Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §26.2 "The Readiness of Man" pp. 128-178 (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 §26.2 ("The Readiness of Man"), Barth begins by asserting that humanity's readiness for God is given in God's readiness for humanity:
With and in the fact that God is ready within Himself to be known by man, man is also ready to know Him. There is no presumption in affirming this. It would be rebellion to deny it. Man’s readiness to know God is encompassed and established, delimited and determined by the readiness of God; it is not independent but mediated; subsequent to the readiness of God; called by it out of nothingness into being, out of death into life; utterly dependent of and by itself upon the knowability of God, but in this complete dependence real in the way in which creation generally can only be in its relationship to the Creator (128).
It is within the sphere of this issue that the problem of natural theology is most clearly understood:
In its own way all natural theology circles about the problem of the readiness of man to know God. It does so in its own way, i.e., by elevating the readiness of man into an independent factor, so that the readiness of God is not understood as the only one which comes under consideration, nor is the readiness of man regarded as included within it, and completely dependent upon it. It handles the problem in such a way that alongside the knowability of God in His revelation it affirms a second grounded in another way. It speaks of “another” task of theology besides that of explaining the revelation of God. We have to reject this treatment of the problem (128-129).
God's readiness for humanity is God's grace, and humanity's readiness for God is her need for grace:
As we have seen, the readiness of God is God’s grace. Hence the readiness of man must obviously be his readiness for grace. What does this mean? Obviously his receptivity, his openness for grace; but that means his openness for the majestic, the free, the undeserved, the unexpected, the new openness of God for man established entirely in God’s own authority (129).
Of course, humanity's need should in no way be misconstrued as an openness for grace - in the end this end of the relationship is closed until such time that God opens us to it:
The reality of the life of real Christians, of Church Christians, even of good Protestant Christians, and the reality of the life of the Church as such, nowhere bears witness to an openness of man for grace. If it does witness to it, then it is definitely not this reality as such. On the contrary, this reality as such bears witness with particular eloquence to the degree to which man is in fact and in practice still closed on the side on which he should at all costs be open (134).
Which brings us to the central problem of natural theology - it imagines a second knowability of God that is in actuality not real knowledge of God at all.
...natural theology is no more and no less than the unavoidable theological expression of the fact that in the reality and possibility of man as such an openness for the grace of God and therefore a readiness for the knowability of God in His revelation is not at all evident. Natural theology is very plainly the herald and advocate of this the only evident possibility and reality of man. With this possibility and reality as a starting-point, enquiry will necessarily be made concerning that very different knowability of God. With this as a startingpoint it is possible to maintain a knowability of that kind. Indeed, from this starting-point it necessarily will be maintained. It is the man closed to the readiness of God who cannot and will not let himself be deprived of the fact that a readiness for God is at his disposal even apart from the grace of God. As we have seen, the attempt to preserve and affirm himself is not only the possibility but the deepest reality of his existence, even of his existence as placed in the light of the divine revelation, even of his believing existence. And this attempt certainly cannot end in any other way than with the affirmation that even apart from God’s grace, already preceding God’s grace, already anticipating it, he is ready for God, so that God is knowable to him otherwise than from and through Himself. Nor does it only end with this. In principle it begins with it. For in what does it consist but in the arrogation, preservation and affirmation of the self-sufficiency of man and therefore his likeness with God? (135).
As Barth notes, the tragedy of natural theology is that it assumes the place of revelation and in the end, domesticates it (139).
There is no doubt at all that even in the sphere of the Church, even in its moderate Christian form, natural theology does not really sacrifice its original power and monopoly. On the contrary, it triumphs here as perhaps nowhere else. It even masters revelation. It is even able to change the theology of revelation, which it tolerates and acknowledges alongside itself, and even consciously superordinates to itself, into an image which is only too like itself, and which at bottom is itself nothing but natural theology (140).