Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §26.1 "The Readiness of God" pp. 63-128 (Part 1)

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §26 states: "The possibility of the knowledge of God springs from God, in that He is Himself the truth and He gives Himself to man in His Word by the Holy Spirit to be known as the truth. It springs from man, in that, in the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, he becomes an object of the divine good-pleasure and therefore participates in the truth of God."

In paragraph §26 ("The Knowability of God") and in subsection §26.1 ("The Readiness of God"), Barth begins this way:
To ask about the “knowability” of God is to ask about the possibility on the basis of which God is known. It is to look back from the knowledge of God and to ask about the presuppositions and conditions on the basis of which it comes about that God is known. Only in this way, only with this backward look, is it possible to ask about the knowability of God in the Church’s doctrine of God. We come to it from “the knowledge of God in its fulfilment.” It is from there that we go on to ask about the knowability of God (63).
Barth intends to lay out a kind of thinking (and more important, theology) which is distinct from what we call natural theology, which later Barth will define as "a theology which grounds itself on a knowability of God distinct from the grace of God, i.e., on a knowability of another God than Him knowable only in His grace" (II/1, pg. 143). Natural theology is thinking which Barth says is not "grateful" but "grasping" (63). Barth intends, of course, entirely in his theological task, to establish a non speculative a posteriori account of theological knowledge. This is knowledge of God and the knowability of God rooted in revelation. Part of Barth's radicalness as a Post-Kantian theologian is that his investigation's starting point is in revelation.  God is known because his chooses to be known (see previous post). We don't need to ask if it possible that God is really known. He is known. As Barth says, "we can ask only about its concrete possibility as definitely present already in its actual fulfillment" (64). As Barth says,
It must be made explicit that the possibility of the knowledge of God is the possibility—and only the possibility—which is contained in the reality as we have described it in the foregoing section (65).
The knowability of God can be known only in the real knowledge of God (65).
So, where to begin then? Barth begins this way - in the only way possible as far as he is concerned - in God Himself:
We must begin with the fact that there is a readiness of God to be known as He actually is known in the fulfilment in which the knowledge of God is a fact. In the first instance and decisively the knowability of God is this readiness of God Himself. “God is knowable rdquo; means: “God can be known”—He can be known of and by Himself. In His essence, as it is turned to us in His activity, He is so constituted that He can be known by us (65).
That God can be known by us begins in the fact that God knows Himself, a sphere which we cannot really understand. But out of his knowing of Himself comes a readiness by God to be known by us, and this is an activity of God enacted by God's own power. It is a readiness to be known which arises from eternity - it is not provoked by the existence of us creatures.
The superordinate, and therefore in the last resort not only the superordinate but the only readiness which we have to understand and explain as the knowability of God, is the readiness that is grounded in the nature and activity, the being and existence of God. He is the Lord of the event which we call the knowledge of God. He is also the substance of the possibility, presuppositions and conditions of this event (66-67).
This is the sphere of what God is in Himself, then to be the same among us and for us. The power of all that He is among us and for us lies in the fact that it is originally and properly His power, i.e., the eternal power of what He is in Himself from eternity and in eternity. In this way and for this reason the power of what He is among us and for us is distinguished from all other powers by the fact that it is the divine power. Therefore even the knowability of God among us and for us, which lies at the foundation of the fulfilment of our real knowledge of God, is first and properly God’s own possibility. From eternity and in eternity God is knowable to Himself (67). 
Barth characterizes the readiness of God in this way: 1) "God is the truth" (68); 2) and, readiness is the "grace of God." Readiness as truth means that God is open, open to Himself - such that 'truth' means not being hidden. Grace means openness to us. As Barth says, "For it is by the grace of God and only by the grace of God that it comes about that God is knowable to us" (69). Again, God's revelation coming from God and by God (through Jesus Christ).

Here Barth begins interacting with the idea that revelation is a "divine encroachment" (70) rather than the idea, so importantly mistaken (in Barth's mind) in natural theology that we can 'encroach on God.' True revelation, knowledge of God, and God's knowability is a movement from Him to us. Period. And Barth laments much of the 18th and 19th-century's reaction against revelation:
This sphere might still be quite closed to us. It is peculiar and exceptional that it is not closed to us; that the truth is revealed to us; and that the use that we make of the fact that the truth is open to us has power and effectiveness and is not an empty movement of thought. It could so easily be an empty movement of thought—that is to say, if, in the movement which he regards as the knowledge of God, man is really alone and not occupied with God at all but only with himself, absolutising his own nature and being, projecting it into the infinite, setting up a reflection of his own glory. Carried through in this way the movement of thought is empty because it is without object. It is a mere game (70-71). 
The first encroachment that we allow ourselves by trying to obtain the presence of God titanically will thus involve the second, that, disillusioned by the failure of this undertaking, we resist and withdraw from the presence of God as it is actualised on God’s initiative and by the work of His self-revelation in His own divine encroachment, perhaps even resisting and withdrawing from it in a way which is almost completely irreparable (72).
At the bottom of this kind of "mere game," is really only knowledge of ourselves. To ground the knowledge of God in man is at the heart of natural theology and is what Barth solidly rejects.
In His good-pleasure God is among us and for us—in the encroachment, proceeding from Him alone and effected by Him alone, in which He makes Himself ours. In His good-pleasure He is open to us in the openness in which He is open to Himself. His good-pleasure is the truth by which we know the truth. Hence, God’s good-pleasure is His knowability. In it rests the undialectical certainty of the realisation of the true knowledge of God. When we are really unsettled by the dialectic of certainty and uncertainty which is our part in this event, we are really summoned and compelled to look out to its other side. And then we always stand before the good-pleasure which is its divine side (74).
Attacking the heart of natural theology further, Barth reminds us that we have no analogies to know the nature and being of God as Lord (75), Creator (76), Reconciler (77), and Redeemer (78). Barth moves on to a critique of Roman Catholic theology in this section because of its natural theology and its affirmation and grounding of a knowability of God in something other than the revelation of God (79-84). Here's a taste of some of the critique - containing the condemnation of the infamous analogia entis:
You ascribe being to God in His work and activity. But you also ascribe it to man, even if in infinite and qualitative disparity. Therefore, whatever may be said about the inadequacy of all other analogies, and as the meaning and justification of all other intrinsically ambiguous analogies, you acknowledge an analogy between God and man, and therefore one point at which God can be known even apart from His revelation. That is to say, you acknowledge the analogy of being, the analogia entis, the idea of being in which God and man are always comprehended together, even if their relationship to being is quite different, and even if they have a quite different part in being. As himself a being, man is able to know a being as such. But if this is so, then in principle he is able to know all being, even God as the incomparably real being. Therefore if God is, and if we cannot deny His being, or on the other hand, our own being and that of creation, necessarily we must affirm His knowability apart from His revelation (81).
The assertion that reason can know God from created things applies to the second and heathenish component of this concept of God, so that when we view the construct on this side we do not recognise God in it at all, nor can we accept it as a Christian concept of God. But that means that for us the assertion has no solid foundation. We cannot, therefore, attack it in detail. For how can we attack it? We can only say Yes and Amen to it as far as it applies to the god, the false god, to whom it refers. It is in itself incorrigible. But we cannot allow that it says anything about God at all, or that it is one of the assertions which have to be made in the Christian doctrine of God (84).
Barth concludes these preliminary reflections in this way:
One would think there was nothing simpler and more obvious than this. God—the God in whom we believe as the Head and Shepherd of the Church—is the Lord, the Creator, the Reconciler and Redeemer. Therefore we can find His knowability only in the readiness of God Himself, which is to be understood as His free good-pleasure. Therefore, in order to assure ourselves of it, and thus of the certainty of our knowledge of God, we must restrict ourselves to the reality of the encroachment carried out by God. Therefore, we can only give thanks for His knowability. Therefore, we can find it, not in a place where to some degree we already have and take it for ourselves, not in an already existent analogy, but only in an analogy to be created by God’s grace, the analogy of grace and faith to which we say Yes as to the inaccessible which is made accessible to us in incomprehensible reality. One would think that nothing could be simpler or more obvious than the insight that a theology which makes a great show of guaranteeing the knowability of God apart from grace and therefore from faith, or which thinks and promises that it is able to give such a guarantee—in other words, a “natural” theology—is quite impossible within the Church, and indeed, in such a way that it cannot even be discussed in principle (85).
Barth then asks an important and astonishing question - what accounts for the persistence of "natural theology" thinking?
Why is it, then, that our statement on the knowability of God is not so simple and self-evident that the question of a basis of our knowledge of God in ourselves and our relationship to the world cannot be settled once and for all, but seems as though it must continually arise again in different forms and phases? (85).
Barth gives four reasons for it. We'll cover the point in this post and the next three in the next post.

1) First, because of its "alleged factual possibility." History shows that humanity has "successfully" acquired knowledge of "gods" - though they be false gods. The ultimate overcoming of this possibility is illuminated by the rock of scripture, though.
It may perhaps be pointed out that the establishment of our knowledge of God in this way is in fact possible and practicable, and that it vouches for its own legitimacy and necessity by its actual fulfilment. But what does it mean to be possible and practicable? And what does it mean that it vouches for itself? We have to do here with the attempt of man to answer the riddle of his own existence and of that of the world, and in that way to master himself and the world; with his attempt to strike a balance between himself and the world; even with his attempt to put these questions in the belief that he can regard the supposed goal of his answers or even the supposed origin of his questions as a first and final thing and therefore as God. This attempt is, of course, possible and practicable (85-86).
We must be clear, of course, that even when we claim that this imposing fact is not present, our starting-point is the judgment of Holy Scripture, without which we can hardly escape in the long run the impostures and self-deceptions which are possible in this connexion (87). 

We'll wrap the summary here. More in my next post!