will be real loving. There can be no question about it—this fidelity to the Gospel in the commandment belongs to our obedience to the commandment as such—we have to rely on the miracle, the free grace of God, to make good what we with our own foresight can only bungle. We have to trust in the fact that Jesus Christ will be present in this meeting with my neighbour. It will be His business, not mine, and however badly I play my part, He will conduct His business successfully and well. We have to rely on the fact that it is Jesus Christ who has given me a part in His business; that He has not done so in vain; that He will make use of my service, and in that way make it real service, even though I do not see how my service can be real service. We have to rely on the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord, in whose hand the other is the neighbour; that He became man and died for him; that my lack of love cannot and will not prevent Him calling the other to Him by me. These are not guarantees. They can only be an assurance. But this assurance is required of us when we are commanded: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. It is only in this assurance that obedience is possible (453).
This obedience will necessitate two things from us: the courage of humility and the assurance of prayer. Here I will let Barth's final two paragraphs in the REMARKABLE subsection close us out (pp. 453-454):
(a) The courage with which in obedience to the commandment, without foresight, indeed against all foresight, a man turns to his neighbour to fulfil the commandment by what he does, to be to him a witness in word and deed and attitude—this courage can only be the courage of humility, in which he puts himself at the disposal of the ministry and mission and commission of the Church. The commission to testify is in fact the commission of the Church. And the promise of this commission—the presence of Jesus Christ, His control in the midst of man’s perversity, the power of the forgiveness of sin which He pronounces, the power of an action in His name—this promise is the promise which is given to the Church. In holy baptism I am placed by the Church under the promise of the Holy Ghost. I am instructed and comforted and led by the Church. In the Lord’s Supper I am nourished by the Church on the true body and blood of Christ to eternal life. And it is in this sacramental positing and ordering of my existence that I lay hold of that assurance and put it into action. It is as I accept this sacramental determination of my existence in all its concreteness that I have the concrete courage for that assurance, and therefore for the obedience whose result I cannot foresee, and therefore for the love of my neighbour. We know, in fact, that the life of the children of God is simply the life of the Church of God. 
(b) To lay hold of that assurance and to put it into action means calling upon God in prayer. The promise given to the Church has still to be received again and again by each of its members. The Church with its commission and promise lives in its sinful members. And as the Church for its own sake cannot wish to crowd out and replace the Lord and the free grace in which He speaks individually to each individual, again for its own sake it cannot take away from the individual the calling on this Lord, the direct appeal to His free grace. Prayer is the subjective determination of the assurance in which we can love our neighbour, just as the Church and baptism and the Supper are its objective determination. Praying is the decisive thing, which makes this assurance possible for us: the casting of our care upon God: our care about ourselves—how it is with our loving; and our care about the other—whether our love will reach him. In the last resort we can only love the neighbour by praying for ourselves and for him: for ourselves, that we may love him rightly, and for him, that he may let himself be loved; which means that either way prayer can have only one content and purpose: that according to His promise Jesus Christ may let His work be done for and to ourselves and to our neighbour. Praying, asking of God, can consist only in receiving what God has already prepared for us, before and apart from our stretching out our hands for it. It is in this praise of God that the children of God live, who love God, because He first loved them.
I will return to this subsection many times in my life, Lord willing.